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How Meditation Led Shelah Marie To Finding A Greater Love

"I will never be at this place again. Whatever I have to do to heal it, I will do."

BOSS UP

The relationship we have and nurture with self lays the foundation for how we relate to and connect with others in our lives. Assessing the issues that discourage self-love from prospering are key in order to repair and reignite the freedom that comes when we finally believe the words "you are enough." I chatted with self-love advocate and lifestyle entrepreneur Shelah Marie – who you may remember from when her 2017 photo of doing yoga with boyfriend, rapper Ace Hood, went viral. Shelah's mission is to create a movement of total self-love and liberation for women of color through her platform Curvy, Curly, Conscious – a place where "self-help" meets "real talk" through virtual and offline events and retreats.

Shelah opens up about her healing journey and gives tips for others repairing one of most important relationships a woman will ever have: The one she has with herself.

To fully understand how self-love evolves over time, we must start at the beginning – childhood. "I grew up as the only person of color growing in my home..the only Black person in my neighborhood. I was the only one with hair like mine, skin like mine. I couldn't figure out why I was different. My [immediate] family wasn't open to talking about it."

"Because I had fundamentally saw the world through race at a young age...what I saw was a big deal. Everyone didn't look the same and it mattered. I learned to deconstruct the performance of race around me...I was aware of people's emotions and saw things that people weren't saying. I always wanted to create something that I never saw."

Acting, the performance of characters, and storytelling became a passion of Shelah's. Her 2010 move to New York City to enroll in a Master's program at the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts would be the domino that set off a chain of important events in her life. "My experience in New York changed who I was. I learned a lot about other cultures, languages, and how to appreciate the small things. I couldn't afford TV or cable or a car. I didn't have disposable income. I learned to exist on very little. I put everything into my craft."

A Journey Into Self-Love & Self-Healing

Photo Credit: Latoya Osborne

Courtesy of Shelah Marie

From juggling multiple jobs, to dealing with seeing her friends "making it", Shelah became severely depressed and her anxiety peaked.

"I was always surrounded by people, but I was always alone in my mind. My self-esteem was so low and I started to attract people that reflected that. I attracted men that were treating me in an unhealthy way. One relationship got extremely abusive."

An argument turned into Shelah's then-partner telling her, in front of her roommates, "Yeah, bitch. You're a bitch and I hope I'm first person to ever call you that, bitch."

Enough was enough.

"I saw myself as a child and I realized the only other person to call me a bitch in front of people was my mom. This is where my spiritual journey kicked up a notch. I told myself that I get it. Whatever pain and hurt that is within me that feels the need to manifest this man to reflect my beliefs at me this strongly...this will never happen again. I will never be at this place again. Whatever I have to do to heal it, I will do. From then on, I put myself through Shelah's school of self."

Shelah recognized that in order to reach her potential, she would have to learn to navigate past the toxicity in her life. Over the next few years, self-healing became her priority. Four important things led the way for Shelah's transformation: Talk therapy, working with a healer, reading, and meditation. This work allowed Shelah to confront the trauma that was hiding in her subconscious. She was committed to equipping herself with the information so she could start to understand what she had been through in life.

Meditation was especially helpful as it allowed her to "get friendly" with herself. "I realized I was an adult and didn't know myself and have never sat with myself. I'd used men, career, work to distract me."

The reality of sitting in and embracing pain is something that many women of color often accept as a part of life, Shelah believes. "'I'ma talk to Jesus. I'ma go to church. I'm going to pray about it...get a new outfit, you'll be fine.' This is what we tell each other. It doesn't work. Black women are comfortable with sharing their pain just from a place of 'This is just how it is.' When I used to listen to a lot of Gospel, I would become addicted to how much pain I would feel. Sometimes we can get addicted to that space of talking about the pain, living in the pain, and being in the pain. That space is part of the process but I'm more interested in moving beyond that."

Photo Credit: Latoya Osborne

Courtesy of Shelah Marie

"Whatever pain and hurt that is within me that feels the need to manifest this man to reflect my beliefs at me this strongly...this will never happen again. I will never be at this place again. Whatever I have to do to heal it, I will do."

How Meditation & Self-Healing Led Her To True Love

Shelah's call for Black women? Listen to yourself. Honor your pain. Allow yourself to heal. Allow yourself to be connected and feel supported from within.

If you're starting out on the journey, Shelah recommends finding a therapist that caters to your needs, listening to guide meditations like The Meditation Mixtape by Shelah Marie, and filling yourself with knowledge. The books that aided her include A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson, Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping, and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

If she really wanted to focus on healing, Shelah knew that she'd have to be radical in how she invested in her learning and the expectations she set for those she surrounded herself with. "My healing was my job, and it still is. Everyone in my [tribe] knows this. Anyone I can keep around...if they are not actively healing, they will be phased out of [my life.]"

Shelah's healing journey allowed her to embrace the unknown when it unexpectedly appeared. She was new to loving herself and having standards in a relationship, when she met now boyfriend Ace Hood, a few years ago in New York City. Upon first meeting him after an invite to a New York club during All-Star Weekend, Shelah knew there was something special.

"He was in the back. There were all these women and celebrities around him. [Ace] saw me and parted the divider and went, 'Shelah, hi! I love your videos on Instagram and you're so funny.' He had this big smile and his eyes lit up. I said to myself, 'I'm fucked. If I'm not supposed to go for it, I'm going for it. I don't care what happens.'"

As with any relationship, it didn't come without challenges – especially in the beginning. Though Ace was attracted to her personality and who she was – the two had to learn to coexist and understand their two very different worlds.

"I struggled for a while trying to fit a circle in a square peg and tried to make myself into what I thought a rapper's girlfriend should be. That didn't last long. [I had to understand that] this is who I am. I'm Shelah. This is me."

Though people had questions about how their relationship would work, Shelah emphasized the notion that you can redefine yourself and humans are layered individuals. When Ace became interested in learning more about the benefits of yoga, the two decided to go on a journey together. She saw something in Ace and knew that they could help each other become the best versions of themselves.

Even if you're not in a relationship and find yourself longing for companionship from a partner, Shelah reminds us not to wallow in self-pity. "When I was in NY [before meeting Ace], I was single and depressed. I had to be proactive about the feelings I wanted [and] I'd fuse that into my meditations. Do not leave it in the hands of someone else to provide you what you need. Date yourself. Do nice things. Look good for yourself! Sometimes I'd get sad [or jealous], but I'd remind myself, 'Man, I feel so supported. I feel so loved.'"

Photo Credit: Latoya Osborne

Courtesy of Shelah Marie

"I had to be proactive about the feelings I wanted [and] I'd fuse that into my meditations. Do not leave it in the hands of someone else to provide you what you need."

A Call To Black Women & Their Healing

Helping other women of color heal has been the core of Shelah's personal mission and her recent entrepreneurial pursuits as well. She mentions, "As that little Shelah [experienced], I wanted to create something that I never saw. With Curvy, Curly, Conscious, I was responding to what was being given to me. My Instagram started to grow. I did an event, it was a success. Four city tour, success. Black women believed in me. I needed to keep giving them more. I wanted to produce high quality, high level beautiful experiences for Black women to heal and commune with each other because I believe we deserve it. Black women deserve beauty. It reaffirms our humanity."

However, Shelah again found herself having to confront deep fears and insecurities that would have stunted her ability to deliver on her promise.

"The biggest challenges as an entrepreneur have been overcoming all of my individual fears. You know how much courage it takes to take people's hard earned money in advance for something? You have to deliver. I wasn't a business person. My background was in acting. I had to invite people in [such as bookkeeper to help me.] I had to [overcome] my own fears about not being good enough and not knowing enough."

For others looking to build a brand in the self-help space, Shelah notes that investigating your personal strength is a must.

"What skills do you have that everyone goes, 'How do you do that?' A lot of people try to copy and emulate. The reason my account grew was because my strong suit is sharing my story and talking. You don't have to have a big following to have a big business. Find your zone of genius and follow that. Just because social media is poppin, doesn't mean everyone has to have a page that's popping. Follow what you're good at."

When remembering where this journey all started, Shelah had some words she'd tell her younger self, the little girl struggling to figure out her story. "You're doing great. You're doing really well. It's fine."

For those of us also navigating the fluid waters of nurturing self-love, Shelah says, "We live in a society that is extremely driven. There's a little window into everyone else's life now. There's Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes it looks like everyone is moving at 100mph and you're just moving slow. Don't watch what everyone else is doing. You are doing fine, too."

Our self-love journeys are not monolithic, but one thing is true for us all: Growth is possible.

For more of Shelah, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Latoya Osborne

Originally published on February 13, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Mj Rodriguez has been giving us all of our lives since she emerged on our screens as the ever-so-fabbbulous Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in Pose, in 2018. Since, she has captured the hearts of many all over the world, from LGBTQ advocates, to everyone in between. The beloved series officially came to a heart-wrenching end, after three seasons of tackling homelessness, sex work, the rejection that the trans community deals with on a daily basis and combined it with heart and dance to captivate millions around the world weekly.

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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