NaPoWriMo Day 14: To Tyler and Any Teacher Who Lost A Student by Shanelle Gabriel

Tyler's tongue lay blank in his mouth

Lips crisscrossed

This was a mock job interview

And he was lost

More silent than he's ever been

Face devoid of his usual wide grin


He'd answered what his weaknesses were

To a T

But like many kids of color we see

Used to the world filling him with what was wrong with him

So when asked what's right

They stay empty

I later asked the class

To lend words to his throat

Only to have a chorus speak

"His honesty"

"He's great with analogies"

"He challenges popular opinion."

He smiles as he listens

As if he couldn't have imagined

So many good things said about him

From anyone other than the woman who

Gave birth to him

I spent most of my time

Defending his self esteem

From his screaming insecurities

It seemed everyone deemed him leader

But him

Scared to plan for the future

Afraid to desire more from himself

Because it would mean

Admitting he was worthy of dreams

He was 19

Took him 6 weeks to agree to a GED

Goal setting wasn't easy

Repeatedly Pleading for positive thinking

Telling him the image he sees in the mirror

Can be misleading

I wanted to protect his future

Told him keep dreaming

Told him work hard and it'll come true

Told him if he pushes against the storm

Guarantee he'll get through

And even if he didn't succeed with me

His flash smile and firecracker personality

Will grant him boundless opportunities...


I found out he was gunned down

In Flatbush the other day

He was 20

The will quicker call him man

Rather than potential 

Barely a few chips on his life's stone

Still had a long way to go

To chisel himself statue

Still a baby of a human

Cn't help feel like I sold him

A fairytale

That one day everything would be okay

That life was promised to him

That he should walk by faith

I wonder if we educators

Are making the mistake

Of thinking that if we just pray

Over the bowed heads

As they labor over the tests they take

That their futures will be safe

Are we fooling ourselves

Thinking out words make

Our kids bulletproof

That our visions for them can provide roofs

Over their torn families

That we can love their broken hearts whole

Or speak a shining into their coal

And turn their struggling souls into gold...

I know I am no Savior

Teachers are meant to be road signs

Not the road itself

And Tyler,

You were on the edge of your path

I will always wonder if I could have helped

Change the cards you were dealt

If I did all that I could do

To let you know that you were beautiful

If I gave you enough proof

Of your brilliance

If I spoke enough truth

To show how you sparkled

I wonder who would you be

What would have been your testimony

To the young kids under you

If the system initially

Didn't fail you

I wonder was it we that

Truly failed you? 


NaPoWriMo Day 9: Black Don't Crack by Shanelle Gabriel

They say black doesn't crack/ and we reference black beauty/ brown skin/ the melanin that holds fast to the legacy within/ 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 painter but varied color schemes/ the same history/ They say that black doesn't crack/ but our hearts can break/ ventricles fight to pump fire from heaven/ push and shove blood through a body constantly being attacked/ seen as less than the rest of humanity/ They say that black don't crack/ but something chips at the soul/ when you see your people dying before they have the chance to get old/When isms and phobias are okayed by legislation/ discrimination a part of public policy/ they called it mutant registration on X-men/ what happens when science fiction becomes real/ this is not an appeal just to hearts/ but the thinking needs to change/ art can do but so much/ we all have to approach this fight unafraid/ We gotta 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/ push back/ throw down and wrestle justice away from White supremacy's grip/ Black don't crack/ even after pushing back from the 80s when the government made addiction a criminal act/ Black don't crack cause we got no choice but to stay whole on this path/ we seal our stories no sides to be picked/ whether we got here 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/ black don't crack/ Let them know we were born to be this/ we were born fly like this/ we don't crack so yes we woke up like this/ yes we woke up like this/ we rock our crowns like this/ and we're united like this/ dragging a painful past/ Black don't crack/ cause from the depths of our soul/ we were build to last.

SHOW: Tribute to The Fugees "The Score" on 4/12 in NYC by Shanelle Gabriel

Next Wednesday, April 12th @ 6:30pm, join me and my fam as we remind you of The Fugees' genius at the next Plates & Crates @platesncrates. We'll be covering their classic album THE SCORE at Amarachi Restaurant (189 Bridge St, Brooklyn, NY) with yours truly as L Boog.

Cover is $10 at the door, 2 for $15 online. Get your tix at the following link and a portion will be donated to the Lupus Research Alliance!


#NaPoWriMo Day 6: The Pepsi Marketing Team by Shanelle Gabriel

They exclaim

"How interesting their struggle"

Echoed by a history of

Misreading the body language of slaves

Saw the blank face and thought peace

Neglect the pain

Excited to celebritize this moment

Wonder if it can be packaged and sold

This is what happens

When Black people are not in the room

When Black people are sold their own stories

Black lives get White washed

Drowned in a sea of reality TV and Pepsi

And they will applaud


NaPoWriMo Day 4: Memory of MLK by Shanelle Gabriel

You waved

Showed your palms

So they could see where they crucified you

You smiled

Teeth bending light

Like you knew this was how you

Wanted them to remember you

You prayed

Like Gethsemane

Like Thy Will be done

Like you knew those that came with you

Weren't going to sacrifice like you

You died so they could live

While some monetized your friendship

Hands that shook yours

Like Judas' kiss

You were in no ways perfect

Only the Son of Man who walked this Earth is

But like him

You fulfilled your purpose

Your life was a gift


NaPoWriMo Day 3: Speaking Proper by Shanelle Gabriel

He said "You talk proper"

And I knew the date was over

My tongue heavy with backlash and sarcasm

I threw my head back

And asked "What should I sound like?"

He said "You just talk proper"

Like my face didn't tell him

Shut the eff up the first time he said it

Like my cackle wasn't a warning

Telling him to put down his shovel

Nah, he dug deeper

"I talk proper?"

Am I missing gravel in my throat?

Does my voice not echo like sirens

And timbs against concrete?

Is my tone missing that

'Wifebeaters' and basketball shorts

Type of comfort

You're used to?

Do I not sound like a Brooklyn chick?

Do I not pop off

Do I not sound like I used to beat that block

Do I not sound like I be's the block

You know what, son?

Let me son you right quick, son.

Damn right, homie

I talks proper

Proper meaning the vernacular most applicable to the given situation and circumstance


When ah talkin to mi Trini massive dem

Mi say "Ah gon lime wit my padnas

Even wit Bernadette although she vex me so

An oh gawsh Kyle him look reaaaaal nice"

And I'll point with my lips like so

Tell me I talk proper

Tell me I talk proper 5 year old

If I know every toy's name on Doc Mcstuffins

My niece doesn't have to give me

A character breakdown for playtime

I sing Moana lullabies

Can tell her the launch codes

For rocket ships made of cardboard

I speak proper when I use things like flavors of ice cream

And other analogies

To define things like racism and sexism

In a way a child can understand

See homie,

Proper is based on situation, time and place

Not a tone assigned to one race

My use of linguistics

Is not a metric to measure the characteristics

Or skin color of people I keep in my space

So don't look me in my face

And tell me proper is not me

Like I'm not royalty

every word that flips off the tip of my tongue

Resounds perfectly

No I'm not bad & bougie

I'm bourgeois actually

Don't project your insecurities

About our educational inequalities

On me

Try to make me feel like an Oreo anomaly

Cause I know "White" folk

Who don't know

Half the multi syllabic words I know

And Black folk with labyrinthine vernacular that would show

The ignorance in your idea of who holds

The deed of authority to the rules of colloquy

Am I speaking with clarity

Do you need a dictionary

I do hope you feel I responded properly

Poem: Memories of the Presidency by Shanelle Gabriel

I remember hi-5ing strangers/ car horns blaring like Emancipation/ union square park was an impromptu block party celebration/ even chess players took a break from their money making deliberation/ to join the jubilation/ Obama became president of our nation/ and it was like we spent years trying to double Dutch/ and the world stopped trying to choke us with the rope/ society finally moved in sync/ allowed a Black man to jump in/ praise God he had rhythm/ steps quickened when congress sped up and slowed down their pace/ but it was great to see some resemblance of sanity in the Oval Office/ amidst the pride of the era/ we made the error of not thinking what's next/ Someone jumping in that we didn't expect/ forget jumping in/ thisstole the rope/ treated this like a game/ I know manhunt when I see it / everything all fun and laughs/ until someone loses an eye/ or a constitution/ or the progress it took 8 years to build/ Am I the only one filled with trepidation when I crack open the newspaper/ am I the only one afraid/ am I the only one who doesn't know how to explain/ to a generation who never had two chose the lesser of two evils/ who don't know what it's like to have candidates with scandals/ with multiple wives/ how do we explain democracy when we/ have empty seats meant for checks and balances/ when the only people of color politicians consider Americans have to be spray tanned/ what do I say to make the orange boogie man go away/ to comfort those who know that things can and will get worse before they change/ our president with his shovel of a tongue digging the graves of those who can no longer migrate to keep families safe/ what do I say to comfort the child on the train afraid her mom will be sent away/ will the dreamers awaken to ICE chipping away at their future/ repeals ripping healthcare away at the seams/ how do I teach them to close their eyes/ count from 1-5/ breathe/ believe it can't get any worse/ breathe/ your legacy still has worth/ be comforted by the fact this isn't the last time you'll have to be your own President/ breathe/ don't let this world fill your lungs with fear/ breathe/ this too shall pass

Poem: For My Ladies (National Women's Day) by Shanelle Gabriel

Shout out to the ladies/ who aren't afraid to take themselves out/ treat themselves nice/ look at the menu and tell themselves "Baby, get whatever you like."/ Women who don't fear the single life/ whose world doesn't revolve around finding ways to become someone's wife/ who can go to an event with no eligible bachelors in sight/ and still have a good time/ This is for the ladies who don't mind/ that myofacial trigger point foam roll life/ self-massage might be all you got/ but you can hit/ every/ spot/ Who run a bubble bath just because/ who rub themselves down with scented oil cause they love how it smells/ who wear lingerie under sweats and a tee/ not cause they think someone's going to see/ this is for ladies who don't wait to see a movie/ aren't afraid to go dolo/ sip a glass of wine solo/ who can see an ex with their new chick and still say hello/ cause you know he's trifling and eventually she'll get the memo/ or really and truly you two were never really compatible/ Shoutout to the ladies who watch what they eat some days and on other days throw down on a combo/ treat themselves to dessert/ who's dating life may be drier than an Arizona desert/ but know their worth/ refuse to be subdued/ used/ won't tolerate verbal or physical abuse/ shoutout to the women who constantly make moves/  who vow never be Stella cause you can't nobody take your groove/ Women who keep their head and hold fast to their truth/ who dress to impress themselves/ not to get attention from these dudes/ Shoutout to the women whose display of confidence gets mistaken for having attitude/ who when they set the record straight are told they're being rude/ who won't take no for an answer/ and whose mere presence removes the oxygen from the room/ to the women who put our fires and blow bubbles amidst tornadoes/ love yourself for the amazing things you do/ date yourself cause you deserve to be treated like you're special/ not just when you have a boo/ never apologize for your singleness/ learn how to appreciate the power in solitude/ and if someone asks you why you aren't married yet/ and try to assume something is wrong with you/ if you decide against karate-chopping them in the throat/ let them know it ain't easy finding someone who can wine and dine you/ who can truly love you the way that you do.



Poem: My Empty House by Shanelle Gabriel

My chest is a house with a rickety lock

Worn roof

Steps that creak when someone tries

To enter

When someone tries to make my heart

A home

My chest is a house with clogged pipes

I get choked up during attempts to open up

Too many have left me with my faucet running

My momma told me not to waste water

So nothing rushes down there

Stays still

Like mourning

My chest is a house lit dim like right before morning

Like it's fighting to be a home

My chest used to be a mansion

Like a New England bed & breakfast

With so much room

Pillows everywhere

Smelled like cookies, lavender and light

So many gathered there once

Kept Spare keys beneath my belly button

Till someone shattered a window

I couldn't see right anymore

Someone stole my housewares

One tried to squat

Locked me out of my own heart

It took a year to get back inside myself

Another year to replace all that I had lost

These days

I stay inside my chest

Keep my shoes by the door

Sweep myself clean everyday

Guests can't show up unannounced

Or Uninvited

Who gets an award, who gets pardoned... by Shanelle Gabriel


Interesting how this industry chooses what controversy it wants to exploit and publicize.   When Birth of A Nation came out, there was a deliberate plot to destroy it and it's creators. Mind you Nate Parker was acquitted, he didn't settle out of court like this dude did. And he was honest about what happened years ago in a White, extremely racist college town. But where a White man walks a Black man has to fly. Nate got noooo mention for his movie and he put up his own money to create a film so many of our Black moguls were scared to back: one of few films that depict slaves as liberators of self instead of a White savior, a real hero. It's unfair, unjust and so obviously systemic. 

A Poem for Trayvon Martin by Shanelle Gabriel

 #5YearsLater #TrayvonMartin #restinpeace


If it were me

Your hoodie

Your youth

The silent darkness

Would not have made me cross the street

Tighten my walk

Quicken my speed

It's the south so I'd like to think

We'd have exchanged some pleasantries

Maybe a 'G'nite' or nod as you passed me

Your mother seems like she

Would have taught you when you pass an adult

It's proper to speak


You were perfectly preteen

The type of kid

Who always picked the wrong moment to laugh

Who had cloudless dreams

Teachers mistaking passion for sass

Called you "Bright boy"

But tossed it behind "difficult" and "distracts others in class"

Maybe they didn't see the canvas in you

Just as they refuse to

With multitudes of Black students like you


I could have been one of the people

To help them see you're the foundation of something beautiful

While you sketched your life

They painted your hands red

Refused to let you be primed

Demonized you

Before the blood in the Florida concrete dried

Maybe if I saw your fight

Through my window

Maybe I wouldn't have stayed inside

Or maybe I would have just watched and cried

Maybe I would've done something heroic

Maybe you wouldn't have died

Maybe you wouldn't have been another lost Black life

Maybe the world we live in wouldn't have felt it justified

I look at your picture and think

Maybe I might have called you one of my babies

As I do every young person I meet

Maybe there are too many maybes

Not much certainty

When it comes to how long our children's hearts are allowed to beat


Happy Founders Day to my sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc by Shanelle Gabriel


109 years!! Happy Founders Day to my Sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated!!! Founded at Howard University on January 15, 1908, 20 women led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle created the FIRST Black Greek letter sorority that would grow to have a membership of more than 250,000 women. We are charged with the calling to be of service to all mankind.  

So blessed for my organization to be able to see another year of service, success, sass and class. Fine as wine, good as gold, the Phirst and the Phinest for all to behold... Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated has had a major impact on my life both in my ability to serve my community and the world, and I'm blessed to be in my 12th Year of membership in this illustrious sorority. 

#aka1908 #1908 #J15 #aka109


Happy Birthday, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr! by Shanelle Gabriel


We should ask ourselves this question regularly, even daily. What are you doing to better the world around you? What are you doing to earn your breath? What are you doing help make someone else's day a little brighter?

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Thank you, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr for dedicating your life to love and freedom that we may be able to do the same.

Farewell, President Barack Obama by Shanelle Gabriel

I can't imagine America having anyone like you again.... You are human. You are complex. You are not without your flaws. You are constantly tried and tested. You rose. You inspire. You lift. You grow. You are democracy. You are Black. You are loved. You are love. You are a legacy of cotton dipped in steel and Motown. You are smooth. You are whole. You half of another beautiful half. You are father. husband. You are history. You are change. You were called, you answered. You are and will always be my President. #aimhigh #obamafarewell



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!) 


"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

UPDATES!!!!! (Shows and more) by Shanelle Gabriel

Hello family, 

You know 2016 is over once (the holiday formally known as) Thanksgiving hits. I can't help but be thankful for the blessings in my life: watching my niece get a perfect score on her spelling test for the 6th time, graduating my first cohort of students at the life skills and job training program I work for, finishing a song with the great folk at JahRock'n Productions, the upcoming events I'll be performing at, and reflecting on the past. Man, I'm blessed, and I know 2017 will be even more amazing. NYC, check out these events, one of which will be streamed live on Facebook for my non-New Yorkers. Also, check out some videos you may have missed. 


Upcoming Show:
The 2016 African Diaspora Awards Saturday, 12/3 @ 6pm

Florence Gould Hall (55 East 59th Street New York, NY 10022)

This Saturday, I'll be performing at the 6h Annual African Diaspora Awards, a special initiative that aims to celebrate exemplary individuals who have made a significant difference in the African community in the United States. This black tie event will be hosted by African comedian/Instagram sensation Dulo (@IamDulo) and will be honoring some amazing movers and shakers in the community. Oh, and with the promo code "ADA2016" you can get 30% off your ticket! 




Upcoming Performance: WWOC Coat Drive & End of the Year Reading (Thursday, 12/8 @ 7pm)

#DECOLONIZETHISPLACE Gallery (55 Walker Street, New York, NY) & LIVE Facebook Stream

Performing a poem of my own and one from my favorite woman writer of Color on Thursday, Dec 8th @ 7pm at the #DECOLONIZETHISPLACE gallery in downtown Manhattan. Hosted by The Women Writers of Color Group & Reading Room. This event will also be available via Facebook live. It is free and for the people. We ask that you bring coats and/or offer a donation to the shelters we'll be supporting. Hosted by Mahogany L. Browne, and also featuring Lynn Procope, Crystal Valentine, Venessa Marcos and more. 


Throwback: "Damn Near" Official Music Video

In case you missed it, this was one of my FAVORITE songs off of my second album, AIM HIGH. The video for "Damn Near" was done by Broadie from Wasted Imagination Productions and has some DOPE visual effects at the end. Shoutout to model Krystal Garner and stylist Q Diva (on the keys) for making cameos, as well as Therapy Wine Bar for hosting us. Check out the video here and lyrics below: 


You've been the spring in my step
7 months of intimate breaths
You say I'm the one but not yet
(You might be my next regret)

Priority to me
Yet you can't say the same for me
Sayin what will be will be
(Like we don't shape our own destinies)

I'm damn near your everything
As if damn near is comforting
Got my heart on string
On your words dangling

Given you the world
I don't understand
Why I'm not your girl
You're not my man
But I'm damn near it
Ain't that some...

Damn near (4x)
Ain't enough

Poem: Tired of orbiting around your world but never landing/ Made you my galaxy/ 

Thought our love would come crashing together/ 

but you got me drifting/ You know what...

My patience is running thin
You say wait but I don't think I can
Asking me to give you all of me
(Like getting half of you should make me happy)

You say what did I expect
Well we didn't damn near have sex
My heart you didn't damn near protect
You're just another regret

And I'm supposed to act like it's all fine
When damn near's just a freaking waste of my time
Damn near doesn't even make you mine
This is it, it's the last time I settle for…


Ooh, I want it all baby (repeat 8x)

Collecting broken women to make yourself whole
This type of game I pray gets old
This kinda lovin' you can't afford
It's high risk but high reward



Thank you for being a friend. Keep in touch on social media! 
Take care,
Shanelle Gabriel
HBO Def Poet/ Singer/ Activist & Lupus Advocate
SnapChat: @ShanelleGabriel