Britney Nichelle Newton, formerly known as Bird Nefertiti, is one powerful black writer and educator. Through performance and in writing she provides social commentary and inspiration that cuts through all the white noise while reminding us the importance of loving, living and walking in faith as she evolves for the better with the hopes of achieving her dreams. Recently we had a conversation with the artist/educator about writing, publishing, teaching and everything in between. The conversation we had is transcribed below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Flowered Concrete: How did the name Bird Nefertiti come about? What does it mean to you?
Britney: The initials of my government are the same as Bird Nefertiti. When the name came to me in journaling, I had a phase in my life where I sat and it was me and God and I cried, I wrote, I laughed and the name came to me. And we all know Queen Nefertiti was one of the most famous of the Egyptian Goddesses. But outside of that Bird Nefertiti means a few things. The bird part is a representation of freedom. My climb and desire to be free through the use of my art and the use of the talent that God gave me. The Nefertiti parts comes from this place of where I’m loved and peace but at the same time I’m rooted, I’m black and the part of the things that make me sovereign is this idea of being a Queen but not in a traditional sense.
Flowered Concrete: How does your spirituality play into your individuality both as a person and an artist?
Britney: I got acquainted with many different paths to spirituality. I really dug into this African cosmology. I had candles, I did the whole nine. So I went on that path and I am so grateful for that time because I grew closer in my relationship with God and my relationship with my purpose. From there, I moved back to Greensboro (North Carolina) and now I am subjected to the temptations and the things that I was not trying to avoid but kind of trying to grow myself out of but reconnected with that and I’m fighting with normal human desires such as temptation and destruction and trying to maintain my spiritual ground. It was honestly this push-pull and struggle. But what I realized was that spirituality and God is in everything. God is in the wind that blows. God is in the trees that stand. God is in the water that comes down when it rains. God is within us.
Flowered Concrete: How does your work as a scholar studying African-American Women’s literature and spirituality affect your work as a multidisciplinary artist?
Britney: Everything works together. I’m also a teacher. I teach 12th grade IB language and literature. I teach AP literature and composition and I also teach 10th grade right now. My teaching, my work as a scholar and my work as an artist, all of that informs each other. I’m just trying to keep up with my ancestors. I’m just trying to keep up with the great African-American writers that came before me and are prevalent right now. I’m just trying to be on their level. They inspire me. Reading African-American women’s work and trying to solve the puzzle inspired my work. It inspired my efforts as an educator.
Flowered Concrete: As a kid growing up did you enjoy reading literature at all?
Britney: I liked to read. But you know what? I was always distracted by something. T.V., I was always going outside. But as far as reading goes I always enjoyed reading because it always took me out of my reality. I just taught this to my IB it’s called a paradox of fiction where it’s an escape from your own reality and while being an escape it also kind of helps to educate so I’ve always loved to read.
Flowered Concrete: When did you start writing poetry?
Britney: When I was a senior in high school my friend Nora suggested I started writing because she wrote and that’s what helped her cope with the things that were going on in her household and so I took to it and I started ever since then. And when I got to college I started writing and then my Sophomore year of college I decided to compete in an alpha pageant and I had to have a talent and I’m like “Yo, the only thing I can do for real is talk in front of people which made me realize, Oh right, I do write poetry so I wrote a poem and I got a lot of good feedback from it so I was like, "oh shoot, I really am a poet!” So I just kind of took it seriously after that.
Flowered Concrete: In the poem “father” you write, “My heartbreaker and tear maker/the originator of pain and resentment.” I love the use of the words ‘pain’ and ‘resentment’ and how they connect back to origins of a father. That’s so dope to me. Can you unpack that a little bit?
Britney: So basically, I grew up being a Daddy’s girl. I love my Daddy. Can’t nobody tell me nothing about my Daddy that I can’t. But at the same time my Daddy in his youth has done things. He cheated on my mom and my stepmom. And I watched all of that. I watched both of them cry; both of them suffer through it; both of them kind of recovered from it. I watched women feeling pain from him and it broke my heart because on one end you’re my hero but on another end because of what you’re doing now I have pain and resentment because I watched you do it and because you are the first man that I wanted to love I am really skeptical about how I pursue relationships with men in my personal life because of what I saw you do. And that is something I’ve had to write through and get over and heal from.
Flowered Concrete: Why do you think it’s important for there to be writings about black male masculinity, especially from the gaze of a woman?
Britney: Because I think that it’s important that men know what influence they have on women and the relationship dynamic between men and women. I also really think that if a group of men did this I would be happy as well because we need to understand each other better so that we can communicate and break through walls and break the generational curses and learn to love each other. But it’s especially important as it is multifaceted. Writing informs. Writing educates. Writing enlightens. Writing exposes. But writing also heals for the writer. And so, a part of exposing and enlightening and educating men on these subjects is that the women that are writing are also healing themselves. And that too is why it’s important. In order to inform and to show that this is what this behavior is doing to us. This is how your behavior has influenced my life in this way but also because I’m writing this, I’m healing myself.
Flowered Concrete: How did you and Eniola meet? How did your connection or relationship with her lead to you contributing to her project?
Britney: I can’t think of the first time I met her. I know I met her at school in regards to North Carolina A&T State (both writers attended the institution). But what I can remember is that every time we talked on the phone or we were in each other’s presence, we vibed. We’re brainstorming, we’re poppin’ off ideas. We’re iron sharpening iron. It’s always a vibe and it always leaves any experiences we have together feeling more empowered and more confident in my work as an artist so I appreciate her for that so much and also she actually shot my "Rebirth" video and a couple of other blog poems that we created last year. So we’ve worked together on the creative and professional level but we met initially at school. But on a personal note, she is fuel to my creative flame every time we talk. And when she brought up the idea I was just like, “just let me know when buddy.”
Flowered Concrete: Why is it important for you to do the work of an educator? Do you ever feel as if it fuels you and how you create your art or does it hinder your ability to work because of the amount of time it requires?
Britney: It’s both. On one hand, the kids inspire me. Like the things that they say, the things that they come with inspires me. But then there are moments where I’m like but God why would you give me this voice, give me these skills, give me these visions where I’m supposed to be a teacher. But what leads to that mindset is that the education system is so corrupt and so it’s like, “Yo, I’m participating in this? I’m a part of this machine that's preparing these inner-city kids moreso for prison than it is for life? I’m a part of this? Really?” So, it becomes an ethical thing. It’s so layered. I don’t think I’ll ever completely leave the classroom but I definitely want to try my hand at these other things that also fuel me.
Flowered Concrete: Are there any projects you have coming up that we the public should be aware of? Any past projects too? Books or visuals?
Britney: I’m relaunching my blog formally in January. I’m also gonna start YouTubing where I’m basically going to share my blog to film. So that’s upcoming and outside of that I have some other things forming but I’d rather keep it to myself until I actually put pencil to paper and it becomes something. Also, I’m starting my second Women’s Circle open mic in Greensboro and I’m expanding to Charlotte as well at the end of February.
Flowered Concrete: Bird, where can the people find you online to follow you and check out more of your work?
Britney: They can find me on IG and Pinterest. Same for YouTube and Facebook as well as beingclassic.com
Flowered Concrete: Britney, thank you for allowing me to conduct this interview. The public will greatly appreciate it.
Britney Nichelle Newton is a black writer and educator providing raw and uncut social commentary, inspiration, and experiences of love, life, and faith as she evolves and voyages towards her dreams.
Connect with her online:
Twitter & Instagram: @bn_classic__
Kevin Anglade is the founder and publisher of Flowered Concrete. Founded in 2012, he plans to bridge the gap between the African-American communities throughout the nation with hopes of reinvigorating a passion for literature.