I'm a convict...Nah I just got arrested yesterday. / by Shanelle Gabriel

I just had to share this experience. Trust me, a song or a poem is coming out of this. If you think it's too long, just read the paragraphs with the *s next to em. lol. I was venting. :)

While everyone was enjoying the unseasonable, random warmth of yesterday (Sunday), yours truly was in a cell at the 71st Precinct. Some reckless kids and gangsta artists welcome trouble with the law as ways to up street credibility or inspiration. Nah. I was pissed!

*Imagine, my newly washed car glistening sun-rays off his hood. My car, Bobby, was looking on point, and so was his girl Shanelle. My cream turtleneck perfectly complimented my tortoise shell Burberry shades, the window was down, my make-up and hair was tight, blasting T.I.'s "Swing Ya Rag," I swear I was in a 90s So So Def music video. I was on my way to link with my booking rep to pick something up and then to see the movie Push with a fella friend of mine out in the city. I make a right turn (later I find out I breezed past a sign that said "No Right Turns"), and I get pulled over by a police VAN a lil past the corner of Flatbush and Empire.

*This is my first time being pulled over so I turn down my music, turn off the engine and roll my window down. Two officers approach the vehicle and one tells me of my bad turn. I suck it up as he takes my license and registration back to his van. I text my friend Lawrence about the situation, and he jokingly writes back:

"Damn! Look cute and take it on the chin. Don't let em take you to jail. Call me when it's over."

*I chuckle, then I hear the van door slam. I lean out the car window as I see 5 officers get out. As I think it, I say it, "Why are all of you getting out?" Oh gosh...Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell. All these names rush in my head. 5 cops for little old me. But then I shake it out because, hey, I've done nothing wrong. I paid any tickets I've gotten and I've never been pulled over before.

*He asks me to get out the car. I get out, aware of the busy intersection of cars slowing down to see what looks like an episode of Cops. One officer tries to explain everything.

*"We ran your license and it turns out you received a summons that you never showed up for, and your license is suspended." I cut him off to stammer, "I've never received a summons. If you look at my record, I paid off every parking ticket I've gotten. If I'm so adamant about paying off tickets, why would I ignore a summons? No, there's a mistake." He shakes his head and says, "I'm sorry miss, but we have to take you in. Can you put your hands on the vehicle? We have to search you." An indignant tear creeps from my eye, as I hesitantly and disgracefully put my hands on the car. I try to breathe slow to calm myself down and to hold back the tears, only for them to pour onto my cheeks as he says, "We have to handcuff you now." I start shaking my head no and say, "Please, don't cuff me. I'll go peacefully, just don't cuff me." He says they have to, and I put my head down. I walk to the van, feeling like a runaway slave being dragged to a plantation, spirit feeling broken and just trying to figure out how this happened. The White female officer who searched me seemed to have pain in her eyes for me. I realized this van was filled with rookies, and I was a lesson on 'standard procedure.' She'll probably become emotionless like many other cops after a few years on the force, but for now, at least one person felt bad.

I get to the precinct, aware that the last time I came to one, I was hooking up an officer I knew with a free case of Redbull. They take me to the desk and get my information. A male officer held my arm as if I was going to run away and as if they took me in for armed robbery. I was relieved when he passes me to the female officer who just lightly held my arm.

*I get put into a cell with another young woman, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I had these images of masculine women lined against the wall, looking at me like a piece of brown-skinned cake for the taking. I sit down on the bench, and take it all in. I'm in jail. Wow. And no one could tell me, to this day, what the summons was for and when it was given. Just that my license is suspended because of it. People sell drugs a few blocks away, and I'm in jail for something no one can quite explain.

The only thing that kept me sane was the conversation I had with the women there with me. One was there for a $15 summons she ignored back in 1997, and the other lady that later joined us had a more serious case because she spoke up on the arresting officers' use of excessive force on her son. (Because she held on to the night-stick they pressed against her neck, pinning her to a wall, they tried to say she "held on to an officer." They brought her in without shoes.) A man in the male cell next to me got arrested for ripping up a BS summons he got right in front the cops. A kid got punched in the face by a White Officer, and two other Black Officers who were standing said they "didn't see anything." It was crazy being around the things I and other poets write about. Why do people want to come here? What is it about being in a urine-scented, cramped cell that is alluring to some? Repeat offenders can't possibly get used to this, and if they do, they've got serious issues.

*The officer finally tells me after 2 hours of waiting that they're giving me a DAT (Desk Appearance Ticket). It took 7 hours to process this. I did my fingerprints, mug shots, and watched as the other prisoners were taken downtown to the court houses.

Being alone in a cell for an hour will drive you mad. How do people do that for years? Imagine, having to ask to use the bathroom, knowing someone may peak to make sure you're not doing anything like drowning yourself in toilet water or whatever they think you'll do.

*However, being there alone in my thoughts led me back to the story of Paul and Silas who were in the prison singing praises to God. The thought comforted me. I started humming Richard Smallwood's "I Give You Praise" to myself, and then I busied myself with writing a song about my situation.

They bring a sister in with me who was a kindred musical spirit: she was a songwriter who's mom called the cops on her after starting a fight with her, a mix-up that led to her being dragged to jail while wearing a pretty black blouse, jeans, and cute leather black boots. She made my time move a lot faster because we started cracking jokes on Etta James, Whitney, and on ourselves because "Now, all we need is to get shot and we can sell hip hop records. We're gangsta; we did hard time." LOL.

*At 11:00pm, I was released from the cell. Sad to leave my friend behind but glad to get away from the dirt and brown-whatever stained walls I'd been in for 8 hours. I put my coat back on, only to be handcuffed again to walk up front, as if I'd fight on the way out to my freedom. He uncuffs me at the front desk, and says under his breath, "I'm sorry about all of this. I wish I'd met you under different circumstances." It was then that I actually looked at him. Yes, he was okay looking, BUT he handcuffed me...against my will. I can never forgive him for that. Nor could I imagine telling people "I met my boyfriend when he arrested me for some BS." I have no license, and can't get it back till I appear before the judge in March. My sister picks me up, and I see all the missed calls from the guy I was supposed to meet in NYC for the movies. He waited a whole hour for me. Poor thing. :(

*Moral of the story: Well, there is a way to make the best of every situation. Nothing we go through is unbearable. Two texts for you:
1) Psalm 30:5 says, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Praise God it wasn't morning when I got out, but being that I didn't give trouble, I got out quicker than others did.
2) Proverbs 17:22 "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." It would have felt much longer if I stayed in my pit of despair. Once I began trying to cheer up those around me, I felt a whole lot better, especially the sister that was there right before I got out. Often times we focus on what's wrong rather than find reasons to laugh or praise or be thankful. I went to jail and wasn't raped, killed, or harmed during my stay. (I know it wasn't going to be an episode of HBO's OZ, but still, you never know.) God put cool people around me to keep me safe and sane, and He kept a song in my heart so I didn't flip out on any of the officers. While I plan to get this arrest removed from my record, I do say that it's an experience to remember. To anyone out there involved in illegal activity, seriously, if this is step one, you do NOT want to see step two of the justice system.

BTW, as the guys walk by my cell chain-gang style while heading downtown, one burly dark-skinned guy says to the officer, "Hey, why y'all got my future wife locked up? Heehee...Don't worry, I'm coming back for you." I said, "No need. I won't be here." He replies, "Babes, you never know."

I assertively respond, "Oh, I know. I will not be back here. If you look for me, you'll be here by yourself." That made me laugh for at least an hour.