“I don’t care if you worship a blue cow at 3:00 every day – be good to yourself and to others – and you will be alright with me.”- StacE’ Chanelle
Born Stacy Shannelle Crawford, StacE’ Chanelle, was birthed in and lived most of her life in Indianapolis. Her Naptown flavor has been sprinkled with a bit of seasoning from Beloit, Wisconsin; Rockford, Illinois; North Carolina and Arkansas (just to name a few of the spices that make up the recipe of a beautifully flawed poet, activist, and humanitarian). “My childhood was pretty turbulent and plagued with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. I was the oldest of five. With maturity, I believe that my mother did the best she could with what little resources she had available to her with regard to raising five children, dealing with traumatic experiences from her own childhood, all while battling an abusive marriage.”
Finding herself defending her own sanity, and the livelihood of her siblings, StacE’ found one person she could look up to. “My Aunt Angie has raised countless girls in our family. She has the strength that ten oxen pulling away from her could not begin to compete with. In my latter years, as an adult, I have come to value the input of others. It can be a difficult task when you feel that you have been making executive decisions since the age of eight. No one ever challenged you. No one ever told you that you were wrong. I have inadvertently had some relationships shatter based on this, in hindsight. My mentors are people that struggle. People that are not ashamed to say that they do, and actively work toward growth and healing while helping others do the same.”
StacE’ Chanelle. The inspired alteration of poet Stacy Shanelle’s birth name. The ‘E’ was born Aug. 22, 2008 at approximately 5 pm. When asked, StacE’ says she never tires of telling this story. “It was the exact 30-day anniversary of my Sister-Friend April Lynn Shirley (Wills) passing away.” April is honored every year in Indianapolis during The Violet Project, a venue held to benefit domestic violence shelters since April left this world as a woman fighting for love and survival at the same time. “I was with April the majority of her last Monday on this side of the Earth – literally like 10 am to 10 pm. I was on her MySpace page July 21, 2008 sending aLLEN iMAGERY, (the host of Spoken Soulfood Sundays at Midtown Arts & Coffee Lounge) my “Midtown, You Saved Me” poem. April begged and pleaded with me to get a MySpace account, but I was adamant in my resistance to social networks. Since I was unable to be ‘connected’ to April after her passing, aLLEN iMagery was kind enough to let me look at April’s page through his, at the studio. I remember seeing a sticky note that said ‘Stacey Crawford’. My response was “Um, who is THAT?” Of course, Allen answered with his look “Uhmmm, YOU?” Instantly I was enraged about two things. 1) How did aLLEN know my last name? And 2) Why is that freakin’ ‘e’ there?’ For the better part of 30 years, I had given massive amounts of grief to people about placing that notorious ‘e’ in my name. ALLEN, being the creative genius that he is, snatched the sticky note down and said ‘Well- that’s how APRIL told me it was spelled so THAT’S HOW I’M GONNA SPELL IT!’ He then scribble over the ‘e’ and replaced it with an ‘E’, reading: StacEy. It was in that moment that I realized that the very thing I spent my whole life complaining aobut, now brought a smile to my face, and it still does. It is a reminder not to sweat the small stuff. Ironically, the only way that Facebook would allow me to capitalize the E in my name was to accentuate it. So, it stuck.
“Chanelle is a much more intimate story. I always wished MY ‘Shannelle’ was spelled with a ‘C’ and one ‘n’. I know it sounds sill. Once I was diagnosed with herpes, I set out to find other individuals with the same condition to gauge their reactions to it. When it was time to select a screen name, I knew I could live with any of those “Strawberry 346543_69′ type of names. So, I used this as an opportunity to redefine ‘Chanelle’
Herpes is a part of VOICE!boX, Inc. We hope to reduce the stigma associated with it. I personally do not understand what the big deal is, respectfully. It is very disturbing to me to have met people with HIV that feel more comfortable discussing their status, than people with Herpes and HPV do.
VOICE!boX, Inc. hopes to build a connected network by getting people to see: ‘If you want openness and honesty from people, you must accept, not stigmatize, people that provide that very information.’ Otherwise, out of shame and other reasons, people will continue to hide their conditions/situations (sexually transmitted, HIV, mentally, sexually, etc.) until an adverse situation arises from it.”
StacE’s experience with life led her to form an organization called VOICE!box EmPOWERtainment. “I do not want my stories to draw sorrow or pity, but to serve as additional proof that your current situation does not determine your destination, nor does it permanently define who we are. I often refer to myself as a ‘Presidential Client’ which represents my oath that I am not only the founder of VOICE!box EmPOWERtainment, I need, disburse and utilize the information exchanged at our sessions as much as anyone else. I want sessions to start back up for me, just like anyone else does.
“If you did not know who I was, you would not know who was ‘in charge of the circle’ at our EmPOWERtainment sessions. I wrote a piece of poetry called ‘Cells for Nonprofit’ and it is sincerely my ode to celebrate the recongnition that I AM a community advocate for exposure and evolution. I felt like there was not place to go if you didn’t want to talk to your close friends or family about the tops we have selected at VOICE!box, Inc. without getting the side eye or mumbles of gossip. I am currently enrolled at Ashford University striving to become a licensed counselor for those that come to VOICE!box, Inc and are interested in more in-depth communication, and so that I can be as tuned in as I possible can with providing meaningful EmPOWERtainment sessions. In the meantime, we will have a ‘V!B House’ counselor available to help us better guide the sessions and provide resources for individuals that many need further interaction regarding our ‘Matter That Matter’.
“VOICE!box, Inc. provides a very intimate ‘family’ or ‘living room’ like vibe and if here are thing that people want to discuss discreetly, we have a method for that as well. Our free two hour sessions would hardly be enough sometimes and just enough on other occasions. Every subject matter and group differs. Tons of healing feedback has surfaced from the sessions through our post sessions surveys that evaluate how the person felt when they came in compared to on their way out (along with other demographic information).
“I sometimes think I should have been born in the 60s because I often find myself wanting to march in the streets with a bullhorn to wake the people up about ‘Matters That Matter’. VOICE!box, Inc. was officially formed in June 2010, but our first EmPOWERtainment Session was held August 2010, so that is when we celebrated our anniversary. The moment you enter the V!b environment, you are someone that has nothing to be ashamed of and your are someone. For that reason nametags are worn during the sessions. We have icebreakers and despite what some are reluctant to believe, but other have testified to: VOICE!box , Inc. sessions are actually FUN! I wasn’t sure if talking about Herpes and all the other sticky matter I wanted to get into was going to fly comfortably, but they did and still do!”
StacE’ has actually faced being threatened by a male that he was going to tell everyone that she had Herpes. “I laughed. I left. I thought: ‘There is someone that would have been in that situation and would end up being blackmailed until God knows when.” This pushed her passion to the point of no return. I wrote a poem called ‘From a Positive Standpoint’ that some considered to be my way of ‘outing’ myself about my Herpes diagnosis. I have always been comfortable with the uncomfortable and the VOICE! Of an underdog I’ve always had an interest in helping people that are living with HIV and to help teens with issues about STDs. My mother suffers greatly with mental illness. I have many friends that suffer adversities in the LGBTQ community. My greatest obstacle that I have overcome is reclaiming my power to define ME and to know it’s okay to reinvent ME when needed.” StacE’ is what I would call the wounded bandage. As she heals, she brings healing to everyone she comes into contact with.
Stace’ is a staunch supporter of the community arts. aLLEN iMAGERY put it best: “Stacy has been down for the poetry scene since she found out Indianapolis had one!” StacE’ says, “That is true. What I write is personal and used to encourage others to not be intimidated by not memorizing or being performers when getting what they want to share out of the and into a receiving atmosphere. Calling myself a poet, in my opinion, is disrespectful to the genuine poets I know.” StacE’ must not have noticed that greats such as Nikki Giovanni, Sonja Sanchez and Maya Angelou are what I like to call “paper poets”, they all quite often recite their poetry from paper. StacE’ Chanelle may not consider herself to be a poet, but she is indeed the poet’s poet.
I met StacE’ two years ago at The Violet Project, a poetry venue created by aLLEN iMAGERY, to benefit The Julien Center (a local domestic violence shelter). I was sitting next to a large poster of a woman from Indianapolis named April who had been killed by the hands of a man she once loved. During our interview, I asked StacE’ what person she considered to be her greatest influence, who inspired her the most? “I would like to say that losing my Sister-Friend April, and other that have passed since, has churned a major gear of inspiration in me to not just die TRYING, die DOING. The Domestic Violence segment of VOICE!box, Inc. is dedicated to her memory (Facebook: In the True Upper Deck: April Lynn Shirley (Wills) 4/30/78-7/22/08). Eleven poets came together and made a CD “April Showers” in April’s memory. The love that was poured out in her loss for the short time that we were on the poetry scene together gave me strength on many days to aspire toward my ‘best me’ while I am here.
“I’m not very celebrity driven, but I am a devoutly diverse music lover. I would love to meet Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Common, India.Arie, John Legend, and Lyfe Jennings (just to name a few) and have them participate in VOICE!box, Inc. events. Locally, first and foremost I am influenced by my sister Jewel Edmonds. I am blessed with a network of wonderful people: Hamid Saahir (4cast Magazine), Baba Khabir (Griot Village), Jaison Ray (IDM Wear), Ja’Net Edwards (Nosey’s), Rhonda Bayless and Leslie Carpenter (Center of Wellness for Urban Women, Inc.), Nazeeha Khalid and Eric Saunders (C.A.U.S.E./Caring Artists for Social Equality), Ebonye Endsley (Seed to Save, Inc.) Donte’ Roddy (EOTO/Each One Teach One), and Indianapolis’ favorite photographer Cheria Caldwell (OwtSpok3nPhotography). I am also inspired always by the countless people who contribute food, donations, and provide active support and participation. They have been abundantly resourceful since the initiation of VOICE!box, Inc.”
As VOICE!box, Inc. enters the year 2012, they are planning to collaborate with existing teen and adult ministries, organizations, and groups within the community to host free EmPOWERtainment Sessions about mental health, homosexuality/gay/LGBTQ, domestic violence, sexual trauma, Herpes, and single parents with teens and the challenges they may face. VOICE!box provides a food and beverage menu that accommodates all dietary preferences and is free to all guests and participants. Sponsorship is primarily being requested for a 501c3 Non-Profit application, the production of V!b (Promotional) tees, creative and advertisement supplies for sessions, and fees associated with locations for sessions are all needed if one would like to donate. They are also seeking teen and adult performers from all genres (singers, poets, comedians, etc.) to artistically express their “Matters that Matter”. There is a crucial need for more men to get involved and show the initiative to uplift the young men of our community.
StacE’ would like to thank all of the supporters who have believed in her mission to reduce stigma and build connectivity in our community. A special thanks goes out to Steff Rec, januarie York, Toni Mj Brown, and Will King for immeasurable behind the scenes work and hours put in for the progression of VOICE!box, Inc. for today, and tomorrow.
To donate your time, your funds, your materials, or your love contact StacE’:
Facebook: VOICE!box EmPOWERtainment
Connectivity Site: www.voiceboxinc.webs.com