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Q & A with Shanelle Staten

MICHAEL WEINER SCHOLAR CLASS OF 2021

Shanelle Staten’s upbringing in her Chicago, Illinois home instilled in her two passions: the game of baseball, and uplifting her communities. Her father, a retired pastor once invited to a California Angels tryout, and her mother, a seasoned social services professional, set the tone for a family whose biggest division was driven by the Cubs and White Sox. Otherwise, they emphasized the importance of unity, empowering others, and being educated. 
 

Once Shanelle finally hung up her softball cleats after a fulfilling 14 years, she embarked on an academic and professional journey that has taken her far and wide: from middle school education to mental health service to government relations. Eventually, she landed at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of just six HBCU law schools in the United States. 
 

After learning about former MLBPA’s executive director Michael Weiner, she felt a strong connection to his legacy and viewed labor studies as a seamless next step in her career. In 2021, Shanelle received the MLBPA Players Trust’s Michael Weiner Scholarship. Now a veterans intake paralegal at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, her labor studies background continues to inform her advocacy as she connects clients to necessary civil legal resources.
 

This February, the Players Trust celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Michael Weiner Scholarship. Shanelle took time with the MLBPA to reflect on her family’s influence, her investment in community, the importance of Black History Month, and advice for future scholarship applicants.
 

How did you first hear about the Michael Weiner Scholarship? 

I found out about the Michael Weiner Scholarship via an email at my law school. I was a little hesitant to apply when I previewed those who had received the scholarship prior and saw no resemblance of myself. But before I submitted my application, I did some research on Michael Weiner, and his spirit and fervor resonated with me. I saw a lot of myself in him and all the things that he had done before coming to the MLB Players Association. That is what pushed me to go ahead and submit my application. 

What inspired you to pursue labor studies and a career in law?

 

My father is a retired pastor and a baseball enthusiast. My mother is a counselor who served in social services and human services for the majority of her life. So my parents definitely influenced my interest in public service and being of aid to others.


It has been my ultimate goal to marry my social work experience with the law and provide a holistic and solution-focused approach to the clients I serve. My interest in labor studies first came when I was selected as a Peggy Browning Fellow my 2L summer at Equal Justice Center in Texas. It motivated me to pursue labor studies after realizing how labor and employment practices of employers impact the largest society, and that there's a great need for legal advocacy guidance and efforts in labor studies.

What led you to the decision to attend Southern University Law Center, an HBCU law school? 

Well, I was already in Louisiana, and I went home for Christmas. One thing my siblings and I do at Christmas is talk about our goals for the next year. And I mentioned to my siblings that I was applying for law school. My younger brother actually went to Southern, and he was like, “Have you applied to Southern? You need to apply to Southern.” And so I applied that day and I'm so glad I did. 


I think HBCUs are often underrated and underrecognized. My undergrad alma Mater isn't an HBCU, but I'm glad that I attended Southern University Law Center. There are so many opportunities and avenues that have been made available to me, and I believe I got everything that I needed as a law student there

With such a diverse range of work experiences, what keeps you motivated in pursuing new opportunities to be active in your communities?  

My motivation to be active and invest in communities is the mindset of lifting while I climb. As I pursue elevation, it is imperative for me to bring others with me and educate them or serve as an example that we can be whoever we want to be. It would be a disservice to not acknowledge the community from whence I've come, whether it be here in Louisiana or back in Illinois or wherever else. And so in whatever capacity I serve in, what can I do to empower and encourage individuals to advocate for themselves?  


I think within the black community, there are a lot of disparities and a lot of oppression. In the society we live in, we're all faced with so many different trials and challenges. But we've all faced them, and we should all be servants of others. A lot of the positions that I've held have been outside of my comfort zone. And outside of my comfort zone is where I've grown the most. And so I appreciate those opportunities of discomfort.

 

What are your professional ambitions moving forward? 

 

My professional ambitions moving forward are simply to be of service to others. It's always been my goal to serve the least of us and to be a voice for those who are underserved, silenced, and ignored. I don't think that it matters how much money you make or what your economic status is. Even if you're without housing security, your voice matters and your needs ought to be met.

What does Black History Month mean to you? Who are some important figures in your life that have inspired you?

Black History Month means acknowledging black excellence, how far we’ve come as a community, and recognizing all we must do to continue lifting as we climb. My parents have been a constant inspiration for me and an ever-present motivation to me. Growing up, my father would emphasize how as a black child, I had to be three times better than my counterparts and always do my very best. Because of this advice, I have been a standout in almost every environment that I've been in. My mother has served in human and social services her entire life. That has been a constant reminder of why we're all here.


My maternal grandfather, Edward Toussaint, also inspires me. When I was seven years old, I observed him presiding over a courtroom. The compassion and empathy that he presided with left me in awe and changed my perception of judges and how the law is imposed. My grandfather was not only be the first African American judge to serve on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but the first to be appointed as chief judge of that court. With that motivation of being in the direct bloodline of Black History, I too am Black History by following his legacy.

What’s your advice to students considering labor studies and the Michael Weiner Scholarship?

My advice to students interested in applying to the Michael Weiner Scholarship is just to go for it. In the words of my mom, “let them tell you no, don't tell yourself no.” I think that applies to everything. A lot of times we don't apply for positions we think we don’t qualify for, but it's not up to you to decide. That's not your role. Your role is just to go for it.


I would encourage folks to pursue labor studies because there is so much to be done, and we need as many people from all walks of life at the table because things that impact one population impact us all. We need everybody in the fight everywhere.

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