Dabriel Fulton is kind of a big deal. She’s spent time in the studio with Rick Ross and LL Cool J. She’s planned events for Fabolous and Elle Varner. She’s been on Elle Magazine’s “Rap Therapy” with French Montana. She’s taken the stage for speaking engagements at WeWork and career conferences in New York City, inspiring a plethora of young women to make things happen for themselves whatever that “thing” might be.
And, now? Well, now she’s the Founder of a New York City showcase of talent called The Mic is Open. True to its name, The Mic is Open is a chance for her to bring audiences the top underground poets, singers, rappers, and comedians all in one show. The self-described loyal, charismatic, and driven Fulton, whose friends and family would call hilarious, generous, and high-maintenance, she says, grew up in Baltimore Maryland and attended Towson Catholic High School. She actually was working on her Bachelor’s degree at Marymount Manhattan College when she founded The Mic Is Open.
How she got where she is quite a ride, although not surprising considering her passion and grit. Her secret? It’s one she’s more than willing to share, and her path to success reveals it all.
Photo Courtesy of Upcoming HipHop
1. How would you describe yourself as a kid?
As a child, I was fearless! I had a lot of friends, was popular but nice to everyone. I was also a hustler. My mom would go to Sam’s Club and she would purchase whatever candy I wanted because I would sell candy to the kids at school. A hustler from the beginning.
2. Have you always been a writer and performer in one way or another?
I’ve always been an entertainer and a writer. Poetry is a way of performance. I can entertain people with my writing in that way. I would say I’m definitely a writer first.
3. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pediatrician. My doctor was so sweet and understanding. She made me want to help others. I also wanted to become a teacher. We all had that one teacher who made you want to save the world by teaching others.
4. How would you describe your career path?
I’d describe my career path as unpredictable to say the least! It’s been exciting and rewarding...but it has also been challenging. I’m a hard worker and I’ve seen that when I work hard at one thing, another opportunity or interest pops up. Then I do that. Then I do the next thing.
I’m definitely a jack of all trades. From running my own event business, to giving motivational talks, to founding The Mic Is Open, and performing my own work as an artist, it’s all come together just by following my curiosity and being kind to people. That’s key. The people I’ve met along the way have introduced me to new ventures and ideas. Being a people person allows that to happen in those seemingly random ways.
Photo Courtesy of Upcoming HipHop
5. How was “The Mic is Open” born?
I was hosting poetry showcases at my college and it blew up—people outside in line weren’t allowed in because we’d reach capacity. Then a poetry club offered me a weekly gig as the host. They gave me a horrible deal: 80/20. But I was young and just happy to be hosting and bringing people together. I was happy to have people come to my showcases.
But I knew I could create something on my own. The Mic Is Open was born because, truthfully, I just wanted to create a platform for people like me—artists, poets, musicians—to be able to come together in unity and express themselves. I’m more of a writer so when I perform, I’m vulnerable. You have to be comfortable at some point with either yourself or the crowd to continue on. I always make sure that The Mic Is Open is somewhere anyone could feel comfortable with being vulnerable.
6. How would you describe the experience of watching the first “The Mic is Open” happen?
For me, it was like giving birth to something I worked really hard for, for months and months. Seeing it come to fruition, it was exciting, rewarding. For a lot of our talent, it was their first time performing ever. I was just so grateful they trusted me to help showcase their talents.
7. What inspires you to make helping others part of your platform?
A lot of people do not have an outlet. I believe it’s my calling to help as many people as I can. Someone once asked me, “What’s your job?” “I make dreams come true. How about you?” I said with a laugh.
But seriously, I’m someone who has really bad stage fright. For a lot of people like me, performing your work feels like taking off all your clothes and just baring yourself. But when I started performing for the first time, seeing how receptive the audience was, I began to open up. Seeing talented artists with stage fright open up on stage is so awesome to watch.
That inspires me. Seeing people conquer their fears and allowing their work to be seen and heard is amazing. When you let that light out, you just want to go out and share it with everybody. Helping others share their light has this like a super positive chain reaction in the world.
8. What specific challenges do you feel like you’ve faced because you are a woman?
I’ve been truly blessed to work in spaces surrounded by awesome people who support me. As an entrepreneur, I choose who I want to work with and keep it moving. The people I’ve encountered, thankfully, know my capabilities and treat me as a peer. That’s how it’s supposed to be in the industry.
9. What specific challenges do you believe you have faced because you are a black woman?
Honestly, we all know the challenges black people face in this country and in my industry. This is why The Mic Is Open is so important to me. It’s open to everybody. Every single person has a voice and my job is to pass that mic to them literally and figuratively. We’ve created our own spaces when we weren’t seen. The Mic Is Open will continue to be a safe space for people of all races, backgrounds, religions, sexualities, gender identities, etc., because I seek to push beyond the noise. I’ll utilize the platform I have to lift up others around me.
10. Right now, black woman are FINALLY being recognized for the myriad of contributions they have made in every arena. Why do you think that is finally happening?
Black women are finally being recognized by the mainstream. As a people, we have always recognized each other within our communities. So, it’s about time mainstream media is starting to recognize us as well.
I don’t know why people are just now hopping on the bandwagon. I try to see the positive in every situation, so with that being said, I’ll say “Better late than never.” There’s a lot of unlearning to be done when it comes to race in this country.
11. Is this how you imagined your life?
For the most part, yes! I’m happy; I’m healthy; I’m loved; I’m loving others; I’m healing: and I’m helping others heal in the process. I’m changing lives. I’m putting in the work. This is all I ever wanted from life, to shine a light on those who wish to be seen.
12. What are your hopes for the future?
Personally, I’d like to get married to the love of my life and have children. For now, though, I am single and focused on securing an amazing future. My goal is for The Mic Is Open to become international and put on TV’s around the world! My intention through all of this is the same, to motivate artists to be the best they can be by sharing my gifts and knowledge in this industry.
13. What advice would you give to other women – and specially women of color - in terms of turning their dreams into their realities?
I’d say, be true to yourself. Never compromise. There’s a lot of pressure to become someone you’re not. But trust your gut, always. Also, I’d say, always support other women. We need to show up for each other and create that community. There’s room for everybody!
For more information on upcoming events go to The Mic Is Open website.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.