G.R.A.C.E 1st Annual Back To School Block Party! RECAP
September 18, 2017

DJ M Fresh and CEO of G.R.A.C.E non-profit Gracie – Photo credit: The Marshall

I just came to say hello! (Waves frantically) I woke up still feeling inspired from yesterday. Being in the position to implement positivity in the place that you grew up in is amazing!

The first wave of school supplies at the G.R.A.C.E table – Photo credit: The Marshall

On Sunday September 3, 2017, Gracie Cedres, the CEO of G.R.A.C.E (Granting Resources And Community Enrichment) non-profit, gave back to the very place she was born and raised. Being the visionary, entrepreneur and kind hearted person she is the task of creating an incentive to give back to the scholars in the community was planned and well executed.

Attendees enjoying the giveaways from Vegan Smart nutritional shake, Junkless chewy granola bars and hair products from Taliah Waajid – Photo credit: The Marshall

Attendees enjoying the giveaways from Vegan Smart nutritional shake, Junkless chewy granola bars and hair products from Taliah Waajid – Photo credit: The Marshall

As the summer comes to an end and the new school year begins children, teens and parents wind down and what is a better way to spend Sunday Funday! G.R.A.C.E has alleviated some expenses parents are responsible for by giving away bookbags filled with school supplies, in efforts to provide children a head start to be GREAT!

Did you know: Each bottle sold by GiveMeTap gives 5 years of clean water to a person in Africa. They also have partnerships with restaurants and cafes, where GiveMeTap customers can refill their water bottles at no charge – Photo credit: The Marshall

Did you know: Each bottle sold by GiveMeTap gives 5 years of clean water to a person in Africa. They also have partnerships with restaurants and cafes, where GiveMeTap customers can refill their water bottles at no charge – Photo credit: The Marshall

Paula taking a moment to pose with the kids who stopped by her table to play interactive games and receive school supplies – Photo credit: The Marshall

Paula taking a moment to pose with the kids who stopped by her table to play interactive games and receive school supplies – Photo credit: The Marshall


DJ M Fresh keeping the block party LIVE! – Photo credit: The Marshall

We shine the light on G.R.A.C.E as a non profit whose mission is to inspire, enlighten and encourage youth, young adults and seniors of our community by providing influential resources and events. “Our organizers are residents of the Harlem community and by hosting this celebration we were able to stress the importance of education, provide support to the families with giveaways and provide fun activities for participating families. Our reputation lies in providing resources and enrichment in the community.” – CEO of G.R.A.C.E non-profit Gracie Cedres

CEO/Founder of G.R.A.C.E non profit Gracie Cedres displaying her bookbags – Photo credit: The Marshall

CEO/Founder of G.R.A.C.E non profit Gracie Cedres displaying her bookbags – Photo credit: The Marshall

To show your support towards Gracie’s community efforts you can purchase G.R.A.C.E backpacks. They are now available for order email apparel@harlemgrace.org for your choice the bookbag comes in different colorways and will assist in the vision going further within the community.

The literature table featuring Amy’s Travels and Tackling Reading by Kathryn Starke. Minnow and Mars display of the raffle prize a new lunchbox and bookbag set – Photo credit: The Marshall

DJ M-Fresh and G.R.A.C.E collaborated to bring a fun filled family day that provided food, entertainment, educational books, healthy snack options and school supplies for our scholars to start the school year off right. Harlem definitely showed G.R.A.C.E love as the rainy skies cleared out and the sun shined down upon us the event went on as scheduled. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they received the giveaways, won raffles, played in the bouncy house, and ate food. Their stomachs and hearts were full as joy, which made every action worthwhile.

Ms. Penny and Jay are all smiles when it comes to giving back – Photo credit: The Marshall

Ms. Penny and Jay are all smiles when it comes to giving back – Photo credit: The Marshall

iPad and Bookbag giveaway at The Indie Broker/Verizon table – Photo credit: The Marshall

iPad and Bookbag giveaway at The Indie Broker/Verizon table – Photo credit: The Marshall


Granting Resources And Community Enrichment in HARLEM! – Photo credit: The Marshall

To the sponsors and those who donated where would we be without YOU! You all are the MVP’s in this vision coming into fruition. We thank you so much for following through on providing your products, time, services and expertise with us all for the kids.

Facepainting done by @ZilladidIt – Photo credit: The Marshall

Facepainting done by @ZilladidIt – Photo credit: The Marshall

A form of expression and a smile for appreciation – Photo credit: The Marshall

A form of expression and a smile for appreciation – Photo credit: The Marshall

Special thank you to all of the Sponsors/Vendors:

@kathrynstarke (Tackle Reading & CMP) , @givemetap (Give Me Tap), @luxtravbywanda (Luxury Travel by Wanda), @indiebrokers (Indie Brokers), @Verizon, @winnowandmars (WINNOW + MARS), @timberland, @applebees (117th St Harlem Location), @redlobster (125th Harlem Location), @livevegansmart (Vegan Smart), @bjswholesale (Exterior Street Bronx Location), Maryam Yum Yum, @tlishadoeshair (Chic Hair Boutique), @bigrussbarbershop, @zilladidit (Face Painting), @loudsocietyllc (Loud Society), @simply_eight (Junkless chewy granola bars), @sunniclothing, @taliahwaajid, @homedepot (Exterior St Bronx Location), @culturexcollab, @_JaideL, @ItsCrystalChanel, @papajohns (145th Street Harlem Location), @dunkindonuts (145th St Harlem Location), Photo credit @alumniine (The Marshall), and @litee (Milton Webster).

Brought to you by: @harlemsgrace and @djmfresh

“Teamwork makes the dream work!”

Support goes a long way and we all played imperative roles for the success of the event – Photo credit: The Marshall

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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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