Out of nowhere, I was selected to attend the first festival to ever be held in the White House called South By South Lawn this past Monday, October 3rd. South by South Lawn, an event inspired by Austin, Texas' South by Southwest, gathered a dynamic group of creators, innovators, and organizers who are working in their own unique ways to better their communities and the world. Other attendees, speakers, and performers included Common, The Lumineers, Baratunde Thurston, Ryan Leslie, and more with a closing conversation between Leonardo DiCaprio and, the man who's backyard we gathered in, our President Barack Obama. It was so surreal walking through the White House only to arrive at the beautiful Lawn filled with so many interesting people and new friends!
I was able to get a few quick photos with Nick Cannon and Brooklyn's own Senator Kevin Parker but it was dope having a conversation with producer/entrepreneur Ryan Leslie and shaking Common's hand. I was so geeked to explore the exhibitions presented including two virtual reality simulations, one that took viewers on a trip through Yellowstone Park (narrated by President Obama) and the Guardian's disturbing 6x9 which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation. All of this plus great food, perfect weather, and some laughs while "Swag Surfing" in front of the White House made this day epic.
Being able to be a part of this event was life changing and humbling. Being numbered among the vast sea of people connecting, building, and doing amazing things in the community, I felt a sense of duty to figure out the impact God wants me to have on this world. It was an honor to have been selected to attend, and it is still unbelievable that I was present to see history being made. I don't know who will be President next year (Not TRUMP!) but I doubt there will ever be another opportunity for me to Swag Surf in front of the White House building. Blessed...
There are times when I neglect my lupus so much that someone could call ACS on me. Lupus is a part of, and like a baby, I should nurture my health. But I go through these seasons where I pretend lupus isn't a part of me. I mean, I never asked for this cranky child that changes lives, expects me to plan around it, makes me go to bed early, stay up late, cancel dates, stop drinking, sit still, and pacify it with meds. I'm expected to keep my lupus close to my chest because at any point in time, it can wake and it will scream into my joints and bones.
I think anyone with a chronic illness has seasons where they want to pretend it doesn't exist. We watch our friends giggle and chat during a day at the mall, not wanting to be the one to say that your body is ready to go. We let the adrenaline take over as we ignore the late hour, keep dancing, and pretend that, coupled with the dehydration from your friend's birthday shots, we won't feel it the next day...and probably for the next two days. We forget pill boxes on the counter, reschedule doctor appointments when they conflict with work, and miss infusions. We wish our Lupus fog would help us forget we have Lupus instead of forgetting where we put our keys. This brat of a disease sometimes quiets down. But as with real children, quiet can feel like it's getting into something and trouble is a'coming.
Lupus is so unpredictable. But honestly, sometimes it isn't. We know our triggers and what we should do to keep it from acting up and showing out. But it seems easier to try to live life like the young parent whose mom is always down to babysit. Drop lupus off and keep the party (or just the regular life) going. Sadly, it doesn't work that way.
Our stints of disconnecting our lives from our illness, as if the two can't work hand in hand, can put us at risk for severe flares and hospitalizations. Sure, we can have a couple long nights and fun days. But pretending Lupus doesn't exist can cause it to bawl at your joints, keep you up at night, leave you drained during the day, and throw a tantrum so terrible, you'll only desire to be in fetal position for weeks.
I understand wanting to hold on to the life you had when you were single and not paired with a chronic illness. But learning how to have it, grow with it, hate it but still live with it will only benefit me in the long run. Neglecting lupus meant I was neglecting myself. It took a lot to be able to remember that Lupus is something that forces me to listen to my body's cries and nurture my body (something we all need to do with or without an illness). I don't feel guilty for needing to take breaks, power naps, and saying no. I realized the parties I missed were the same as the last ones, and being sober made everyone seem even more hilarious. Even though this brat called Lupus continuously tries to mess up my good time, I still truly believe I can still have a life filled with joy if I just paid it a little attention.
Once a month, I get up when the sun comes up, put on some leggings and a hoodie, and head to SUNY Downstate for my monthly infusion of Benlysta. This process literally takes my entire day, from 8:30-3pm. Come follow me, follow me, follow me down the path to getting the only medication created to treat Lupus.
The only reason I can get out of bed is the promise of sleep during the long process at the hospital. On days I have been allowed to flex my hours and get to go to work late, it's a nice rest. So, I throw something comfy and quick on and take the train there (parking sucks in the area).
I arrive at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and get on the line for outpatient registration. Low and behold, the woman who totally ignores my good mornings and checks me in is absent, leaving the older, less speedy man to register everyone by himself. The struggle is real. This process has taken anywhere from 10-45 minutes, just to have them put the bill in the system and print me a paper. I say thank you and head to the 6th floor.
I get to walk through the Cancer ward of the hospital to the chemotherapy unit. "Wait, I thought you had Lupus?" Yep, I do but the same guy that mixes the IV infusions of chemo and dialysis treatments mixes the Benlysta for my IV treatment. It's a big room where everyone sits in a wide circle with their own sea-green leather recliner and loud ass personal TV so they can watch Maury or Divorce Court during their stay. Personally, it's not fun being surrounded by cancer patients since my mom passed away from cancer a few years ago and chemo did nothing for her. But a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do. I get my vitals taken and blood drawn to make sure I'm healthy enough to get a treatment that suppresses my overactive immune system. Ohh and they serve free breakfast. Yay. (I wish there was an emoji that indicated my extreme sarcasm). I'm greedy so I eat it anyways.
Yes, two hours later, the results from my tests come back. My Rheumatologist has to check the labs and evaluate them. If the results suck (meaning if there's a risk of infection from a low White blood cell count or something like that), then I get my meds raised, sent home, and told to come back in a week. If all is decent, the order is made for the guy in the basement to get his double-double-toil-and-trouble on and mix a bag of Benlysta. The nurse starts me on a drop of fluids for a bit until it's ready.
I have no clue what the Macbeth witch is doing but it takes him forever to mix & bring up the Benlysta. So in the meantime, I get my IV of Benadryl which prevents me from having any sort of allergic reaction...and knocks me out like Fight Night. Here is where I catch up on any missing hours of sleep and not even the man screaming his excitement for not being some child's father on my neighbor's loud personal TV can wake me. I do wake for lunch which I usually request to be the Tuna sandwich and salad, and give away the soda it comes with. (I never understood hospitals that serve soda and fatty food to its patients. I guess that's how they stay in business.)
Finally, the bag of Benlysta makes its way to the IV line on the top of my hand. Still groggy from the Benadryl, I head back to sleep between answering work emails and the occasional phone call. This is the best part of the process: finally getting it and sleeping.
Beep! Beep! The IV machine signals that I'm done. I get some more fluids to flush my veins, and the nurse removes my IV. Since I'm on blood thinners, it takes a sec to get the blood to stop flowing. Once it's safe, the lil bandaid goes on it, completing my time in the Chemo Ward. I get asked to schedule the next one exactly 4 weeks away by day, not by date. It can be difficult making this decision without consulting my job but I've been getting better at it.
Overall, I'm still on prednisone so I don't know how effective Benlysta is. My doctor swears it's doing something. I don't know... But it's a part of my world, Take care if it ends up being in yours.
Taken from http://www.liftbigeatbig.com/2013/06/10-reasons-why-heavy-lifting-is.html
Everyone knows that lifting makes women big, bulky, and less desirable. But, do they know the reasons why? I compiled my top ten reasons as to why women should NEVER EVER even think about touching a weight. Ever.
1. You will find less and less that you are asked to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich. What will you do with all that free time?!?
2. Men on the Internet will tell you that you are too big. Can you handle no longer being the object of a stranger's fantasy?
3. Pants won't fit because your butt has gotten so big. Imagine actually filling out a pair of pants, the horror!!
4. Your children might see that a woman can be something more than a frail object meant to please a man. Challenging the status quo is never a good thing.
5. You can eat a much larger amount of delicious food and not gain a pound. Disgusting! Pass the tofu and skim milk please.
6. Men will avoid you at the gym when you lift more than they do. How are you supposed to know how to lift without their constant coaching?
7. You will be able to open a pickle jar without a man or a knife. No one should possess that much raw power.
8. Your bones will maintain a thick density throughout your life. Do you really want to rob a surgeon of your money for osteoporosis treatment?
9. Heavy lifting can be as diverse as you want to make it. Your time would be much better spent on a treadmill every day watching CNN.
10. You will be shunned from old friends that want you to go clubbing every night. Those are the kinds of friends you just don't want to lose.
Get the official poster HERE.
Just wishing my friend and awesome writer/relationship coach, Jereme L Ford and his lovely wife, Mary a happy life together. Two beautiful people belong together.
Nothing but the greatest blessings that God can give.
(Thank you for allowing me to sing at your wedding! :) )
Myself and the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation's Young Leaders took Lupus Research to the Power of 10 in recognition of World Lupus Awareness Day May 10. A Flash Mob of volunteer dancers brought attention to lupus among hundreds of visitors to Union Square Park in Manhattan. Here's the video!!
Just a quick thank you to the awesome folk at Young Gifted & Black Entrepeneurial Awards for selecting me as the winner of the 2013-2014 YBG Nina Simone Award for Artistic Excellence. It was an amazing night at LQ-NYC where myself and several of the premier African & Caribbean Americans were recognized for our various contributions in our different ways, from fashion to management to public service.
I do these for my birthday and for Christmas, although I pretty much end up buying these items on my own... or it ends up on the next list. lol. I do it for fun and maybe to put you on to some cool things.
1) CR-X WOMEN'S INSULATOR PRO TIGHTS
For those of you that don't know, I'm an active runner training for my second half marathon right now. Yes, I run in the winter. No, I'm not crazy. After the 1st mile I'm usually pretty warm, but my legs tho! I need some windproof tights to motivate me to run in the 20 degree weather NYC likes to drop to. Size Medium please.
2) iTunes Gift Card (Any value over $10)
I'm so in love with my iPad mini and, as always, TEAM IPHONE! A gift card so I can get some cool apps and music would be swell. Anything less than $10 isn't gonna do much... You know Apple isn't cheap.
3) Garmin 620 or its less expensive cousin the Garmin 220
If you know me, you know I'm all about that healthy, fit life. So I was blessed to join the awesome running group called "UnDo Ordinary" for a quick fitness shoot called UnDo the RUNway to close out NYC Fashion Week. Special Thanks to Puma for all the cool clothing (like my outfit) and JackRabbit Sports for hosting us at their store. Here are some photos by the awesome photographer, Stephen Ewings (@LifeRoundHere). Thanks Sacha for the invite!
Don't write for the expectations of others... people are never satisfied. Just work on being the most authentic YOU through your art that you are, and those that need to be blessed by it will be. I've been there, read a poem I wrote & was proud of to someone and gotten a blank stare back, compared myself to others only to feel inadequate and stuck, heard 'oohs' and 'ahhs' for others and gotten golf claps after my performance. I've thought about giving up...It wasn't until I realized some of the most amazingly talented people I know had to fight the same battle within themselves that I realized that criticism (both self and to criticize others) is human nature. It's a gift to recognize constructive versus destructive criticism when it rears its head. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't have something beautiful to offer the world... Frank Ocean, Maroon 5, Walt Disney, Stephen King, Emily Dickinson, Beethoven, etc: all people who's work resounds with so many but were told they weren't good enough and/or rejected. You have a voice that will resound within someone. Focus on that. Continue growing and learning more on how to best manifest you through your creativity.
Since the release of AIM HIGH, a LOT of people have been loving the song "Damn Near" (myself included). Shoutout to Chris Theory on the track...
That said, I recently shot my FIRST MUSIC VIDEO! After years of being in everyone else's video (from Q-Tip to Jadakiss to my boy Troy Ave), it's finally time. I was blessed to work with a good friend of mine and great film maker Gartharie D Broadie on making my lil ole treatment make sense and come to life. Special thanks to the good folk at Therapy Wine Bar in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn for being one of the locations we shot at. Much love to my cast: Olu (fitness and nutrition guru who transformed into an actor for me), Krystal Garner (accomplished model and my Soror), and Q aka Quanasia (the amazing stylist for the entire video who doubled as my pianist when other plans didn't work out). Thank you to my niece Janae for being a great assistant on the shoot, and to my friend and fellow poet Ashley Straughn who came through as well.
Look for the video to be released at the end of July!
If you live in Atlanta and didn't come out last week to celebrate the release of my album AIM HIGH at Acoustix Bar & Lounge's S.M.A.R.T. Thursdays, YOU MISSED OUT! It was an awesome night with so many great people in the building. Eshe from the 90s group Arrested Development killed the stage, singer/songwriter Rudy Currence hit the open mic, and Chris Cocktails, the host, kept us cracking up the whole night. Here are some photos… (Video footage coming soon)
On stage! "Crushing Hard" in full effect with the D Rhodes band!
Grammy winner, Eshe from the group Arrested Development, SMASHED the stage! An awesome singer, dancer, and performer, her energy is amazing!
Chris Theory, the amazing producer behind "Damn Near" and both versions of "Aim High", and my background singer for the night, the dope vocalist (and make-up artist), Miss Bri Did It. :)
My sister Lianne (all the way from NYC) was there with her friend Karla, who's known me since I was a baby!!
Look who showed up in support: Rudy Currence! Freakin amazing singer, pianist, and songwriter. So proud of him and blessed to have heard him get on the mic later that night.
Me, the hilarious host (and my Phrat brother) Chris Cocktails, and the lovely Eshe at the end of an amazing night!
If you missed it, you missed a lot! On Wednesday, May 15th at Negril Village Lounge, a gathering of people came out to celebrate the release of my new album AIM HIGH. I was not able to get photos with some of the awesome people there like my friend & amazing emcee Homeboy Sandman (aka Angel!!!), my mentor and A&R for the album Steven "PeeJay" Whitaker, my sister Suzanne, Alonzo Davis from www.JustBeenTested.com, and more great people who showed love. Thank you to everyone that supported the album, who spread the word, who asked me "Yoooo when does the new album come out" over and over, and to all those who weren't able to make it (or didn't even hear about the event), I thank you for caring and always showing love.
PLEASE cop the album if you already haven't and spread the word!
People were able to get AIM HIGH CDs signed, hear me perform, and listen to a few tracks from the album!
DJ Commish and DJ Jon Quick, the two who made the night possible and who kept the tunes spinning and the people dancing all night long!
Playing a few tracks off the album...
Singing "Aim High"... See the passion????!!
My cousin Kieuna and my stylist, Quanasia!
Me and my daddy! (He brought me flowers!)
L.I.V.EWire (who performs with me later and KILLS it on the Aim High Remix) & the amazing vocalist and beautiful person, Cocoa Sarai.
My girls here: Aura, Tiffany, and Jessica holding me down!
Some of my favorite fellas: Dela, Sean, and Kameron
The brotha with the soulful voice, Bradd Marquis, who stopped through RIGHT before his show at S.O.B.'s. That's love!
Skee-Wee, my Soror! Model and actress Krystal Garner showed love. Skee- Roo to DJ Jon Quick!
Thanks for the love & support PR Pro and beautiful lady, Keisha McCotry
East New York neighbor, Radio Personality, and DJ OhSoKool all smiles!
Last Friday, May 17th, I attended an mixer event sponsored by The Wall Street Alphas to raise money for the AIDS Walk. Also sponsoring the event was www.JustBeenTested.com, a social networking website geared around the importance of KNOWING YOUR STATUS. The creator/founder, my friend (and fraternity brother) Alonzo Davis was there... with a mobile HIV testing center! I firmly believe and support what his site is doing and, while I knew my status (I was tested during a check-up a few weeks back), I like to lead by example, sooooooooo.....
I GOT TESTED!
People think it's a scary experience, but it's wayyyy simpler than they think. I walked into what seemed like a bakery van and was instantly in a doctor's office with two nurse practitioners. They were both super friendly and asked me to fill-out a few papers: one just asked some office-type questions (name, address, etc) and the other was a verification form for www.JustBeenTested.com. Oh, I forgot to mention, a cool part of the site is that when you do things like get tested (the results aren't given or asked for; it's just a form that you scan or fax to say that you did it), comment on posts, or stay active on the site, you win $100 gift cards, t-shirts, and more. So by getting tested and filling out that form, I got points towards that gift card that I know will come in handy next month around my birthday. :)
Anywho, the nurse practitioner sat me down, asked me if I've ever been tested before (uh, yea, Shanelle doesn't play that!), and then asked me the one question that kinda got into my head:
"So if for some reason this test comes back positive, do you feel that you have emotional support to help you deal with it?"
Whoa. That was kinda scary... but a good question. I hope more people think about that when they're engaged in risky behavior. I told him yes, and he made me sign the form stating my swab number. He handed me a small swab stick and told me to rub it across my cheek and over my gums. That was it. Test done. No blood, no needles. But now...
The longest 20 minutes ever! It felt even longer than the line to go to the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July. This is the part that Chris Rock talked about in Bigger and Blacker: "Here's where you start to think about every questionable piece of a** you've ever had..." lol. Even if you know you've been good, haven't done anything, and have been negative before, you still start thinking "What if the negative I got was a mistake? What if those 5 HIV tests I took were all flawed??? AHHHH!" My advice at this time, go somewhere, have a drink, listen to some 2 Chains or something else mind-numbing and calm it down. Until you get bad news (and I pray you don't) there's no reason to get worked up.
I came back 20 minutes later, and my nurse practitioner confirmed: I'M HIV NEGATIVE, BABY!
He proceeded to give me a round-trip Metrocard (YES!) and a JustBeenTested gift bag, complete with JBT lip balm, hand sanitizer, and mints... all so I can attract someone who I can get down with and end up back here getting tested. JUST JOKING! All nice gifts to keep on me to make sure I tell others about the value in getting tested and the coolness of knowing your status.
I hope this story made you a lil less weary of the idea of getting tested. It's not a game: more than 1.2 million people in the United States are presently living with AIDS, and 1 in 5 people are unaware of their positive status. Crazy, huh? Don't end up in this statistic. Wrapping it up isn't enough. Condoms break and there are STIs/STDs you can get even using condoms. If you're grown enough to be getting busy, you're grown enough to have the conversation about testing before you do it. Shoot, there's nothing sexier than a clean bill of health! For realz.
ANDDDD make sure you join this awesome site that "wants to reward you for knowing your STI status and for adding to the dialogue about sex, relationships and overall sexual health."
So thankful to be mentioned on the world famous Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)'s blogsite. I, along with the awesome Jive Poetic, are listed as Mahogany L Browne (poet, teaching artist, and curator for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe)'s favorite Brooklyn poets.
BAM 150 Guest Post: Brooklyn Poetry Picks by Mahogany L. Browne
Shanelle Gabriel, a native of Brooklyn, is my go-to poet when facilitating lectures on the necessity of humor and poetry. The Flatbush resident is a singer and actress, mainly writing in free verse. Her topics range from gender roles to rites of passage and lupus awareness. She is a crowd favorite with her sultry vibrato and is an active advocate for youth mentorship.