They Call Me Marcy’s Son – A Eulogy

February 24th, 2021  / Author: T.Reid

Marcelina Reid, my mom, a tan skin woman with salt and pepper short hair standing in an off white and tan lace dress, poses in front of a stream with low green shrubs with a building reflected in the water.

My mother Marcelina passed away this month. I always wanted her to come on the podcast to have an open conversation around the topic of adult child/parent relationships after Vision Loss or disability. But Mom was from that generation that didn’t really get into those types of conversations, especially with their sons. I tried off microphone before and it wasn’t happening.

I felt the need to share some of these feelings and I know many of those adjusting to Vision Loss will see some of their own relationships in my experience with my mother.

My mother Marcy, the woman who raised me. My partner in silliness! probably my introduction to stories and the person who taught me how to find the good in bad situations. Yo soy El hijo de Marcy, Marcy’s son!

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— Soft ambient music begins

TR:

Hey there Reid My Mind Radio family! Much love to you all!

It’s your brother Thomas here on the check in…

If this is your first time joining the podcast, I’m the host and producer. Twice a month, we bring you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness. Every now and then I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

Today’s episode sort of falls into that last category. But I’m considering this a special episode.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

In the intro, I said we bring you this podcast twice a month. Well, yes there are times when that’s not true, usually though, I let you know when a brother needs a bit of a break.

This month, I had to change it up a bit.

My mom passed away and I didn’t want to release an episode that was actually ready to go.

I usually include some social media promoting of the episodes after each release, I didn’t want my public voice talking about the podcast while my private voice was grieving the loss of my mother.

On multiple occasions during the life span of this podcast, I wanted to have my mother on as a guest. My mother was very charismatic and actually quite funny. I know she would have been really entertaining, however, my real goal was to get some insight into the relationships between children who become Blind as adults and their parent or parents.

Unfortunately, my mom was from that generation that didn’t talk much about that sort of thing.

My mom as far as I know continued to blame herself for my having Retinoblastoma as a child. Me losing my left eye as a baby I know had a tremendous impact on how she treated me in comparison to my older siblings.

So when I had to tell my mom about the tumor found behind my right eye as an adult, that wasn’t easy for me to do and I know not easy for her to hear.

— Soft melancholy piano music begins —

“Put it in God’s hands!”, was her response. Five words I’d come to hear throughout my life. As an over analyzing, action oriented young man this phrase never really sat well with me. My interpretation was that it didn’t mean much if we ignored the conversation about what we should do about the problem.

Mom didn’t say much in this situation with her words, but I realized her actions actually completed what I needed to hear. She was always ready to do whatever was required. You need a ride, she’d drive. You need someone to watch the girls, she was on her way to the house. Quiede comer? Do you want to eat? If yes and actually even if you didn’t answer, she’d cook up something just in case.

— Soft melancholy music fades to an end —

Being Blind around my mom was personally really difficult for me. As a man, I want to be seen as a protector of my family. My immediate family, my wife and girls see me that way. Whatever is necessary they know I’ll do.

We know for example, driving, for those who lose their sight as adults is one of the most difficult things to give up.

We hear about the loss of independence. I stopped driving immediately when I knew I could endanger my family and others.

As a little kid, I remember watching my Dad and the older men in my family pack up the car, discuss the best route to take and then pilot us safely to our destination. Honestly, it wasn’t just men, my Mom and aunts often did a lot of driving. It’s something as a young boy to watch other older men that makes me see myself in that role someday. One of the reasons I probably loved taking road trips with my family before my vision loss.

I remember watching my older cousins chauffeur their mother and think that was the coolest thing ever. I loved how they’d get out the car with their car keys in hand, appearing almost like a body guard for their mother.

Being a protector of my mother could also mean just being there for her and helping her get things done.

A few months before my second Cancer diagnosis, my brother passed away. I got the call while at work. I stopped everything and went to my mother. I always kept a copy of keys to her apartment with me in case of an emergency.

I opened the door. I can still see the image of her sitting on a chair in the foyer just a few feet from that door to the apartment. She just sat there alone crying, looking as though she was waiting for someone to come through the door.

I felt proud to be that person for her. Arriving in time to take care of everything that she needed. Making the arrangements, answering questions, taking the phone calls. She later told me how much she appreciated me being there. Of course, I didn’t want my brother to leave before my mom, she already lost my oldest sister 25 years earlier. I was however very thankful I could make it easier for her.

Then just a few months later, it seemed like I’d never really have that chance to be seen the same by my mother.

After becoming Blind, the way she responded to me felt like she could never see me as that strong adult able to take care of her. Rather, she wanted to be the
care giver. Even though it wasn’t necessary.

“Quidau!”, she’d say over and over. Be careful as I get up from my seat. I’m fine Ma! I’d say in frustration. “He’s fine Ma!” my wife, Marlett would offer knowing I was growing more irritable. “Abuela” Daddy’s fine!” my oldest daughter would offer in my support.

This scenario would repeat as often as we were together. It took place in my own home, in her apartment – where I grew up. It took place in public which was ten times worse for me. to handle. It was as though not only could she not see me in a strong male role, but it felt like she pointed that out to anyone inevitably watching.

She tried to get better about that. I know Marlett tried to explain how that made me feel, but it was just who my mother was. I would always be her baby! That I can understand now with babies of my own, but it never really made it easier for me. I never again felt as though she saw me as someone who would protect her as she did me when growing up.

My sister Camille had the chance to be there for Mommy in the end. My mother lived with my sister and her family in what became her final years. Cam and the rest of the family did great in keeping mommy safe and healthy as she could be. She remained by her side through her last breath.

— Calm music begins which opens to a steady rhythm —

If it wasn’t going to be me there with her then I’m so thankful it was my sister.

During the wake we set aside some time to celebrate my mom’s life. We invited family and friends to share any memories or stories of my mom.

During this celebration, I had an opportunity to Eulogize my mom. I didn’t get to actually do it the way I think it should have been done so I’d like to share it here as a way to hopefully share some of that incredible light my mom shined on all who met and knew her.

Eres el hijo de Marcy

When we were growing up, random people in a pizza shop, supermarket perhaps or in front of some building in Co-op City in the Bronx would confirm that fact.

You’re Marcy’s son?

At that time, it meant I had to be careful.
I had to be on my best behavior because if my mother found out I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing,
that would be bad enough. But finding out from a friend, I think that would have been way worse.

But being Marcy’s son, daughter or anything for that matter, to me means you benefit in some way from some of what she had.

You have to begin with strength.

That’s strength and courage to experience adversity and remain faithful in what you believe.
That’s what she did after burying two children way before their time. Plus losing her husband of 31 years.

It means, being stubborn. Incredibly stubborn.
But that’s conviction. Because everything she did was done with passion.

it’s an incredible sense of humor,

Honestly, some of that can be a bit crude and
while I don’t think she’d mind, I won’t go into specifics.

Mommy, could laugh at her own ways and flaws.
Never taking herself too seriously.

Mommy, was just so silly!
As little kids, you never knew when
you might turn the corner in the apartment and
there she was. Waiting on you.
Sometimes she was in one of those facial mud masks.
Other times she’d put on this orange alien looking mask.
She’d raise her hands in that supposed to be scary monster attacking pose while growling.

Even in more recent times, I know if
I ever needed anyone to act silly with, Mommy would never disappoint.

My Mom was a natural storyteller.

Those who had the chance to experience it definitely remember, Story time with Marcy…

It could have started with something simple like, let me tell you what happened today…

But, if you’re lucky, it began with a meal in her kitchen. That in itself is a gift!

If she was in the mood to share a story, alright, who am I kidding? it didn’t take much…

Mommy, tell them about the time… that could be anything.

I’m talking about either her childhood stories from Puerto Rico or
some of the early adventures in 1950’s New York City.

Mommy told stories in 3D.
She didn’t just tell you a story,
she brought you into it with sound effects she made up on the spot.

Panga na could be a crash, a punch…

She make these big , over exaggerated movements to illustrate or re-enact.

Sometimes, you might even be used as a prop.

Veng aki, as she pulls you out of your seat.

Of course, she had an action packed and dramatic tale.

you might wonder if she was embellishing.

That is until you experience something with her in life and you realize, oh no, those stories are true.

Marlett, Riana & Raven and Mommy were all hanging out at the mall.
I’d say about 8 or 10 years ago. Mommy had to be 75 or 77.

When they got home, the girls came and told me;
Daddy, Abuela got into a fight with this lady at Arthur Treachers.

That’s not news to me!

It wasn’t really for them either because they heard the stories of her past.
But now, after seeing her in action, there would never be any doubt as to the validity of those stories.

They believed her stories about her athletic prowess because at around 75 years old
they watched as she outskated a much younger woman at the roller rink. Because my mother was incredibly competitive.

But her best stories come out of her just being herself.

— Music ends —

When my sister Camille and I were young kids, Mommy
would tell us something then say, like a friend says and proceed to elaborate on something or explain

It was a very frequent thing.

Cammy and I would sort of look at one another …

Privately we’d wonder,
how many friends does mommy have?
Are they the same people always telling her these things?
Just something we wondered about for years.
It wasn’t until we were much older when we came to realize,
Wait, say that again, mommy,

Like a friend says

One more time

(exaggerated)Likay For instants

Mommy was saying for instance. All these years, it was just her accent that made us think she was saying like a friend says

I got into lots of trouble because of that accent.
Like the time she sent me to the store for Epson Salt and I came home with Eggs and Salt!

Teasing my mom and imitating her accent was and will always be one of the things that bring me joy.

As a kid, it got lots of laughs from her and my father so of course I continued.

Now, don’t get it twisted, my mom was to be taken seriously. She just had a cool way of combining the serious and the sweet.

As a child growing up dealing with lots of invasive doctor visits and exams under anesthesia, Mommy made them special. But first, she had to teach.

At each appointment from the time I was very young, it was my responsibility to sign myself in at the doctor’s office,
make sure no one was being seen before me,
even ask them to put the next set of drops in to assure everything stayed on schedule
I hated it because I was the only child doing that.
Isn’t this your job, I thought!

I realized later what she did and why.

She was a natural fighter and wanted to make sure her children were capable of standing up for themselves.
Showing me, not telling me how to do it!

But every visit was followed by either two hot dogs, a soft pretzel and a bottle of my favorite drink, Yoo Hoo, at that time.
On more special occasions, she’d take me to a restaurant. We shared memories of those times together later in life.

I looked forward to these appointments and
later learned how different that was from how other kids experienced these things.

Mommy, was an optimist.
She saw good in people but at the same time
she’s not going to fall for your nonsense.

— DJ scratch launches into a smooth beat! —

“So where you from?”

TR:

She was small, yet strong.

Definitely a bit heavy handed sometimes, but yet she had a delicate touch.
As a child it made everything better.
So much so that as an adult you still sought that comfort she could provide.

— “Marcy Son! Just thought I’d remind y’all!” Jay-Z lyric pans from left to right —

TR:

She was Mommy to my sister and I , Abuela to her grandchildren, Chela to her siblings and those who knew her back in the day.

If you knew her, I’m certain Marcy was someone special to you.
chances are you were impacted by her in some way.
even if you were the woman in Arthur Treacherss.

No seriously, on multiple occasions after the argument almost turned brawl, they’d see each other in the mall. And my mom would stare her down.

Esa vieja or the old lady as my mother called her, meanwhile I’m pretty sure my mother was older than her.

Today, something is and will forever be missing
not only in our families hearts
but honestly, the world feels a little emptier without her here.

There’s just places she’s supposed to be…
A family gathering, a rosary in her apartment, planning something here at Saint Michael’s .
That makes me very sad

But I’m so proud and happy that I will always be
El Hijo de Marcy, Marcy’s son!

— DJ scratch leads into “Marcy Son! Just thought I’d remind y’all” panned left —-

— DJ scratch leads into “Marcy Son” panned right—-

TR:
R E I D!

(D” and that’s me in the place to be, Slick Rick)

TR:

We Love You Mommy!

— Reid My Mind Radio outro

TR:
May you rest in peace!

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Cathy Kudlick: From Denial to Director

January 27th, 2021  / Author: T.Reid

Image of Cathy Kudlick in front of a microphone
Happy New Year!

We’re starting the year off with centering the main goal of this podcast – providing that peer to peer support and information for those adjusting to blindness & disability.
To kick it off, I’m excited to have Cathy Kudlick back on the podcast. Last time we talked all things Superfest Disability Film Festival. This time she’s sharing Valuable experiences from her life that helped her move away from denying her blindness to using her interests and abilities to become Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability.

She’s dropping gems for those who are currently struggling with their loss. Some really valuable lessons learned from her own experience. You’re going to want to hear what she has to say, so let’s go!

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Transcript

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TR:

Happy New Year Reid My Mind Radio Family!
My name is Thomas Reid, host & producer of this here podcast! Bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness & disability.

Why you may ask?

Opening Mercy Mercy Mercy, Cannonball Adderley
— Applause
“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens, sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over. And I have advice for all of us.”

TR:
Who better to get that advice from then those who have traveled that similar journey!

There’s no time to waste so let’s get it pushin’! Hit me with the huh!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Cathy:
I’m Kathy Kudlick, and I’m director of the Paul k Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. And I am also a practicing historian, which means I got a PhD in history.

TR:

I told you she’d be back!

Cathy was on the podcast with her colleague Emily Beitikss in September of 2020 talking all about The Superfest Disability Film Festival.

I knew I had to get her on when she mentioned her own experience with vision loss. Today, we’re focusing more on her story!

Cathy:
I was born totally blind with cataracts, at a time when they couldn’t really fix them very well. And so my parents in the first like, nine months of my life, basically, you know, kind of realized they were going to be bringing up a blind daughter, but they still didn’t give up.

TR:

Cathy describes her early experience with blindness as a Salmon swimming upstream, you know going in the opposite direction or against the current.

Cathy:

Yeah, it’s like I was going sighted instead of going blind.

At one point, I was seated on a chair, and my dad was taking a picture of me, and I reacted to flash. And so they said, Whoa, wait, there’s something that’s happening.

TR:

She was developing vision!

A family friend helped connect them with a prominent doctor who said he could help.

Cathy:

And he did.
When I was nine months old, they removed the cataract, my vision afterwards was still pretty darn crappy, as doctors would subsequently say, but you know, it was better than nothing at all, they said. And so I went through most of my life up until my teenage years with this pretty darn crappy vision

TR:

Additional surgeries gave Cathy more vision, but as we know, vision is complicated.

Cathy:

My brain didn’t learn when I was young enough to make the association. I can stare at something for quite some time. A lot of people will make that connection in five milliseconds, and I’ll be sitting there Okay. Is that a dog or house? Eventually, I’ll get enough input and enough clues and say yeah , it’s a house. Then I’ll fill in all the rest.

In the process of all this, I have Nystagmus, which is a muscle thing where the eyes basically jump all over the place. If I could just hold them still, I’d probably have pretty decent vision, but I can’t.

They say that Nystagmus later in life, it’s a lot, lot harder. And in my case, it’s all I’ve ever known.

— Music begins – calm melodic beat —

TR:

We often think it’s a natural process to adjust as a child, but some things require more attention.

Cathy:
I inherited my condition from my mother.

But society being what it is and prejudice being what it is, and denial being what it is. My mother did not want to admit this to me.

One of my big journeys in life is kind of reconciling well, who I was, who my mom was, and being able to talk to her about it. And even pretty late in life. She was starting to come around, but it wasn’t easy. It was really hard for her. She grew up in a different time, a different place.

— Music begins –
TR:

A time & place where disability identity wasn’t a thing.

Cathy’s specific experience with blindness is unique to her but what we all share is finding our path to acceptance. And that’s not often easy for those adjusting to becoming blind. In order to see how Cathy went from denial to Director of a disability Cultural Center we have to go back to her early experience with vision loss.

Cathy:
Growing up, it was just denial city,

It kind of reminds me of the cat that I have that hides under the bed, but its tail is sticking out.
They think they’re hiding, but everybody else is like, whatever, you know, go ahead and hide all you want.

The world really is set up for that kind of denial. I mean, you get all these enablers to help you do it because it’s so much easier for everybody.

TR:

Meanwhile, the person experiencing the loss, continues to struggle.

Cathy:
I loved my history classes. And I would just bury myself in a corner with regular print books, and a magnifier, but I didn’t want anybody to see me reading with a magnifier, if I can help it. I know I shook my head a lot to Read. I’d bob it back and forth, because of Nystagmus. I was ashamed of reading. it was like I had an accident or wet my pants or something to be caught reading in front of other people. It was so humiliating for me.

TR:

That pain goes beyond the emotional.

Cathy:
I remember getting my first cane and putting it in the closet, and it felt like it was just irradiating out from it, like, Oh my god, there’s a cane in there, you know, like, it was like a beast that I put inside.

— Ambient radiating sound begins …
— Music fades out —

I injured myself pretty significantly a few times by not wanting to use the cane because I could technically get by and if I use the cane and didn’t trip for three weeks, or three months or whatever, and I tripped the fourth week, Well, look, I got three weeks as a sighted person.

TR:
These experiences are not unique to Cathy. In fact, it’s more of a reflection on our society. A society that pairs strength with over coming and fails to see value or strength in difference.

Cathy:

They never bothered to teach me Braille.
And if I had learned Braille as a kid, when I was starting out, even if I turned out to be like a total 20/20 person, wouldn’t it be cool to know how to read Braille?

But, there’s so much stigma, things like, Oh, you don’t want to do that.

It’s so ridiculous. You realize how you’re tied up in little knots by society, by other people.

I could have been a more social person earlier on, I could have been a different person earlier on if I had not tried to pretend so hard that I was seeing like, everybody else.

TR:

We all travel at a different pace. Perhaps longer journeys accumulate valuable lessons.

Cathy:
Everybody makes it in their own way. There’s no right way to do it. Once you break that barrier, everything opens up, it gets a lot easier, but you got to get to that barrier. And however you can do it, if you even have a hint of how to do it. Go there early and go there often to get to this other place because it’s a lot better once you’re not in denial anymore, not trying to pass. Not trying to pretend you’re somebody else. That just frees you up, big time!

TR:

That’s a place that’s important and meaningful to you.

— Music begins –
Things you enjoy – not what some so called expert designates as appropriate for “someone with your condition”.

Cathy:

I started using those tools of being a historian to studying blind people. And that was really, really an important moment too, because you realize, one, you’re not alone. And to there is a history there.

I think knowing that there’s people like you that came before you, no matter who you are, and what identity you’re wrestling with, is so powerful, and so liberating, because it means you’re not the only one. You’re part of a tradition, you’re part of a process for a society. It’s not just us selfishly trying not to be treated badly.

TR:

That experience of discrimination or being treated badly, well that can ignite a fire. .

Cathy:

I’m mentioning the name, not to punish them, but just to show these were different times, and I’m not trying to make it up or cover anything over.

I had my first academic job at Barnard College.

I was starting to open up about my vision impairment and sort of being honest with people because I felt comfortable enough to do that.
but it came back to me that they did not want to keep me on, or they didn’t want to really consider me for another longer term job there because of my vision impairment.

They asked me to teach a large lecture class in front of a bunch of people just to see how I would do.

and something when they asked me to do that made me realize, like are you asking other people to do this.

So I said, No, I wouldn’t do it unless they were making all the candidates do it. Needless to say, that job application didn’t go much further.

TR:

That experience helped form a new way of thinking.

Cathy:

If I got kicked out of a job and didn’t get a job, because of my blindness, maybe there’s a flip side to this where I could say this is an identity and get people to think about identity differently.

This was before I knew much about disability studies, this field was kind of just taking off, there was no real disability history at that point.

TR:

So Cathy used her tools!

Cathy:
I started doing research in the French archives, where I did history of medicine, research, and I hooked up with researchers there Talk, talk to them. And it turns out, there’s a really great person that I have coauthored with Zina Weygand.

She introduced me around about scholarship and people and suddenly I was off to the races. It used a lot of talent that I already had in terms of this history research. I was basically off, off and running.

TR:

Her curiosity led to the discovery of a history of Blind people that I’m sure many are unfamiliar with. It began with a pamphlet.

Cathy:

It was called reflections, the life and writing of a young blind woman in post-revolutionary France, and it was handwritten and stuff. And I, I had a lot of trouble reading it. I sat in this archive, by myself. I had this one librarian that would read to me and helped me a lot. I ended up transcribing it and talking a lot with Zina , she was like, Madame history of the blind in France.

TR:

The booklet, written in the 1820’s, authored by Adele Husson, who wrote about her experience as a Blind woman growing up in France.

Cathy:

Nobody had ever written anything about that. We figured out she probably dictated it to different people because the spelling was different in different parts. And the handwriting was different in different parts.

TR:

Cathy and Zina were able to put together the author’s backstory through arduous research

Husson was concerned with being a burden to her family. In her quest to become a writer, she traveled on her own from provincial France to Paris. Her motives for writing weren’t just creative.

— Music ends
Cathy:
She wanted to ingratiate herself so she could get a residency in this place in Paris where Blind people could live if they did the right song and dance to get in. So she wrote this document, and they ultimately refused her.

Call to Action
— Music Begins
TR:

Are you enjoying this podcast? I can’t hear you.

“Can you dig it!” (Crowd roars in cheer!) – Warriors

TR:

One of the best ways to show your support for what we’re trying to do is to just share the show!
Tell a friend to tell a friend.

That way we’re more likely to get this into the earholes of those who need to hear it. And that’s the important part.

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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.

And of course Subscribe, wherever you get podcasts!
Thanks family!! And now back to the show!

— Music ends! —

TR:

Adele’s writing, let’s say left much to be desired, but she did achieve her goal.

Cathy:

We figured out at one point that she published more books than George Saund, who was a pretty famous writer at the time.

One of the things that was interesting, we found a book that had a preface, the story was really similar to her story, but it had a different name and the preface.

And it turned out that despite the fact that she said, Blind girl should never marry because if they marry a sighted guy, he’s just going to take advantage of them. And if they marry a blind guy, their prospects are totally bleak. They’ll die in a fire or something terrible will happen to them.

TR:

The research indicated Adele did marry…, a Blind man!

Cathy:

She died in a fire just like she predicted.

TR:

It’s unknown if her two children also died in the fire. Her husband, however, survived and went on to become well known in the Blind community.

Cathy:

He made this invention that you could use to communicate between sighted people and blind people with writing and translating.

He married a sighted woman and lived until he was about 70.

TR:

Cathy’s researched uncovered a community of Blind musicians and literary people in the 1820’s and 30’s.

Cathy:

Eventually, Louis Braille was part of that world, too. He knew Adele’s husband, we think.

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

When you say a community at that time, I’m thinking, is this an actual community physically? Because how were people actually communicating if they weren’t in the same location?

Cathy:

Good question.

So there are two kind of physical possibilities for them.

One of them was a, the residents that she was trying to get into, and there were a lot of blind people that live there. And they had all sorts of rules about who could live there.

There were the schools that they all went to. National School of blind youth, if you were Blind, anybody in France, you went to this, you went to Paris and went to this one school. I think there was also one in Bordeaux, another large city in France.

In general, you knew people from being in the schools together.

TR:

There’s even some evidence of more social activity.

Cathy:
There was actually a place in Paris called Café des Aveugles, the Blind people’s cafe. It was kind of a seedy establishment in the seedy part of the city, but they would go and hold concerts there, met and exchanged ideas. We don’t know the details so much, it could be as much as like four out of the 40 people that were there were blind but you know, four blind people really make a stir. (Chuckles)

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

Laughs!

Cathy:
You see these little glimmers of blind culture that are out there, but we don’t know until people really dive in to research it. With access to these archives now, kind of really hard and not organized and not funded. It’s, it’s a little bit harder, but I think the time will come eventually.

TR:

The value is in how these stories are interpreted and put to use.

Cathy:

Once I kind of made that connection, then I could frame a lot of my research as disability as a cultural identity, or as formed in history and as being part of history as opposed to just some weird, random medical condition that affects a few people that nobody cares about.

TR:

We’re talking about a significant shift in perspective. Moving away from a very mainstream view and offering something more empowering.

Cathy:

Don’t just try to fix me, let’s, let’s look at me and what I’ve learned as an expert, because I have a lot of talent and a lot of craft and perspective. I don’t mean me, Kathy, I mean the global we, people with disabilities who have perfected through studying, not just scholarly ways, but just kind of observing, you have to observe society pretty carefully to know how things work.

TR:

If you’re someone who has been running away from your vision loss, I need you to hear this.

— Music Ends

Cathy:

Passing, people disparage it all the time, but boy talk about being a really careful study or of society and knowing how the rules work. If you view passing as the first part of a two part exercise, then passing is a really set of useful skills to have.

TR:
You have to really know how things work in order to fit in. But it doesn’t have to be about passing.

Cathy:

You use those skills for something else and you stop passing and you say, okay , let’s pull it apart. Why do people cross the street that way? or Why do people think that this is important and not this?

Any question is fair game. Disability is so central in things that people have never thought to ask about in a cultural and social and emotional way before it’s always non-disabled people that are framing those questions, and when you put us center, us ask the question, it’s a different thing.

TR:

Centering people with disabilities, the results can be extraordinary!

— Music begins – something upbeat and in the spirit of conquering or coming to terms…

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]
At the time that you started to pursue disability studies, would you say you were still sort of passing? It sounds like you were on your way to…

Cathy:

I was on my way, I was on my way. And I remember going to my first society for disability studies, meeting and feeling like I sat at the bar at Star Wars. It’s like, there’s all these different creatures around and I was like, Okay, these are sort of my people, but some of them not all of them.

TR:

That’s honest. And I know I appreciate that because, I too was there.

But it ain’t where you’re from… it’s where you’re at!

Cathy:

I used to be terrified of other disabled people, I didn’t want to be associated with them at all, are you kidding?

That’s scary. Those people are way more disabled than me, they need more help than me and what’s wrong with me that I would identify with that when I could be in the mainstream, non-disabled society.

TR:

But then you start meeting the people and your opinion and feelings change. You realize well of course we’re not all the same, but some of these people I really do identify with. And for Cathy, that brought her to a realization.

Cathy:
I think I fit more with the people that are the disabled people than the non-disabled people.

In society, there are very few positive settings, where people with disabilities get to be a majority. And that’s what’s so great about our film festival when it happens in person. Superfest is like 4050 60% people with disabilities in a positive way, where people are having a good time, they’re teasing each other, they’re laughing together at the same jokes.

Suddenly, you’re in an environment where there’s more of you than there are less of you. It’s like Whoa. You kind of get a bounce in your step, or your wheels or whatever. And suddenly, you get to be a person that’s in a majority culture, in a way that’s very exciting and validating and powerful.

TR:

History helped establish this identity, meeting other Blind people helped it grow.

Cathy:

I did a training at the Colorado Center for the Blind about 20 years ago. It’s run by and for blind people. they make you do everything they’re blindfolded, wearing sleep shades. You learn travel, cooking. It’s really extreme, you go downhill skiing, rock climbing, all these things.

You learn not to be so afraid.

TR:

Afraid of what is often described as the never ending darkness! (Yuck!)

But fear, well, that’s just an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real!

Cathy:
You’re taught travel, and everything by blind or low vision instructors. And you know, a lot of sighted people freak out about that. They’re like, Oh, my God, how are you going to be safe or whatever. And I’m thinking, if I’ve got to learn to travel and be safe somewhere, I don’t want that to come from a sighted person, I want to know that a blind person has figured out how to do it, and they’re going to show me.

TR:

Once again we see the role fellow Blind people can play in our adjustment.

Cathy:

Wow, there’s people that really do cool stuff and I can learn from this.

Sight isn’t everything in the entire world. It’s something to value, but it’s not the end all and be all there’s a lot of people that don’t rely on it and can’t rely on it. And they have lots of really interesting and fun and great ways to deal with it.

people focus on that light and the dark and all of that stuff and they don’t give you a place to really meet other people that have figured some stuff out. And I think that’s where your podcasts kind of great to be, you know, you meet all these people that are engaged and, you know, vital and fascinating and fascinated and, you know, wow. Once you crack that nut, I feel like things get a lot easier.

TR:

And if all that wasn’t helpful enough, Cathy offers another piece of advice for those adjusting.

Cathy:

I did a lot of therapy. Anybody that’s afraid of therapy, get over it. Find a good therapist. Get somebody that’s going to push you about this stuff.

I remember I had a therapist who didn’t know a ton about disability stuff, but he was still open, and he listened.

He kind of pushed me. At one point, he said, Would you rather be an incompetent sighted person? Or a competent blind one?

I sat with that question forever, because if I had known, that’s the choice that I was making, I think I would have freed myself up sooner.

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

Do you think there’s anything about that journey that you actually had to go through in order to be where you are today?

Cathy:
Oh, wow, that’s a great question. (Pause)

Probably

I mean, I am who I am. And it’s all this, like, kind of jumble of what’s me.

TR:

She’s Cathy Kudlick…

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]
So Kathy, you already know you are…

— Audio: “Official”

member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

Cathy:
Yay! (Laughing) I was waiting, I was living to hear it. I was living to hear it!
(Cathy & Thomas laughing together fades out)

TR:

Cathy Kudlick, I so appreciate you and you taking the time to share your journey with the family.
And family is supposed to look out for one another. Sharing our journey’s because we know how that can impact another person experiencing blindness – whatever the degree.

You can find Reflections which contains the translation of Adele Husson’s original booklet along with thoughts from Cathy and Zina Weygand on Bookshare.org.
For that link, more of Cathy’s writing, transcripts & more head on over to 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.

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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!

Listen

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!

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