Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

“RELEASED” a hit new docu-series to be debuted on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
September 30, 2017

Consulting Producer and Author Shaka Senghor

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being an honorary guest at the dynamic press lunch accompanied by a very deep and necessary roundtable discussion. The group dissussion surrounded multiple branches of incarceration within families and it featured the consulting producer of “Released” Mr. Shaka Senghor. 

“Released” is a new docu-series that adds a journey filled with emotion, a glimpse into the interaction and readjustment back into society after being incarcerated. In episode one we are introduced to Kevin, Jermaine and Kay as their stories are documented post release and they enter the next phase of transitional adjustment back into society; some serving over a decade of time. When one family member goes to prison it takes on a whole new territory for the family through conversation, explanation, financial and emotional hardship. No person is wrong for having the feelings they experience as we are not in that persons shoes to identify the hardship.

Rapper Mysonne joined to weigh in his views on the discussion

If you have not been incarcerated personally you are unaware of the tactics it took to survive inside, post traumatic stress uncuffed and the mentally physche of overwhelming feelings. You may have experienced the same emotions within your life perspective but from the key element of FREEDOM. Not having an outlet or the option to choose what and when you eat, enjoying simple pleasures at your own leisure or even interaction with others if you are in the hole will make you appreciate life in general. The struggle or the restriction is not comparable in either instance even though it does not make one’s feeling less valid because of a void that was not filled.

Shaka Senghor shared his story and why it was important to show this vantage point of being released is imperative. With staggering statistics as: 44% of Black Women have a family member in prison or 10,000 men and women are released every week, 4 to 10 return within 6 months and how the U.S. incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world is alarming. 1 in 9 African Americans parents are in prison and drugs are along the top tier for the reasoning. 

RELEASED follows individuals who have completed longterm prison sentences during those first crucial 90 dayson the outside.  We’ll meet them as they walk out the  prison doors for the first time, and stay with them for  every step and misstep as they attempt to reconnect withtheir loved ones, establish their independence and beginthe long, hard work of starting over. 

As the docu-series continues to build around Kevin, Jermaine and Kay we will gain insight in how they transition from being restricted inside with no glimpse of society to entering a new world so to speak as it did not stop as they were away. 

  

I think society stigmatizes being released and there has not been an outlet to break the cycle of incarceration which tears families apart. Prison isn’t always the solution and in Kevin’s scenario he already had two strikes and went onto serve 19 years for stealing $160 worth of baby clothes and getting into a scuffle with a security guard. That sentence is harsh in comparison to a sentence of a murderer or not being able to get a job due to his priors and environment in which many opportunities aren’t rendered. Returning to familiar habits becomes the resolution to the common issue of being an outcast when returning to society. There is hope after prison, adversity and anything you consider struggling it all has to deal with your mentality and utilizing what you have access to but some are not as fortunate as others.

Shaka Senghor joined by Chanel Benjamin

Being placed back into society is similar to a baby learning how to walk after the crawling stages. How can you put something in the past that the world constantly remind you of with closed doors and limited opportunities? You literally walk out of one form of imprisonment to another form of restraint. Many are dehumanized in a way that allows people to say that’s unfair and unfortunate and make strides by utilizing our voice for change. The healing for children impacts their quality of life you can not rewind time and the importance of the new docu-series “Released” angles of family interaction, dealing with the outskirts of reality is depicted with raw emotion. The only emotion we are allowed to own is our anger from the notion of what is presented to us and what we see others have or just curiosity to how your life would have been in comparison to what is it. 

Courtesy of 135th Street Agency

Watch: Kevin Getting Stopped at Airport Security

https://owncomm.box.com/s/w5psexj6q1fcijs8qg1hpth5o126bkcd

Watch: Kay Describes How it Felt to Be Released

https://owncomm.box.com/s/cxw2bzq2xxvw0zkfclddo2bg7tl9b6lq

Be sure to watch RELEASED as it debuts on Saturday, September 30 at 10PM ET/PT on OWN. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ReleasedOWN

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Don’t act like you forgot (life after Basketball being my identity)
July 31, 2017

Good morning! Let’s go back, back to when I was captain of my Junior High School basketball team at then WestSide Academy. A fierce, diminutive leader who did not let anyone off easy. I was the confident one who signed autographs on request and my yearbook was filled with comments stating see you in the NBA or you will be a superstar in the WNBA. 

This is not my first trophy but my first experience being taking under the wing of a coach who was more like a father figure in the likes of the late Edwin Rosa. He was every players hero because he went above and beyond for you. He was intense, enforcing and keenly interested in your studies. Was this my first trophy no but one of the most meaningful ones because it was under his coaching. I also played at and for Riverbank, Gauchos, Rucker Park, Douglas, Exodus, Milbank and countless other places I’m from Harlem so you seen me play on somebody court before.

My first trophy was in P.S. 180 elementary school beating out all of the boys in suicide. I was a quiet, timid and learned by sight little girl. But when basketball was the topic; I became a different person I lit up with confidence, strength and assurance after hearing comments before anyone saw me perform on the court. I would hear “you’re too little” when I told my late Uncle Ken he gave me the best advice in life. He asked my stats I told him my points, assists and steals. He replied what about rebounds, blocks, charges and I stated “I am just a point guard Uncle Ken.” He said “no you are a student of the game, I watch you study plays and imitate it to perfection. Chanel, you are not too little to do anything in life. You are a player on the court that plays with passion that is bigger than your actual size.

Work on being an all around player and report back to me with the stats I asked for.” Is this a challenge? Everyone knows I am competitive, passionate and protective with anything I love. Basketball was my first love, besides my first love. During my time of coming up while playing basketball I was always the only female so you know I always had something to prove. Here is a portion of my story life after basketball and all that it has taught me in my chat with Rachel Piazza.

I never went to basketball camp I just watched The Knicks games with my mother and mimicked what I saw them do in the park. I was always the only girl. This is me in Junior High School; West Side Academy. This was right before I received my scholarship to St. Michael’s Academy. My monthly tuition was definitely someone’s rent. I don’t know how my mother did it but she believed in me.

Rachel Piazza: Hi Chanel! Can you tell me a little about your athletic background?

Chanel (Speedy): Hi Rachel! Sure. I played basketball since I was in elementary school (P.S. 180) and back then I was the only girl on the team. I earned several nicknames, trophies, traveled and medals. The nickname that stuck with me was “Speedy” at SUNY Old Westbury I was a play maker and defensive specialist all 4 years. The phrase I would chant to get everyone hype was “SIT!” As in sit in a defensive stance to get the team motivated and crowd into it.

Rachel: That’s great! Do you feel like you were a confident player?

Chanel (Speedy): Thanks! I was most definitely a confident player many underestimated me because I am diminutive but I played with a lot of heart and out hustled everyone because basketball was my passion.

Basketball gave me confidence in life because it made you develop problem solving skills, a broader view for presentation and life tactics that you can utilize on a daily basis. Basketball has shaped a majority of my life because you get to learn sportsmanship, social skills, leadership as a point guard, responsibility as I served as a captain and respect for rules and regulations. It prepared me for life scenarios in a way no other recreation has.

Rachel: Were you confident in your abilities on the court?

Chanel (Speedy): I took pride in being on the court and helping my teammates in anyway I could. I was that energy spark player you needed on the court to change the games momentum, get key steals and stops.

My abilities on the court gave my confidence a boost because being a visual player I would study my opponent and attack their weaknesses. Being that I was both fast, ambidextrous and had a series of moves including an in and out that allowed me space away from my defender. Basketball taught many lessons through wins and defeats but it definitely made me more aware of my self belief, awareness and overcoming the obstacles of people doubting my natural skill and abilities due to my size.

Rachel: Do you think basketball gave you confidence in your life?

Chanel (Speedy): Basketball gave me confidence to play against guys and girls alike who were older, stronger and more experienced than me and challenge them in competition because I knew I was quicker, more disciplined and had a greater basketball IQ. I had some great coaches that groomed me into the player I am. I didn’t have any formal training, attend any camps when I first started out everything was visual and me imitating plays from what I saw watching Knicks games. 

John Starks was my favorite player later A.I. My coach Edwin Rosa saw potential in me and worked on my game. There weren’t a lot of buzz about female athletes when I first started but I followed Sheryl Swoopes when she was in Texas and she was dubbed the female MJ. Later a break through came and the WNBA came along after the defunct ABA and sneaker deals were given and more exposure. It gave me more confidence that it was more than a recreational pastime it could be a possible career.

Rachel: Thank you Chanel!

Chanel (Speedy): You’re welcome. I wish you the best in your present and future endeavors. Thank you for being a beaming light for fighting for women equality.

Life is about wins but learning from your loses no matter what angle it comes from in life. Be it a person, game, scenario etc you have to adjust and incorporate it as a lesson in order to navigate. If I just had the skill of basketball and not honed other skills my life after basketball which ended in me getting hurt practicing in L.A. with the Sparks this would be a where are they now interview. 

Which is similiar to the correlation of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball character Tanya Randall. I did not want to be Tanya Randall. My advice to every woman in basketball is never go Tanya Randall (chuckles sorry I think in movies and songs that was a Jay Z 4:44 reference). Alongside my vision for myself, my mother and grandmother’s teaching I took education seriously which landed me scholarships and Sallie Mae don’t know my name (you have to sing that in Trey Songz voice LOL). Why do I play all day!

However, honing other skills is important we as women do not make as much as men so we have to work harder, smarter and secure Plan B, C and D until something is fulfilling for financial stability. I refuse to be placed in a box of creativity or occupation. My mother told me I could be anything I wanted to be at the age of 4 and I believed her. I am an entrepreneur, mentor, writer, public speaker, author, media specialist and the list goes on. My name is Chanel “Speedy” and this is my life after basketball. Don’t act like you forgot. I still have a mean in and out to get pass you haha. Don’t forget to smile today!

Chanel “Speedy”

Rachel Piazza is a women’s rights advocate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt training at Unity Jiu-Jitsu School in New York City.  Rachel has a master’s degree in women’s & gender studies and leads feminist self-defense workshops for women and girls. Rachel’s analysis on the empowerment of women through martial arts has been featured in numerous online outlets, including ESPN.com.

As a co-founder of Young Feminists & Allies, the National Organization for Women’s first virtual chapter, Rachel’s work reaches beyond the realm of self-defense. In addition to herTEDx talk on sexist language, her feminist analysis has been sought at national conferences, and in digital media platforms on various topics including race, pop-culture, and politics.

Twitter: @rachelapiazza

Website: http://www.feministselfdefense.com

Email rachel at femselfdefense@gmail.com

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