Sol-Legacy Magazine

Inaugural Edition

February 2024

Welcome to Sol-Caritas' captivating exploration of the minds of extraordinary individuals. In this exclusive interview, we invite you to delve deep into the thoughts, experiences, and perspectives of Madam Shantell, a person whose story is both captivating and inspirational. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the intricacies of her life, her passions, and her aspirations. Together, we'll shine a spotlight on her unique insights, accomplishments, and the wisdom she has gathered along her remarkable path. Prepare for an engaging conversation that is sure to leave you inspired, enlightened, and eager to draw from the well of her extraordinary journey.

Introducing the Newest Member of the Sol-Poetry Family

Felicia Shantell, a.k.a. Madam Shantell

Madam Shantell, how did your journey as a poet begin?

My journey as a poet started in 2008 when my mentor, Ajali, initially known to me as Mama Funches, extended an invitation to a poetry cafe for Valentine's Day. At that time, I was a high school senior with a profound passion for the arts. It was at G's and Z's Poetry Cafe that I was introduced to the world of poetry. I was fortunate to witness captivating performances by renowned poets such as Savannah Blue, Marie Brown, Equality, Deception, Black Snow, Nef 007, and, to my astonishment, Ajali herself. Until that evening, I had no knowledge of Ajali's poetic talents, but I felt a deep sense of warmth as I looked around the small cafe, where people from diverse backgrounds had gathered. This experience, featuring poets from across Houston, including the likes of Black Snow, Nef 007, and Ajali, ignited a realization within me. From that moment onwards, I knew that poetry was a path I wanted to pursue.

During my freshman year at Texas Southern University, my quest for poetry led me to Truth, also known as Michael Graham, who introduced me to Mama Neff in the library. Under Mama Neff's guidance, I became a part of the slam poetry group "Poetry and Politics," solidifying my journey as an inspirational poet.

Could you tell us about the key themes or subjects that frequently inspire your poetry?

My poetry is deeply rooted in life itself, with a strong emphasis on my personal experiences. From a young age, I received invaluable guidance that encouraged me to use my art as a tool to share my distinct narrative. I wholeheartedly embraced the concept of art as a form of therapy, finding my primary source of inspiration in the tapestry of my own life experiences. To put it plainly, my poetry serves as a profound reflection of my journey because, in all honesty, "Poetry Saved My Life."

Many poets have unique rituals and routines when they write. Could you share your creative process and any specific habits that enhance your writing?

I find that I am most productive in serene environments, often choosing quiet spaces near bodies of water or clean rooms permeated with the soothing aroma of burning incense. Accompanied by the gentle melodies of neo-soul or jazz music, this setting creates an atmosphere conducive to unrestricted contemplation. It's during these moments that I often find myself grappling with the shadows within. These shadows act as catalysts, prompting deep introspection and allowing me to revisit memories or images tied to my emotions.


How has your poetry evolved over time, and what role does it play in your life today?

Throughout my journey in poetry, I initially approached it akin to keeping a personal journal. While I still hold journaling in high regard, my evolution as a poet has seen me incorporating more poetic figurative language into my entries, effectively transforming them into poetic narratives. This transformation has been greatly influenced by poetic mentors like 2Die4, whose passing in 2022 was a profound loss, and Rain the Poet. I've also honed the skill of utilizing a thesaurus to enrich and elaborate upon words that may have initially appeared simplistic. This refining process has not only enhanced my expression but has also elevated my craft. As a result, I now resonate as a more cultivated artist within the realm of the arts, and poetry continues to hold a significant place in my life today.

Do you have any memorable or particularly meaningful experiences related to your poetry?

One of the most memorable and profoundly meaningful experiences in my poetry journey was when I joined PoACTry Productions in 2012, presenting a poetic play titled "Journey in my Big Girl Shoes." After a series of successful shows in Dallas, the excitement of debuting in Houston was palpable. This poetic play revolved around the narratives of four, initially five, women, each representing diverse ages and life experiences.

Participating in this theatrical experience was transformative for me, offering a profound glimpse into the potential trajectory of my future as an artist. Witnessing the substantial impact our poetic play had on the audience, I realized the possibility of evolving into an entrepreneur within the arts. This realization has since become a significant driving force in my ongoing journey.

Can you share some of the challenges you've faced during your journey and how you've overcome them?

I've encountered significant challenges on my poetic journey. One of the most notable obstacles was a period of complacency. There was a point where I found myself in a unique position, with few individuals pursuing a similar path. This led me to distance myself from others, which unfortunately caused some poets to question my identity as a poet. Little did they know, my commitment to poetry remained unwavering.

However, I've recently come to a crucial realization. I no longer feel the need to confine myself to someone else's trajectory. Instead of trying to fit into pre-established lanes, I've learned to forge my own path. By consistently charting my course and staying true to my unique voice, I've discovered that I truly belong exactly where I am – in my own lane.

Poetry can be a powerful form of social commentary. Have you ever used your poetry to address specific social or political issues? If so, could you share your thoughts on the intersection of poetry and activism?

This is a deeply personal and significant topic for me. On April 22, 2020, my best friend tragically fell victim to an incident – he was shot and killed by Officer Tu Tran. Until that moment, I had a distinct perception of my city, but this heartbreaking event opened my eyes to the harsh reality that our city is not immune to such incidents. Driven by the loss, I connected with my uncle, James Hudson, who became the family spokesperson, and he helped facilitate a connection with Congressman Al Green. Since 2020, we have been tirelessly seeking justice.

In response to this tragedy, I joined forces with fellow artists in Houston, coming together to form "Artist Unite" under the umbrella of I.A.G. Productions. Our collective is a diverse group, including poets, singers, dancers, rappers, comedians, and artists from various genres, all united in our mission for justice. Our efforts have garnered attention from influential figures, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Representative Ron Reynolds, and many others. Despite the progress we've made, the fight continues. We stand not only for my lost friend but also for others like Jalen Randall, who faced a similar fate years after my best friend, Joshua.

We are more than just a voice; we are a movement – Artist Unite.

Activism often requires collaboration and networking. Can you share some of your partnerships and collaborations in your work and how they contribute to your success?

As previously mentioned, our collective efforts have involved collaborations with prominent political figures such as Mayor Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, State Representative Ron Reynolds, and many others. Our unity extends to artists across Houston, spanning diverse backgrounds and disciplines. We have collaborated with the 1989 Dream Production Crew, DJs like DJ R.A.E., comedian Lady Kaye, and director-producer James Hudson, among many others.

Through our advocacy and community engagement, we achieved the establishment of "Joshua J Johnson Day" in the city of Houston, a recognition named after Joshua. Our commitment has earned us distinctions such as the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and Community Service Award. The State of Texas acknowledged our impactful work, and we received congressional recognition from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner.

I want to emphasize that my involvement is driven by a passion for the cause, not personal gain. When I receive awards, I see it as a recognition of the impact our collective efforts have on the community and the people of this great city.

What role do you believe technology and social media play in modern activism, and how do you leverage these tools to your advantage?

Utilizing social media provides me with a powerful platform to reach a wide and diverse audience that I might not engage with regularly. Through live streaming, video posts, and the dissemination of flyers, I initiate discussions on various topics to actively involve the audience.

It's essential to emphasize that I recognize the significance of collaboration. While I am a driving force, I understand that I am part of a larger movement. Therefore, I actively seek the participation and engagement of the community, understanding that collective efforts yield greater impact than individual endeavors.

Can you share a success story or a specific moment in your activism that you feel had a significant positive impact on your community?

After Joshua's passing, a year later, my company, IAG Productions, played a pivotal role in organizing a press conference for Congressman Al Green. This event provided a platform for him to address the developments in the case of Joshua J Johnson. The press conference drew the attention of major news outlets, including Fox 26, Channel 2, and Channel 11, all of whom were present to document the proceedings.

The initiative took root as I collaborated with artists from the community to deliver impactful and revolutionary pieces that addressed the need for justice. Our collective efforts resulted in a feature in the Houston Chronicle newspaper and coverage across all major news channels.

This success story showcased artists in Houston on a different echelon, emphasizing that even when the world may grow silent, our voices as poets and artists in the community remain resoundingly heard. It served as a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression in conveying crucial messages when others fall silent.


Do you have any mentors, professors, or individuals who have had a specific impact on your personal growth?

I am grateful for your inquiry, and I am fortunate to have several mentors who have played significant roles in shaping my journey. Among them, Ajali the Poet stands as my primary mentor, having been a guiding presence since I was 15. She not only introduced me to the realms of poetry, acting, and entrepreneurship but has also become a cherished figure akin to a second mother. This dynamic is amusingly acknowledged by both my biological mother and Ajali herself.

Another influential mentor is the esteemed Mama Neff, a professor whose wisdom and guidance have been invaluable in my journey.

Lastly, my poetry sisters, 2Die4 and Rain, have been sources of inspiration and support, contributing to my growth as a poet and artist. Each mentor has left an indelible mark on my personal and professional development.

What advice would you offer to aspiring poets who are looking to find their own voice and style in the world of poetry?

Remain authentic to your true self.

Allocate moments to genuinely listen to your inner voice.

The facade of imitation can only persist for a limited time.

Eventually, your authentic truth will emerge.

Reflecting on your academic and extracurricular activities, is there a particular accomplishment or project that you're especially proud of?

Over the past nine years, I have been actively involved with I.A.G. Productions and poACTry Productions, particularly in organizing the "I'm a Survivor" seminar. This artistic counseling event brings together artists from across the city of Houston to engage with the community through various forms of art. Not only is this event congressionally recognized, but it has also received proclamations. In the current year, we were honored with a Volunteer Service Award by the President of the United States, and the state of Texas acknowledged our efforts through State Representative Ron Reynolds.

This award-winning seminar has set us apart in the city, underscoring the significance and excellence of our endeavors. The collective efforts of my IAG family and poACTry family serve as the backbone of this initiative. I frequently use "we" because, once again, I acknowledge that these achievements are the result of collaborative efforts rather than individual endeavors.

Are there any upcoming projects or events you'd like to share?

I am the founder of I.A.G. Productions, a company, and January 5, 2024, was our five-year anniversary. Over the past five years, we have organized annual events across the city of Houston. Our upcoming lineup includes the Night of Romance: A Poetic R & B Extravaganza, Artist Unite for Justice, the 10th Annual "I'm a Survivor" Seminar, and the Season Greetings Charitable Concert. These events reflect our commitment to diverse and meaningful experiences, showcasing our dedication to the arts and community engagement.

Are you a member of any special affiliates or organizations?

I am a key member of several dynamic ventures. First and foremost, I founded IAG Productions in 2019, collaborating with Singer/Comedian Lady Kaye, Dancer/Poet Abstract, Model Nina Greene, and Houston Male Singing DJ, DJ R.A.E. Together, we've created a platform that integrates various artistic expressions.

Additionally, I contribute to poACTry Productions, a poetic acting company initiated by Ajali, Rain the Poet, 2 Die4, and myself. This collaborative effort fuses poetry and acting to create engaging and thought-provoking performances.

Now, I am also involved with Sol-Poetry, further expanding my involvement in the vibrant world of artistic expression.



Facebook  Instagram