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Meet Trailblazer Brittney Chantele

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brittney Chantele.

Brittney, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in Staten Island, NY while my dad was still in the Army but shortly moved to a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA, where I grew up. I didn’t excel in any sports besides football, which I wasn’t allowed to play in high school due to my parents’ fears of me getting hurt. Hand in hand, I joined my school’s Marine Corps J.R.O.T.C. program and immediately surpassed the standards, breaking many records. I was the equivalent to the football team QB/Captain in J.R.O.T.C. – it became my top priority.

Looking back, I had SUCH rose-colored glasses on. I really had no idea what the military was all about. I thought it would be camaraderie – a family away from home – so I joined the PA Army National Guard during my Senior year of High School and left for basic training ten days after graduation. I had plans to go active duty once graduating college, but I would soon find out that the people to my left and right don’t always have my back and that in reality, I would witness and face some of the most disgusting injustices within an institution built on power and greed. I tell this story because it truly has so much to do with who I am now and the work/art that I do.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There was definitely little to no smooth roads to which led me to where I am today. My life as a queer, bi-racial, non-binary individual who grew up in a small town and served in the Army National Guard has given me a very personal understanding of injustice. From witnessing and sometimes being subjected to injustice such as racism, sexism, sexual assault, homophobia, and xenophobia, these experiences became a turning point that gave me two options: say nothing, or do something.

My advice for other women who are just starting their journey is to always check in with your instincts and feelings. Almost every decision I’ve made that led me into a brick wall was accompanied by an off feeling in my gut that I didn’t trust. Trust yourself! Humans are very complex and we really are so provided for within our own beings – your body will tell you when something is wrong.

However, I exercise caution when consulting my instincts to ensure it is not a reaction to past trauma. Sometimes, I feel like something is wrong when in fact everything is all good – and it’s only because something in the moment is triggering me to feel that way.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I use whichever medium expresses the truth the best for me in the moment. Sometimes that’s hip-hop, sometimes that’s abstract painting or writing phrases/words on military memorabilia, sometimes it’s speaking at a high school or college to students about my military experience. I’m most known for my music – I get honest and up-front about a few heavy topics: relationship issues, self-love, and social justice.

I have two albums out: 1. ‘A Fire On Venus’ which is all about love and relationship issues. 2. ‘The Golden Opportunity’ which is all about my military experience.

I am a member of the Pittsburgh organization ‘1Hood Media’ which creates a safe space for youth and organizes communities for real change. I also am an active member of Veterans for Peace. Whether on stage, in a demonstration, or having a conversation with another Pittsburgh local, I have dedicated my art, and my life, to creating a better world.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Favorite Podcasts: Girls Running Shhh, Fig Widow Cast, Nerves of Steel, Irresistible (aka Healing Justice Podcast), Heal Thy Self, Song Exploder.

Favorite Books: Tender Points – Amy Berkowitz, Daily Zen – Charlie Ambler, Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child – Thich Nhat Hanh, Assata – Assata Shakur, Angela Davis.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dylan Rosgone

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