LEROY MOORE: So we’re live here and interviewing Marcel Price, the poet. Tell me your full name, and give me the title of your book.
MARCEL PRICE : Yes, my name is Marcel Price, but everybody just calls me Fable, short for Fable the Poet. My book is the “Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms: Mixed-race issues and mental disorders.”
LEROY: 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 andmake sure eerything 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. This is not before all the incidents and not before police brutality was put under the microscope like it is now, but 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!
LEROY: 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: The open mic scene is vibrant. It’s incredible, and it’s incredible in so many places. I haven’t been out to the West coast yet, and I hope to, on my next tour, travel out to the West coast. But I’ve been all throughout the South, I’ve been all throughout the East coast, and the open mic scenes that people are building are truly incredible. Like New Orleans have my heart, Atlanta, Georgia, all these places like Chicago, especially, New York have incredible communities with hundreds and hundreds of people that book shows. 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. It’s wonderful.
LEROY: Great. How did you find this press, Autonomous Press? Tell me, how did you find them?
MARCEL: Yeah, many, many thanks as well as Autonomous. 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. And they’re like, “Well, send over that book and we can check it out.” And I did. They were really, really fond of the book, and they were like, “Hey, we’d love to publish it.” I was excited because I’ve never had a work published before. Normally, they’re focused on performance, onstage, and the audio, how things sounds and resonate. But I was really glad they offered me– It was incredible for them to offer publication. I was so blown away and taken aback by it. One of my favorite local artists who is an incredible illustrator. I could never talk about him enough. Once he said that he was going to do the cover art and the back of the book, I was just so happy. Essentially, front to back, all the insides of the book. He did everything for the book that I ever wanted to be. It has crosswords illustrated that came out of it, Athena, all these people helped me this love images come to life. It’s been a blessing.
LEROY: Yeah, really explain the cover of the book because it’s really intense.
MARCEL: That’s one thing that they asked me too. When I was talking to illustrators, I want to be on the cover of the book for the simple fact that I want people to know that this is book is coming from a person of color. I want this. There’s a lot of people who are white people, people of privilege, who also go through these issues, but I want people to know when they see this book that this is a person of color that is talking about these issues. And I want them to know almost as trigger warning when you see the cover, that there is going to be talk of self harm, there’s going to be talk of substance abuse, there’s going to be talk of domestic violence. You can see it all from the cover. So it’s like I want everything that people know that they’re getting into and everything that this book is about to be explained by the cover. And I was just really happy that cover brought that to life.
LEROY: Yeah, I love the cover. 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. My nephews are mixed race. 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 hhe 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 it’s 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 Drew Watts, 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. Now you have this book. I know you’re on tour, but are you gonna continue to write books? What’s next on your plate?
MARCEL: Well, I’m pushing this book right now, and I wanna push it for a year or so, but there’s a whole audio version of this book.
LEROY: Yeah, I heard it. Yeah.
MARCEL: And that’s one thing that I really wanna get out. I’m trying to save enough and get enough funding to where I can start getting out hard copies. That way, I can travel, and I can tour with the book as well as hard copies of the CD, especially just saving money until I have enough to get the hard copies of the CDs so I can start traveling and getting the product out there. But after I get the hard copies of the CDs, and after I start traveling with the book and the CD, it’s really onto the next project, continuing to talk about things that still need to be talked about, things that I feel people feel like they’re struggling with alone, and just continuing to talk about mental health issues and let people know that it needs to be talked about. Especially with people of color, because it’s a real issue, and it needs to be addressed.
LEROY: Do you think you’re gonna stay with the same press or move on to the next press? What do you think?
MARCEL: I mean, I love the press. They’ve been nothing but amazing to me. So I could absolutely see myself staying with the same press. I’m always an individual who is–when it comes to business sense–I mean, if somebody can offer me more, I always love more. But I’m very much an individual about loyalty, and if the press is like, “Hey, I feel like we could all do more together,” then I’m always about doing more together. And I’m always about being there for the individuals who have supported me.
LEROY: Great. 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’m constantly pushing out audio work. Like I said, I have the whole book, the audio version that’s available on SoundCloud: SoundCloud.com/FableThePoet. Instagram: FableIsTruth.
LEROY: Can you spell that out for us?
MARCEL: Yeah. Instagram.com/FableIsTruth or FableThePoet on any other social media: so with SoundCloud, YouTube. And 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 wwmoment, 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.
Book Cover Pic: Three Brown people two looks like children with the third is a police officer pointing a gun. Marcel’s illustration is buried with colorful pills. He has a scarf over his head has two earrings on with a full brown beard and around his neck is a light blue scarf.
Title of the book: ADRIFT IN A SEA of M&Ms