Spoken word artist shares poetry with students in personal performance


Spoken word artist Shanelle Gabriel came to perform at K-State in the Leadership Studies building on Thursday. She signed personalized posters and took photos with people in attendance that stayed after her performance.

“This went better than I ever could have imagined,” said Laura Oxler, Union Program Council multicultural co-chair and junior in journalism and mass communications. “She completely blew my mind with how engaging she was.”

Gabriel, who is originally from Brooklyn, has performed nationally and internationally to diverse groups of audiences. She said this event was one of her favorites because there was a great energy in the room and that people at K-State were sweet and warming.

“Spoken word is a combination of poetry, sounds and a little bit of theater,” Gabriel said. “It is just different people talking about their lives. When I perform, I try to tap into what I felt when I originally wrote the poem. That means that there is a sense of theater and self-reflection in everything I do.”

Gabriel tried to include the audience as much as possible throughout her entire spoken word performance. She said if people had questions, they could shout them out whenever they wanted, as long as it wasn’t in the middle of a poem. She wanted her performance to be compared to a southern Baptist church.

“This event went so well. I am in such a high right now because of how well it went,” said Michelle Foster, UPC multicultural co-chair and senior in political science. “She made this experience more personal by including us in her life rather than just talking to us.”

When Gabriel was a junior in college, she was diagnosed with lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease; a chronic illness where the body sends white blood cells to attack the body instead of infections. It tends to flare up in times of stress.

“It is another challenge that I have to deal with a chronic illness,” Gabriel said. “I have more appreciation for the body I was born with. Lupus gave me a calling. I am now an ambassador for lupus. This is something that even when people are battling through hard times, they can still live out their dreams.”

Gabriel is also known for is her singing talent. She said she had been singing since she was 5, beginning in her church’s children’s choir, and hasn’t stopped since.

Gabriel said that it is an age-old battle between which she prefers: spoken word or singing.

“Singing was my first love,” she said. “Poetry is close to my heart. I am not ready to make the decision between them yet.”

Radina’s Coffeehouse and Roastery catered the event, which took place in the Town Hall Room of the Leadership Studies building. The coffee shop provided cookies, brownies, a cheese and crackers platter, coffee and hot chocolate, which were available for free to audience members.

“I just wanted to thank Radina’s for being so gracious in catering for us and this event,” Foster said. “So much support has come from Radina’s and the Leadership Studies Building staff. I mean, we probably won’t leave until an hour after the event was supposed to end at, but the people here are so understanding about what is happening.”

Gabriel said it was a blessing to be here in Manhattan and that “the Little Apple” has made an impression on her.

“I love what I do and I love people,” Gabriel said. “I pray that shines through when I speak. There was a lot of love in the room tonight and I am so grateful for that.”