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PHOTOSHOOT: UnDo The RUNway by Shanelle Gabriel

Hey all! 

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!

 

Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Verdict... What now? by Shanelle Gabriel

My friends...

Many of you are used to my twitter rants about current events and issues that I'm passionate about. There is no rant for this extremely disappointing and discouraging situation. A young man was killed with no recourse. The thing that breaks my heart isn't actually the verdict, that George Zimmerman will be free, or that the gun that killed a boy who could have easily been in one of my classes or on my block or at a show will be given back to the person that knowingly and willingly ended this promising young man's life. What breaks my heart is that I was right...

I knew the verdict would be not guilty, although the blindly optimistic part of me wanted to believe in justice, in the idea that a Black boy could be viewed as more than a threat and more like a human being. We are all pointing to a strong defense and a weak prosecution, however, just based off of the transcript from Zimmerman's initial interrogation with the police, he should have been convicted. There are many good people who go to jail for bad decisions, so all of the hooplah about how wonderful a person he was was unnecessary. And the fact that race was struck from being a factor in the case ignores the true reason for Zimmerman's aggression, recognizing that Whites AND Non-Whites are subject to racial bias and prejudice. The Stand Your Ground laws have widely been used to justify murder, but have shown a racial bias in the courts where according to a June 2012 study, 73% of people who killed a black person walked away with no penalty, compared to 59% of those who killed a white victim. Let's not forget how the courts didn't want to apply the law to Marissa Alexander's case where she fired WARNING shots after being attacked by an abusive partner and ended up getting a 20 year jail sentence. This law in itself is broken and applied where the interests best serve non-Blacks, so Zimmerman getting off should not have been a surprise. My blind-faith hoped maybe, just maybe the jury would have seen that Trayvon was not an aggressor and was very much standing his ground against a 209 lbs strange man who never announced himself as he stalked and followed him. I'm not angry... I'm numb. I want to feel something. 

This post isn't about stating the facts of the case. It's over. There's more his family can do, but I'm more concerned with the young Black men that are still alive, facing discrimination and prejudice, being denied their basic human rights, and focused on finding ways to make sure they survive in a world that doesn't want them to. Forget wearing hoodies. How about not crossing the street when you see a group of Black men on the corner? What about fighting public policy that unfairly marks our children as criminals ready to be stopped and frisked? How about actually getting to know the young people in our communities instead of just complaining about them and/or mentoring the kids that actually need it (not the stellar students from charter schools but the students in our failing public schools)? We don't realize how much of the prejudice exists within our own minds until we truly sit back and take a look at our values and actions. Many of us have fell subject to the "those punks" mentality just as Zimmerman did rather than seeing a younger version of ourselves, casually going through life, in transition, and a well of possibility. My prayer is that after the marches stop for the racism that for some reason we forgot has always been there, we don't stop making the small yet HUGE movements to change the futures of the youth around us. Please don't let Trayvon's death have been in vain. 

Thoughts on criticism and self-doubt... by Shanelle Gabriel

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.

Behind the Scenes of my video shoot for "DAMN NEAR" by Shanelle Gabriel

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!

 

My stylist, Quanasia, making sure I look right for the camera!My "Damn Near" boo getting ready for our game here on set at Therapy Wine Bar (Brooklyn, NY)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The director getting set up for the outdoor shot in Bed-Stuy of Olu and his other "Damn Near" boo, model and my soror Krystal GarnerOlu getting his act on for the final scene. He's getting a special performance from me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FInal scene... I'm showing off my legs and performing!And it's a wrap! Q, me, and director Gartharie D Broadie! Can't wait for you all to see the finished product!

Recap: Atlanta's AIM HIGH Album Release Show by Shanelle Gabriel

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!


I've "Just Been Tested"... I'm HIV Negative, Baby! by Shanelle Gabriel

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 WAIT!!!!

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."

VISIT WWW.JUSTBEENTESTED.COM 

 

Enough talking... Let's figure out HOW to combat rape culture by Shanelle Gabriel

"I swear, every woman I meet, date, even talk to has been raped at some point in her life. Uncles, ex-boyfriends, classmates, the list goes on. It's gotten to the point where I meet a woman and expect her to tell me that eventually. It's too common...There's a problem in our world, a serious problem." - A male friend


I didn't need him to confirm that for me. Nor did I need to hear about Rick Ross' lyrics, Stubenville students or Rehtaeh Parsons' suicide to know that this is an issue that has stayed underground and needs to see the light of day. Rape, its definitions, its physical as well as its marginalized presence in common conversations and language is seeming on the forefront of our newpapers and blog sites. We've commented, criticized, critiqued, and cried over the varying views on the subject. I will never tire of speaking up against those that believe "women put themselves in situations to be raped," that "it's just a rap song," that "she was probably just a slut," and I will speak against those that don't take a woman's voice serious enough to guard her by all means once she speaks up. That last one especially resounds through the many reports of rape in the military where victims who speak up are punished for doing so or end up being discharged. An overwelming number of women live with their secret for fear of not being believed or of future stigmatism, so protection should be first priority for anyone brave enough to share the story of their hurt in hopes to save others from future pain.

However, I also believe in action. Here are some ways to help make a change in our communities and our world by Alexandria from Feministing.com:

"Organize your neighborhood or school against rape culture: run consent education workshops and recruit participants to pledge their stance against violence. March, demonstrate, to publicly prove to all that those who inflict violence on others will not be supported or included by your community. Every time a publication runs a piece promoting rape culture, write a letter in response. Reject slut-shaming and victim-blaming of all forms. Loudly. Model respect for others’ bodily autonomy and stand up for your own in everyday situations to promote a culture of consent. Intervene if you see a dangerous situation developing, and teach others to do the same. Combat the transmission of rape culture from one generation to the next: teach kids to be better than we are. Don’t invite rapists to your parties (I can’t believe I even have to say that, but I do). Make sure survivors in your area have somewhere to turn for justice and support, and to stop their rapists from re-offending. If this resource doesn’t exist, create it. Refuse to tolerate speech that promotes rape; speak up even–no, especially–when to do so would be rude. Listen to a survivor when no one else will."

For my fellas... Here's some reading for you... by Shanelle Gabriel

 

"Before you fuck up and call her anything less than her name, before you grab her by the arm you need to know the trigger that you are pulling at. You need to know that the safety is never on. You need to know her history before you tell me that this isn’t my business. You need to know that her history is my history.

See, she and I, we come from the tribe of raw knuckled little girls who call our father by their first names and wear their mothers like bruise coloured war paint under eye. We grew thick skin before we grew permanent teeth. We learned to piece together our own families in the backyards of rented duplexes where we promised plastic faced babies better things in soothing tones that we mimicked from TV. We do not have daddy issues even though our daddy’s have issues. We have piercing eyes and promises to keep. We grew up to be nomads surveying domestic war zones with black eyeliner binoculars, always refusing to camouflage. We threw our heads back and laughed at oncoming explosions, never flinched, absorbing shrapnel, never let them see us cry.

We do not dream of boys who will save us from towers. We dream of boys with courage caked under their fingernails. Boys with hands rough enough to wipe metal tears from our faces but warm enough to mold them into stars. Boys with vertebrae strong enough to lock with ours so they can sleep sitting back to back with us and keep watch. And these are the boys, these are the boys who will find love under our armor. These are the boys who will find that we love selectively but we love fiercely. These are the boys who will learn that we love in ways that leave claw marks down the baseboard before we ever let go.

So do not think she doesn’t know how you fear her absence - you should. Your cage is not stronger than her will or her smile. Do not think you are good enough to tame her. You aren’t. And do not think you are the first to try because i have already closed your eyes and crossed your arms before your body hit the floor. And you think she deserves better than you. You are right. So be better than you.

Be thankful that she knows your name and be careful never to forget hers."

— Rachel Wiley

 

"Django, In Chains" by Jesse Williams (via CNN.com) by Shanelle Gabriel

If you are an African-American who has seen the movie "Django," you most likely have mixed feelings towards the movie. You may have laughed at the KKK scene where the holes for the eyes in the hood were too small for the members. You may have laughed at the plantation owner who got all discombobulated while telling his slave not to "treat Django like White people but to treat him better than a n***er." While the movie MAY have been entertaining, there was something about it that you just might not have been able to explain that made it uncomfortable (beyond all of the 4 minute musical interludes that I feel added a half hour to a 2 hour movie.) You know this movie got slavery wrong.
Jesse Williams properly elaborates on the movie and Tarantino's errors in  
Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams

 

(CNN) -- Films such as "Django Unchained" carry with them an uncommonly high concentration of influence and opportunity. Due to the scarcity of diverse and inspiring representations on screen, Quentin Tarantino's latest movie casts a longer shadow than many are willing to acknowledge.

In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film's impact: "I've always wanted to explore slavery ... to give black American males a hero ... and revenge. ... I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years."

He went on, "Violence on slaves hasn't been dealt with to the extent that I've dealt with it."

My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.

I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret "otherness." People see what they are shown, and little else. 

It's why my dad forced me to study and value history from an absurdly young age -- to build a foundation solid enough to withstand cultural omissions from the curriculum and distortions from the media. It's what led me to become a teacher of American and African history out of college. There is a glaring difference in outlook between those who have mined the rich, empowering truth about how we've come to be, and those who just accept that there's only one or two people of African descent deemed worthy of entire history books.

If, like Tarantino, you show up with a megaphone and claim to be creating a real solution to a specific problem, I only ask that you not instead, construct something unnecessarily fake and then act like you've done us a favor....

"Django Unchained" is being projected on screens around the world, out of context: A slim percentage of consumers have any real understanding of what took place during slavery, one of history's most prolonged, barbaric and celebrated human rights violations. Sadly, for many Americans, this film is the beginning and the end of that history lesson...

(Read the rest of the article HERE)

 

No Weapon (Devotional Blog) by Shanelle Gabriel

This past Sunday, something in me wanted to go to church. That doesn't sound like an epiphany to many people (it shouldn't to me; I grew up going to church every week), but with the groggy weather and the warm bed, it's amazing that I opened my eyes on time to get ready. I decided to go to Christian Cultural Center which is, like, 10 minutes away from me. I was up early enough for the 8:30am service but opted for the 10:45. I got there early enough to get a seat and start my Fearless: A Six Week Plan devotional before service started. It reflected on Matthew 14:22-33 where Jesus sent the disciples away on a boat, into an insane storm. It asked me to reflect on my personal storm at the moment. I thought of how much I've been missing my mother, my reoccuring battle to get off of the Prednisone I take for my Lupus, thinking about my brother-in-law not being here for my sister and nephews, and all the other elements I'm fighting to stay afloat in...It's a storm alright. The devotion asks if I've thought about why I'm going through all of this. I just want to know why it couldn't have just drizzled; why did the storm have to pour and toss my ship around....

The devotion asks if I've ever considered that "the Lord would not only allow me to head straight for a storm but might have sent me right into it". No, I hadn't. Suddenly my friends Kel & Flo arrive and sit next to me. They just happen to have come to the same service as I did. Just then, the service starts.

The band begins to play a seemingly familiar tune. I almost fall out of my chair. Fred Hammond, my absolute favorite gospel artist (ever since Commissioned) comes out singing "Let the Praise Begin." I whisper to Kel, "What's the chance of him being here on the ONE day I decide to come to church and at the exact service that I decide to attend?" Kel just smiles. I feel like it's just affirming that I'm on the right path, I'm listening to the right voice.

Every song Fred Hammond sings, I sing along with him: "This is the Day," "Glory to Glory," and more. I'm feeling so moved and revived. He finally goes into "No Weapon." I wonder if he watched Ray Lewis from the Baltimore Ravens say that text and chose to add that to his set, but I know in my heart it was something deeper that led him to select that song. Fred's silvery voice fills the room:

No weapon formed against me/ shall prosper/ It won't work/ God will do what He said He will do/ He will stand by His word/ He will come through...

Fred pauses for a moment and the music breaks. He begins to speak. He says, "There's a reason the Bible says NO WEAPON. It's because God knows there will be weapons targeted and aimed at you. That's not a surprise. It's a fact. But God said that no matter what, it will not prosper." I have a moment. I break out my journal:

"God sent me through this storm because I'm supposed to go through storms. Just like the weapons pointed at me, I should expect them. I'm asking God why me, when really, it's why not me? It's a fact that we are supposed to have trials, but we will NOT stay there."

My friend Kimone once told me (and I totally ignored him), "After this, you're going to have grown-up faith." I understand now. If I can have peace through this storm, if I can have all of these attack rifles and missle launchers pointed at me and still walk out of it, even CRAWL out of it, there's nothing I won't be able to face.

Affirmation is a POWERFUL thing...

Beginning 2013 With God Fearlessly (Blog) by Shanelle Gabriel

A few days ago, a new-found friend of mine mentioned that his New Years Resolution was to get closer to God. I said "Yea, me too," although the year had started and I knew I hadn't picked up my Bible since selecting a Scripture reading for my mom's Celebration of Life back in November. I admitted to him (and myself) that I wanted to get back to where I used to be with God: faithful and fearless. I once had a relationship with God that kept me calm even when my health, my career as an artist, and my crazy love life seemed to be overwhelming and unstable. But those storms seem to have come back with a vengence with some NEW elements to the mix. 

The last few months have been the most difficult period of my life to date. Some of you know that in November I suddenly lost my brother-in-law and a week later, my mother. Right after this, I found myself in a severe Lupus flare, and learned I was having issues (nothing life-threatening, but life-altering) with other systems of my body. Financially, my resources were shot. For the first time ever, I was faced with grown up decisions about what to do with my life, how to handle all this insanity that is coming at me all at the same time, and how, in the midst of my tribulation, to help others around me get through theirs. It's enough to lay a person out, and make them give up. Picking up a Bible seemed like a bandaid after a face-off with Beatrix from Kill Bill. Where do I start that doesn't feel forced? I told myself I'll just pick up my Bible and read till something clicks. Yea, that's REALLY motivating...sigh.

My friend then mentioned he's using this app on his iPhone (no, this isn't a plug for Apple; I get no commission off of their sales). It's the Holy Bible by YouVersion that allows you to start Bible lesson plans that center around different topics and last a variety of days, weeks, and months. Eh, it was worth a shot. A lesson plan called "Fearless: A Six Week Journey" catches my eye. From day one, I felt like the devotional was speaking to my fears, my storm. It asked me some introspective questions, and I suddenly remember a beautiful wood-covered journal that my Soror, Lisa, gave me. I decide to make this my spiritual journal where I keep track of what I'm studying, questions I need answered, scriptures that speak to me, and my overall feelings towards my relationship with God. In two days, my heart feels just a little lighter. I feel like the Word is speaking to my soul, telling me to be stronger, and that I can have that fearlessness that I once had before, even through the insanity that is my life. 

I don't know if you reading this helps in anyway, but feel free to join me on this journey. The lesson plan is here: http://bible.us/r/5N I'll be blogging any major moments and thoughts, praying that my epiphanies help someone else. 

 

Much love, 

SHANELLE GABRIEL

The Official Rules of Dating While "Dating" Your Chronic Illness by Shanelle Gabriel

With doctor visits, prescription pick-ups, bed rest, and flares, who has time for dating??? While the idea of "searching for the one" seems to have been replaced by searching for the right rheumatologist or specialist, you and I both know that there's a part of us that would like a special someone in our lives. But how do we date when we seem to have baggage from our relationship with our chronic illness?
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