Supporter Spotlights celebrate what brought Love146 supporters to be a part of the abolition movement, and share how they are choosing to take action. Every person is unique and we invite you to join them if you’re inspired, or find your own authentic expression.
Shaelle is a former Love146 intern and member of the UCONN Love146 Taskforce, a group that has done a lot to support the work of Love146. We recently got a call from Shaelle asking to use our office space for a weekend project.
This a guest blog from Shaelle on why we got that call…
Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
Throughout my 22 years of life, my definition of freedom has evolved. In my childhood, freedom meant immigrating to the U.S. with my family, in pursuit of the “American Dream.” In high school, freedom meant dating, driving, and going to prom. In college, I had entire courses dedicated to freedom (I was a political science major). During my college internship at Love146, I reflected more personally on the freedoms I do and do not have, and I noticed trends. I realized that I fell into different groups: woman, black American, young adult, immigrant.
One of the groups of people I identify with is black Americans. Though the group is made up of different ethnicities, things like arts, faith, and food unite us. However, so does a shared history of oppression. 150 years since “the end of slavery,” we still notice racial disparities that diminish our freedom, and currently many black Americans are uniting and grieving this in different ways. In the midst of that grief, I heard a song called “Be Free” by J. Cole. In the world of social media, I was surrounded by so many opinions.
I tried to express myself, but it wasn’t until I heard “Be Free” that I felt like I could actually articulate what I want for myself, black Americans, all Americans, and every person: freedom.
One thing I love about black people is that we are able to express our suffering and release our anger through art, especially through music. You know: negro spirituals, blues, jazz, rap? Standing on these shoulders, I reached out to some fellow artist friends for help expressing how I feel by doing a cover of J. Cole’s “Be Free.” Each person expressing their feelings through their preferred art form—for me that’s singing. I reached out to my old friends at Love146 to see if I could film in their office on a Saturday morning (they’ve got a great big brick wall). There, a few weeks later, we created one of my proudest pieces.
Standing in the Love146 office, repeating the words “All we wanna do is break the chains off, all we wanna do it be free,” though I’m not enslaved, I couldn’t help but think about the enslaved throughout history, and even in our present time, who have shared this same cry. These words, in the Love146 office, took on a different meaning.
There are children who are currently hindered and restrained from truly living. They are not free.
They are being “hindered and restrained” while their vulnerabilities are being exploited for another’s profit. Is this not slavery? When we think slavery, in America, we think “Abe Lincoln ended that.” One of the things I learned interning at Love146 is that slavery today is sneaky. Today’s slave masters (traffickers/pimps) use force, fraud, and coercion to enslave our vulnerable youth. What I want for them is freedom.
Slavery happened then, and it’s happening now. I found a song that, to me, expressed what I want for all oppressed people—freedom. Whether it’s standing up for people whose past of slavery is hundreds of years ago, or only weeks ago, freedom is the banner that I’ll raise.