Character Sketch of Kiswana Browne in ‘The Women of Brewster Place’

Kiswana, an outsider on Brewster Place, is constantly dreaming of ways in which she can organize the residents and enact social reform. Kiswana grew up in Linden Hills, a “rich” neighborhood not far from Brewster Place. She leaves her middle- class family, turning her back on an upbringing that, she feels, ignored her heritage. Light-skinned, with smooth hair, Kiswana wants desperately to feel a part of the black community and to help her fellow African Americans better their lives. She wants the community to be socially and modernly reformed. Kiswana is a bright-eyed product of the ’60s who received the dictum “black is beautiful” as political ideology. Even as she looks out her window at the wall that separates Brewster Place from the heart of the city, she is daydreaming: “she placed her dreams on the back of the bird and fantasized that it would glide forever in transparent silver circles until it ascended to the center of the universe and was swallowed up.” But just as the pigeon she watches fails to ascend gracefully and instead lands on a fire escape “with awkward, frantic movements,” so Kiswana’s dreams of a revolution will be frustrated by the grim realities of BrewsterPlace and the awkward, frantic movements of people who are busy merely trying to survive. She becomes friends with Cora Lee and succeeds, for one night, in showing her a different life. In an ironic turn, Kiswana believes that her mother denies her heritage; during a confrontation, she is surprised when she learns that the two share a great deal.

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