February 1, 2024
In honor of Black History Month, we bring you the story of eloquent poet performer and lupus advocate Shanelle Gabriel. With a focus on the theme “African Americans and the Arts,” Black History Month is a perfect time to hear from Shanelle, a woman who uses her poetry and music to elevate the voices of Black people, and especially those affected by lupus.
To Shanelle, the month is a time to shine a spotlight on the history of her African American ancestors – a history that was very difficult but “one that is also filled with resilience and accomplishments” – a time to recognize all the contributions that Black people have made in America. “That ability to rise above limitations is one people with lupus certainly excel at,” noted Shanelle.
As a young woman of varied talents, Shanelle serves her community in too many ways to describe. Speaking at several schools in Brooklyn in February, she aims to explain to groups of Black young people how while “we still battle historic challenges, we are continuing to move forward.” She is also performing her poetry at several community and corporate events to raise awareness of lupus as a difficult disease that disproportionately impacts women of color.
Like her poem “Living While Living with Lupus” that she performed at a recent Lupus Research Alliance webinar, Shanelle’s work speaks profoundly of the limitations that lupus has placed on her life and how she has reimagined her dreams to accommodate.
“I hope to make others consider this question – if I can no longer do something because of my condition, what else can I do? And how do I find the joy in that something else.” When Shanelle came to the realization that world tours as a performer involved too much stress and too many long hours, she pivoted and became more selective about where and how often she performs her poems while making her health a priority. She advises others with lupus to accept its unpredictability and the inability to control it, but to figure out how to exist within the limitations by controlling their response.
While Shanelle’s words motivate her audiences, she shares what also gives her the most hope for her own future and that of millions living with lupus. “It’s seeing the evidence, the progress, how much the LRA is pouring into the research, knowing that there are researchers out there who really care about trying to develop new treatments and find a cure for me. And seeing the fellow advocates I’ve connected with through the LRA, seeing them doing amazing things, that inspires me to keep trying to live the best life I can.”