2020: The Year of Adjusting, Not A Just Thing

December 9th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

I’m pretty sure most people will be glad to see 2020 come to an end.

But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, the year for so many was a symbol of a bright future, as in 2020 Vision. That idea can really be misleading!

Whether we’re talking about blindness specifically or the Covid19 pandemic,2020 was all about adjusting.

Police senseless killings, Black Lives Matter, Healthcare, we are lacking a just thing!

A look back at 2020 from this podcast’s perspective in just 20 minutes and 20 seconds!

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Resources

Shout out to V! AKA Victoria Clare on her new single “By Any Means” Featuring, wait for it… me, the T. R to the E I D!

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision…
Oprah: “OMG! It’s about to happen (Crowd cheers) So of the nine visionaries joining us on the WW presents ah 2020 Vision Tour: Your Life in Focus, there’s only one man,

TR: Yeh, yeh!

Oprah: but when it’s one of the most recognizable,

TR: Mm!

Oprah: big hearted,

TR: that’s real

Oprah: delightful, fun,

TR: Ha, ha!

Oprah: strong

TR: Hey!
people on the planet, he’s all you need. Please welcome Dwayne the Rock Johnson!
Audio: Record Scratch

TR: What the… Fine, who needs them, when I got the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

2020 is Ableist AF!

— Music begins with a bass boom into a bouncing Hip Hop beat —

I’m talking about this idea of perfect vision, used as a metaphor for a flawless; plan or strategy, objective or goal and yes even sight.

Audio Samples…

So much of this is perception, which is subjective. Assigning the label of perfect to something automatically creates a ranking system or hierarchy.

It’s not surprising that so many people in 2019 and earlier, decided that 2020, the number associated with perfect vision, was an indication of a better time to come in their lives. The time to create or invoke that plan. Maybe get into shape, return to school, start that new career. Whatever it was, 2020 began with real optimism.

In my early days of adjusting to becoming Blind, I can recall declaring random days, months and year as my time. The right time to start fresh. To look at the future with real hope seeing only opportunity.

I too kicked off 2020 with this energy for very specific reasons. That includes personal opportunities that were presenting themselves. Nothing grandiose but some that I could eventually see as the early steps in building a solid foundation.

One of the themes of 2020 has to be adjusting. Reid My Mind Radio has been focusing on this for years.
Victoria Clare, an artist in the UK, helped me kick-off the year with her story of adjusting to Blindness or as they like to say, sight loss.

Audio: Bumper
— Audio clip from: “Adjusting to Vision Loss – A Creative Approach with Victoria Clare” begins —
VC:

I went out in my Dad’s shed, I got a big old’ block of wood, stole some of his chisels, used his mallet and started creating. It was amazing. I turned my world around because it made me realize alright, I’ve been diagnosed with this sight loss but nobody’s taken away the skills that I’ve always had. They’re still there.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio: Bumper

TR:

More on her latest artistic endeavor a little later!

February came around and I was feeling pretty good. I was swimming on a regular basis – which truly means a great deal to me. That itself is an access story for another time.

I also got the chance to introduce you to my man, Ajani AJ Murray! In his episode Starting with Imagination, we see that no matter the disability, the idea that begins with our thought or imagination can sometimes be delayed by access. Notice I said delayed, not halted or deferred.

— Audio clip from: “Ajani AJ Murray – Starting with Imagination” begins —

AJ:

I always had this dream of being an actor. It was something that was always looming in the back of my mind. It was always in my spirit, but I didn’t know how to physically make the connection. I couldn’t necessarily afford acting classes at the time and I wasn’t in high school at the time to be a part of an acting club.

That idea of working within your reach continued. In the episode Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin, Matt talked about his work with Lego and the objective of his advocacy to give that access to others.

Audio: Bumper

— Audio clip from: “Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin” begins —

MS:

I just wanted people to have this resource because I’d benefited so much from it. Not all Blind kids have people that could write instructions for them. Everyone deserves to be able to build and to learn from what they’ve build.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio: Bumper

TR:

Sharing our experiences with others is so important. Dr. Mona Minkara from Planes, Trains and Canes used the power of show not tell, to capture the wide range of responses to a Blind person traveling alone. And as we know, those reactions are filled with nuance.

— Audio clip from: “Taking A Ride with Planes Trains and Canes” begins —
[TR in conversation with MM:]

Wait up. You said he was nice?

MM:

I’m saying he was nice yes. (Laughing)

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Did you feel that way in the beginning? From the video, I took this guy like he was being condescending.

MM:

Oh, he was totally being condescending. I think it’s just the norm there to kind of treat people with disabilities like we are a bunch of 5 year olds.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Traveling is less about the destination than the journey. In the episode John Samuel: Guided By Angels, we see it’s about who you’re traveling with and what you do once you arrive!

Audio bumper
— Audio clip from “John Samuel: Guided By Angels” begins —

[TR in conversation with JS:]

And you just happen to be standing next to her. There’s such a pattern with you.

JS:

I know man; I can’t make this stuff up. I got angels all over the place.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

While many people were progressing with their 2020 Vision plans, looming underneath it all was Covid 19. We were advised to take individual precautions; wash your hands, don’t touch your face, use hand sanitizer and somehow that translated to get as much toilet paper as you can!

I invited my wife Marlett on to compare what we experienced as a family adjusting to blindness and what the world was going through in the midst of the pandemic.

— Audio clip from: “A Peak at Finding A New Normal” begins —

Marlett:

Social distancing, that’s funny to me because no one really came around We understood about social distancing people were doing that to us for quite some time. Distancing themselves from us.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Damn!

Marlett:

Well it’s true.
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip ends —

— Music ends —
TR:
If 2020’s perfect visual acuity has shown anything, it’s the inequity in our society.
Covid 19 zoomed in on the drastic differences in healthcare.

— Audio clip begins from “Corona – So Many Parts” —
Audio: Instrumental “Quiet Storm” Mobb Deep

Audio: Covid19 related News montage

– “The Pandemic seems to be disproportionally affecting people of color”
– “African Americans have been hardest hit by the virus. Despite accounting for 14 percent of Michigan’s population they represent 41 percent of its Covid victims.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In this same episode, Corona: So Many parts, I went on to compare the adaptations made in society in response to the Corona with those people with disabilities have been seeking for years.
— Audio clip from: “Corona – So Many parts” begins ”

All of a sudden!

Audio: Gazoo (from The Flintstones)

Have you noticed all of the corporations now accommodating their employees with work from home access?
The online conferences and entertainment now available.
Everything getting done online.

If inaccessibility is manmade then maybe man can fix it,
Audio: “That’s right!” from Harry Belafonte’s “Man is Smart Woman is Smarter”

TR:

Huh!

Audio: “That’s right!” from Harry Belafonte’s “Man is Smart Woman is Smarter”
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Swindler, Scam artist, Liar, Snake oil peddler, Divider, yet in this past election, many have and continue to support him and his white house administration.
. Some of those supporters I’m sure have the absolute worst intentions. They are white nationalists. But there are some who have simply been played. And one of the rules that we need to remember is everyone gets got at some point in their lives.

I shared a story where I was duped into being a part of a dog and pony show disguised as a demonstration and discussion about Blindness.

— Audio clip from: “Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped” begins —
Well, in this particular case, while the dog and ponies sat up in front and this one off to the side a bit, the sighted donors were led into their temporary world of vision loss.

Reluctantly at first, one after the other each slowly began trying on the glasses.

“Oh my”…. “wow”
“where did you go Jeanie?”

And then the real fun began as they exchanged glasses with one another. Laughing as they realized how little they could actually see. Unable to find things they placed on the conference table. The host joking as she moved their cups of coffee.

Meanwhile, the dogs and ponies sat up front. While the jackasses continued with their disability experiment.

Empathy, I didn’t see that. But a check was written.

I don’t remember how the event finally ended, but I do know that was it for me. I checked out. There may have been some additional conversation but I doubt I had much to say to anyone after bearing witness to that display of ableism. I vowed to never be a part of anything even remotely like that.

I could easily imagine each of the donors around the table going home fulfilled and thinking “I should really count my blessings, because there’s always someone worse off in the world.”
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip from: “George W. Bush Fool Me Once” begins —

GWB: there’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas probably in Tennessee but it says fool me once… (long pause) shame on…, shame on you. (long pause) Fool me can’t get fooled again!
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

You know, learn from your experiences

— Music begins – A bouncy energetic Hip Hop beat —
TR:

Hey! Do you enjoy listening to this podcast?
Do you have a topic you want to recommend?
Reach out.
email ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or call 570-798-7343 and leave a voice mail. Like this;

Voice Mail:

I’m calling because I listened to the Reid My Mind and I thought that episode on Charles Blackwell was just fantastic!

TR:
That was actually Mr. Blackwell himself playing a little joke on me. He said I could use it and I would either way because he doesn’t have a computer so he won’t find out!

If you do have a computer or a phone that is online and you want to stay updated to what’s happening here;
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com.
That’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)
Like my last name.

And now back to the episode

Audio Bumper:

“Come on chop chop, the Doctor will see you now!”

TR:

Well not really. But let me break down 20/20 as a fraction signifying normal vision.

The numerator, (the top number in the fraction), , represents – 20 feet. The denominator represents the distance in feet where a “normally” sighted person can see that same thing.

So, someone with 20/20 vision is seeing as expected.

A person with 20/200 can see from 20 feet away what a normally sighted person sees from 200 feet.

When it comes to an awareness of police brutality, Black people been having 20/20 vision. I’d add Indigenous and many people of color as well. I’d even add woke White people somewhere on the spectrum.

But too much of America has been hovering around that 20/200 acuity. They’ve been legally Blind to police brutality forever. There’s no lens to help them see the systematic racism not only in the police departments across this nation, but also throughout our society. At least not long enough to actually do something about it.

The Covid 19 pandemic created the environment enabling the magnification of the brutal killing of George Floyd, the murder of Brionna Taylor and the injustice that followed.

I wanted to be hopeful that the initial attention and outrage would be a catalyst for real change throughout society. I talked about how these events have and continue to impact me and my family. I even talked about it in the realm of Blindness advocacy!

— Audio clip from: “Let Me Hear You Say Black Lives Matter” begins —

TR:

All the organizations that are either of or for the blind want the same thing; independence, security opportunity for all Blind people. Who does this really include? For some, blindness skills training isn’t going to be enough to have an opportunity to reach that goal.

For me personally to believe these organizations and others are really about independence for all, I’m going to have to see them lead the way. That leadership needs to come from those in power right now.

I’m going to need to hear them simply say it; “Black Lives Matter”

Audio Montage of individuals saying “Black Lives Matter!” Concludes with all simultaneously saying it.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

I’ve been thinking about these intersections and specifically about the experiences of Black disabled people no matter the disability.
So I teamed up with RMM Radio alumni AJ to co-produce and host Young Gifted Black & Disabled! Along with our guests, Rasheera Dobson and D’arcee Charington, we talked about all sorts of issues including the lack of Black disabled images in the media.

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

Rasheera:

I get a little sad. I never saw anyone like me. I never saw a girl with disabilities in Essence magazine. Struggling with low self-esteem growing up I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I was reading Essence magazine, Ebony magazine Jet magazine reading the stories of Toni Morrison and hearing the Black struggle but I never read about the disability struggle.

It Matters, it really does.
— Audio clips ends —

TR:

Yet D’arcee shared how there’s so much to be proud about.

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

D’Arcee:

I was just thinking of the Morpheus quote from The Matrix Reloaded, which I recently saw. When he was in Zion, when he was talking to everyone trying to calm them down and what he said is; what I remember most is after a century of struggle I remember that which matters most.

Audio from Matrix Reloaded: “We are still here!” Crowd roars in applause!

That resonates so deeply with who I am as a person.
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

AJ:

The full story of the black experience hasn’t been written yet.
There are plenty more chapters yet to be explored.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

That exploration includes the experiences of people like Artist, Poet, Writer Mr. Charles Curtis Blackwell and his words of hope and inspiration.

— Audio clip from: “Charles Curtis Blackwell – Words of Meaning Empowerment & Inspiration” begins —

CC Blackwell:

I realized ok, God gave me this talent and with this talent he’s kind of helped raise me up from that bed of poor self-esteem. Lift me up and encouraged me and inspired me. And I have to take care of this talent. I have to nourish it, be kind to it, treat it right and try to use it.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio Bumper:
Uplifting music with a beat could work to close out from here.

TR:

With over 250,000 people lost from Covid in the US alone and millions affected, it’s hard to say anything good came out of the pandemic.

I did however have to acknowledge the accessible content coming from the team that brings you the Superfest Film Festival. Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability
center Cathy kudlick talked about the types of films featured at Superfest.
— Audio clip begins from : “Superfest Disability Film festival: Going Above & Beyond”

Cathy:

“… we highlight what we think is disability 201 – films that share the creativity and the ingenuity or the unexpectedness or the intersections of disability with other kinds of identities.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Associate Director of the Longmore Center and Superfest Coordinator, Emily Beitikss talked about the festival’s commitment to access including Audio Description.

— Audio clip begin from: “Superfest Disability Film festival: Going Above & Beyond”
Emily:

So much of our work is working with these film makers to teach them, think about the problem and have tough conversations as we do it so that hopefully people are thinking about it in advance of making their films.

— Audio clip end —

TR:

Including AD as an ongoing topic of discussion fully aligns with the objective of this podcast. It’s never just about entertainment. Media isn’t just about entertainment. Access isn’t just about entertainment!

This year we featured a bit of a history lesson on Audio Description. Rick Boggs of Audio Eyes took us through the involvement of Blind people in AD from its inception.
— Audio clip from: “Viewing Audio Description History Through Audio Eyes with Rick Boggs” begins —

Rick:

What I’m proud to say about Audio Description is Audio description as created by Blind people. And every innovation and advancement in Audio Description that has really contributed to what it is now was made by Blind people.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

We continued with IDC’s Director of Audio Description Eric Wickstrom on what makes quality AD
— Audio clip from: “Audio Description with IDC: Good Enough isn’t Good Enough!” begins —

Eric:

There’s too much good enough is good enough. For us and our standards at IDC, no we’re not striving for good we’re striving for great!
— Audio clip ends —

TR:
A big part of that great is in the writing. Head Writer Liz Guttman shared her passion for AD.
Liz
— Audio clip from: “Audio Description with IDC: Good Enough isn’t Good Enough!” begins —

Liz:

I go to work every day and I get to write, think hard about the best way, the most vivid and concise way to convey something that’s on screen. So that someone who’s listening to it will get the same feeling that I have watching it. And to help bring us all in to the same level. Especially since I have become more familiar with the Disabled and Blind and Low vision community. I have friends in that community now. I care about their experience.

— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In Flipping the Script on Audio Description, we expanded the conversation to be a bit more critical and inclusive of those involved in AD from varying perspectives.

Like Media Accessibility Provider, Alejandra Ospina

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description” begins —

Alejandra:

I do Close Captioning and I do transcription and I do translation and Audio Description and so I like to imagine the things I’m doing all sort of promote access to content. I don’t consider myself as often a content creator but I like to facilitate people getting to see or hear or know what they’re watching.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In the second installment we heard from four Voice Over artists also narrating AD. We talked a bit about the inequities and the importance of authentic voice representation. Inger Tudor well she just broke it down to the very last compound!

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Two – Voice matters” begins —

TR:

I know some people hear this and say, why should it matter? Shouldn’t anyone with a suitable clear voice just be able to voice characters or narrate films no matter their race, ethnicity, gender etc.?

Inger:

Hold on a minute. Four hundred years, we haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of stuff, take a seat for a moment because I guarantee you your seat for a moment will not end up being four hundred years. Then when we get to the place where everybody can do everything that’s fine, but we’re not there yet and we need to catch up so give us a minute, ok?

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

There it is!

— Music ends with a base drop that pulsates and slowly fades out.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

We went outside of the US in the third installment. No real surprise, the guidelines used in Canada and the UK tend not to include race, color or ethnicity in Audio Description.

Fortunately, there’s people such as Rebecca Singh of Superior Description Services in Toronto who are changing that.

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Three – Moving Beyond Just US” begins —

Rebecca:

I feel like I owe it to the listener and the listener is not necessarily a middle class cisgender white female or a male and sometimes I feel like from some of the teaching and reading and some of the history from what I’ve seen of Audio Description and words, it’s really taking one particular perspective. That is exclusionary and also not fair to people who are Black and Indigenous or people of color.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

2020 doesn’t seem very fair.

The success achieved by other countries in their handling of this virus shows this pandemic, could have just been a thing! way too many lives lost that could have been prevented if we all spent a bit more time adjusting.

If only we learned from our past – you know 2020 hindsight? Oh wait!

Audio: 2020 Hindsight, Dilated peoples

Big shout out to all of the Reid My Mind Radio family. Whether you been rocking with me for just a few episodes or 100 plus!

One of our family members and alumni, Victoria Clare reached out during the pandemic to see if I’d be interested in collaborating with her on a song she was writing. She wanted to include a rap break and thought I could make it work. I said yes!
The song is available just about wherever you buy or stream music. It’s called By Any Means – it’s an upbeat dance track written to empower and inspire women who reach that point when they need to go inward and pull out that strength. I’ll link to the track on this episodes blog post.

If you like what’s been happening here on the podcast please pass it on. I know there’s a lot of people who would benefit from meeting others impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Some have asked if there’s a way to financially contribute to the show.

If you are so inclined, you can donate via PayPal to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.
All funds go to supporting the podcast.

Finally, I want to close this episode a bit differently in memory of someone I lost this year. A teacher of mine who said as a teacher he was there to quench our thirst but would eventually melt away. He was wrong! He ain’t going anywhere!

When we finished our conversations he’d say “May we remain” I think of that now like a little prayer.

Reid My Mind Radio Family, I wish you all a very joyous holiday season and great things in 2021!

May We Remain!!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Three – Moving Beyond Just US

November 25th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

I’ve had conversations where people have said, Blind users don’t want to know about race, they want it to be completely neutral.
– >Elaine Lillian Joseph

Today we’re going beyond the US border to hear from two international describers. Rebecca Singh of Superior Description Services in Canada. A square yellow logo reads Superior Description Services in black capitals under a black dot containing a sequence of vertical yellow lines.
And if that’s not international enough for you here in the states we have Elaine Lillian Joseph from the United Kingdom.

We hear a bit about their AD origin story or how they came to description, the importance of centering Blind people in the process and more on guidelines for describing race, color or ethnicity.

And by the way, who in the world is neutral? Just US? Hmm!

Maybe not the final episode in the Flipping the Script series, but it is the last of 2020!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Music Begins – A smooth, funky mid tempo Hip Hop beat

TR:

What’s good Reid My Mind Radio Family!

It’s me, your brother Thomas Reid. I hope you’re doing well.

Me? Why thank you for asking. I am doing well.

Today, we’re bringing you part three of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

You know, this was never actually supposed to be a series. I originally planned for one episode but it was quickly evident that several people had something to share on the subject.

It got me thinking about Audio Description in two categories.
First, mainstream.

These are the writers and narrators creating AD for major television and film projects.

Then you have the independents – these consist of a varying degree of theater, live performance, museum and other sorts of description work.

Flipping the Script is all about promoting different voices, alternative views and Audio Description topics that are often overlooked.

As we’ve seen, this applies to both mainstream and independent.

I can’t say for sure this is the end of the Flipping the Script series but I can say it’s the last for 2020.

You know, just when I think I’m done with the topic…

Audio: “… they keep pulling me back in” Al Pacino in Godfather Part 3

Audio: “And here we go!” Slick Rick, A Children’s Story

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro
Rebecca:

My name is Rebecca Singh I am an Audio Describer also a performer. I’m the owner of Superior Description Services which is an Audio Description service which consults with the Blind and partially sighted community one hundred percent of the time. I am a cisgender woman of color and I live in Toronto Canada with my young family.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

How’d you get involved with Audio Description?

Rebecca:

I got involved with Audio Description through the theater actually. I have been a performer for a very long time and just over ten years ago I saw an audition posting for this thing I’d never really heard about, Audio Description and it was a class that I had to audition to get into. I got the part. Started training, that led to something of a building up of the industry here in Toronto.

— Music Begins – A dance track with a driving beat!

TR:

That’s right Y’all, in this third part of Flipping the Script on Audio Description we’re going international!

What’s that? Canada’s right there to the north? Ok, let’s cross the Atlantic.

Audio: Airplane in flight.

Elaine:

My name is Elaine Lillian Joseph. I’m from a city called Birmingham which is the second biggest city in the U.K. I’m a proud Birmie! I’m a Black woman. I’ve just got my hair done. I’ve got long light brown extensions with cane row on top. I’m wearing a floral long just below the knee length dress. I’m sitting in my friend’s bedroom because I’m currently quarantining with my friend’s family. I’ve been doing AD for just under two years. I work for ITV which is our second biggest channel after the BBC. I’m also a freelance Subtitler so I do subtitles for Hard of Hearing as well. A lot of accessibility going on.

TR:

Subtitling or what we know here in the states as Captioning was Elaine’s gateway to Audio Description.

A fan of film and television, she studied English and German in college — oh my bad, University

Elaine:

It always seemed like a natural thing to want to go into media. Finding out that there was this whole kind of world of accessibility and it’s not just, it’s not just transcription I guess. Not that there’s anything wrong with transcription but that you can be a bit creative with it. Doing subtitles for Hard of Hearing for example, doing a Horror film and working out how to describe the sound of of an alien creature and what words am I going to use to do that. It seemed like a natural transition from that to also thinking about how to describe things in general.

TR:

Prior to working at ITV, Elaine was Subtitling at another firm, BTI. it just so happened to be the employer of an influential colleague.,

Elaine:

Veronica Hicks, who kind of really kick started AD in the U.K., certainly. She used to sit directly behind me and she has this velvety plummy (chuckles) voice. I was sitting subtitling and thinking what is it that she does because it sounds fascinating.

TR:

Elaine asked around and learned more about Audio Description. Eventually she left BTI.

Elaine:

Everybody at my company knew that I really really wanted to do it. A position came up; they kind of said go for it! I tested and I got the job and I’ve been very very happy ever since.

TR:

Such an important thing to keep in mind — let people know you’re interested.

Today, Elaine has written AD for projects including a remake of Roswell. She’s been trained on narration so we can expect to hear her post pandemic. She also narrates live performances.

Elaine:

I usually do kind of Queer Cabaret events. There’s like dance, spoken word, lip syncing and things like that.

— Music ends with a drum solo

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

I’m wondering what was the experience from your other work that you brought to Audio Description?

Rebecca:

I liked my drama class in junior high and I decided this is the best thing ever. I made my way to a performing arts high school and got bitten by the performing bug and was doing at first some film and television. As it goes as a performer, the work opportunities change.

Instead of just sitting by the phone as they say, I shifted over to doing more theater work, clowning.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

The whole get up, the makeup and everything? Or is that something different? (Chuckles)
Rebecca:

I think that’s a certain kind of clown. I was living in Montreal, like the city of Circ De’ Sole. It was a little bit more movement, physical theater based kind of stuff. The acrobatic storytelling with the body. I went to dance school for a while. So it was really more about expressing myself through the body.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

Okay, so you’re not jumping out of cars with like fifty other clowns. (Laughs)

Rebecca:

No!

TR:

She’s a creative person who found herself doing more arts administration. After moving to Toronto she moved back into the performance space gaining even more of the experience she needed for Audio Description. That physical performance for example prepared her for her first AD assignment describing physical comedy. And the administration work was quite valuable as it gave her a community of people to talk to or a network.

Rebecca:

There were people that had already worked with me in a different context and so I understood their concerns, what their fears were as producers. Everything from being afraid of touch tours because you’re potentially bringing a service animal onto a stage before the show. Rehearsal schedules, the time and space actors need. The types of conversations that are appropriate to have with directors if you’re having discussions. When is a good time to approach a designer if you have some questions? All of those things really help to mitigate any hesitancy that producers had in terms of adding something new to their palette.

TR:

Elaine’s love of reading & creative writing adds value to her description. But that merging of creativity with Audio Description has it’s challenges.

Elaine:

It’s a service and I think it’s important to remember it’s a service. There can be ego (Chuckles) in any industry and sometimes I think people forget the user and what’s most important to the user.

TR:

Rebecca has her own way of assuring Blind consumers are always centered throughout her process.

Rebecca:

Paid Blind and partially sighted consultants. I get two different kinds of feedback. I learned a long time ago it’s definitely not a one size fits all in terms of description. I have a roster of consultants with different interests as well. I also try to match the interests of the consultant. Some people like Opera, some people like dance. All of their different expertise filters into my descriptions. And they ask those really deep and probing questions that I have to find answers to.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

What kind of differences do you find between the Blind and partially sighted feedback that you get?

Rebecca:

One of the most striking differences is things like when I’m describing a set. With people who are partially sighted some people need to sit really really far up close and they want a different type of perspective in terms of what the set looks like. they may not be sitting in the same place. If they have a service animal they may be sitting further back in the theater. Maybe they’re closer to a speaker where that might cause some sound level things that need to be worked out. Sometimes light matters in a production, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll get feedback from Blind consultants saying things like I really appreciated the fact that you called this thing almond shape because I know what an almond feels like. I really developed a sense of what words work better and what words are more inclusive over time working with both Blind and partially sighted consultants especially if they’re working together with me on the same show.

That’s the other benefit of having multiple consultants is that they can learn from one another and I always have a chance to bring in somebody new and widen my pool.

TR:

Inclusive language reflects all sorts of identities.

Elaine:

I’ve had conversations with people before about things like race. It’s wonderful that we’re kind of having a moment where we’re really grappling with that. And I’ve had conversations where people have said, Blind users don’t want to know about race, they want it to be completely neutral. I find that a really interesting argument because I’m like what does neutral actually mean and who are we assuming is neutral?

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

How do those conversations come up when writing description?

Elaine:

When I first started I remember asking questions like should I describe color? Should I describe that this rose is red or that this car is blue or whatever? And then moving from that I guess to should I describe race and the color of somebody’s skin?

So I’ll talk specifically about race rather than diversity I guess because there are other things that we can describe.

The industry standard was to not describe race unless it’s important to the plot.

TR:

By now, if you’ve been following this ongoing conversation on the podcast, you should be pretty familiar with this AD guideline.

As an example of the guideline, Elaine refers to a production of Hamlet

Elaine:

And Hamlet is Black. Then I should mention it. But that doesn’t mean I should mention the race of anybody else. We can assume that everybody else is white. I took that on board and then I kind of ignored it a little bit. (Laughs)

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

(Laughs…)

Elaine:

Because I just found it really difficult. I was like, but why? (Laughs)

I found that I was working on shows where I just wanted to describe like the color of somebody’s skin.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Why?

Elaine:

Why!

Because I thought, what’s it mean for it to be relevant to the plot. If there’s a conversation happening between sighted users and they’re saying oh did you notice how the policeman in whatever show it is is Black? I just kind of feel that means that as a Blind user you can’t be part of that conversation because someone’s decided that that Black policeman isn’t relevant to the plot so we’re not going to mention them. Also personally I know Blind users who I’m friend’s with who definitely wanted that information to be included because they’ve definitely felt like there are conversations that they can’t be part of because people are making these decisions.

TR:

Decisions being made on behalf of Blind people without our input. How does that make you feel?

Elaine:

Initially I wasn’t bold enough to say the Black man. I would describe the texture of his hair. So I would say the man with black afro textured hair. (Laughs) I think it should be fairly clear, but I still felt like I was kind of skirting around it.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Would you get any pushback?

Elaine:

We definitely didn’t receive any pushback. When my manager kind of reached out to a community of Blind users then it was an overwhelming yes! (Chuckles) Please do include that.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Okay. So you never got pushback from management.

Elaine:

No. My immediate manager was like a resounding yes! When I went into the kind of wider Audio Describer community that’s where I definitely felt pushback.

TR:

Like the time Elaine attended a conference where for the first time she heard a discussion of race and Audio Description included in the conversation.

Elaine:

There was a lot of why do we need to do this? What terms do we use? People not feeling comfortable saying the Black man – will the terms change. We might offend somebody, so it’s better if we don’t use any terms at all and just kind of ignore race. It felt uncomfortable for me being the only Black person in the room.

TR:

That’s uncomfort when people are either looking to you for the answer. Or one that I know I’ve experienced, giving the impression that you’re doing something wrong by raising the issue. (Oh well!)

Elaine:

Maybe it’s my British politeness kicking in but I found it very difficult to sit and listen to kind of put in my two pence. Imagine if a user is Black, maybe they do want to know about race (laughs… You never know!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Yeh, absolutely

It’s just as important for a Blind consumer who is not Black to know that there are Black people on the screen y’all, like this is real.

Elaine:

Definitely.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

I’m wondering if there’s an age gap here too. Is this the old guard that we’re talking about here?

Elaine:

I guess so, yes.

I have much respect for them. I feel like I need to put that disclaimer out . (Chuckling)

I really do and I felt like almost a young usurper at that conference and in some of these conversations I’ve had. I get that they’ve been trained in a specific way. If we look at the breakdown of describers in the U.K. it’s white middle age women.

Audio: “To be or not to be. That is the question” From Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company

Music ends with beat in reverse!

Rebecca:

I feel like I owe it to the listener and the listener is not necessarily a middle class cisgender white female or a male and sometimes I feel like from some of the teaching and reading and some of the history from what I’ve seen of Audio Description and words, it’s really taking one particular perspective. That is exclusionary and also not fair to people who are Black and Indigenous or people of color.

TR:

In general, no matter what country, fairness, access, equity that should be the goal.

Rebecca, who thinks quite critically on this subject of inclusion presented at a conference in Europe.

Rebecca:

The Advanced Research Seminar on Audio Description.

I, over the last, I would say five years or so, have been really been honing in on the idea of creating the Canadian accent for Audio Description. We here have had a lot of influences from England and also from the states. We haven’t had our own Audio Description culture in Canada. So I went and was the first person to present from Canada and I talked about creating the Canadian accent and describing race gender, class and recognizing our bias.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

And how was that received?

Rebecca:

people were very interested. I think that there’s not a practice of using consultants quite as much as we do here in North America and specifically what I do. The other thing that was really well received was the fact that I presented it in a way that did not require any description. I described all of the images. I tried to make the entire experience inclusive to a point where the person who was operating the CART, the real time captioning, didn’t have anything to write. That was all just part of the example of how we can be more inclusive.

TR:

The responsibility of making media inclusive and accessible includes the role of Audio Description.

Rebecca:

Everybody deserves the opportunity to see themselves in a story. We as people who are helping to tell a story have a responsibility to do everything that we can to not exclude people from seeing themselves.

TR:

So what exactly does that responsibility include?

Rebecca:

even as Describers we need to understand what our own bias is. I live in a very progressive city. And I live in a arts bubble inside that city. I try and check myself against that as well. I don’t want to use language that is so open that only a very small amount of people with very specific references will understand.

We need to have more conversations with consultants and also understanding what the history is and what the perspective is of people who are heavy users of Audio Description. We need to talk about it.

TR:

She’s talking about multiple conversations from all perspectives. Some times that just means raising the issue.

Rebecca:

It’s all of those little tiny actions that every person can do just to point out when things could be better perhaps or when things could be more inclusive.

Just being self-reflective about how we’re receiving information. I think many voices is much better as opposed to a government mandate or something like that.

Sometimes words aren’t enough.

TR:

But the words can inspire actions that lead to real change. Like getting film makers and broadcasters to include a bit more space to allow for Audio Description.

Ultimately, the change happens when our thought process becomes more inclusive.

Rebecca:

If the creator of the material no matter what it is, has the Blind and partially sighted community in mind as part of their audience from the beginning.

TR:

Having Blind people in mind translates to our access not being an afterthought. When it comes to Audio Description?, we need to be centered.
[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

So the idea that there are sighted people enjoying Audio Description?, that’s cool, that’s really cool and I get it because hopefully that means there will be more of it, right?

Rebecca:
Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

Do you see the potential for that to be a problem?

Rebecca:

I’m really in favor of Audio Description guidelines and standards being created for the needs and wants of the Blind and partially sighted community. Anyone who is putting something forward that they call Audio Description is aware of these guidelines and is providing something that is standardized. That said I think it’s also okay to create things that are not necessarily Audio Description?, but use techniques of Audio Description and as long as they’re not called Audio Description. I think more is better and so as long as it’s not called Audio Description when it doesn’t meet the standard, go for it!

TR:

From my understanding, there are conversations happening today exploring these guidelines.
I’m not sure what will end up being decided, but I do know that if these conversations do not include people of color in a real way, including decision makers, then we have to ask the question, why? Is it just fashionable right now to appear as though we’re addressing issues of diversity?

It’s a similar question I asked of all those in the Flipping the Script series;

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

It’s a simple question, so feel free to answer (laughs) because I’m asking it!

Elaine:

(Laughs) I see I have no choice. (Laughs) Okay!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

(Laughing )No, but answer it anyway you want.

My question is why, why AD?

Elaine:

Oh! That’s a lovely question.

AD has brought me into contact with people that I probably would have never have met. In terms of the Queer drag community that I’m now part of and speaking to Blind users and Blind performers as well. I think that’s enriched my life and I hope that the descriptions I give in turn enrich their experience.

Last year I remember telling someone another sighted person, that I did AD. They just laughed and were like Blind people don’t watch TV. That was just like a whole education let’s just say for that person. (Chuckles)

I think it’s a really, really beautiful service and I think that it’s having a bit of a moment over here where people are certainly from the describer point of view, people are starting to think about how we can change it and engage even further with the community who uses it and that’s really, really exciting to be part of honestly. It’s so so fun! I honestly want to keep on doing this and developing my skills and my confidence and listening to people.

— Music begins – a chill piano leads into a smooth jazz chill Hip Hop beat

Rebecca:

I am a storyteller, I was born that way (chuckles). I think it’s really important to be able to tell your story in a way that everyone can hear it, receive it. I don’t think we have any excuses to ignore that anymore. We have technology to help us out. I want to see the amazing wonderful gifts that actually like Blind and partially sighted creators present having had access to some of this more popular culture. Some kind of performance art. So I think it’s important for everybody to have those opportunities. and I really feel like access to art is as important as access to sport. I think it’s part of what makes us human. And so everybody should have this access.

I just think it’s fair!

TR:

That’s Rebecca Singh, you can call her CEO of SDS or Superior Description Services where she centers Audio Description.
Rebecca:

Also known as described Video here. I do live description, image description, I produce podcasts with the Blind and partially sighted community in mind. Consultation to help with Universal Design. My Twitter handle is @SDSDescriptions.. I’m also on Face Book Superior Description and you can always check me out at SuperiorDescription.com.

TR:

Elaine Lillian Joseph is on Twitter @@elaineLJoseph.

I’d like to thank Elaine for putting up with my attempt to include the London slang in our conversation.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Init! (Hysterical laugh)

Elaine:

(Laughs) Oh my days, you really love Top Boy don’t you?

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

I do!

I get in to the whole street shows and all that type of thing so, I’m sorry! it’s Hip Hop I’m going to be in there!

Elaine:

Ah, that makes you (possibly says me) really happy! I love it, I love it!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Yeh! (Laughs)

TR:

Big shout out to Rebecca and Elaine for all they do and for openly sharing their experience and opinions for the improvement of AD for all.

So let me welcome you to the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Audio: Air horn!

I’m hoping you’ll hear them back on the podcast in the future.

While this is the last official episode of 2020, you know I usually do something for the holiday season. Right now at the time of this recording, I have no idea what that is, but I’m pretty sure I’ll put something together to wrap up this incredibly challenging year.

To be sure you get that episode;
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And let me do a bit of Audio Description for you. That’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

— Music Ends

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Two – Voice matters

November 11th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

Continuing with the question; When it comes to Audio Description, are we listening between the lines?

In this episode I’m joined by some extremely talented Voice Over Artists who are also lending their voice to some of your favorite Audio Description projects.

Allyson Johnson, Bill Larson, Inger Tudor and Tansy Alexander.

Each of our guests have more to say than what’s on the script

How important is voice? Not just the quality and tone, but what else is implied by what is heard? Is the voice indicative of an entire group of people. Can a woman’s voice fit a specific genre of film? Is there really a Black voice? Let’s flip the script and find out.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


— Music begins – pulsating bright funky beat!

TR:

Greetings! Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
The podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Audio: The beat comes to a stop after a record scratch “Hold Up!” DJ Cool from “Let Me Clear My throat”

I need to jump in with an amendment to my opening in order to acknowledge that yes, I should have posted this episode last week. However, last Tuesday was Election Day in the U.S and I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.

Maybe it was an over analysis on my part, but if anyone actually missed the episode, I apologize. I just wasn’t in that space.

then yesterday, Saturday November 7, my wife yelled down to me, they called it for Joe!

Music: “A Brand New Day” The Wiz

So we took some time to celebrate and for a moment at least feel hopeful!

— Breathes in deep and exhales

That really does feel good!

Now back to my original opening.

Bring that beat back!

— DJ Scratch and then the pulsating bright funky music resumes!

Today we continue Flipping the Script on Audio Description and focus a bit on voices.
You can say voice matters. Or Voice Matters! Voice, matters!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

#Intros

Inger:

My name is Inger Tudor. I am an African American woman , middle age, we’ll leave it at that. And I live in Los Angeles. I am a Voice Over Actor, I also do film, theater, television. I do some hosting, announcing and all that kind of fun stuff. Is there anything else you wanted me to tell you?

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

Did you say Audio Description?

Inger:

I didn’t because I was like oh that’s the assumed, but you’re right, I do Audio Description and audio books too.

— Music Begins – Upbeat Hip Hop beat

TR:

Earlier this year I had the chance to speak with several talented AD Narrators. I’ll tell you exactly where you heard them but go ahead and see if you recognize the voice or name.

Tansy:

Hi I’m Tansy Alexander. I’m a Caucasian woman. I’m five foot seven, I have Auburn hair. I’m very athletic and active. I do all variety from narration to audio books, to commercials, promos trailers, IVR phone systems. I’ve done pretty much it all.

Bill:

My name is Bill Larson I actually am a Voice Over artist. I do commercials, I do different types of announcing and so forth.
And I also do Audio Description.

Allyson:

My name is Allyson Johnson. I have been a professional Voice Artist for about 2 3 years. I’m about five foot five, a hundred and five to a hundred and seven pounds, I’m pretty thin. Now see here’s when I need an actual Audio Description writer because there so much better at this than I am. I read what they write and I think that is fantastic, but if I have to write it I’m like how do I describe my skin tone. Well, it’s kind of I would say, cafe ole. If you took coffee and you put a whole bunch of half and half in it, that’s my skin tone. I have people would say dark blonde, some people would say light brown ringlet curls. I wear glasses there like a brick red and black modeled polymer plastic frame. What else? Are there things that I’m leaving out?

[TR in conversation with Allyson:]

No, no you probably did more than most did. (Laughs) That’s why I left it vague, I just want to see what you do. Laughs.

Allyson:

Laughs… So that’s me!

TR:

Well, there’s way more to her than that! And we’ll get there, but first I know what you’re thinking. Thomas, that’s messed up, you didn’t ask Bill to describe himself.

He’s sort of off on his own.

Bill was one of the earlier interviews and the idea was not presented until after. However, stay tuned I’ll be sure to ask him more about himself during our conversation.

Each of our narrators share a few things in common. They’re all experienced Voice Over Artists who have either acting backgrounds, radio and even a bit of television. Of course, they each have great voices and know how to use them.

Inger Tudor used hers as a DJ at her college radio station. After graduating Harvard Law she put it to use as a litigator.

While working at a mid-size law firm in Boston, Inger was in conversation with another attorney who side gigged as a studio musician. She asked Inger an important question.

Inger:
What is it that you like about law?

I told her what I liked and why I wanted to be a lawyer. She said,
(– Music ends.)
you like acting in a courtroom, go act. You’re not married, you don’t have kids you don’t have a mortgage do it now, because you’re going to wake up and go okay, I want to do it and you’ve got all these things that keep you from doing something you can actually do. I thought about it and I prayed about it and I was like you know what, she is absolutely right!

TR:

She began taking classes and working in the field. This included voice acting. Boston happened to be a good market for her to get her start and SAG or Screen Actors Guild card. This gave her greater access to opportunities. Moving to New York city gave her even more. By the time she moved out to LA she was acting full time and no longer doing any law related work. Staying in touch with a playwright helped lead to her first AD opportunity.

Inger:

About five years ago he contacted me and said oh, I forgot that you do voice over. Would you come in and audition for me. I work in a department where we do descriptive narration for film and television.

TR:

And today!

Inger:

I do a lot of recording for the Media Access Group which is a subsidiary of WGBH the PBS station out of Boston.

TR:

Tansy’s introduction to VO felt more like that Hollywood story.

Tansy

I was out with my friend who did Voice Over, my friend Steve. We were at lunch at a restaurant and we were chatting about Voice Over and other things and a few minutes later a gentleman came over, a very distinguished gentleman, and said, do you do radio or voice over and I said well, not yet but my friend is trying to tell me to do it. He said well when you’re ready give me a call. He’s one of the partners in Abrams Rubleoff.

I never did sign with them but things did go from there because that was the impetus I needed to take it seriously and get things going.

TR:

And indeed things started going. Tansy intro to AD came after volunteering for a radio reading service in Los Angeles.

Tansy:

AIRS LA.

They would have us reading articles out of magazines and so forth then I decided since I am an actress as well to cover the entertainment portion which was really fun. I did that for a few years and then out of the blue this other opportunity came around not related, to continue to be of service to the Blind community through doing Audio Description.

TR:

Allyson’s first AD project came through her friend who owned a post-production company. He was approached by the producers of another film who were interested in including AD on their film and wondered who would be right to narrate. Why not an audio book narrator, he thought?

Allyson:

My first Audio Description was for the movie that he was working on which was the major motion picture Arrival. I left that session and I thought this is fantastic. I sort of went on my own journey and found Audio Description Training Retreats in North Carolina, Jan and Colleen who teach this wonderful program. That’s how I learned. It was within the year of me doing that film.

TR:

Bill’s introduction to AD?

Bill:

It was by accident. I used to work at Best Buy. We had this demonstration room where you could go in and experience what a home theater would sound like.

It wasn’t working right. We actually had a Blue Ray in there to demo for people but to get the normal audio that you would hear on a Blue Ray to play you had to cycle through at that time all of the other audio channels; French German, Chinese, the whole bit. The last track was Audio Description. When I heard somebody’s voice start to speak; (in his AD Narrator delivery)

“A plane flies over head” I listened to this and I said I need to do this. This is important.

[TR in conversation with Bill:]

Do you remember what movie that was?

Bill:

Yes I do, Kong, Skull Island.

TR:

Bill grabbed some more DVD’s and researched more about AD. He learned of the American Council of the Blind AD Project and headed out to the conference that year.

Bill:

That conference was in St. Louis that year. I was lucky enough to meet people who do and produce Audio Description. Did a demo for them and the rest is history.

TR:

Voice Over and AD fall into the entertainment industry which definitely has a history.

Allyson:

When I started out in this business, when I was still doing demo tapes on cassette, the sort of common acceptance was you would do a demo tape without your photo on it for the most part. Certainly in commercial voice over world which is where I started. They didn’t necessarily want to know what you looked like and you as the voice talent didn’t want people to know what you looked like either because you wanted them to make a decision about whether or not to cast you based on your voice. If you already been cast in something you wanted the listener to be able to create their own image of who you were based on what you sounded like so it sort of wasn’t relevant what you looked like. In some ways it could be either distracting or could give someone the wrong idea because sighted people tend to make very quick judgements when they look at someone. And if you don’t look like what you sound like in the voice over world that’s a whole other kind of issue.

Bill:

I have worked with different casting people and they look at my picture and have their own preconceived notions of how I sound.
[TR in conversation with Bill:]

Could you describe yourself?

Bill:

Are you of age to know Al B Sure?

[TR in conversation with Bill:]

Yeah!

Bill:

(Singing)

“I can tell you how I feel about you night and day!”

[TR in conversation with Bill:]

Laughing… I’m keeping this!

Bill:

I know you are, that’s alright though.

(Singing in his Al B Sure impression)

“Oh, Girl!”

Al B Sure was the bane of my existence in high school. Oh my God you look like Al B Sure.

TR:

If you don’t know Al B Sure, well he’s an R&B singer from the 80’s. He was something of a heart throb who had lots of female fans.

In case you’re listening Al, don’t worry Bill isn’t planning on leaving his day job any time soon.

Bill:

I have worked very hard on my voice. First of all I come from Chicago. I had to work the Chicago out of my voice, but at the same time I wanted my voice to be universal. I didn’t want somebody looking at me and making an assumption about me and that actually speaks to what’s going on right now in the world. I don’t want them to say oh well he looks Black so he must sound Black so I’m only going to give him the voice work for Black actors. I know the business enough to know what sound somebody is looking for for something. I would never, never ever say to use me if my voice is not appropriate for something.

TR:

Bill recalled one particular time when he went out for a role that helped him come to an understanding.

Bill:

Because of how I looked they wanted me to sound more ethnic. They didn’t want me to be my natural self. Because my natural self sounds like this. I am a bi-racial Black man in this country. There is no denying that. So when you see me as they did, they saw a voice in their head that was counter to how I actually speak. the product I thought sounded like crap because I was trying to be something that I wasn’t based on the notion of what they wanted me to sound like. I wasn’t me I wasn’t my authentic self. But more than that, there are other actors out there especially actors of color, announcers of color who would have given them exactly what they were looking for. So I thought to myself I’m never going to do that again. When you’re in this business, you’re always looking for work , I just don’t ever want to take the work out of somebody’s hands who could deliver what somebody’s vision is.

TR:

The goal of a fair selection process is to remove pre-judgement and create a system based on merit. In Voice Over that means the best voice for the role wins. Yet that’s subjective from the start. Meanwhile we know there are many ways to pre-judge.

Inger:

Inger is Scandinavian and Tudor is Welsh. There usually not expecting someone African American. Depending on who I’m talking to and how I’m talking, they can’t necessarily tell what ethnicity I am over the phone. It can become a funny thing or sometimes a frustrating thing.

TR:

Although not specific to the sort of Voice Over acting she does today, Inger shared a story about a time when she interviewed for a telemarketing position. Let’s be honest, the best telemarketers are truly acting!

Inger:
The initial interview was over the phone because they need to see how you sound. I’m talking in my corporate voice and how I would talk if I was talking to someone for a survey or what have you. I show up for the first day of training. Actually it happened to be a fairly diverse group of people but they couldn’t figure out why I was there. I said Oh, I’m here for the job interview and they all look at me like well who are you? I said I’m Inger Tudor and then I literally see like five or six heads all turn to each other with this look like what, huh? And I went “Ya, ya, you expecting someone Swedish, ya!” (Said in accent) So they all started laughing, because they were!
My name can work for me or it can work against me. Knowing my ethnicity can work for me or against me.

TR:

If we really think about it, the impact goes beyond the individual.

Voice Over agents for example. Pre-judgements can limit opportunities not only for the clients, but also the agents as they receive percentage of the work they find.

Inger freelances with two separate agents.

Inger:

One of them only brings me in for Black Voice Overs. the other one will bring me in for things that are a lower register or someone that’s middle age or an authoritative voice. Things that fit the type of characters I would play. And they bring me in for the Black characters as well.

TR:
Casting a project is often more than just voice. A narrator familiar with the culture for example, can provide insight into a project that those outside may have never realized they were lacking.

Allyson:

I did the Audio Description for If Beale Street Could Talk. What a glorious film that was and the description was so beautiful. I think it was the description for something that Regina’s character was putting on or taking off. Something with her hair.

TR:

Here’s a culturally competent moment for you. Those in the know, heard that and paused. Those who don’t know, well, we’ll just get back to the conversation.

Allyson:

I don’t know what the word was that they used to describe it but I was like I don’t know what that word is but that is not what we would call it and I don’t think anyone who’s listening to this would understand what you mean when you say it.

— Music Begins – slow dark Hip Hop beat

[TR in conversation with Allyson:]

Now you said that’s not what we call it. Who was the we; women, Black women?

Allyson:

I think in that situation it was Black people.

TR:

Issues of race and identity aren’t new, right?

Allyson:

There were no phrases like bi-racial, nontraditional casting, ethnically ambiguous. We didn’t have ethnically ambiguous back then (laughs) I mean we did because I am it but we didn’t call it anything.

[TR in conversation with Allyson:]

(Laughing) Right!

TR:

A natural extension of voice acting especially for commercials is on screen acting. The casting process there often begins with the image. If you’re interested in auditioning for a specific role, well your look will need to match the casting director’s or any other decision maker’s perception of that role.

Allyson

Whatever the category was they thought I might fit in, I probably wouldn’t fit.

Voice Over made more sense to me because nobody was necessarily thinking about it.

TR:

Necessarily!

Allyson:

They would use phrases in the specs like we’re looking for an urban – urban was always buzz word. It’s like ok, so you want Black.

In terms of Audio Description, I have been hired to do Audio Description for shows that are primarily dealing with Black topics or set in a place where the majority of characters on the screen are all Black. And I know that I’m being hired because they want a person of color to do the Audio Description. So in that sense it does play a factor that I happen to be a Black Audio Describer. It’s more of them just wanting to be sensitive to the content and to the material. You and I both know everybody needs a little bit more representation.

##Tansy:

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.

I get plenty of work, but I still think there’s a gender bias in the industry for males to succeed.

It’s the same it’s been for the whole spectrum of Voice Over since I started over twenty years ago, the belief that a male will sell it better. For whatever reason; the voice will cut through or people listen more to a man than a woman. These are stereotypes that probably aren’t true at all. These decisions to use a man or a woman are extraordinarily subjective.

TR:

Narrating for over ten years, Tansy had the opportunity to help in the early stages of multiple AD production companies.

Tansy:

I used to do a lot of action, landing on the moon, war movies, I’ve done a few last year. I can do a romantic comedy, I can do a children’s thing, I can get in there and get gritty. But all of a sudden they decide oh well for all the Marvel we need to have men.

TR:

Tansy noted some growth in opportunities expansion with the advent of female lead characters.

Bias we know goes beyond race and gender.

Bill:

I am double the man I used to be. (Laughs) So there was a time when I lost a tremendous amount of weight. But I don’t look like that anymore. When you’re in the professional acting and voice over field it’s best if you don’t misrepresent yourself. Now a days they call it Catfishing. If you’re cast for something based on an old picture and when you get to set and they realize you are double the size or your size card is out of date or your voice changes, then they’re probably going to dismiss you and not hire you again. I know how I sound. I want people to hire me. (Pause) And I love the look on their faces when I walk in the studio too. (Laughing )

[TR in conversation with Bill:]

Laughing

TR:

Representation really is serious business.

Have you ever really considered who you expect to hear narrating action movies or thrillers versus dramas or romance films? What about those films based in or on communities of color?

. For closing arguments I’ll call the litigator.

Inger:

Yes, we should be voicing the characters of color, but don’t Ghetto-ize us and make that the only things you give us to do. Cast me also because of the quality of my voice. If you’re looking for something that has a particular quality and ethnicity is not important to what the character is then I should be considered as well as a white actress. You shouldn’t just assume that it has to be someone white if that’s not important to the story.

TR:

I know some people hear this and say, why should it matter? Shouldn’t anyone with a suitable clear voice just be able to voice characters or narrate films no matter their race, ethnicity, gender etc.?

Inger:

Hold on a minute. Four hundred years, we haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of stuff, take a seat for a moment because I guarantee you your seat for a moment will not end up being four hundred years. Then when we get to the place where everybody can do everything that’s fine, but we’re not there yet and we need to catch up so give us a minute, ok?

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

There it is!

— Music ends with a base drop that pulsates and slowly fades out.

TR:

Did you recognize anyone? Here’s some of the projects our narrators voiced.

Allyson:

Arrival was my first. It sort of made me realize what I now know I like about description. The guys who wrote that script were not “Description Writers,” but they were the sound guys. They knew that movie backwards and forwards. They’d seen it over thirty times so they knew what was important to put in the copy. I only know that now looking back.

Audio: Allyson narrating Queen Sono

TR:

Allyson also narrated If beale Street Could Talk and can be heard on Queen Sono on Netflix.

Just this past spring, ESPN premiered The Last Dance. A documentary about The reign of the Chicago Bulls in the 90’s. I’m not really a sports fan, but I do love a good sports documentary. Unfortunately, it did not include AD. That is until it was released on Netflix this summer.

Audio: Bill narrating The Last Dance

Bill:

being from Chicago, growing up in that time knowing that the Bulls were that championship team and we had two three peats. That was amazing to me.

TR:

It just so happens, Bill has a connection to sports.

Bill:

If you happen to attend a Philadelphia Eagles football game, I’m one of the in stadium announcers there.

I’m not announcing the game, that’s actually the guy next to me. We’re not on radio, we are in stadium only. Whenever the teams go to a TV timeout, that’s when I speak because people in the stadium hear commercials or see promotions and I announce those.

TR:

In addition to The Last Dance on Netflix you can hear Bill on Money Heist and Project Power.

Audio: Inger narrating Hanna on Amazon Prime

If you’re familiar with The Neighborhood, Amazon’s Jack Ryan, Proud Mary or Once Upon A time in Hollywood then you probably heard Inger as she narrated these projects.

Audio: Tansy narrating See on Apple TV

Did you recognize Tansy’s voice?

As I mentioned to her, technically this is her second time on the podcast as her voice opened my episode with Joe Strechay and his involvement with Apple TV’s See.

Tansy:

Oh my God, well thank you, thank you very much. (Laughs)

Well, that’s interesting, ok, so now I have a question for you. If you watched See did you not know that was me by listening to me talk right now.

TR:

Ok, well, I didn’t. To be fair, yes, I could have had her full bio for the interview, but the interview wasn’t about specific projects. Tansy Alexander has voiced hundreds of projects over the years including Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things and she’s even doing live narration for the WWE. or World Wrestling Entertainment.

When I asked her if any stand out she struggled a bit but mentioned one

Tansy:

Switched at birth series.

We are doing a show with Audio Description but we’ve got a daughter in the show who can’t hear so we got sign language going on. We also have to describe any sub titles. It’s all fascinating how it works together. One of the episodes was completely done in sign language, so there was no talking what so ever in this whole episode so we had to bring in other people to do some of the reading of their sub titles because I couldn’t do them all it was just too many. It would sound stupid nobody would know what’s going on.

TR:
Having people know what’s going on is important to Tansy.

Tansy:

A person who is not able to see what’s going on is left out of the discussion. You can access the show but you can’t access the whole content. It’s not fair. I’m about equity.

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

Why AD? Why do you enjoy Audio Description? And I’m assuming you enjoy Audio Description.

Inger:

Oh, I do actually!

It’s a number of things.

One, I’ve always liked reading aloud. It was actually how I got into acting was in grade school, when we had to read aloud in class I would get so into doing it and giving the different characters different voices that they started sticking me in plays.

When you have the opportunity to see how it effects people like when you actually have an audience or if you’re reading to a group of people, you can gauge how your words are affecting them. If you change the tone, change the pitch, if you change the pace. What that does to how they’re receiving it, how they’re taking it in how they’re being emotionally effected by what you say.

TR:

yet, there’s little immediate feedback in Audio Description.

Inger:

I like the aspect of knowing everything I’m doing in terms of entertainment or acting just being about being on stage. There is some part of it that you want to be service, you want what you’re doing to help somebody in some way. Whether you’re helping them to see something different about themselves or about how they view the world or particular groups of people or what have you. One of the things I appreciate about the descriptive narration is you feel like you’re at least doing something that you know directly helps a particular group of people have access to something that they might not otherwise have access to. To being able to more fully enjoy a television show or a film because you’re describing the action that’s going on. So it’s one of those areas where you can feel like you’re entertainment and service are merging.

Bill:

I take this very seriously and I want you as a consumer of Audio Description to know that. Audio Description is a responsibility. Someone is watching this movie or this TV show. If you don’t take that craft, if you don’t take what you do seriously enough then the person who’s listening to it is not going to have a good experience and they’re marginalized even more. Just because it’s provided doesn’t mean it’s very good. And I always strive for it to be good.

— Music begins – A driving upbeat Hip Hop beat

TR:

Ladies & gentlemen, join me in saluting:
Allyson Johnson;

Allyson:

My social media handle is the same on everything @AllysonsVoice And that’s AllysonsVoice (spelled out)

TR:

Mr. Bill Larson

Bill:

On Insta Gram @BillIvoryLarson. Hit me up! let’s have a conversation.

TR:

Tansy Alexander

Tansy:

There’s links on my website TansyAlexander.com. TansyAlexander (spelled out)

And last but definitely not least, Inger Tudor. By the way, during the pandemic Inger began a cool project during the pandemic. The name really does capture the mission.

Inger:

“A Poem A Day Art and Love in the Time of Corona”

TR:

She continues to bring you exactly that. Every day a new poem read aloud. You can find it on her social media, Facebook, twitter and Insta Gram all @IngerTudor.

Inger:

IngerTudor (Spelled out)

TR:

Occasionally she’s even dropping some of her own original work.

Inger:

If you do check it out feel free to leave a comment about a poem or a poet or a topic you would like me to do a poem on.

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

Oh, you’re taking requests? (Laughs)

Inger:

I take requests!

TR:

As do I! Ahem!

— Music ends.

Four Voice Over Artists
Become Narrators for what we know as AD
they get interviewed for a podcast
And now become Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Audio: Air Horns

Audio: “It’s official!”

TR:

I salute you all!

— Music begins – A driving upbeat Hip Hop beat

TR:

Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And , you know I told you this before and I’m going to tell you every single time… ReidMyMind.com is R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Charles Curtis Blackwell – Words of Meaning Empowerment & Inspiration

October 21st, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

A side Head shot of Charles Curtis Blackwell in a dark space leaning forward in thought with his pointer finger placed on his lip and the sunlight cascading across his face

Photo by Liz Moughon


Visual Artist, Writer and Poet Charles Curtis Blackwell, the subject of this year’s #Superfest2020 feature film God Given Talent shares stories of his life. We hear pivotal moments of influence including Jazz and school busing. Loss, Forgiveness, Purpose and of course Art!

His experience and approach to adjusting to vision loss is a must hear for anyone new to blindness. As evident in the episode, I too was inspired and hope this production, may I dare say, is a bit more artistic.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of one of my teachers; Sijo Abu Bakr. May We Remain!

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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: City soundscape merges into a nightclub atmosphere.

TR as on stage Host:

Greetings & Salutations brothers and sisters!
My name is Thomas Reid.

— Applause

Thank you, thank you very much!

Allow me to welcome you all to the Reid My Mind Lounge.!

— Jazz Music Begins

That’s right; today’s episode deserves an appropriate atmosphere.
I want you to sit back and really feel this one.
This was inspired. And y’all know I don’t use that word lightly.

Mr. Charles Curtis Blackwell is an artist. A visual artist, a writer, poet and definitely a story teller.

Where I come from, what he has to share, we call science or gems. Either way, he’s dropping it!
My hope is that you pick it up!

It all drops after the intro!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

TR:

Influence!

Music – Rahsan Roland Kirk, Volunteer Slavery

CC:
Have you ever heard of Rahsaan Roland Kirk?

Jazz horn player. He was more than that. Originally from Columbus but he wound up in Newark. He was totally Blind. He played three saxophones at the same time. He had them hooked together. He influenced a lot of Jazz musicians with this thing called circular breathing. In one nostril and out of the other. Their still blowing. You think they’re holding the note.

I caught him live before I lost my eyesight.

Kind of influenced me years later. I says ok well just do whatever.

Somebody said hey man how you do that? I’ve done some crazy stuff with the poetry. I just said hey man; I’m kind of like Rahsaan Roland Kirk you just got to get crazy on stage. Just go ahead you know get wild, you know (laughs)!

Music Begins… Jazz Track 9 from Charles Curtis Blackwell In Color

I liked Jazz at an early age. They crammed classical down our throats going from 6th grade to 7th grade. It was Mozart, Bach, Beethoven you know, so I got turned off. I tried to flunk the test. Wound up in music anyway. (Laughs) next semester I transferred back to art.

I was doing art before 5th grade. I remember the instructor she pointed out this drawing that I did. It had the whole class’s attention.

maybe because art it just came easy. I didn’t know I was taking it for granted.

Audio: Historic Radio News Broadcast

“the Supreme Court ruled in 1954, that pupils cannot be segregated by law on the basis of race.”

CC:

I was in a busing program. They bused us to this high school from this neighborhood in Sacramento. I was in 9th grade; I think I was around 13 or 14. They didn’t want us there.

The first day we got there, there were white folks with pickets. The end of the school year it turned into a racial riot; 14 people arrested one in the hospital and another one that was supposed to be in the hospital, he was Black, they arrested him instead, they didn’t send him to the hospital. One of the most scary days of my life. I was small man and I was scared man, these cats could fight.

My folks continued to make me go to the school. I didn’t really want to go. And it seemed like it wasn’t a day past some racial remark, I don’t know if you want me to mention those names on here you know. It really messed with me.

There was one incident. They had a policy; you could put the gloves on and have a boxing thing. Oh cool!

This guy kept messing with me. Shoving me into lockers, kicking me, but he always had his buddies with him. His name was Souza. He was a distance runner, He was up for championship.

This went from year to the next year. So I’m from the neighborhood, right. This year we had the same PE class. I told the coach I want to put the gloves on. The first coach his name was McFadden, he was ok. He spoke to me and said ok, we’ll call him in. I trusted McFadden. The other coach, he was a new coach. I didn’t know about him because he wasn’t there the day of the riot. The day of the riot the teachers, they weren’t breaking up the fights, they were yelling you damn Niggers! (Pause) These were teachers. You couldn’t trust nobody.

Coach called him.

Man I’m busy tucking my shirt in, tightening up my tennis shoes, I’m getting ready you know.

They say yegh Charles says that you’ve been harassing him, you did this and you did that.

No, no, no I didn’t!

The new coach he was sitting there, he jumped up and said you a such and such liar I saw you do it. Man, I was knocked off my feet.

They turned to Souza and said what is you ready? He says no, no I don’t want to…

I’m getting teed off. He don’t want to box with me. They say well do you want to apologize to Blackwell (laughs…). I ain’t want no apology. (Laughs…)
The dude apologized, the coach says ok Charles can you accept his apology. I did but I didn’t really want to. (Laughs….)

Audio: Sound of white school busing protests.

All this racism stuff and busing program stuff, I had poor self-esteem.

I was like a D student. My idea was like finish high school, get a job as a janitor and you know bang, that was it. I didn’t have no big aspirations.

I got into reading.

Audio: School bell ringing

We had to write like a newspaper article. And the way I learned how to write was from reading the San Francisco Chronicle. They had real good writers at that time. And so that’s how I kind of picked up on expository writing from reading the newspaper. I wrote an article for this class and you didn’t write this. Someone else wrote it. You know, this is not your style of writing, you didn’t write this. I got a low grade. I said eh whatever. Sometimes they give you a low grade realizing oh wow, what they’re really telling you is you got raw brute talent.

Music transition…

I used to sell the paper it was called the Sacramento Observer, it was a Black newspaper. William Lee, he was over the paper. So I called the paper and spoke to him and I said what if I write a story about these Black students graduating from this busing program. It wasn’t me it was the class ahead of me. They were graduating. He said yeh, write it and get it to us we’ll run it. I said ok. Paper comes out I open up the paper looked inside, looked on the back of the paper I said wow that’s funny they said they were going to run the article. So I called the newspaper, Secretary answered. I said yeh, this is Charles Blackwell, she says yes! I wrote this article they said they were going to run the article in the newspaper, she says yes. I said well I looked inside the paper and I didn’t see then I looked on the back of the paper and I didn’t see it. She said well did you look on the front page? (Laughing) I was knocked off my feet man! I never would have thought they would put the article on the front page. That was poor self-esteem. man I was just flabbergasted, I sold extra copies. I would go door to door selling the paper man, you know. (Laughs…)

Music Transition

I got to college my whole world started changing.

I was an art major. I was trained to do sketches. Funny, I was talking to you earlier about Rahsaan Roland Kirk. So I had a copy of Down Beat Magazine. We had to turn in a final drawing. Kind of like a shadow of the person you know it’s like super imposed, almost like shading. I did it with my 20/20 eyesight just looking at it and doing it. And the instructor said you used the Opaque projector that’s not right. I said no I didn’t use no Opaque projector; I just did it from a magazine. He downgraded me but he was telling me that’s how good my eyesight was.

TR:

Loss!

Audio: Sound of ocean waves continues with van driving…

CC:

I was staying in Santa Cruz for a little while. I was with some friends so we get in the van and go to the ocean. Stop at one place and we’d go further up. The waves were coming in. So they get out and they go down.

I’m in the van, I’m reading this book. A little while later I get out. I go down but I’m going the wrong way. I’m thinking this is the path. I made the mistake of allowing the terrain to half way carry me. There was this big rock, I was going fast and I said well I’ll just go jump and go over the rock. I was assuming it would be a slant. There was a cliff. I didn’t know.

— brief silence

Temporarily paralyzed on one side, concussion, internal bleeding. Broke one small bone. It was my finger. I don’t know how that happened.

Ah man, I just knew I was going to die.

By the grace of God here I am.

I was in the hospital for like a week, seven eight days, something like that. I don’t know man, next thing I know I’m up and going and I returned to my place in Santa Cruz. A few days later I headed back to Sacramento trying to regroup.

I got back in college a few months later.

Finished that semester. Christmas time man, we partied like crazy. I went to every party there was and the next thing you know I met this girl; I was in love man I wanted to get married.

Music – Cymbal crescendo followed by a cymbal crash and flute begins…
Track 6 from Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color
The unspeakable artist
Yearning, in and out of the room
If we sit in a dark room too long
We will meet the who
In the form of a tormented scream
Examining who we really are

Cymbal crash

CC:

I’m driving, I left college and I’m headed home and I remember I’m at this intersection and the horns are honking behind me and I had to turn. I barely made it.

Audio continues from Track 6 from Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color

Cymbal crash

And has fearless as we may be to ourselves
Those ghostly cries are all of us laid out in the dark

CC:

They’re doing all these tests, morning to night.
They call it an Edema – it’s where I hit and the fluid went to a state of rest and when it returned back into motion it left my macular pale. Macular Degeneration.

Audio continues from Track 6 from Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color

But if we stay in a dark room for so long we could see all the colors of the rainbow
Which reside on the other side where tombstones, grave sights pilferage and sorrows dwell.

CC:

They told me there’s nothing we can do. it all comes down to God. That was the end man, I just gave up.

I just dropped out of college. I didn’t go sign out or nothing.

Audio from Track 6 from Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color.

Magenta unwrapped, indigo unveiled and cobalt for all those chance given up when the soul gave chase to something of an eastern religion.
For residing in a dark room for so long can cause one to worship the form instead of the creator.

CC:

It was like what do we do to carry us through and it’s kind of bad but I was out drinking hook up with some friends get a beer. Somebody else would have some hard liquor. I was doing that too drinking wine.

Audio from Track 6 from Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color.

Many hales for the blood we fear running through our veins
Flowing upward like the Nile to our heads
In the dark room so sacred yet so cold the skin can’t breathe it

This tranquil rite of passage
Oh woman can you hear me in absence of gender
Nothing but flesh crawling in the dark
Solitary confinement

CC:

The worse thing I think I did, I didn’t know how to be… (Phone connection failing…)
Can you hear me any better? 1, 2, 3… that’s better?
Ok, I’ll turn around then …

I was raised southern family, my folks from Mississippi.

The idea, if you’re going to be with this person you going to be married, you gotta be able to provide. You got to be this man. The male role.

It ain’t about the male role, the macho, the strong…
So that was a big mistake I made trying to push her away, put her at a distance. I was 20. We get taught certain things but we realize that’s not going to help you in terms of dealing with life.

All I remember man was being in the bedroom and crying day in and day out. I would never tell her that’s what I was doing, which was really bad

When life hits in such a manner what do you got to hold onto. Faith and trying to trust God and trying to believe.

Audio Cymbal crash

Might be somebody there that could help you build (hope) and (encourage you to live).
(Each emphasized with echo audio effect…)

Audio: Subway train on tracks

CC:

Wound up at some friends. They were having a pool party at some apartment complex.

Audio: Train comes to screeching stop.
Audio from Track1 Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color

Pre De Term Mind! Mind! Pre Det term Mind!

CC:

I wound up sleeping at one person’s house, another house.

Had a fight with my Dad, he snatched the phone. I was a psychological mess.

This friend, his name was Ken, we had met on a bus. And we were talking, we discovered we were both born on the same day. He came and visited me while I lost my eye sight. He was from the Santa Cruz area.

It was getting to the point where I really got depressed. I mean real, real serious depressed. And then I just kind of disappeared. Nobody knew where I was. I wound up at the bus station. I went on to Santa Cruz and caught up with ken. I started a fight with the landlord. I was going crazy! I didn’t want to pay no rent. (Laughs) Really wasn’t going to make no sense.

I wound up sleeping on the beach. I got a cheap room at a hotel. Something like six dollars a night. I think I only had a hundred.

I would hang out at this book store and listen to people talking.

I was standing on the corner, people came by and said hey brother, do you know anything about Jesus. I says yeh, God and Jesus I know, what I need right now is food, shelter and clothing. And they said brother we got food, shelter and clothing. I said what? It was a Christian Commune. So I went and stayed with them.

They had me on the laundry detail. They had a second hand store. I was with this other guy, the only other brother and we would go and pickup refrigerators and stoves and other stuff. When I look back on it things moved kind of fast. January I’m losing my sight and going bizerk in the head, the crying and everything. Around August I had disappeared . The early part of September I wound up with this commune. From September til about January I had returned back to my folks in Sacramento.

It got me back into the swing of things not feeling like I’m going to be an invalid for the rest of my life.

Audio from Track1 Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color

Y’all gonna hear from me… someday!

An older Smokey voice off mic repeats

Y’all gonna hear from me… someday!

But the Blue line escapes all the mental anguish, mental breakdown of knots tied up inside.
(fades out)

Music – Curtis Mayfield Back to the World

CC:

Curtis Mayfield had this song called Back to the World.

I leave the commune and now I’m back in the world. The world is not the same as the commune. People there are kind of helpful and everything. Now I’m back in the world and I didn’t know what to do.

Even though I got back into the swing of things I hadn’t really adjusted all the way.

Signed up with Voc Rehab. They ask if you need a cane. I use a cane now but at first I didn’t. There main thing was trying to make a person productive in terms of society, getting a job, being trained for some kind of work situation. Then they had another part of going to college.

It was the social worker. She was with the welfare department at that time. She was this white lady and her isms started coming out. I made the mistake of when I left town, disappeared, I was 21, I got a beer. I called her of all people, I said I’m not going to be here, I’m gone. Where you going? Well I’m busy drinking a beer. I was dismantled anyway. Some people they don’t understand that because there all emphasis is like get you ready to be productive in society. Well how you going to be productive when inside, you’re a wreck. They don’t comprehend it. She’s saying uh, last time I spoke to Charles he was busy getting drunk on the phone and he was going to do this, this and this. And I was just sitting there , I know it was God. I just sat there and let her run off at the mouth. Huh!

“Words that have meaning” – CC with Ambient effect

Then the guy from Voc Rehab, well you really don’t seem like you know what you want to do in life. And I said oh, ok. I was just agreeing because I was in a different place spiritually. A little time past and I called him and said hey I think I want to go to college.

If you can get me two C’s we’ll fund you to go to college. So I did summer school and got two B’s but I was trying to get two A’s.

They always shifted me, changed, got a different guy for Voc. Rehab. This guy was totally Blind, ok? Man, I go in to meet with the dude and we’re talking. I’m saying oh, this is going to be ok because he’s totally Blind, he can relate to my situation, being partly Blind you know. We’re sitting there talking for over an hour. He’s interviewing me and at the very end of the interview he says ok, boy!

Man he did it in such a manner, I was just shocked.

“Words can help you be empowered!” – CC with Ambient effect

My Dad wasn’t the best communicator. I got back home, I was angry. My Dad was waxing the car. My Dad had a Cadillac (laughs). Picked up a rag, what the heck wax the car, maybe that will help me. I told him what had happened and my Dad, like I said, he wasn’t a real good communicator but this was one time he said something.

He said, he’s testing you.

He’s testing me?

Yeh, he’s testing you.

And that’s all my Dad said.

I milked that counselor like crazy. every time they had something to offer I grabbed it. So we had to bring our grades in, well it looks like you got some A’s here and you got a B and an A and another A . He says well, what kind of help do you need? Well, we got cassette recorders and do you need more reader service, I says oh yeh, oh yeh!

I get out of college and I could have changed counselors but I’m like no I’m gonna stay with this dude because I know what’ he’s like. He was testing me and I’m reading him.

I get out, well congratulations Charles. You can’t go to graduate school, we don’t have no money. We got a training program here.

You could have a cafeteria in a federal building.

I went to Montana, I went to Seattle, Los Angeles trying to get a job. Couldn’t get a job. The reality hit me, being partly Blind, ain’t no opportunities. I signed up!

When almost two weeks or a month we’re sitting at this table. This white dude is sitting next to me. He’s much older than me. He was losing his eyesight. This other guy’s across from me, he was Mexican, fresh out of Soledad prison, but he was in the program too. The guy in charge of the program it was his cafeteria, the guy comes up and says Charlie my boy, you talk back to my employees you can’t remain here you understand that. And I said yes! Just automatically. The white dude sitting next to me said that was F’d up. He was in his 40’s. You know something was wrong. The Mexican fresh out of Soledad said Charles are you ok?

I come back to the world, I’m being all well love one another be real open, be kind to people. This is the racism of America. Even though I may change the world hadn’t changed. I had to deal with it some kind of way. That’s the horror of this country. This is it, this is what’s on the table.

The next day man, I scared the slop out of that man. I threatened that man like crazy man. (laugh) They called a meeting with another state official. The man had me, the guy I had threatened.

Alright Charles, he says he’s scared to be around you. Well just what the F do you want.

“Words that can help you be inspired” – CC with Ambient effect

I came up during the 60’s man. I was involved in the Black student Union, we got 9 out of 10 demands for Black Studies and here this joker gonna do something racist like this.

You know how we learn from people. My mind went back to this brother, his name was Amyl Palmer, he was head of the Black Student Union. The brother could deal, he was way older than me. I leaned back and said what you got to offer?

You want to go to graduate school? I said that sounds workable. (Laughs) So I went to grad school. (Laughs)

CC:

A buddy of mine wrote a poem. I like real conversations.

Real conversations can really help you in life. What is it that helped me, you know, having real conversations like words that have meaning. Words can help you be empowered. Words that can help you be inspired.

Music Begins…

CC:
You gotta deal with the race and then you got to deal with people’s ignorance toward disability even with Black folks.

You think they’re going to relate to your blindness.

You might know, Berkley is where the center for independent living started. They were filing law suits way back in the 70’s. You could be in Berkley it could be a totally different story as opposed to being in Oakland. You get to Oakland, you get people like; Hey, is you blind? (Laughs…) I’ll be waiting for a bus. Hey I’m trying to catch the bus … it’s right there don’t you see the sign? And I’m carrying a cane now. You try to say ok, let it teach me something, try to just grin and bear it, but if you’re trying to hurry up and get somewhere. Let’s say there’s two people at the bus stop. I ask somebody and they say something ridiculous like it’s right there just look at it. I just turn to the next person and say, excuse me can you tell me which bus… and they tell me. And then the other person goes, oh hey I didn’t know you blind. I just walk off and leave them alone. I do them cold but it’s like what can I say to the person?

Every once in a while a person says oh excuse me I’m very sorry. Ok, cool.

I walked in a business before, with a cane, I’m trying to figure out why are they paying so much attention to me but it’s not a friendly attention it’s almost like do they think I’m going to steal something.

One of the worse things I got … I got off a bus one day and the dude said yeh, man, you got that game down, carrying that cane pretending to be Blind. I had some cuss words, I didn’t say them out loud cause it was night time and I ain’t ready for no fight. It’s kind of what they call the Pre Antebellum South the days before Helen Keller. A lot of this society is still like that.

I’m a church going brother. I remember I was at this church a little over a year ago, this friend named Joyce and Leo, hey Charles we’re going to this other church, come on and go, I said ok. I’m sitting there participating in the worship and then the minister calls someone here need to accept Jesus. And this lady is sitting behind me, she ain’t said nothing to me, she hasn’t given me a friendly greeting or nothing. She poked me on my shoulder , you can go up now and accept Jesus. (Laughs) I’ve been sitting there participating in the service and it’s like, no communication she just automatically assumed oh you Blind you need Jesus.

Sometimes there are store front churches and then there’s a good ol’ store front church That kind of backward condemning. maybe the reason you lost your eyesight is because you did something bad. You sinned. God is punishing you. If a person is just losing their eyesight and a person comes along and tells him something like that, oh God man, they’re condemned to hell. It could take them years to get out of that.

I remember this lady, it was Kay Stewart she setup a program for the Blind students at the college. And she was very hip. White lady from Texas. A very, very nice lady. A matter of fact she knew the racist counselor at Voc. Rehab. She wasn’t too fond of him. She was always whatever I can do to help you here at the college, knowing you weren’t going to get all the help you needed from Voc. Rehab. So she would do these cultural programs. When I finished college she got in touch with me and she asked me to go on this outing. She wanted me to talk to this guy, a white guy, he was just losing his eyesight. He was condemning himself, you know, God this and God that. I said hey man that’s not it God is not a condemning God. You got to find out about the love of God.

I had a real good family doctor and he would talk to you. Not like today, they’re running you through like a number. He said you lost your eyesight, take your defect and use it as your asset. Man, that was a strong piece of wisdom. And I passed that on to this other guy.

You find Blind people man, they know the Bible, backwards forward, sideways and down. But do they know how to get out of that condemning. Do they know how to get to that place of being and inspiration to someone else and being inspired and being (forgiving.)
(Emphasized with a slight echo effect)

CC:

I used to listen to Martin Luther King and James Farmer, Fannie Lou Hamer you know.

I’m in college, when I could see good, I’m sitting in front of the library one day reading an article and a dude came up and sat down. It was Souza. And he apologized to me. And I’m looking at him like what. I don’t know whether to listen to him or grab him. He said that he was dating this girl that was Asian and she confronted him. He realized it was his father that instilled all this racism in him. And I was listening and I said wow man!

It was like a Martin Luther King story man.

This time it was real.

Audio Bridge

One of the greatest lessons I learned man, the minister told me, he said, “Never be ashamed to apologize. Be it 8 to 80.”

The lady that I pushed away, it was fourteen years later.

I called her I said, I just want to apologize. She said no you don’t owe me no apology. I says well hey everything in my life is falling apart, I was in a writing project and it collapsed, nothing’s going right and I’m trying to get my life right with God. So I just want to tell you that I’m very sorry I did what I did to you.

I heard her crying on the other end of the phone and I realized I did the right thing.

I realized that I hurt her and I didn’t know I did.

When we apologize it’s like something spiritual takes place on the inside. When we forgive something happens on the inside in a good way.

TR:

Purpose!

CC:

I went to the college with my cousin Anita and I just went over to hang out. So I ran into the friend she used to be a neighbor, her name was Pat. She was much older than me. “Hey Charles, I heard you lost your eyesight.” I says yeh. She was you know very courteous, she knew me. “Come go to class with me.” So I went to a class with her and it was African American Literature. Eugene Redmond was the instructor. He was saying some stuff that caught my attention. I still remember he was presenting this book called “Black Suicides”. I was listening because I was at that point a year before because I had lost my eyesight. By the grace of God it didn’t happen. Black people they say we don’t do this, but here’s a book called “Black Suicides.”. We don’t do it when in fact we do. I says oh wow, this cat is saying something.

“Graduate school!” – CC with Ambient effect

One of the best things I did is sign up , it was an independent study with Eugene Redmond. He was also the editor of the Henry Dumas collection. I don’t know if you heard of Henry Dumas, but Henry Dumas did this poem I still remember;

America!

If an eagle be imprisoned on the back of a coin and that coin is tossed into the sky

That coin may dwindle, that coin may spindle, but that eagle will never fly.

Henry Dumas was shot and killed by a New York subway cop.

Redmond became the editor of the collection. Redmond did a book called Drum Voices. It’s the history and development of African American poets going all the way back to slavery and coming on up to Hakim Muributu, Sonia Sanchez, Amir Baraka. He was always an encouragement and I got an A.

Years later I was having dinner with this brother he was a political person in Sacramento, Grandin Johnson, trying to push for affirmative action years ago. So he had brought Eugene Redmond to the college for a part of Black Studies. I told him yeh, Redmond, I took a class with him and he gave me an A. He looked at me and he said; (pause) Redmond, didn’t give out A’s. If you got an A man you must have been producing some serious work. I kind of hung my head and said well he liked my work. He said I’m telling you he didn’t give out A’s. You had to work to get an A. He really dropped a bomb on me.

I kept in touch with Eugene Redmond, he’s published me about six different times in Drum Voices Review and some other publications too.

Music begins… Slow piano riff moves into a cool Hip Hop groove.

I realized ok, God gave me this talent and with this talent he’s kind of helped raise me up from that bed of poor self-esteem. Lift me up and encouraged me and inspired me. And I have to take care of this talent. I have to nourish it, be kind to it, treat it right and try to use it.

I’m at this place now it’s called Youth Spirit Artworks in Berkley, working with homeless young adults in high school. I try to use stuff like ok, let’s write about the last time someone said to you I love you. The last time you were angry and you felt like you wanted to kill somebody. How you see the situation where the guy is beaten to death on the street and the cop put his knee on his neck. Let’s write about that. Let’s write about mercy. What does it mean for you to be merciful to someone else . And I’m trying to use writing to confront.

I really embrace the Black Live Matter because we fought for the demands for Black Studies apparently somebody was listening.

Audio: Prison door slams and continues with ambient sound of a prison.

I used to do writer’s workshops in prisons and I’d go in and try to be an inspiration and encouragement to those people locked up behind bars with this talent that God gave me.

I did a presentation at Folsom prison and this inmate he wasn’t sitting with his back to the wall. You had to pay attention to that. Other people sitting at the table. It might have been ten people. This one guy when it was over turned out he was a point man in Vietnam and he wiped out a whole family drunk. If it hadn’t been for Vietnam he wouldn’t have did what he did.

He says hey can I ask you a question? I said yeh, go right ahead. He says when you lost your eyesight did you lose your will to live?

Man, I was shocked by that question. I really didn’t want to answer his question, but you deal with inmates they’ll be real with you so it’s best to be real with them. It’ll protect you. I said yeh, I lost my will to live. He says hey brother, he took my hand and said I’m glad you made that decision to live because you’ve really been an inspiration here today. Man, that dude gave me a PhD.(Laughs) He stamped it on my forehead

I got to be like I said, an inspiration, encouragement. Be it if I’m at a prison, at a school, wherever it is try to take this talent, try to inspire, encourage someone to live.

Music ends

TR:

Art!

I started off being trained to do a sketch of you in a minute and a half. Hand and eye.

I can’t do that anymore. I can’t set something in front of me draw it make it look like realism. That’s out!

I had to take a different approach. When I got back into art I was a Sacramento County CETA Artist. CETA program that’s the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, Jimmy Carter was president.

I was doing stuff that I knew from college because I had been out of art for about seven or eight years.

I did these large carrots, seven foot carrots (laughs). These were paintings. The middle of the carrot had another piece of canvas sewed on it was blue, called “This Carrot Got the Blues.”

I did these large pieces, I took styro foam balls and I stuffed them with Latex paint and then I painted a jet seal over that. It was Braille dots on canvas, it said “Do Not Touch”. And then another one said (laughing) “Read this with left hand only”

I was doing stuff that was workable for my blindness.

Music – Jazz drummer sol – off beat groove Track 9, Charles Curtis Blackwell, In Color

Allen Gordon he was the head of the Art department at one time at Cal State Sacramento. He introduced me to the NCA a group of Black artists from around the country. National Conference of Artists, Margaret Burrows out of Chicago, but even before that time he says oh you’re doing some African art. I says I ain’t took no classes. He said, it’s in you; line, shape, color, rhythm movement. I says oh wow! I’ve been doing more and more of that.

I cover the paper with oil pastels and then I come over it with water down acrylics doing line drawings of African masks on paper. or maybe drummers or jazz musicians on paper. Then I started doing African sculptures playing saxophones or playing a flute, playing a bass. African dancers. Using my blindness and doing abstracts. It might look like a Jazz drummer, a horn player, a dancer with all this abstract stuff you know,

line shape, rhythm color, movement. (Delayed effect on the groove of the beat.)

I’m using my blindness to create the art piece and get to my own originality.

Music ends!

I use my blindness in terms of writing. It’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t say.

Sometime I’m producing art, well I’ll stop and I’ll do some writing. So in a sense the art is influencing the writing.

I produce some writing, well let me set this down and I’ll produce some art. So the writing is influencing the art. Inspiring on the inside- give me some encouragement and inspiration.

I get tired of that well, I’ll go out here and catch a performance, theater play some jazz. I’ll go to an art gallery and see what they’re doing or go catch some poets. I might even sit there and don’t say nothing . I don’t even want to read I just want to you know listen to other people. Right now it ain’t happening. Truthfully I I’ve gotten depressed. Five months I’ve only finished one piece. I started about nine others and finished one. That ain’t saying nothing. I’m usually producing anywhere from one to three pieces a week. So that tells you this thing has hit me in such a manner and all I could do is relate to other people when they’re saying the same thing, feeling uninspired. It’s hard it’s really hard to deal with and I wish I knew some answers. Even I try to get to the spiritual place man I’m blocked on that too. I don’t know maybe you , hey you got some ideas tell me. (Laughs)

The sad part about it is I don’t have a computer and I use visual tech that enlarges print. And I spend a lot of time on that writing. In some ways I wish I had the hook up with the computer but I think I’d be lost.

I don’t take pride in it but I’m computer ignorant and I know I’m ignorant when you get one of these little five or six year olds in here and they know how to hit all the buttons and get everything just right. (Laughs) I know I’m out of the loop.

“Whatever you can do to drum up hope, do it!” – CC with Ambient effect

Music begins.

I never would have dreamed I’d be doing what I’m doing.
I’ve been published, locally nationally and internationally. I’ve had my artwork shown. Some people have my artwork in foreign countries. I’ve had theater plays produced.

Like my Grandmother used to say she said the Lord works in mysterious ways and has wonders to be performed. Maybe that would be my story. I look back on it I’m baffled.

I remember a lady was gonna date me, oh he ain’t got no job, he’s not doing this, he can’t do this. Somebody else said,

Music pauses

apparently you don’t know the brother. ..

My name is Charles Curtis Blackwell!

TR:

Well, it’s a privilege and honor to say Mr. Charles Curtis Blackwell,
It’s official! you Sir are a part of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

Music begins.

While Mr. Blackwell does not have a computer, he does have a Facebook page at Charles Curtis Blackwell. I’ll link to it on this episodes blog post.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been inspired. He said, his art influences his writing and his writing influences his art. That resonates with me. Inspiration from within.

If you’ve been inspired I hope you will let that influence you…

Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

CC:
“Laughs, I was knocked off my feet man!”

TR:

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled

October 7th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

A white background with black silhouettes.  The text: Young Gifted Black descends while the font is increasing in size. the words are colored Red Black &Green respectively.  Centered on the next line reads & On the left is a man in a wheelchair, next is a blind man holding a white cane, in the middle is a woman with two crutches, next is a woman in a wheelchair, and last is a woman missing a leg with crutches. Below are the shadows of the silhouettes with "disabled" in bright golden letters hovering over it.

People with disabilities make up 20 to 25 percent of the population. It’s considered the largest minority. No so called race, ethnic group or age is excluded. Even within the extremely low representation in the media, Black people with disabilities are seldom seen.

This episode, a co-production with Ajani AJ Murray is our attempt to open this conversation.

Earlier this summer, AJ and I invited Author, Blogger Rasheera Dopson and Doctoral Student D’Arcee Charington to join us on a Zoom call to discuss the Black Disabled experience from their individual perspectives. The result, a non-apologetic discussion about representation in the media, acceptance in the Black community and Black Disabled pride… – “Young Gifted Black & Disabled”

For me personally, 2 out of 4 ain’t bad!

Shout out to AJ who’s also co-hosting this episode – a first for this podcast.

Salutes Chadwick Bozeman!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Scene from “Black Panther” “In Salute to Chadwick Bozeman

Black Panther:

I am not ready to be without you.

Black Panther’s Father:

A man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father. Have I ever failed you?

Black Panther:

Never.

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family. Greetings to anyone joining for the first time. My name is Thomas Reid your host & producer. Welcome to the podcast!

Well, when it comes to this particular episode, I’m only one half of the host and production team. You heard my co-host when he was here on the podcast earlier this year. In fact, I liked his opening so much, let’s run it back!

Audio: AJ Episode intro

Ajani AJ Murray:

Our friend that we have in common, Cheryl green, told me about you …

Music begins “Nautilus”

and I’ve been listening to your podcast and I love it! It’s so dope and fresh. I’m kind of a Geek so I watch like a lot of PBS and I listen to NPR and so it reminds me of like radio documentaries. I particularly enjoyed when you were talking to Leroy about the Black History especially from the disabled perspective. I did something like that on my Insta Gram and some of my friends were like keep it coming AJ. So now you’re a resource.

Ajani Jerard Murray, a lot of people call me AJ.

TR:

But first, uh, hit me with the intro!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR:

AJ, welcome back my brother!

AJ:

Thanks for inviting me to be on the other side of the mic.

Why don’t we get right to it and I’ll introduce our guests.

Ladies first of course!

Audio: Ladies First, Queen Latifah

AJ:

My friend also living here in Atlanta Rasheera Dopson.

Rasheera:

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to be on this podcast with you guys today.

AJ:

And then we have another friend of mine from Washington DC, his name is D’Arcee.

D’Arcee:

D’Arcee Charington Neal. I currently live in Columbus Ohio. I am a second year Doctoral Student at the Ohio State University.

Music begins… “Young Gifted & Black” Donny Hathaway

TR:

What exactly do our guests have in common?

AJ:

They’re all Young Gifted, Black and Disabled!

Music Stops

Music Begins… Hip Hop Beat

Rasheera:

I am an author, Blogger, Disability Advocate. Owner of a nonprofit organization, The Dopson Foundation and the Beauty with a Twist Brand. two organizations dedicated to creating spaces of inclusion for women with disabilities. Being the founder of those two organizations that gives me a lot of space to be able to reach other minority women with disabilities.

AJ:

And D’Arcee

D’Arcee:

I am a second year Doctoral student at the Ohio State University and I do a lot of work at the intersection of Black identity and Disability specifically focusing through the lens of popular culture. A lot of my work has taken me working with major corporations, a bunch of nonprofits, some government agencies. Now I’m doing it for academia.

Rasheera:

So I was born with two rare diseases called Goldenhar Syndrome and the other one is called VADER Syndrome. Both of my syndromes have similar types of birth defects. One is considered a facial difference so when most people see me you notice that my face is asymmetrical. I was born without a right ear or right jaw bone. So I kind of fall in between the rare disease chronic illness and a disability intersectionality. .

I’m always real specific when I say that because you have a lot of people who have rare diseases who may not have a disability or you may have people with disabilities who don’t have chronic illness. So to say the least my childhood experience with disability was very complicated

TR:

That really is a good point. SO many people think disability and therefore unhealthy, sick. The two don’t necessarily always go hand in hand.

Rasheera:

I’m very grateful. I grew up in a single parent household with my mom. She was my fighter and advocate. The reason that I’m able to speak, to walk, to is because I had a lot of work done.

One out of twenty five thousand people have my condition. So really I didn’t meet another individual like myself until I was 25 years old.

A lot of moments of isolation and just kind of living on survival mode.

D’Arcee:

I just wanted to add, so I mean I saw you on video before all of this and I just think you’re absolutely gorgeous and never would have even thought about any of that.

Rasheera:

Ah,thank you! (Giggles)

D’Arcee:

I was like wait? What? I didn’t see none of that on camera, wait, … huh?

TR:

AJ:

D’Arcee has CP or Cerebral Palsy.

D’Arcee:

My parents are together They’ve been married for 35 years this year. Neither one of them really knew anything about disability or the idea of what to do with a disabled child. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 2 because at 18 months I hadn’t gotten up off the floor yet and they were really concerned about it. When they took me to the doctor he diagnosed me with CP. My mother said she left the doctor’s office went outside sat on the curb and cried.

She was upset because she thought all her hopes and dreams of a child doing stuff was gone. (pause) Clearly she was wrong!

Music Ends…

Audio: “Message” … From Don’t Be A Menace While Drinking Juice in Da Hood

AJ:

The message is about false expectations inaccurate beliefs or misperceptions.

TR:

Most parent’s do the best they can with what they have. Older now, D’Arcee has taken the time to have conversations with his parents.

D’Arcee

And one of the things we talked about was Ableism. My parents were not familiar with the terminology. They were doing things that were progressive that they didn’t even know. I cooked, I cleaned. It wasn’t a question of like if you cooked but it was a question of like when are you going to. My bedroom was always on the second floor and we always lived in a house with steps and I never had one of them little contraptions that people be putting on the banister where you just sit in and it takes you up the step. Look that was a genie wish machine that I saw in movies and TV because if I wanted to get to my bedroom I had to crawl up the steps.

TR:

I’m sure that can be an uncomfortable image for some. What we see is so highly based on what we believe to be true. It reminds me of when people see me or another Blind person walking with our cane. For the unaware, it appears that the cane and therefore the person is crashing into things. What they don’t realize is that we’re independently accessing information in a way that works for us.

AJ:
Disability is complex.
For example, I need help with just about everything except, using a remote control.
Some people have more mobility than others. And that’s ok.

D’Arcee:

Inside the house there was no expectation for me to have to be anything other than who I was. When you leave the door, the bar of expectation just goes so low.

My parents never talked about the difference. They didn’t prepare me for the Ableism that was going to come in middle school, in high school in college and looking for a job. I had to find all of that out by hand.

TR:

Rasheera also shared some reflections on how she too wasn’t prepared for what was to come in the real world.

Rasheera:

I felt like I wasn’t properly prepared to be a disabled woman. In my household I was just Sheera and we goin’ treat Sheera like everybody else. Then when I got to school I’m thinking I’m a Black woman and people are looking at me like, hmm you’re a Disabled Black woman and there’s a difference. I felt like I had to learn the hard way. I’m 29 and I’m finally starting to get this thing. And it has nothing to do with you it has really everything to do with the system that was created not for people like you.

D’Arcee:

People just assume that if you say the word disability it immediately translates to less than, without them knowing anything about symptoms or anything. People are just immediately like ok, well clearly you’re special needs, clearly you belong in the class with other people with intellectual disabilities. Not to say that’s any better or worse, but it’s a different type of class and it’s a complete segregation from regular education.

AJ:

Societies low expectations come in different forms.

D’Arcee:

I lived in an all-white neighborhood in North Carolina so people would just come up to you and be like “oh, oh my God, where were you shot?” … was the number one question I would get from like the age of 9 through like 17 because people just equate and this is a really specific experience for wheel chair users only because the narrative that people have of chair users and Black people is criminality.

TR:

D’Arcee went on to site shows like Oz & Cops which help spread that narrative.

AJ:

I feel like if we took a few more minutes we’d come up with some other examples from film and television.

TR:

We began the conversation by asking each of our guests to share the specific type of media they consumed growing up.

AJ:

First up, Rasheera.

Rasheera:

I’m a writer! So when I was in elementary school I thought I was going to be the next Toni Morrison. You could not tell me that…

The rest of the panel jumps in with positive encouragement. “You still can be” You’re still young” “Hold up”

AJ:

Black love is not just about romantic love, it’s also lifting one another in support.

TR:

Facts!

Rasheera:

She didn’t publish her first book until she was 40 and I’m 29 and I just published my first so it’s still Goal!

I grew up in a predominantly white school. My sister and I were really the only two Black kids in the entire school so it wasn’t until 11th grade in high school that I actually got exposed to African American literature. The Toni Morrison’s, Alice Walker’s , The Zora Neal Hurston. I’m just like oh, these people sound just like me!

TR:

That’s connecting with the voices of Black women authors.

AJ:

The full story of the black experience hasn’t been written yet.
There are plenty more chapters yet to be explored.

Rasheera:

As I’ve gotten older, even though I look to those mediums and those platforms such as the books and even Essence magazine being a girl and looking through all the pages and the different fashion things, I get a little sad. I never saw anyone like me. I never saw a girl with disabilities in Essence magazine. Struggling with low self-esteem growing up I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I was reading Essence magazine, Ebony magazine Jet magazine reading the stories of Toni Morrison and hearing the Black struggle but I never read about the disability struggle.

It Matters, it really does.

D’Arcee

My family is a movie family. We have been addicted to films. I can vividly recall as an 8, 9 year old spending many an hour re-alphabetizing my mom’s thousand VHS tape collection. No lie and each tape had like five movies on it. We loved movies growing up . My mom was really into horror films which is hilarious because she’s super religious. She’s an Evangelist now.

Music… church organ

D’Arcee:

It’s one thing to not see yourself. It’s another thing to not be thought of.

These days when I watch TV and Netflix and stuff I see disability. I see it quite a lot, but I feel like there are disabilities that are sexy. I don’t even mean attractive, I mean that there hot in the media because people find it to be easy to access and it works really good for a story plot. So if I had to pick one that would be Autism.

TR:

Let’s be very clear, because you know how things get misconstrued, in no way is D’Arcee or your hosts in support of pitting disabilities against one another. This isn’t about any sort of perceived hierarchy within the disability community.

AJ:
This is about disability representation in the media. And it really is true, representation matters!
Right now Autism has the spotlight in the media.

D’Arcee:

It’s super popular right now. You see white Autistics everywhere. When I was growing up we were watching movies it was so funny because anytime you would see a Black person like and I mean any time you would see Black people that were like off to the side or just like a spec person we would get so excited.

[
Blade, was my shit!

AJ:

Another question for the panel was to recall their first time seeing disability represented in the media.

TR:

Says below with live version…

TR in conversation with panelists:

And specifically Black disability.
,
Panelists: long pause… Delay… breaths…

Rasheera:

Man, … (laughs)

D’Arcee:

I gotta think about it! Um!

AJ:

Um!

Rasheera:

I think when I read about Haben Girma. The Deaf Blind lawyer.

D’Arcee:

Haben (correcting pronunciation), that’s my friend Haben. Haben Girma, yeh!

Rasheera:

That says a lot because it’s present day.

D’Arcee:

Yeh, right, that’s like last year.

Group: Wow… laughs

Rasheera:

Um, so no!

Rasheera:

I could count on my hand and I even use my whole hand for how many Black disable people I’ve met.

D’Arcee

I mean I know quite a few, like in real life.

[TR in conversation with D’Arcee:]

As a child did you know them?

D’Arcee:

As a … no, no!

My friend Angel was the first Black Disabled person, this is going to sound terrible but, the first Black Disabled person that was actually doing shit!

AJ:

Does that sound terrible to you?

TR:

I think it’s about people who have aspirations and goals. Many people I’ve spoken to for the podcast have said to me, I was looking for or I found, you know, the cool Blind people. I don’t think it’s specific to the goal or level of education, , but rather it’s about someone striving to accomplish something.

D’Arcee:

I had gotten an internship at NASA.

NASA forgot that they hired disabled folk, three of us. They forgot that we needed housing and they put everybody else in an apartment complex that was like 20 miles away and it didn’t have any accessible rooms so the University of Maryland had to come through at the last minute and give us some dorm rooms to live in and Angel just happened to be my next door neighbor. I saw her and I was like wait a minute, Black Disabled woman and then she was like yeh, I’m a Doctoral student and I’m finishing my PhD in Gender and Women Studies.
Wow! It was so beyond what I even thought was possible. And that sounds so terrible.

AJ:

What’s terrible is that even in 2020 we’re struggling to think of Black Disabled people in the media.

D’Arcee:

I know lots of Black folk but I can’t think of any with an actual disability that’s been … I’m sorry Denzel Washington, The Bone Collector. Which is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

AJ in Conversation with Panel:

I don’t know if anyone would remember the show “Malcolm in the Middle”. He had a friend, I don’t remember what his disability was but he was in a chair and he was kind of an A-hole. That was the first person that I can remember that was Black and Disabled.

Rasheera:

You know, now that you mention that AJ, I thought about Jimmy from Degrassi. And I guess he didn’t really come to mind because the first two seasons Jimmy wasn’t in a wheelchair, but I guess the third season didn’t he get shot or something.

D’Arcee:

Yeh, he got shot!

AJ:

I knew someone would come up with an example of this trope.

TR:

And that’s a Canadian show isn’t it?
TR:

These tropes aren’t limited to the US.

AJ:
TR:

Also, I’m pretty certain in all of the examples mentioned, they weren’t played by a person with an actual disability.

AJ in conversation with panel:

It seems like we can’t get any real stories about real people with disabilities in movies, but if you’re an able body actor and you play somebody with a disability you may get an Oscar.

D’Arcee:

I would be remised if I didn’t at least bring up the fact that Netflix does seem to be trying to do it. I’m trying to be generous.
So I love the show Sex Education. I think it is one of the best shows to come out in a long time. It’s a comedy, a British comedy. In season two they introduce a character with a disability. So the actor himself is actually disabled which I thought was great.
TR :

But!

AJ

Wait for it!

D’Arcee:

Unfortunately he wasn’t Black so I can’t get everything that I want.

AJ:

D’Arcee mentioned Blade earlier. Not a movie that I think most people associate with disability.

TR:

I know I didn’t but, when he broke it down!

First, the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

D’Arcee:

He’s a half vampire half human being. He basically has some weird combination of Sickle Cell and an auto immune disorder. I see it as a rare disease. He was working with huh, wait for it, a Black woman who was also a Phlebotomist. She develops an immuno therapy that he inhales via an inhaler that allows him to function.

TR:

I told you, when he breaks it down for you!

D’Arcee:

It affected me so deeply. I saw that movie and I was just like this is a disabled Black dude who is a super hero who is saving people and he’s Black A F with his Barber who makes his weapons with his Camaro car with the high rims. It was a marriage of like blackness and disability unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Black Disabled people have already been there but they’re not being discussed that way. Storm is a Black Disabled woman. If she were a real person she has the same chromosomal disorder as a person with Down Syndrome. She just shoots lightning bolts out her eyes. She would be covered under the ADA. Technically.

AJ:

Do you think Wesley ever thought about the character in that way?

TR:

I doubt it, but I’m going to re-examine Nino Brown.
TR:

AJ:

Shout out New Jack City!

What up Pookie!

D’Arcee:

I thought it was brilliant but people don’t give Wesley Snipes props. People keep thinking that Dead Pool was the first rated R comic book movie, it’s not! That belongs to Blade.

Audio From Blade:
Blade: You people better wake up!

Rasheera:

Even the new Harriet Tubman movie, come on people didn’t give credence to the fact that she was a Disabled woman. Okay, she was spiritual and she had visions, but she had probably a form of Epilepsy…

D’Arcee:

She definitely did.

Rasheera:

that caused her to have seizures. That is a disability and the fact that she freed thousands of slaves, I was like give that woman her props as a Disabled Black woman.

Audio: Martin Lawrence in standup performance.

“Handicapped people have good parking spaces… (fades)

Rasheera:

It was some time last year , Martin Lawrence, he had put an old clip of him doing standup comedy. Of course he was playing somebody who had some developmental delays. He had the arm twisted and was doing the things like he was making fun of a person. He had thousands of comments on there. This is the issue I have with the Black community, we still endorse people who have created content that sheds a negative light on people with disabilities.

TR:

Rasheera gave an example of how there seems to be more push back from the white community towards those felt to be disrespectful…

AJ:

It’s one thing to have a comedian, for example, perform and perpetuate a negative image. It’s another level of pain or hurt that comes from the general public who argues for that sort of content.

Rasheera:

When I point it out… This lady she commented, she was like you guys are too sensitive. I was like you know, no we’re not too sensitive we understand that was like the early 90’s so you know people just didn’t know or did they care? We really have to go back and say you know that wasn’t okay that you made a whole stand up production making fun of a person with a developmental disability and we still laugh at that. It’s not cool!

AJ:

Too sensitive?

Not really when you consider history and experience.

Rasheera:

Whenever we have a person in our family who’s “Disabled” you know, we’ll call him slow or special. That’s Uncle Ray Ray we keep him in the back corner and we won’t tell the family that he exists.

Historically when we’re dealing with certain levels of pain and trauma we do use things such as comedy and music to provide relief to that. I don’t know if it’s justifiable but I do think it needs to be brought to the surface like okay maybe we do need to peel back why is it that we still think it’s okay to hide our relatives with disabilities. Why is it still like such a level of shame in our community when it comes to disability?

D’Arcee:

This is what my work centers on in academia – what I am trying to coin Afro Fantasm. This idea that Black Disabled people within the Black community exists as living ghosts. We exist and folks know we exist, they do not acknowledge the disabled part of the identity as opposed to the Black part. I had someone recently tell me, one of my friends recently tell me; well disability isn’t race. He said I just think you’re making something out of nothing and you’re creating something that does not exist. I said it most certainly is.

AJ:

How do you think that would make you feel?

TR:
If necessary, make the larger identity relevant to you.

D’Arcee:

Why do you seem to think that just because Black people are disabled we don’t need to do things culturally that still read as Black? All my disabled female friends they constantly complain about how nail salons are not accessible. As a wheelchair user I still need to go to the Locktician to do my Dred’s. Me being in a wheelchair does not stop me from having to do that because as a Black person I don’t want to look busted! Or ashy or like any ‘ol kind of way because that’s already assumed that’s how we’re going to look anyway when we come out of the house.

Music… Let the Church Say Amen

D’Arcee:

Church is the center piece of African American identity and yet I don’t know of most Black churches that will use interpreters. They don’t bring cart services, they don’t provide hymns in Braille. It is not a conception that even crosses into people’s minds and so therefore I call it Afro Fantasm. You exist but only in the barest spectral sense to other Black people

Audio: Scene from “Blackish”
Takes place in a Black Church. The pastor speaking from the pulpit.

We will now offer prayers for our community. Everybody knows somebody broke into Shante’s car and stole her last good hearing aid. Shante we’re all praying for you. Pause, Pause… Shante, (spoken slowly and deliberately) we are all praying for you. Ahuh, ahuh! Church agrees!

TR:

CART services is an acronym for Computer Assisted Real Time Translation.

AJ:

Real time captioning.

D’Arcee:

if we actually were to go beyond that and to start looking at the actual physical embodiment of disability, folks shut down.

Rasheera you were saying why does the Black community continue to laugh at Martin Lawrence’s jokes? So the answer as horrible as it is but it’s the truth, people can come on my Twitter and check me if they want to, you don’t see us as people. Bottom line point blank period with a t, we are not people in your minds. We are uh huh, interestingly enough, three fifths of a person.

Music Ends with a low base and then bass fades out

Rasheera:

When you call them on that point it’s just like oh well you’re taking away from the Black cause.

How am I taking away from the Black cause when really all I’m trying to show you is the full spectrum of the Black narrative.

AJ in conversation with panel:

This is a part of my Black experience. I wonder and I’m just putting this out there, I’m not saying this is concrete, but I wonder if it has a lot to do with the fact that disability is something that needs to be healed.

D’Arcee:

Absolutely. You don’t want to say its physical I will.
TR:

In case anyone is getting this twisted and thinks a pass is being given to others and saying Black people are more Ablest?

D’Arcee:

That is not what we’re doing.

What I need to specify is that while it is true that the Black community often does not do things to support people with disabilities. The flip side of that coin is that it’s because of systemic racism that we can’t. Most of the time. I will say yes it happens sometimes, yeh there are assholes everywhere, but the reality is I firmly believe that Black people are not out here (laughs) being villains to Disabled people on purpose.

TR:

Systemic racism in the form of redlining for example.

AJ:

Too often small business owners of color are unable to access capital to afford retrofitting existing buildings to make them accessible.

D’Arcee:

I will say that yes, while I go to Barber Shops and you see steps and I’ll be like Lord Jesus, the flip side of that is the people in there have always helped me. They will stop cutting hair to come outside to do what they have to do so I can get into the shop.

TR:

Black Love?

AJ:

Black Love!

But we definitely shouldn’t have to do all that!

Rasheera:

[
We just haven’t had the bandwidth within our community without the barriers of systemic oppression to allow us to have acceptance for everybody.
]
So if you guys make stuff more accessible, and wealth is equally distributed in our community, half these conversations we wouldn’t even be having.

AJ:

I had to ask our panelists how do they see Black Disability moving into the mainstream?

D’Arcee:

Somebody needs to sit Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris down and say you’ve done a lot for Black people but now you need to purposely put Disabled folks in big ways. And that’s only part of the issue because quite frankly the other part of the issue is that there aren’t enough actors. If Kenya Barris and Shonda Rhimes create a show and they want to put a Black Disabled person front and center, if they want them to be the next Olivia Pope they have to be ready to take it.

AJ:

Is the question about the number or the level of experience?

D’Arcee:

I love Peter Dinklage, oh my God he’s fabulous. But he is the only one. These acting studios need to stop trippin’ and they need to let people with disabilities straight up in because that’s the only way. I want a wheelchair using peter Dinklage. I want a person in a wheelchair who is respected.

Rasheera:

That’s one of the reasons why I decided I want to go into Public Health. At the end of the day we can talk about how the spaces are needed, but actually we need more people with disabilities to occupy those spaces.

Music begins, Young Gifted & Black, Donny Hathaway

When you get to the very core of it, we have to begin to empower the disability community. Letting them know, you can go to college. You can get a Master’s degree. You can go into any career field that you want and maybe we have to find ways to strategize so you can get the type of accommodation.

Music morphs into a Remix of Young Gifted & Black… Young Gifted Black & Disabled!

AJ:

We need more opportunities. The wealth of talent is there. You just have to want to see it.

Rasheera:

Empower disable people, especially disabled Black people.

Before I ever knew I was disabled I knew I was Black first. I was very fortunate that my family raised me to know everything about my people. We weren’t just descendants from slaves.

I identify as a Disabled person, a woman and a Black woman at that. I take a lot of pride in that. Even somedays when its hard and I’m just like man, I’m the only one in the room.

It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also a place of fulfillment and joy where you’re able to pull from those different life experiences.

D’Arcee:

I was just thinking of the Morpheus quote from The Matrix Reloaded, which I recently saw. When he was in Zion, when he was talking to everyone trying to calm them down and what he said is; what I remember most is after a century of struggle I remember that which matters most.

Audio from Matrix Reloaded: “We are still here!” Crowd roars in applause!

That resonates so deeply with who I am as a person.

The more I learn about Disabled History and the more I learn about Black history and how they intersect, it just makes me even prouder to be the type of person that I am and to be able to do what I do.

I am the only wheelchair user in the graduate department of several hundred students. I’m in the number one school for English in the United States. I have a complete full ride for this degree, they paid me to come there.

TR:

He’s not flexin’ on y’all!

D’Arcee:

It’s a question of knowing your worth. When it comes to Black Disabled people, we exist in this space that people think of as double deficit. You start off from a negative place. As a Black Disabled person you are the bottom of the bottom, if you believe that you are.

I think the only way that people don’t fall into the trap is by having a support system of people who are constantly telling you that this is not true.

AJ:

That support system can be your family, friends but I think what I heard here today is the overall community can step it up.

TR:

Shout out to Rasheera who you can find on …

Rasheera:

Insta Gram, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In – just type in Rasheera Dopson. R A S H E E R A Or Beauty with a twist.

TR:

And D’Arcee!

D’Arcee:

My Twitter handle is DRChairington. Charington but spelled like a chair, as I’m a wheelchair user. Oh, it’s Dr. Chairington, I’ll take that too!

TR:

It’s official, you both are part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Brother AJ, you already know, you ‘ve been down with the Rmm family for a minute.

Thanks for co-hosting & producing this episode with me.

AJ:

Thanks Tom, let’s do it again!

TR:

I’m not sure what I can let out but AJ’s always doing something, you know Acting up somewhere! He’s @GotNextAJ on Twitter and Ajani AJ Murray everywhere else.

What do you think about the format, the topic anything?
Let me know at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or on Twitter @tsreid.

When it comes to the Black Disability experience, there’s so much more to talk about. I think you can expect more right here on Reid My Mind Radio. Sounds like something you don’t want to miss out on?
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Remember transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

AJ: Laughs!

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