On Mental Health, Police Brutality…Fable shares His Political M & Ms Through His Book, Adrift in a Sea of M & Ms: Mixed-Race Issues and Mental Disorders.
by Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Leroy Moore Interview Transcript by Cheryl Green, Additions by Adrienne Lauby
[Pushing Limits Theme Song: “Keep on Pushing” by Curtis Mayfield plays.]
ADRIENNE LAUBY: Welcome to Pushing Limits, KPFA’s program by, for, and about disability. I’m Adrienne Lauby and today our guest host, Leroy F. Moore Jr. brings us an interview of a fascinating artist and educator, Marcel Price, aka Fable the Poet.
Fable’s book, Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms: Mixed-Race Issues and Mental Disorders, was published this summer from Autonomous Press. Fable travels for Mental Health America talking about his own mental disorder and letting mentally disabled youth know that they are not alone in their communities. We’ll hear some of his poetry as Leroy talks to Fable about the gentrification of his home town, Grand Rapids, Michigan, living life as a mixed-race person, the lack of visibility for mental disabilities in activist and community settings and much more. There’s a transcript of this program on our website at www.pushinglimitsradio.org, in case you want to follow along.
Here’s Leroy Moore:
LEROY MOORE: Yeah, I love your book. I got your book from the publisher because I know the publisher. I finished it in one day. You know, it’s interesting because you never read a person of color really writing about mental health disabilities in a poetic way. So tell me why did you pick this topic, and how did you become aware of mental health issues?
MARCEL: Well, I pick this topic because it hits very close to home. At age 14 I was diagnosed with anxiety, stage two bipolar, as well as depression, and it was a really hard time in my life. I was going through a lot of abuse at home, and just school and everything else was very, very, very hard to deal with growing up. So I wanted to really, really talk about it just because, it’s just the thing around mental health: people don’t talk about it enough. But especially when it comes to people of color, we’re not train to talk about it. We’re saying that, oh, we’re facing issues of racism, systematic as well as close to home. And we constantly have these things to overcome. So when it comes to mental health, it’s just the topic is just shoved under the rug. It’s actually why I wanted to talk about it, talk about a lot of my experiences. The last couple years, I’ve been working with Mental Health America, which is an amazing organization, and they’ve been sending me to different parts of the country to get the conversation going, as well as to talk to youth and to show them that they’re not alone–because there was a time where I felt alone–and show them that hey, this is normal. People are going through this, and talk about it.
LEROY: Wow. Thank you so much for your work. Now, with these days of police brutality against people, especially Black people, and people with disabilities, you do have a poem in here that says, “Fuck the police.” It’s almost like NWA back in the day. Tell us about that poem, and tell us about your activism, especially now, around police brutality.
MARCEL: Yeah, the poem about the police originally stemmed from something that actually happened to me in real life. I was walking to go to disc golf, and it was a windy day, downtown Grand Rapids. When there’s a lot of events, there’s a lot of sweeps downtown to help people cross the street and make sure everything goes well. When I got to one of our main streets, I saw this individual, an African American man and his wife, an African American woman, pushing a van down the street. Nobody was helping them. They were literally just pushing their mini-van down the street. So I stepped out. I’m like, “Hey.” I asked the woman, “Hey, do you wanna hold my bike real quick so I can help push? Or I can lock it up, and you can steer.” She’s like, “Aw, I would love that. Thank you so much.” I’m helping the man push it down the street. I’m just confused, and I asked them, “Why don’t you get a gas can?” And he’s like, “Man, I don’t have money for a gas can. I’m just trying to get to the gas station so I didn’t spend money to save my car.”
I was heartbroken, especially seeing that they had children in the back seat of their van. And just to have so many people not doing anything, as well as police officers who are supposed to protect and serve and aid their community just watching these individuals of color push their car down the street. It just left a horrible taste in my mouth.
ADRIENNE: You’re listening to Leroy Moore interviewing Fable the Poet aka Marcel Price. Here’s “F__K the Police”
“F__K the Police
Dear Public Servant,
who is a little more observant
of the man in the mirror
being a little clearer
than the broke-down-minivan
helping hand that WAS needed.
“Why is NWA seeded
in the disc players of thousands!?”
As I was just tryin’a
Disc – Player.
Bouncing to Biggie Smalls,
flying down the Lyon St. hill
to the disc golf course.
I then passed the 61st District Court
full of money snatchin’
Can I get a-
“WHAT, THE POLICE?”
I am starting to realize that their location is kind of ironic.
because they are stationed on the corner of
Lyon and Ionia
and I am not lying just because I owe them.
But please, if I can at least get an extension?
For me not mentioning the visual metaphor
I swear I saw officer?
No, I swear, I saw officer-
Mr. Blue Car,
blue coat to match, black shoes,
do a bad move passing up a clearly struggling couple on the left.
Smooth job, buddy.
I met, uh, four?
No, I met four people on the left.
Two were pushing,
one so cushioned in her car seat,
AND NO ONE LOOKING
to lend a hand…
can I get a badge?
For turning my bike frame, into a picture frame
that would hang in the hands
of a very confused looking 35 to 40 year-old, African American woman.
As a guy with disc golf plans, clearly,
bag strapped to back,
bass now on Kendrick “Po-Up”, pushing a minivan,
hoping the police never show up.
As I got about three reasons warranting me
to be a runner in a Cops episode
or “Mug of the Week” in busted’s eyes.
getting more love than I have ever seen
from this husband’s eyes.
We inched a few blocks to T.G.I Fridays
And far from Lyon, I was tired.
Hey man, how long are we going to push this thing?
The closest gas station is like 6 blocks away-
its getting hard for me to stand,
why don’t you just walk there
make it easier on your family
and get a gas can?
He looked at me like it was obvious.
Because, they don’t just GIVE out gas cans, bro.
The 10 bucks I gave him
was kind of selfish.
I wasn’t gonna push that thing 6 more blocks
because by then cops WOULD have stopped.
TWO black males,
one who disc golfs,
And has plugs.
So, He must have drugs!
He’s clearly a ruffian.
And although I was doing a good deed,
They would end up cuffing me in with the man of darker skin,
who has a kid
and a broke-down van.
Many would assume NO money?
But, due to the court system police know it warrants MORE money.
And the Mommy is “out of sight” so DEAD BEAT is stamped!?
Mommy is “out of sight” so she is TRAMP-stamped?!
But she has no tats,
just standing blocks away with a church hat,
and a very beautiful picture of me
as a person now in her mind.
MARCEL: This was a few years ago, before people were really actively talking about it. But now, I take a lot of different steps to really advocate for what’s going on with our justice system.
I really take a stand for young individuals, especially young individuals of color, in street violence, things that are going on. I definitely started to advocate, for those individuals especially in our public schools. But when it comes to posing issues with police and racism, I really try to talk it up as much as possible.
In our city, there’s a picture of like 16-20 new officers that were brought on to the Grand Rapids police force, and they’re all white males. There’s no women, there’s no women of color, there’s no men of color.
MARCEL: This is why the system continues to progress in the way that it is and why it continues to discriminate against men and women of color.
LEROY: Yeah, wow. You have a poem I really like. Every city is going through gentrification nowadays. Tell me about that poem that you wrote about gentrification.
MARCEL: Yeah, I wrote a poem called “Race Together” for an organization called Partners for a Racism-free Community. And in so many areas across the United States, people are suffering because of the horrible effects of gentrification. Why I wrote this is because there’s a lot of minority-owned businesses in Grand Rapids that’s no longer there, but they want the word in there to be replaced with corporate businesses. They’re being replaced with novelty businesses that shift the demographics, the customers that they want in their community now.
And after talking to a lot of different individuals as well as doing this documentary for an organization called Mutually Inclusive, I really got to hear the stories from a lot of the individuals that have been long-standing in the community, individuals who said that in five years, there’s development properties that are going up around with their businesses. They’ve had businesses in the community for 5, 10, 15 years, and for them to be such a staple in our community and just to get flattened for high-rise apartments and all these new buildings that they wanna build.
People think that this is increasing property value, and it’s bettering it’s our community. But it’s like, what is bettering our community to think of demolishing and disassembling what’s already there? A lot of the issue with gentrification isn’t hey, we’re trying to revitalize the community. The issue with gentrification is you’re cutting out aspects and resources to the individuals, especially individuals and people of color, who are already there, and you’re displacing them. Whether it’s displacing them from where they live, it’s like they’re not welcome.
These are all issues. You have people who have always been members of this community no longer feeling welcome in a place they used to call home. That’s really the issue, and that’s really what we wanted to talk about with that. A lot of people really don’t understand the problem of gentrification. They’re like, “Oh, but it looks better than it was.”
MARCEL: [laughs] You’re not understanding the issue!
ADRIENNE: That was Fable the Poet talking about poem on gentrification, “Race Together”. Let’s hear that poem now.
They Expect us to Race Together.
Weather the storm.
But you cannot do chin ups with bootstraps when Polo’s and Timberlands (Timbs) are the norm.
They expect US to change what’s wrong,
Times have changed, so change the song.
“Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!”
We deserve a community, (unity)
Black was Wealthy.
In Grand Rapids,
Wealthy was Black.
How quick the images portrayed change
When the directors are “colorblind” to the “What happ’s”
Only see the “RIF RAF”
A Fitted, to a Snap Back.
A Sammy’s Pitta, and a Fresh Taper Fade
The grave of more minority owned business
But at least the tomb stone is clean,
Let’s chisel “Organic Market” in it.
Label it a community staple.
“Much needed community development”!
Smile to the neighbors as we cut the ribbon.
Let’s at least wave them farewell shall we?
Bid them adue, when their rent is.
Maybe I’m being petty.
Let’s be childish, as our youth doesn’t get to be.
Black business will be the Trading Cards nobody wants,
Little Cesars For a Sandman’s?
Black Jack no Trade Back.
Finders keepers losers weepers…
not so loud that you disturb the community…
A week ago saw someone say that Minority Business Incentives were racist.
Racism Reversed as in us doing what you created?
I call it evening the odds.
It isn’t even.
Even when it appears to be.
Odd enough it isn’t even
Even when it appears to be.
“Get UP, stand UP, stand UP for YOUR Rights”.
They expect us to race together.
Weather the storm.
I asked a 16 year old black boy last year
“What can we do to fix racism in our community, how can you fix the way people perceive you?”
“Nothing, its useless.”
I smoked a cigarette outside of Mulligans Pub.
I laughed at how expensive a pack was as I peered down the street at the new apartments I can’t afford,
Next to the street I used to live on,
A corner away from where I used to get my hair cut.
That boys response in class,
Is the same response I’m guessing his parents would give me.
Give me something to show them…
To prove them wrong.
I would keep showing them myself,
But I know that I am apart of a system that wants me to fail…
Yesterday I went to Farrah’s Bar.
The owner, greeted me with a smile.
The door patted me on the back with a sign that said “Hats on
straight, no Durags, No sagging pants, no bandanas”
That boy who said “Nothing” isn’t welcome there.
The sign says so.
2 years ago,
I was told by a bouncer at The B.O.B that I “didn’t meet the dress code”…
I was outside smoking, during an event that I threw that tripled their bar sales…
I should stop going outside to smoke right?
I keep being given reasons to quit,
Being around areas that don’t want us.
Apart of THEIR community.
But that’s why I have to stay.
Is why I HAVE to be here.
Why WE have to be here,
So WE can BE the change.
LEROY: Great! Yeah. I’m a poet. I’ve been involved with the open mic scene back in the ’90s. Tell me about the open mic scene nowadays.
MARCEL: I’ve never seen the open mic community so vibrant. There’s no sense of competition in so many of the places I’ve been. There’s no level of arrogance. There’s no hierarchy; it’s just like people supporting each other and just listening to each other get their stories and their hardship off their chest.
LEROY: Great. How did you find this press, Autonomous Press? Tell me, how did you find them?
MARCEL: I submitted to an anthology that was revolving around mental wellness, and the press contacted me and was like, “Hey, your poems are really good. Do you have more of them?” I was like, “Yeah, I have a whole book.” haha right.
It was incredible for them to offer publication. I was so blown away and taken aback by it.
ADRIENNE: You’re listening to Pushing Limits, KPFA’s disability program. Today we’re listening to an interview by Leroy F. Moore Jr. with Fable the Poet, aka Marcel Price, whose book, Adrift in a Sea of M & Ms: Mixed-Race Issues and Mental Disorders, was published this summer from Autonomous Press.
LEROY: Now, the poem “Bubbles,” you really take a hit on academia. Tell us about the poem “Bubbles.”
MARCEL: Yeah, “Bubbles” is a poem that I wrote ages and ages ago, actually. But I wrote it because when I was growing up, we had all these standardized tests, which many people do all across the nation. I always found it odd that I never found something, a category for me. There’s always Black and white, Hispanic, and other. And there’s a strange feeling about filling in this “other” bubble, like this point of displacement. It’s like, “Well, I don’t belong to any of these things.”
So when you grow up, especially when you grow up in an area that’s considered an urban area where you’re always too Black for some crowds, you’re always too light-skinned for other crowds. I understand the privilege behind being biracial, but at the same time, it’s like it’s just this feeling of no community being your own. And that’s really where the poem came from, just that constant feeling of being other, having all these people feel comfortable, or at least have the ability to say, “Hey, this is me. This is my own,” and really saying, “Hey, this is for everybody that doesn’t have this. Guess what. We are our own at the end of the day, and it’s beautiful.”
LEROY: Yeah, it is.
ADRIENNE: Let’s hear Fable’s poem, “Bubbles”
This is for everyone
And I know you are thinking,
“Man, what is he thinking?”
But I am thinking
about how we were thinking,
as the pencil got to shrinking,
in those damn
I am talking about those
that ended up leaving me
above the standard of stress.
Not over the questions
or the rest of the papers,
I just want to know
who vaguely suggested
the racial selection on these tests.
Let me tell you who–
someone who blew.
No really –
they must have had a
clean, clear, cut and dry view
of four and only four colors of d…
No, I’m serious as a heart attack–
take a step back and really think.
Cause I know, this isn’t right.
Because unless you are
Black, Native American, Asian,
Then you might have had to select
the “other” bubble.
And who wants to be known
as an “other”?
What about the interracial individuals
torn between multiple bubbles?
Be that Asian/Black, Arabic/Black, White/Black, or Hispanic/Black.
I mean honestly it seems to turn out like that.
But it is a fact that – if you are Arabic –
The Middle East is technically a part of Asia.
But people under the influence of self induced
Might “accidentally” mistake you…
But who wants to admit
to some idiot in the education system
that you’re Arabic,
So he can do something ignorant
like label you a terrorist?
do you choose Asian or White?
What if you have never seen Asia in your life?
But you have
eyes like a Samurai, skin like the sun,
and hair like the night.
What if you’re from Alaska?
Or the Philippines?
I mean, I would be confused
on which of those generalized four
bubbles to choose.
What about those from
Brazil, Puerto Rico, or South America who commonly squeeze into a
I have news for you,
these are not to be confused with Mexican, mayne!
what about the people
who have fully mastered the game
of race impersonating, maintaining continuity.
The ones from suburban, and urban communities
With skin as pale as snow,
hair in dreads, fades, and fros
knowing EVERY rap song on the radio.
Because you are white
and whole-heartedly think
you are black?
Now that is an anomaly.
But this is not a “what if” poem.
It is a “hold up your fist in pride” poem,
“Because I know I am not alone” poem.
So, hold up the fist that you write with.
And swear to me now that next time you take a test,
you will fill in EVERY LAST BUBBLE
on that bitch!
Making them wish they had more.
Also hoping that you don’t score
Awful as piss.
But hey, then they will not know what bubble
to try and classify you with.
LEROY: Great! Tell me, what do you think about the whole hoopla about this pro football player that did not stand up for the anthem? Some people say that he’s not Black because he’s mixed race, which I don’t agree with. But tell me, what’s your end take?
MARCEL: This is a topic that hits close to home, and I haven’t really started really publicly talking about it the way that I want to. So I’m really happy that you asked that question. Colin Kaepernick, I feel like it’s horrible as it relates to so many individuals, so many people of color are talking about the issues that are going on, because they need to be talked about. And then him, as a person of color, when he starts to do it, it’s gut-wrenching to see somebody who is a person of color be torn apart, have his blackness challenged.
And it happened to me so many times growing up, like, “Well, you’re not Black. Oh, you’re half white.” And if he was Tom Brady, if he was Drew Brees, if he was any other white quarterback, and he chose to do that, people would be like, “Oh, you’re onto something.” Or, “Oh, I’m so happy that this individual is doing this.”
But you almost know that he is a person of color for the simple fact that he does what he believes in, and now he’s being torn apart for doing it. And it’s disgusting to me. The fact that people can be so unsympathetic to when he’s standing up for people, when he’s actually doing the right thing, what he’s giving back to his community, what he’s donating jersey sales directly to individuals that need it, to have him challenged and picked apart is a shame.
We should be focusing so much more on what he is doing. We should be focusing so much more on talking about these issues that need to be talked about and addressed. They’re putting people down for doing it in the right way! It’s not like he’s doing in a way that will harm anybody. He’s only doing in a way to try to help people progress, and the fact that he’s being torn apart for it is a shame.
LEROY: Yeah, so true. I think that nowadays, slowly, hip hop is really speaking about mental health disabilities. I know that DMC came out with his book, and he talked about his mental health disabilities. What do you think about the issue with mental health in hip hop?
MARCEL: I love any art form. I mean, I especially love hip hop. I grew up listening to it, and I love hip hop through and through. But I love any genre, but especially hip hop, when it talks about the issues that need to be talked about. In my mind, hip hop, what its basis is, is talking about the struggle. It’s talking about overcoming. That’s what all my favorite music, that’s what all my favorite hip hop artists, that’s what they are embedded in. That’s what the culture was about.
Even dating back to Tupac, when he talked about the struggle, he talked about overcoming, he talked about what his people needed to do. That’s really the beauty in hip hop with me. If people could start talking about mental health issues with their music, that’s incredible. And there’s a lot of issues with hop hip that are totally for another discussion, like how so much hip hop is embedded in misogyny and all these other things. But when music is done right and when it’s done for the right causes, there’s nothing more beautiful.
LEROY: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. I wanna go back to the first question about police brutality and this whole movement. Do you think Black Lives Matter is really holding up people with disabilities and so many people with mental health disabilities? Come to find out that the majority of the police shootings are Black people, are people of color, with mental health disabilities. So do you think that Black Lives Matter is doing their part to really highlight the shootings of people with mental health disabilities and other disabilities?
MARCEL: Now that’s a tricky question. I’ve always been a individual who very much believes in talking about what I know and being comfortable with talking about what I know, but I don’t like to talk about things that I don’t know and things that aren’t affecting me. And I would need to look into that before I see how they’re doing it, but I know that as a majority– It’s as much talking about the issues with Black Lives Matter and talking about individuals that are suffering from the hands of our law enforcement.
I don’t see enough talk about individuals who are suffering from mental health disabilities being talked about in the press. I don’t see that enough. I don’t know if it’s a Black Lives Matter issue. I don’t know if it’s just the ignorance of individuals in general, but I don’t see enough talked about. No, definitely not.
MARCEL: I mean I’ve talked about individuals with mental health disabilities. I don’t see enough talked about trans individuals or non-gender conforming individuals. There’s a lot of individuals that are being left by the wayside, for sure.
LEROY: Yeah, yeah. So tell me what’s next on your plate.
MARCEL: I plan on pumping out a lot more videos. I like shooting videos; they’re like short films that really bring the work to life. And it can put you in the moment, like when the poem was written. So expect a lot more videos and things of that nature.
LEROY: Yeah. Yeah, you did a video where you’re on a couch with a gun. Tell me about that video and we will end there.
MARCEL: It’s little video — and trigger warning for those individuals who have family members they’ve lost to suicide — It’s all about a time in my life, in my 20s, where I was going through a ton of different hardships. That was one of the main things that was on my mind was just a quick way out. And it’s what I felt was the best way out, which was suicide, which was true. And it was really just, the video was made for all those individuals who’ve felt like they wanted to quit and like they wanted to escape but chose not to and found a silver lining in living with hope that things will get better and continue to improve.
LEROY: Wow. Yeah, that’s a heavy video. Well, once again, thank you so much for taking the time.
MARCEL: No, thank you so much. I’m so happy that you read the book, and thank you so much for calling with the interview.
LEROY: So tell me, how can people hear your poetry online, and how can people stay in contact with you?
MARCEL: Yeah, they can stay in contact with me with my Facebook page: facebook.com/FableThePoet. I have the whole book, the audio version that’s available on SoundCloud: SoundCloud.com/FableThePoet. Or FableThePoet on any other social media: so with SoundCloud, YouTube. . .
ADRIENNE: Thanks again to Leroy F. Moore Jr. of Krip Hop Nation.com for this interview. You can follow Fable, as he said, for free on Sound Cloud at soundcloud.com/fablethepoet and get a copy of his book through Autonomous Press at AUT Press.com
I’m Adrienne Lauby and I want to thank our engineer, Sheela Gunn Cushman for audio editing, Josh Elwood, the entire Pushing Limits gang and you — for your support during our fund drive program. We not only made out last minute match but hit our personal best in the total. You’re the best!
Pushing Limits is produced by a collective of people with disabilities. Contact us by e-mail at pushinglimits (all one word) at kpfa.org. Our website is PushingLimitsRadio.org.and we’re on Facebook as Pushing Limits Radio.
Next week at this time tune in for Education Today, with Kitty Kelly Epstein (prn Ep-st-eye-n).
[Pushing Limits Theme Song: “Keep on Pushing” by Curtis Mayfield plays]
Title of the book: ADRIFT IN A SEA of M & Ms
Book’s link: Fable the Poet
Find Fable the Poet on Instagram.com/FableIsTruth or FableThePoet on any other social media including SoundCloud & YouTube.
Original interview: 9/8/16
KPFA broadcast: 9-30-16