Poetry

(Video) Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne by Shanelle Gabriel

My good friend, Mahogany L. Browne (Poet/Curator/Author) released a beautiful book of her poem "Black Girl Magic," illustrated by Jess X Snow and published by Macmillan. She called on myself and a few other poets (Shannon Matesky, Roya Marsh, Elizabeth Acevedo, Falu, Eboni Hogan, and Imani Davis) with their own Black Girl Magic flavor to film the words of her poem.  Here it is!

FYI: You can purchase this inspiring book at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, and wherever awesome books are sold.

 

Lyrics to my remix of Drake’s “Crew Love” by Shanelle Gabriel

Turn up the radio/ Turn it up just like before/ Every week its the same thing/ Does the record ever stop for you?/ Tell mr is this what you wanna do?/ Who you think’s controlling you?/ Cause yo body ain’t your own, no/ Your body, body ain’t your own, no/ Sista/ I ain’t tryin to shame ya/ just letting you know that your power’s in danger/ Trying to numb your pain while dudes are tryin to play ya./ Consent on your own terms/ not for the game, yea./ Mind ya mind./ They tryin to control ya shine/ Patriarchy it can be internalized/ Make your sexuality your own design/ Cause it seems like... seems like...

Like you’re loving the crew

Loving the crew

Loving the crew

You’re loving the crew

Loving the crew

Loving the crew

But do they love you? 

Your guards down/ his cards up/ he's the player and the dealer/ texting him in caps cause you mad at how he treats ya/ think you’re gonna win when he's in charge of the game/ made you think you’re special then he forgot your name/ this ain’t sexual oppression/ nothing wrong with doing you/ but it ain’t liberation if you think sex can heal you/ tryin to sleep with a star so you can be one/ left your constellation/for walks of shame with the sun/ Quote Amber and Kardashian/ hmmm/ Like they aren't the exceptions/ the average chick falls quick from recollection/ two seconds after he loses his erection./ Addicted to attention want the spotlight/ don't fight for the right to self-objectify/ don't expect to get pixie dust from these guys/ baby, Tinkerbell didn't need Peter to fly

Trying to be a 10/ getting treated like a one/ They don't call you for dates/ They call you for fun/ cause you just a game to them 

I want better for you/ you gotta want it too / I wish you could love yourself instead of loving the crew

I want better for you/ fellas are guilty too / learn to love yourself before loving the crew. 

Recap: Performing at the African Diaspora Awards by Shanelle Gabriel

This past Saturday, I was blessed to be the opening performer for the 6th Annual African Diaspora Awards at the Florence Gould Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Hosted by comedian and Instagram sensation, Dulo (@iamdulo), the show recognized some powerhouses who've made great contributions to the African community and the world around us. 

I was asked to write a poem for the event which is below. It was great to see the other performers grace the stage including Ayo (who was EXCELLENT and a privilege to meet), Afrobeat artist Owen, soulful singer Mayoa as well as the internationally known Sarcodie.  

I opted to wear a dress that formerly was my mother's. It felt appropriate thinking about legacy and ancestors within the Diaspora who've bestowed their spirit to us in their passing. Check out the photos below! 

 Pre-show posing with Dulo, our host

Pre-show posing with Dulo, our host

 A blessing meeting Ayo.  

A blessing meeting Ayo.  

 The Kingsmen Band backed me up for my performance. They were so dope (and quite dapper!) 

The Kingsmen Band backed me up for my performance. They were so dope (and quite dapper!) 

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"If you wan chop frog, make you chop better frog, make you chop better frog, make you chop better frog"

I found this saying odd/ until I learned the importance of/ always doing things big/ huge/ tremendous/ If you gonna do it/ then you better do it/ in some cases less isn't considered more/ especially when it comes to hands, to hearts/ to black skin/ that melanin that holds fast to the legacy within/ call every tribe kin/ whether naija or Brooklyn/ whether from the soul of the Congo or the streets of Chicago/ we're not as different as we seem/ the same history/ the same painter but varied color schemes/ your heart pumps fire from heaven just like mine/ and it's a waste of time trying to keep us divided by bloodlines/ we're in the same family connected by ties that are divine/ whether African or African-American/ Caribbean/ or if you   Reside in another nation/ you're still the Diaspora's foundation/ and if we come together/ imagine the trails we'll blaze/

So let's be butterflies y'all/ but with caterpillar ways/ flap our wings always shine but never forget the ground from which we came/ take the hard world around us and turn it into silk/ no reason bridges crossed and broken can't be rebuilt/ whether it's by plane or via ship/ whether dropped off at islands during the trip/ whether hands were bloodied with liquid, solid gold or sugar cane strips/ whether cotton or coffee/ we lived to see this/ we breathed to be this/ We fought to be this/ unified by clenched fists/ unified by clenched fists/ unified by clenched fists/ Let them know we were born to be this/ we were born fly like this/ yes we woke up like this/ yes we woke up like this/ we rock our crowns like this/ and we're united like this/ we dragging a painful past/ together reclaiming our worth/ Baanu so a emmia/ When two carry, it does not hurt/ So here's to he Diaspora united/ Sprinkling our blessings on this earth

Newness by Shanelle Gabriel

This is new
Like
First breath
For sale sign removed from
Emerald grass
Awkward playground kiss
Leaning back in heated seats
Kicks wiped with licked fingertips
I'm treasuring this

This is fresh
Like
Blueberries handpicked
Or just picked out
Hand on hips
Neck rolls and bent wrists
Back spins and windmills
Dookie chains
Flat tops with the part
You too fly

This is love like
Bottomless mimosas
Wet noses and protection
A seat on the train after a long day
Broken windows turned to stained glass
Your favorite song sung on a stage
Or
Faucet mics
Finding a missing piece to a game you once played
A piece of you you didn't know you missed
This is life
Loving this fresh newness

NaPoMo Day 29: Lifting by Shanelle Gabriel

She's been stressed lately
Can't always run from her problems
So she barbell presses
the weight of the world off her shoulders
Deadlifts what's holding her down
Getting her life in full Kettlebell swing
Doesn't give a Squat who is in her way
Not looking for kick backs
She earned what's hers
Only lunging forward
Raises her hands to the sky
Her existence has never been a skip and a jump
Left to workout life solo
Support came and then dipped
Roped into dark places
Where most people would curl into a
Medicine ball
But with every fall she pushes up
Remembering that targeting weaknesses
Leads to greater gains
Rather to raise the bar
Than live as a dumb belle
Delicate
Worried over 5 pounds
Potential gathering dust on a shelf
She would rather lift the
Iron that sharpens iron
Never cared about
Being TOO strong for a man
This gym is life
Where who she is gets defined


NaPoMo Day 27: How to kill a student by Shanelle Gabriel

Tell them they're worthless
Then tell them they're perfect.
Tell them their flaws are their strengths
And their strengths are their flaws
Tell them the world is there's
But leave out the part about
It being hard and unfair
Let them feel like everything they want
Is on the bottom shelf
No need to climb
To fall would be too risky
Make these poor black and brown lives easy
Tell them about their rights
Sing songs about equality
Label their disrespect as freedom of speech
Let their tongues run free
Completely
Don't expect thought or self-control
Teach them to ignore authority
Skills they'll need when
Approached by police
Called out by bosses
Bend rules frequently
Consequences are too hard a concept
Let them believe someone will always
Be there to protect
To save
You,
Keep on trying to save them
Hug them
Cushion them
They are the teddy bears you cuddle
Destined to sit on a prison barred shelf
Let them learn to expect the coddling
So many years of cotton picking
Only to have this generation
Filled with cotton stuffing
Forgetting the strength of steel backs
That silenced a whip's crack
Teach them slavery is a thing of the past
That there's nothing they lack
Tell them the world is colorblind
Tell yourself you see no skin
Only skeleton
Give the kids only bones
Barely scratch their surface
Make graduating their only purpose
If they're not complacent
Tell them they're worthless
Separate them based
How well they fit the status quo
Create futures for those who's tongues
You can hold
If they question you
Or suggest that you don't know what you think you know
About them
Hold them in contempt
Silence their recognition
That somethings wrong with their education
Blame their struggle on themselves
It's their fault if they don't do well
Regardless of hunger pains,
Misdiagnoses, and family strains
They should be able to excel
Suspend and expel
Anyone not compelled by your rhetoric
Including
those that challenge your thinking
Suppress anyone who knows they don't need
Another pillow to catch them
But
That Brillo pad type of scrubbing
To be made to shine
To be able succeed
Through the subconscious destruction
Within every human interaction
And an inherently racist system
Smother them
Watch them bleed their potential
Choke on the White guilt
You shove down their throats
Give them your smiles
Give them your soft touch
Your praise and hi-5s
And pray that it will be enough
To keep them alive
To keep them free
To keep them employed
To keep them warm as an adult
Wandering through life

NaPoMo Day 25 by Shanelle Gabriel

I started hating him/ For not loving me/ for not seeing my efforts and my ability/ for not making life easier for me/ for seeing me drowning and still pouring salt water on my head/ for being salty/ for seeing my failures and labeling me a failure/ for not seeing that it's easy for an island to sink beneath the sea/ I started hating him for turning chameleon/ for making me mistake his smile for kindness/ his open hands were handshakes/ and now slaps to the face/ I started hating him for making me hate myself/ even if it was for just a second/ for that moment I didn't know how to defend my action/ and let your crooked words hurt/ I almost hated you/ I still kinda do but I'm slowly realizing that there is a gift in every person's curse/ that there is a healing that comes after every hurt/ that my soul is a mattress for my heart/ I can bounce back/ this end taught me how to keep my pride intact/ how to separate someone's disrespect from someone's own lack of self-respect/ how to set myself up so when someone tries to set me up I got enough to back myself up/ I know how to store enough gangsta for a rainy day/ Store enough perspective to be able to put my attitude in the right place/ I know that when someone comes out their face/ a lot of times it's cause they don't know how to save face/ and some would rather throw people off the train/ than admit the conductor instructions they gave were a mistake./ I'm learning not to sit in hate/ but to run away/ from anyone and anything meant to kill my spirit/ I won't be like him and lose my mind or my grace/ Any person or place/ that's fine with breaking me down/ Will have to learn to be fine without me around/ cause this curse blessed me with the urgency to search for the gift/ that I have now found.

NaPoMo Day 24: Crew Love by Shanelle Gabriel

Your guards down/ his cards up/ he's the player and the dealer/ texting him in caps cause you mad at how he treats ya/ think you gonna win when he's in charge of the game/ gave him the draws and you don't know his govt name/ you too mixed up/ give too much all these men/ getting your womb run thru and call it liberation/ used to be a 10/ now you're just a one/ Dudes don't call you for dates/ They call you just for fun/ Thinking if you sleep with a star you can be one/ left your constellation/ for bottle service and walks of shame with the sun/ Quote Amber and Kardashian/ Like they aren't exceptions/ the average chick falls quick from recollection/ Once these baller dudes get some./ Addicted to attention/ guys who only care about erections/ Women's fight for freedom/ wasn't so you could be free to be numb like men/ Equate the fight for equal rights to justify being objectified/ emotionally dead inside/ I want better for you/ but you gotta want better for you/ i wish you could love yourself instead of just loving the crewQuote Amber and Kardashian/ Like they aren't exceptions/ the average chick falls quick from recollection/ Once these baller dudes get some./ Addicted to attention/ guys who only care about erections/ Women's fight for freedom/ wasn't so you could be free to be numb like men/ Equate the fight for equal rights to justify being objectified/ emotionally dead inside/ I want better for you/ but you gotta want better for you/ i wish you could love yourself instead of just loving the crew

NaPoMo Day 22: Advice by Shanelle Gabriel

Ya lie down in strange places/ a woman of da night/ intertwined wit alla deez foreign men like making pelau wit uncle bens rice/ Ya too mixxy/ askin silly questions like "whatcha need ta do ta be a good wife"/ ya priorities float by/ cause Ya think ya need a man in ya life/ I thought like you once/ had dat sickness called "trust in love"/ but mi heal mi own body/ when Ya father and me's Union turned ta dust/ death to us put mi body in Trinidad but mi heart in the Arctic/ see, listen to mi pickney/ before dis illness kills ya soul/ the hurt will neva leave ya like da common cold/so turn ya heart into ice/so numb ya won't notice ya sick/say these words to ya reflection repeatedly/ so one day it will stick:
No man is gonna love you/ more than he love he freedom/ each lie a brick to build pyramids/ a beautiful tomb to hold ya heart/ he will watch you die/ just so he can feel like a worthy cause/ your tombstone will read birth/ under death - he'll sign he name/ just for de fame of it/ hell, he'll use your death to find de next chick/ pat the soil on ya grave/ before the grass can grow/ he in dat cemetery wanderin/ find himself another gal lookin for a man for she tombstone/ dah-lin gal/ mi daughter / mi redskin pickney/ this is for ya own good/ let these men be

NaPoMo Day 21: Desire by Shanelle Gabriel

When all you want
When all your chest pains for
When every single curl springing from your crown
To the callous shadowing
The heels of your feet
When all your knock knees
Legs that could caress arrows wants
When every ancestor within you
When your entire being...
Wants a seat on the train
You will tackle anyone
Shift anyone
Bludgeon anyone to get it.

NaPoMo Day 19: Workin by Shanelle Gabriel

I am anointed oil
Blessing every
Midnight toil
Digging in the soil
That folk won't soil
Their hands with
They ain't got the bandwidth
To do what I do
God can call many
But chooses so few
When called to duty
Would rather say it's out of their control
Remote locations
They won't go
Too scared to go the extra mile
Their grimace is my smile
I make the hard look easy
They're swans barely making a ripple
I'm more like Crocodile
Built to Slide
In and out muddy places
Splash and silence the water
Born to make an impact
Been putting in that work since
School gave you breaks
for naps and snacks
I won't stop cause I can't stop
I have that thing so many lack
It's called a hustlers spirit
I never fold no matter
How the odds against me are stacked

NaPoMo Day 17: Mixed Signals by Shanelle Gabriel

This is for the woman who said yes but meant no. 

See, you’d label it buyers remorse

But her goods were taken not sold

Said yes

Clenched fists, shut eyes

Silent cries said no

Of course

“Who’s is it?”

Her body is his to own

Her lip trembling and tears 

Couldn’t be her mouthing prayers

She really didn't want him to stop

I mean,

Women never really know what they want

So hormonal 

Mixed signals he was never taught to read

They say 1 in 200 women are color blind

While 1 in 12 men have this color deficiency 

No wonder they can’t tell between red and green

Plowing through yellow

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Cause of years of being told her no wasn't sufficient

Told he didn't even really need her permission 

Told if she had a problem no one would listen

Cause "you know what it's like when he doesn't get his medicine"

Misogyny gave him the prescription 

She has no choice but to fill

We still live in a world where a woman's right to her body

Gets shot down by a room full of men

In senate bills

Where rape isn’t caused by rapists

But how tight the top, short the skirt

Where it makes to sense to struggle to call the cops

Who do you think will come first

So why would her bedroom be safe 

Why would he not be in charge

When you learn sex from porn

What other roles would you think there are

She should be glad to be a background actress

In the bedroom every man gets to be the star

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Cause no is too "negative"

And she wanted to keep her man

"If he gets it up

It's your job to bring it down"

Like he doesn't have two perfectly good hands

Men have needs

You should understand

Always be ready 

The place between your legs juicy

Matter of fact, it could be dry

As long as legs open wide

As long as he can force his way inside

Bend over

Let me smash

Lemme hit

I’ma beat it up

Be turned on when he makes rape sound sexy

All adjectives violent

He’ll ask you if you like it like this

But won’t wait for a response

She’s been told baby girl, 

Calm down

You'll be alright

Baby if you love me you'd let me try

If you love me you'll do what I like

Do you want me to go elsewhere

You ain't got nothing I can't go outside and find

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Cause no means there'll be a fight

So hallow tongued

Broken half smile

Taught love isn't about compromise

It's about sacrifice

Spent so many years saying yes to mans desire

She doesn't even know what she actually likes

Never reached an orgasm but has had sex countless times

Taught to repeat

Love is a body cemented on top of me

Love is a penis concrete

Heavy inside me

Pain is pleasure. 

Love hurts

And I learned how to love from my daddy

Love and Violation 

I learned synonymously

The word no was never in my vocabulary

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Taught to swallow semen and pride

Be fine

With being treated like a whore

But stay dignified in the public eye

A freak in the sheets 

Is always defined by how readily

you meet a mans needs

Wires will always be crossed

When social constructs and power dynamics 

Make men think they're in the movie weird science

And they can create and exploit a woman's sexual mechanics

They can focus on the yes

Ignore the no that was sandwiched

As long as there's a yes 

Forget the body language

She consented to the sex

So she alone is responsible for the damage

There was an "ok" mumbled somewhere

Put it in before she changes her mind

Put the gun to her head

And let her commit slow suicide

This is for the woman who was never told she could say no at anytime

Cause coerced or forced sex is a crime

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Although though no question was posed

This is for the woman  

Who said yes but meant no cause they already labeled her a hoe

This is for the woman 

Who said yes but meant no. 

Cause it would’ve have the same results.

This is for the woman who was a girl 

Who said yes because she wasn't old enough to say no to adults

This is for the woman dating a man 

Who once said yes but meant no

And continued the endless cycle

This is for the woman

Who said yes but meant no

Who said yes but meant no

Who said no but meant no

Who said no but meant no

Who said nothing but meant no

Who said nothing but meant no

Who said...

NaPoMo Day 14: Broken by Shanelle Gabriel

Men
Broken men
Battling broken men
Breaking battling broken men
Be breaking battling broken men
I be breaking battling broken men
Cause I be breaking battling broken men
Tired cause I be breaking battling broken men
So shattered cause I be breaking battling broken men
Get so shattered cause I be breaking battling broken men
I get so shattered cause I be breaking battling broken men
I now see my reflection in his shards

NaPoMo: Day 13: Struggling to Pray by Shanelle Gabriel

I struggle to pray sometimes
Except to bless food
Every plate I remember to be thankful
But some days my plate seems too full
Too much to bare
Or too little
Not much to share
I struggle to pray sometimes
Except for the youth I know
I may feel stagnant at times
But my goal is for them to grow
Recognize the same sun that burns them
Feeds their leaves strengthens their branches
The mistakes are okay
God gives second, third fourth fifth chances
I struggle to pray sometimes
Except when I'm in danger
Walking through the darkness
He always sends a friend in the guise of a stranger
I can't count the uncountable number of times
I felt so afraid
Barely a moment would pass
And the terrifying situation would fade
Im ashamed to say
Sometimes I struggle to pray
But He keeps on blessing me
Anyways

NaPoMo Day 12: Who Dem by Shanelle Gabriel

*Disclaimer! I was listening to "Who Dem" by Capleton when I wrote this*

Who dem a think they
Get away with murder
You whispering your sins
Best believe that God heard ya
Who dem a like to break gals heart
Dem build monuments of lies
Watch all a dem fall
Who dem a teach the youth foolishness
Pollute the radios
Dem no even make sense
Who dem de liars an hypocrites
Rappin bout pure bull shit
Immortalize dead man dem
Make Duppy man dem
Music talking all lies
Criminal records fiction
Dem a praise violence
Kids a kill cause a dem
Ignore de parents
Dem Rejecting wisdom
Nobody lead
Dey Just a follow dem friend
But when Babylon come
De friend dem flee from dem
Dey doing hard time
While they friend a live dey life
This is the cycle

NaPoMo Day 11: This is My House by Shanelle Gabriel

Sometimes
We mistake windows for doors
Confuse ceilings with floors
Think opportunity doesn't knock
So we jump to Plan B
Before A can arrive
Think our limit is where we stand
Plant our feet on the ground
Ignoring His command to look up
See
That ceiling just shows you what level
You're on
Keep walking
Keep grinding
Keep on
Finding stairs to take
Till you realize that ceiling is gone
Never forget
That you know the way
You built the house you're in