Archive for the ‘African American’ Category

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Unmasking Masculinity

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

On a dark and light orange background with water droplets, lays a white mask with the right eye whole cut out down to the nose. Starting on the outline of the nose is the word "Unmasking" in caps and below that is the word "Masculinity".

Only one way to conclude this first season of Young Gifted Black & Disabled. The original YGBD brothers;
Headshot of AJ Murray Co-producer, AJ Murray
D'arcee Charington - a dark skinned black man with blonde dreads and a black grey coat smiling at the camera. D’arcee Charington Neal
are back!

Our O.G’s join me to take the mask off masculinity and see what’s behind it race, sexuality, gender norms, the patriarchy and of course disability.

We considered releasing this as two separate episodes, but settled for one. Coming in at slightly over 43 minutes, longer than your average RMM Radio episode, we hope it sparks some conversation.

Content/Trigger Warning
This episode does contain adult language, references to sex and traumatic situations. Please be advised.

Reid My Mind Radio will return in the first quarter of 2022! Until then, please be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app, to assure you don’t miss an episode.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

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Transcript

Show the transcript

— Music begins, a cymbal crash launches a calm ambient melody which leads to a smooth Hip Hop beat.

Siri:

Ready to send it?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
Yes.

Siri:

Ok, sent!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, cool!

You don’t know about Black Siri?

D’arcee:

… No!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, hold on, let me have Siri say something.

Hey Siri, what time is it?

Siri:

2:09 PM.

D’arcee:

Stop! (Extended so Pronounced, Stoooooop!)

(Thomas, D’arcee and AJ all laugh…)

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

That’s the blackest it’s gonna get, but that’s Black Siri.

D’arcee:

Oh…. I’m dead….

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

If you go into the Siri settings, it’s Voice 3.

D’arcee:

I’m about to change that shit right now! Woo hoo!
TR:
! that really is a thing y’all!
Apple added some additional voices for Siri.
And voice 3 is a Black Man.
That reaction you heard is common.
At least in my experience specifically among those who are Black.
The laughter, was excitement.
Maybe you’re thinking, why would a Black Siri voice matter?
Well, Black voices matter!
Secondly, , please go back to an earlier episode in this series featuring Lateef McCleod for a much more detailed explanation.

Simply put, voices matter, representation matters.
If it doesn’t to you perhaps you’ve always been represented.

If this is your first time here and you’re not familiar with my voice, I’m Thomas Reid, producer and host of this podcast.

You’re just in time for the final episode in the YGBD series or
Young Gifted Black & Disabled.
This all began with an episode I co-produced last year with
Mr. Ajani Jerod AKA AJ! ;
— Sample AJ from “AJ Scratch” Kurtis Blow

A Reid My Mind Radio family member and alumni.

And it seemed right to team up again to close the series.

Since that last production in 2020, AJ caught me up on some of his personal and career highlights in 2021.

Among several positive highlights in his acting career, AJ has a role in a film released this year, Best Summer ever, which garnered a fair amount of attention.

He’s working in a new position that gives him a chance to really flex his creative muscles and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.
And join me in congratulating AJ as a new homeowner!

TR:

Having a job or even better, a career,
providing shelter and safety for one’s family;
in the minds of men, these are a few things impacting how we define masculinity.

Before we get into it, I need to let you know,
we talk about some things that may not be appropriate for young listeners and possibly triggering for others including sexual content and trauma.
The conversation covers a range of emotions. Yeh, real men have those!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07
So let’s jump into it then, man. So you good AJ?

AJ:

Yeah, I’m good.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07

We’ve all been here before. So we just gonna kind of keep it pushing. So brief intro. name, image description, D’arcee, do you wanna kick it off?

D’arcee:

Sure. So, my name is DRC Cherington Neil, I am a dark skin black man with purple dreads and a shaved head in various shades of purple. And I am currently sitting at my desk in my apartment, and I’m wearing a gray t shirt that says love is equal.

TR in conversation with AJ and D’arcee:

Professor Purple!

TR:
He’s an ABD Doctoral student, meaning all but dissertation or he’s almost done!

We could have went with a royal theme for this episode as AJ wore a purple shirt.

I figured it made sense to go with Black. Nahmean!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

so DRC, how do you sort of qualify masculinity?

D’arcee:
There you go starting with the life altering. I mean, if you had asked me that, like 10 years ago, I think my answer would be wildly different. Because I think, people, the answer to that question is literally dependent upon their own experiences. And I think so much of that experience is tied to age.

If you ask a 16 year old what’s masculinity, they gonna get you this bullshit answer about cars and sports and girls.

all sports ball is the same to me. I will say I don’t care about no cars, but my electric BMW begs to differ..

I honestly believe that being a queer person informs this more than being a straight person, y’all can tell me I’m wrong. But as a man who loves other men, it radically redefines your understanding of what it is to be masculine.

TR:

Woh! I can just imagine the reaction of some people to that statement. But I think if you’re going to explore the definition of masculinity then you have to be open minded and hear people out. No matter where it comes from.

D’arcee:
it’s like that whole phrase, we say, in the community, masc for masc, it’s the word masculine, M A S C.

It’s a toxic ass phrase, that basically means traditional masculinity need only apply.

People, expertly weaponize this phrase of masculinity, to mean “traditional” six pack, square jaw, scruff, kind of masculinity.
What you’re talking about is the flavor of masculinity. All forms of masculinity are value. And that includes trans masculinity too!
Folks want to try to come for me on my DMs I said what I said.

TR:
D’arcee can handle himself. But this is my house and I feel accountable and protective of my family. So be advised, you come for him you coming for me.

Too much? I’m trying to be a better man, my daughters help point out my toxic masculinity.

I hope that didn’t come across violent, but if you have issues that’s your problem. No need to share them.

AJ:

I guess when I think about masculinity, I think of strength in terms of not only physically or spiritually, being able to hold it down and always be accountable and always there to always ever serve.

If I can get into some stereotypes, when I think of masculinity, of course, I think of ego, being braggadocious. Being athletic, not having a job.

TR:

Well, AJ raised the issue of stereotypes, let’s just put them on the table.

AJ:

The negative stereotypes of black man is lazy. Good for nothing.
You get into the historical stereotypes like studs, Black man is in jail, or black men aren’t gonna take care of the kids.

D’arcee:

I think that people associate Black men with rage, gangs and violence.

A lot of people think of black men as being ultra conservative.
I don’t mean politically. Behaviorally, very inflexible. This is where black homophobia comes from.

A lot of it comes from black men. And the stereotype of inflexibility which, in turn gets translated into strength. In this weird, warped way.

There are some positive ones too. People think of black men as being stylish. They think of them as being very well dressed. But that comes with the side effect of they think of Black men as flashy.

AJ:

When you say that I think of that episode of Living Single, when Kyle, I think he was a mutual funds manager. This other brother really had issues with the twist of his hair. I thought that was a very good episode, because it shows the internal struggle
[between us and other black people.
]
Because it wasn’t the white bosses, it was the other brother on the team that told him to cut his hair.

D’arcee: 55:57

I’ve been in that situation. And it was extremely uncomfortable.

When I worked at the University of Maryland, I worked the front desk in the English department and the chair, this white woman she walked in. There were two black faculty standing in the doorway when she walked in.

It was the last day of school and I had just cut my hair.

I’ve had dreads for most of my adult life in various ways. And they had never really seen me without dreds , because that’s a years long process.
Oh, she said, you got your haircut? And I said, Yep, I did. And then she said, you look like a grown up now.

The black faculty in the door, were like, Oh, it’s a third rounder, she was like, what? Oh, come on, like, you guys know what I mean?

AJ: 57:07
Back in the day. I had longer hair. So I had braids, because I was trying to get my swag on and that way.

This one lady, she was a black woman. And she wasn’t necessarily talking to me, but I had heard the conversation and she was saying that her son also want to braid his hair. But she was like, I’m not gonna let him do that. She was talking about the gang Association and how, having hair like that was bad. And I don’t know if she didn’t notice, but I was like, I’m right in here. And I felt so sad. Because just because I have long hair, and I had these braids, but I’m a student. I’m respectful to you. I’m on the honor roll and I have braids, but you associated braids or longer hair with thuggery.

D’arcee: 58:24
You can’t be surprised you know, you invisible

TR:

That’s the thing, Black can make you invisible in many ways.

For example, shows like Friends or Seinfeld. They took place in New York City and there’s no interaction with Black people?

The way white store workers ignore Black people. I’m telling you, we even here, oh I didn’t see you.

If they do land eyes on you, sometimes it’s the stereotypes that are seen. So you’re followed in that store because they see a criminal.

Add disability and that introduces a new layer of stereotypes and invisibility that occurs within our own community as well.

AJ:
When I think of masculinity from societal speaking, maybe some stereotypes, I think, definitely non vulnerability, he can’t be vulnerable at all. You definitely can’t cry at all.

How many songs I heard…

— Audio quick mix of;
“- I Heard it through the grapevine”, Marvin Gaye;
“I know a man ain’t supposed to cry…”

“Tears of a Clown”, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles;
“Now if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public…”

“Ain’t to Proud to Beg”, Temptations;
“Now I heard a crying man, is half a man, with no sense of pride, If I have to cry…”

AJ:

I missed that meeting, because the brother cries all the time.

No sensitivity, you keep very serious things to yourself. He can’t show any weakness at all.

You kind of have to know everything and be the jack of all trades.

D’arcee:
Yeah, because Dude, don’t ask for help.

AJ:

If you have children, the males are definitely the disciplinarians.

D’arcee:
Is that true and black households? Because I would definitely not agree.

AJ:

Yeah, yeah. It was my mom, because my mother was the primary razor.

I just mean how many of y’all have heard? wait until your daddy gets home?

D’arcee:

I think that what you’re talking about is physical discipline because like my mother was not the person, my daddy did that

TR:

My mother occasionally used that line on me, but she was the physical disciplinarian while my Dad never raised a finger.

The threat meant I’d have to sit through a 45 minute lecture from my Dad. My sister and I would often debate whether we’d just prefer a beating.
And just in case you’re curious, when it comes to discipline, I ended up just like my Dad! And my girls not only appreciate it but I think they turned out great! Hash tag stop corporal punishment.

TR:

So far, we’ve been talking stereotypes about Black men.
But what does that look like in the real world when we add disability?

D’arcee:

This is exactly what my research is. I study like black culture, but what happens when you add disability to it?

When you talk about blackness disability together the association is so terrible. And it’s, it’s this right here. It’s the core of this right here, because people already associate negative things with blackness. And when you add disability on top of it, that just amplifies the feeling.

AJ:
I remember one time me and a partner who’s also disabled. We’re sitting outside because we got dropped off for the bus. So we were just hanging out, and it was on the sidewalk. This older lady is riding in her car. And she just gets out of her car and gives us hot wings. Hot wings and a Pepsi.

D’arcee:
AJ I completely understand what you’re talking about.
All of the work that I’m doing now it’s an amalgamation of all the experiences that I’ve had that are like this, because it just kept happening.
And I literally was like, why does this keep happening to me?

Obama was coming to our building. And I got really dressed up because they told us we had to. I was in the three piece suit.
[Says emphatically, while clapping his hand to stress the point.)

TR:

You know one of those days when you just sort of feel like, why did I even leave my house? For D’arcee, it began with the access bus driver’s back handed compliment, “You’re looking too sharp to be in that wheel chair. Really?

D’arcee:

I left work that day, went home, and went to the 7 Eleven. I wanted a gallon of milk and some honey nut cheerios, because that is the best cereal on planet Earth.

TR:

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D’arcee:

And grabbed a thing of White Castle burgers because they was calling my name.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
We gonna have to work on your diet, bro.

D’arcee:
this woman in front of me, she paid for her stuff. But she didn’t leave the store.

And she kept eyeballing me. And I was looking at her and she was looking at me and I was looking at her and she was looking at me.

I was like, right, so she didn’t want to get out the way.

I was trying to swipe my card and she moved my card out the way and just literally handed me a fistful of cash.

I didn’t know what to do. I’m in a three piece suit. Wearing my Fedora. My Houndstooth jacket, looking very DC policy.

I was like, Oh, thank you very much. But I’m good.

Then the door opens and this random man comes in. He’s like, Yo, did you pay for the man’s groceries?

So they had concocted this plan while I was going around the 7 Eleven picking up food. And I had been oblivious to all of it.

I swiped my card, got my groceries and left and didn’t say anything to her. And so she literally, she followed me outside. And then she was like, why don’t you take my money?

TR:

Charity, it’s often not for the so called recipient.
Once, someone accuse me of “blocking their blessing” because I refused their help.

I guess the real issue is often, how we’re perceived is ultimately out of our control.

D’arcee:

that was the reason I was talking about my suit. Because people literally don’t know how to conflate these two things together and everything to do with being a man.

AJ:

My mom actually knew an able bodied man, I think he was a comedian.
He got himself a wheelchair, and he would just sit downtown in the chair. His side hustle was he pretended to be disabled to earn cash. Chair

TR:
Ah yes, I’m reminded of the ol’ you’re faking your disability trope.

Another way we’re perceived by the public.

— Music begins, a thumping upbeat dance track.

D’arcee:

I will never forget. Oh, God, I was at a club.
I was there with my friend because she wanted to go.

I’m not big on clubs, but she dragged me there. It’s a dance club. fuck am I gonna do?

The club feels like it’s one of the worst places in the world. It’s a microcosm of every ableist fantasy on display at all times. If you not a ten, you’re not supposed to be in there. But like, people will bring you in there anyway, because they need entertainment.

TR:

Left alone while his friend goes off to dance with some guy,
D’arcee is approached by a woman.

D’arcee:

She was like, hey, and I was like, Yo, what’s up? And then she was like, she was like, Come on, let’s go to the dance floor.

TR:

D’arcee offers his hand, which she takes and pulls him in his wheelchair to the dance floor.

As they’re passing the bar, the bartender calls out to D’arcee.

Bartender:

Yo! Somebody paid for you to have this drink.

D’arcee:

Oh, wow, thanks. And I took the drink and got ready to drink it. And the girl was like, no. And she slapped a cup out my hand, knock the whole drink on the floor. And I was like, what.

She was like, I saw dudes put X in that. They just wanted to see how you would react.

That was issue number one, that people already knew that I was out of place in this location.

TR:

When they finally reach the dance floor, the woman is grabbing’ on D’arcee. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear.

D’arcee:

I want to make my boyfriend jealous.

Oh, wait, what? Wait.

her boyfriend was on the steps like mean muggin’ as fuck. And I was like nah, nah, nah, I’m not feeling this. And so I left her.

AAJ:
One time I was at this club and I wasn’t exactly in the exit but I was in that direction. So this lady it was a beautiful lady but this lady she’s headed out the club but she looks at me and stops before she leaves So she turns around, bends over and shakes it for me. I’m like, okay, which I’m not gonna lie. You know, I don’t know if this is wrong, but I appreciate it.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Ain’t nothing wrong with appreciating that.

D’arcee:

I mean, but also why though?

AJ:
I think she assumed, this is something he doesn’t get,.

I was at this other club. It was this man and his girlfriend or his wife and we were dancing.

He turns her around. and he’s slapping her butt, for me.

TR & D’arcee together in a questioning voice….
“Thank you?”

— Slow Transition moving to a more serious vibe

D’arcee:
you can bleep all of this out to remove it all. I don’t want to be rude. But I also want to be real on this because people deserve it.

In the queer community, people associate masculinity in sexuality, and it causes real problems for me, because I have been in a number of situations where I’ll be hooking up with a dude. And then he will assume, because it’s like, you know, I’m a man, and you’re a man that we came here to fuck. So like, that’s what we’re doing
. So the thing is you don’t even ask my permission.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to call it assault, because I don’t know where it falls on the gradient.

We haven’t had any kind of discussions about what we were gonna do. I had at least five dudes do this to me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 1:34:58

Wow!

D’arcee:

If you decided to keep all that I know people gonna be listening, they’re gonna be like, wait like, is he talking about rape?

I’m talking about consent, consensual, you know, hookup, or, you know, relationships we met to get it in and half the time.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
I feel like sisters would be like, bro, we this is what we experience. And so is that I don’t want to do like a disservice. You understand? I’m saying, and I’m not trying to tell you what your experiences at all. But man if we flipped it…

— Reverse slow Transition.

— Music Begins, a bouncy up-tempo, high energy Hip Hop beat!

“Forgive me Sir, but there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t know how to say this so I’d better say it in the shortest way.”

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Now back to the episode. ———-

AJ
I’m not trying to say because of my disability and your disability is different. But sometimes, I wonder, do you think, the things that you explore and are open about, do you think you would have those same opportunities, if your disability was more significant?

I’m a person that wants to be very sexual. I wonder, like, if I were a little more mobile, like you are, like a transformer, what I have an easier time getting down?
Do you think people perceive you as sexier versus more of a person with a more significant disability?

D’arcee:
Sure. I will say, first of all, that I recognize this is a question of privilege. And I most certainly do have that privilege.

The fact that you and I both have cerebral palsy, we both know that it manifests so differently in every person’s body.

TR:

We could replace CP in this part of the conversation with vision loss, hearing loss or just Go ahead and insert your favorite disability.

There are restrictions and privileges that come with any degree of disability
no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

But that’s not necessarily how it’s always viewed.

D’arcee:

They say wheelchair users sit on the top of the hierarchy of pretty. And by wheelchair users, they really mean like paraplegics and you know, people who look otherwise quote, unquote, normal, but in a wheelchair,. For all intents and purposes, you basically are normal, which is that it’s such a horrible, insidious way of talking about somebody’s body, but people are doing this.

TR:

It starts early.

D’arcee:

in middle school, we talked about sex constantly. Just being disabled didn’t preclude me from that conversation. But it did put it in a different light, because they were all like I’m doing X and X. And X was such girl, even if they weren’t just complete full of shit.

But at the same time, there’s this extra added layer of like, but at least they could. Whereas you know, you can’t.

AJ:

In school, a lot of people thought I was down and cool,
But when it came to the discussion of sex,
anytime I wanted to be included in the conversation, they were shocked, like, AJ?

Like, what am I a patron saint?

I’m a teenager just like you guys, right? I want to just like yell, but people were shocked is if it’s something I’m not supposed to do.

D’arceee:

I remember one of the worst days ever.
This dude Mike. He was Like, why do you have Aliyah on the front of your binder?

To the whole class he was like, huh, we all know that if you do jerk off it ain’t nothing but air. And everybody was laughing.

AJ, to your point, people think that it’s fine to do it at your expense because you’re disabled. And they literally are like, Well, you’re not going to have sex anyway. Who cares if you’re a man who wants to, you’re not going to do it. So you know, it really doesn’t matter. This is why they exclude you from conversations.

TR:

Occasionally, you get a sense of what the conversations are like when you’re not there.

D’arcee:

I was playing Xbox Live with a bunch of gay men. It was like 12 of us in this group.
We were talking about the club. I was like how difficult it is to be in the gay club.

This dude named Ben, who is in Portland, Oregon , said, I’m gonna say what nobody else wants to say.
Nobody wants you in there. You’re not welcome in there.
Honestly, I would throw myself off a bridge. Living your life is terrible. If I saw you in the club I might give you my number, but if I did, he said it would be with it when the lights are out where no one can see it.
I was so mortified. And I literally, and there was 12 people on this call, and nobody stood up for me. Nobody.

AJ: 1:52:38

I’m sorry that’s really upsetting to me. And I’m stopping myself from crying because they’re just disgusting.

But that’s what a lot of people think about disability. Disability is tragic, disability is ugly. Disability is seen as unmasculine.

There’s a lot of physical things that I can’t do. For instance, I’m an older sibling. But in a lot of ways, because I need so much help. I feel like my sisters are older than me.

I can’t be the big brother than I want to be.

my mom was a single mom, so sometimes I felt like I couldn’t necessarily help cleaning up. I mean, I certainly know now that you know, I have to change things and the way I look at work is different from when I was little, but it was hard.

TR:

Those adjusting to blindness or disability in general can truly benefit from reexamining things in our lives that affect how we view ourselves. Our career, family roles and responsibilities, the formidable loss of a driver’s license for example.

Reinventing ourselves isn’t exclusively a masculine trait, This conversation has me wondering, what is?

AJ:

I have male friends but my closest friends that I have are female, my strongest connections.
I noticed, I’ll be a church and like men would be talking and joking. And so when I would come around, for some reason, conversations would stop

D’arcee:

Disability is for many people the personification of a nightmare.

If I’m just gonna be 100 honest about it, I think that the bottom line is that most men feel uncomfortable. Because, men are not socialized to be caregivers. Men are not socialized to be emotional. Dealing with a person with a disability, you have to embody a level of empathy.

Men are socialized differently than women. Women are socialized to not seek their own pleasure. Men are.
TR:

We’re in a very new time today, men are encouraged to seek therapy. Expressing emotions and discussing feelings isn’t as frowned upon today. Yes, there are still a bunch of proud cavemen out there, but there’s been some real progress compared generations like my own, Generation X and those before me like Boomers.

AJ:

I’ve heard so many stories about men from that generation. I just feel bad. Yes, they were mean and harsh. But then also, could you imagine, like, the weight and the unpeacefulness, , the chaos that’s in your heart and brain because you have to carry this anger. If you are a black man, you had to deal with being belittled and berated as a black man being called boy.

it’s so it’s like, not you can express that anger, though. But the only way you’re going to is because of the mask would be we thought, you know, be either put my hands on my wife, or beat my children.

D’arcee:

look at these white people trying to tell me that like critical race theory, and like horrible and terrible, and
every single time like somebody tries to tell me that like slavery was a million years ago. It’s not that big a deal. I literally turn around and say my grandfather, my dad’s dad saw men hanging in trees in Alabama when he was six years old on his way to school. That is not the Civil War.

TR:

That socialization starts as a child.
How we as a society raise our children.

D’arcee:

I saw a tweet where somebody wrote, his four year old son came to him and said Daddy, I told the girl in elementary school that I liked her. And she said, she didn’t like me back. And he was like, What do I do? And he was crying. And the dad said, well, I think you know what to do.

The sun responded and said, Yeah, I know, try and try again. The dad said, No, that is not what you do. He said, she told you what the answer is, so you respect her wishes.

TR:

Wait, what?
Isn’t that what we’ve been taught?

AJ:

I think with men and I know myself sometimes there’s been a little bit confusion, because no doubt if a woman says no, that is true.

I hear stories all the time, even in terms of the Obamas, if you listen to their story, Mrs. Obama was like the boss, over a team or whatever. But remember that she did say, she didn’t say no. But then he was like, he was so doggone persistent.

When I say that, I’m not saying you just get a free pass, just to like, be aggressive. And don’t listen to the woman.

Persistence has shown, you do land a woman if you’re persistent.

D’arcee:

Women aren’t to be landed.

AJ:

I didn’t mean it like that.

D’arcee:

And I’m not talking about you specifically, in general men typically believe that it’s a conquest. If you want to talk about the route of masculinity it’s a conquest.

AJ:

That sort of takes the whole idea and the premise of the chase.

I even heard women say, it is the man’s job to chase. I don’t want to chase the man.

They want aggressive men. I’m not talking about rape or violation, but I’m just talking about the nuance.

D’arcee:

all of this comes down to the idea of what people think of as natural, which is, men pay for dates. Women get dressed up, women look good for the man. That’s your natural. And people are starting to undo all of that.

I honestly believe that if the internet was around in our parents, most of them would not be together.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

When I say natural, though, I’m going back even further. Go back to Hunter Gatherer.

D’arcee:

Yes, it’s primal.

Every time I hear that argument, I think, but that’s American. The argument behind that comes from Adam and Eve. And the question of subservience and the idea that man said in the beginning, that he was going to lord over Eve and that she is one of his ribs.

TR:

Perhaps the behaviors are learned.

D’arcee:

we have to teach boys about the patriarchy, we have to teach boys that the entire history of the world. And the way that it runs now is built upon the desires and the whims of men.

AJ:

I would just say we can open up masculinity, to include being vulnerable, we can open up masculinity, to include expressing your feelings.

D’arcee:

So we really do need to undo this whole argument from the beginning. And I’m not saying that like, that means that oh my god, gender norms fall by the wayside. But the whole points are bullshit to begin with.

TR:

Thinking about gender norms brings me back to some of the stereotypes we discussed earlier.

In fact, we get back to the issue raised by AJ.

AJ:

I have a lot of friends ,when it comes to like dating or actually, you know, getting down with somebody. It’s a no, and I’m wondering if now it could just be my fault. It had nothing to do with disability.

For instance, I really liked this person. I would call her because I know that she was getting off work, and on her way to the train.

One time when I called her I was like,

I’m calling you, because I know you just got off work. I just wanted to talk to you while you waiting on the train? She goes, Oh, isn’t that precious? And I’m like, precious.

AJ:

I saw Tiffany Haddish in a stand up.

She was like, I started sleeping with this dude, he had a disability. She said, Don’t sleep on disability because he was really working it. Something I just appreciate it so much, because there was nothing timid about them screwing. It was like we’re having sex and I’m slapping your booty. And I’m a disabled man. And at the end, she was like, disabled people want sex too.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
So here’s what we got to start. You said slapping your booty change that shit to slap in that ass and let’s see what happens bro. We gonna start there.

AJ:

I happen to be friends and very close with women.

A lot of women, including my friends, had been violated. And so that’s always been in the back of my mind.

I think I’m so concerned that maybe I go to the extreme, because I’m always worried about being a gentleman and making sure that women are comfortable around me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 2:39:04
that starting point for you is just like whoa.

That doesn’t even need to be in your mind in terms of being someone that’s gonna assault.

You have so much room to play with because you’re nowhere near that. but it has nothing to do with in terms of your level of confidence and what you put out.

D’arcee:

AJ, people don’t call me adorable. I don’t present myself that way.

If she said oh, how precious is because she misunderstood your intent. As a person who literally studies rhetoric, that’s the work of art. rhetoric. It’s intent.

Attractiveness, they say is only half about looks. The other half of it is actually psychological. Because I know that I have been very attracted to people that are not pretty. And what makes me attracted to them? Oh my god, I love their personality.

AJ:

one time, I met this girl and let’s just say she was very energetic towards men.

She was in my drama class. It came up in conversation that I never been kissed. Okay, so she said that she would do it.

And so weeks go by and my friend just checked in and like, you haven’t kissed AJ. And she was like, oh, I don’t want to corrupt him.

And I was like, I can be corrupted!
Somebody was saying people look at me as someone that’s very gentlemanly, very nice. But I’m not typically the person they want to get down with.

D’arcee:

Even if she did, that’s not the vibe that you want to begin with.

if you want people to take you more seriously, then you kind of have to present yourself in a space.
It’s not aggression, it’s assertiveness. And there’s a difference. I think men actually find that that line is very difficult. Because people assume that they’re being assertive when they’re actually being aggressive.
It’s a hard line to learn to know.

But I would say that when it works, it works really well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show Sex Education. AJ?

AJ:

yeah, I need to get caught up …

D’arcee:

You need to get to Season Two. Because Season Two and season three. There’s a character in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy that they introduce, and he’s fantastic. And yeah, he talks about this.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

D’arcee, real quick, though, because you mentioned that character. Does he come to an understanding whatever it is?

D’arcee:

He does.

— Clip from “In Living Color” “The Adventures of Handi Man”

Boy in wheel chair:
“You saved the day. The physically challenged have been needing a hero and you’re it. Thank you Handi Man”

Handi Man:

“That’s ok son. And remember , never under estimate the powers of the handicapped”

TR in conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Has there ever been anyone or are there people out there who have sort of defined disabled masculinity or be a role model of sorts for that, coming up in life?

D’arcee:

Up until Game of Thrones, the answer to this would have been no.
Peter Dinklage changed that.

prior to Game of Thrones, he said, he told his agent don’t even bring me roles that feature little people. I’m not interested.

People frequently forget that he was a love interest in the show, Nip Tuck for a season and a half. He was a series regular. He was romancing the main character’s wife. And they were having a whole ass affair on the show. And it was juicy and scandalous.

I remember the husband and it was like, You’re cheating with him.

You want to talk about masculinity and the idea of like men, being in charge and taking charge. It’s Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones.

He wields power and influence, in a way that most people in the show do not.

TR:

But Peter Dinklage isn’t Black

In a perfect world, that shouldn’t matter. And sorry to break this to you, we’re in a far from perfect world where race and the color of your skin matters in every aspect of life. Education, the justice system, health care and more. I didn’t create the system, I’m just seeing it for what it is.

AJ:

When I was younger and coming up, no, the only influences that I had in, in real life were able bodied men.

In terms of acting and my trajectory, I look at people like Darryl Chill. Darryl chills been holding it down. For a while. he was a stage regular, I think, for seven seasons on NCIS New Orleans. He also had his own sitcom. Here’s a brother, who’s doing his thing. And so I look up to him in terms of my career, but in my real life, to be honest, the examples of disability that I can honestly look to, in my real life that are disabled, are you Tom and D’arcee, because you’re holding it down and doing your thing.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Okay. And you know, I never know what’s gonna make the show but that part right there is definitely gonna make the show.

TR & D’arcee share a laugh.

AJ:

Seriously, brothers don’t get enough props.

Tom has been just like a brother to me. A mentor. He’s opened up a world to me. A world that I can have access to. I’m encountering things for the first time. His doors always open and in terms of you D’arcee, I mean, look at what you’re doing, like the jobs you have. You are disabled brother, getting your PhD.

Professor Purple.

I look up to the other influences like Leroy.

TR:

Once again, Leroy Moore.

That could be the drinking game of YGBD. Take a shot when you hear his name.

What are the implications of not seeing yourself represented in the media?

It can start with one’s own imagination.

D’arcee:

When I was a child I’ve always had like, way too much of an overactive imagination, if that’s not evident to people.

My brother and I, we used to do it as children, we called the Dreamland, we would just stare at the ceiling and makeup random movies

I used to have this persona in my head. When it was a man, it was always like this person who was non disabled.

I don’t do that anymore. Something clicked in my head when I was like, 27 or 28. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t right.

AJ:

even when I would imagine being an actor, it’s like, it was somebody else though. Like it was a different person.

I just recently made a conscious effort anytime that I imagine. No, it’s actually me. And if I’m gonna imagine being in roles I actually put myself into. So even though it was my dream, it was always somebody else.

I never discussed this with anybody else. I was doing the same thing. But I felt weird to admit that.

D’arcee:

Thomas, do you think this is weird?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:03:58
I don’t think this is weird. In fact, I think there’s a lot of stuff in terms of the idea of visualization. And these are the books that talk about this idea that the idea of moving yourself into someone else right that Kobe Bryant used to envision himself as the snake, the mambo.

A lot of athletes do this, like become that person. I kind of see that in what you’re talking about, I think is dope.

That’s a perfect way to sort of bring this to an end.

That’s what we need, you mentioned all this stuff in terms of the media and all of that, but like, you know, we do have some control. Making content, where we’re in those roles. Maybe at first it’s on a smaller level, but showing that, that this is wanted, that people would check this out. And people are interested in this.

D’arcee:

this making me feel like I need to make an Instagram just be like, Oh, not enough black wheelchair users.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:05:21
Do it! Professor purple, B!

D’arcee:

I just want something to exist in the world. I just keep envisioning, because I remember what it felt like. I’m trying really hard not to cry, because I remember what it felt like, when I was 12. And how horrible. It just felt like you’re just totally by yourself all the time. You just feel so isolated. And I’m like, Oh my God, if somebody could get up on Instagram, and see a black wheelchair user, with some dope ass clothes, like, Oh my God, my life would change. My life would change because little kids can see it and be like, Oh my God, that’s me. I want that haircut. I want that sweater, with that haircut and those jeans. So I can go to school next week. And look, fly, and people can stop talking shit about me to some girl and be like, You know what, actually, though? He is cute.
AJ:

if you don’t see yourself in any other ways, besides the people that love you, you feel like you do not matter. And you don’t count. You feel invisible. You feel like you don’t count. Yeh!

TR:

Not only do you count and matter, but you’re beautiful, you’re Young, Gifted, Black & Disabled!

— Airhorn

Yeah. So that’s a good place to stop. I appreciate y’all so much.

TR:

A big shout out to my O G YGBD brothers, Co-Producer, AJ Murray;

AJ:

I’m on Twitter @GotNextAJ and Facebook and Instagram it’s AJ Murray.

Professor Purple himself, D’arcee Charington Neal;

D’arcee:

I’m on Twitter @DrChairington. Dr. And then Chair, C H A I R I N G T O N

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Instagram coming soon.

D’arcee:

I mean I’m on Instagram I just never use it.
@DRKaiyne

Bigup The 2021 YGBD crew, Blind Girl Magic herself, Jeanetta Price, brother Lateef McCleod, sister Alika, AKA the real Toni Hickman. Special shout out to Leroy Moore (drink!). It’s not a coincidence that your name comes up so often in these discussions. Salutes to you and all those who have and continue to let it be known, Black disabled people have been and continue to be out here doing our thing!

That’s it for 2021 y’all.
Let me know how you felt about the podcast this year. Do you like the format, did you notice anything you like or don’t. I’d love to know.
We will return in the first quarter of 2022. But make sure you’re subscribed because you never know, I may drop something in the feed.

Allow me to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace & Love Fam!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Right On Time with Toni Hickman

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

Toni Hickman is standing with an Emmy in her hand. She is a tall, slim black woman with a peach dress on and long black locs

I first learned of Artist, Rapper, EMMY Award Winning Toni Hickman a few years ago when I did an episode on Krip Hop. I wanted to reach out and invite her onto the podcast back then, but things sometimes slip off my radar. When I learned she was a part of the song Rising Phoenix for the documentary of the same name I knew I wanted to speak with her. While in conversation with Reid My Mind Radio Alumni & Family member Cheryl Green, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the two of them were connected. Cheryl put us in touch and then, well, a lot of stuff in between, but we finally ended up in conversation

In this episode we talk about;
Toni’s history in the rap game. from her days at Suave House as Slim Goodie, her encounter with Suge Knight to her current collaboration with longtime friend Big Yo in their new group Thakur (pronounced The Cure).

We discuss her experience with disability as a Black woman, the impact on her career, winning an EMMY and so much more. Of course, we pay special attention to the valuable lessons that are applicable to anyone adjusting to disability.

This conversation took a while to actually make happen, but it’s right on time!

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Transcript

Show the transcript

— Music begins, a piano chord with a vibes roll leads into a upbeat groove.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Hey, Toni, can you hear me?

Toni:

Yes!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

How you doing?

Toni:

I’m good how are you?

TR in Conversation with Toni:

I’m good

Toni:

we finally got to do the interview.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

yeah yeah I’m scared to say that, I’m gonna wait till it’s done (Laughs)

Toni:

I was just I had something else that came…

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Uh oh!I’m losing your connection I don’t know if you can hear me but I can’t hear you Can hear me but I can’t hear you.
Okay it says you’re unmuted, it says your video is on, try turning off your video and let’s see if that saves some bandwidth

Toni:
Thomas

TR in Conversation with Toni:

There you go.

TR:

Things happen when there supposed to

For example, maybe this is your first time listening to the podcast.
I don’t know what brought you here, but I’m glad you made it.

My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of this podcast.

We’re in the midst of the Young Gifted Black & Disabled series.
This was inspired by an episode of the same name I produced last year with my brother AJ Murray.
I really encourage y’all to check that out.

While that episode along with close to 150 others are in the past, they’re not old or stale.
We add a bit of seasoning for flavor, but there’s no preservatives.
The dishes we serve up here are always fresh and good for your mind and body.

So you see, you’re right on time!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Let’s get it!

Toni:

My name is Tony Hickman. I am a tall slim, melanin dominant black girl with long dreadlocks and yeah I am excited about this interview.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

So now I usually don’t start with this question, but where were you born Tony?

Toni:

I was born in New York City.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Can you be specific?

Toni:

I was born in the Bronx,

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Yeh! say that one more time for me…

Toni:

I was born in the Boogie Down Bronx. Morisanna Hospital. I was raised in New Orleans Louisiana.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

No doubt you can’t hide that.

TR:

Over the year’s, Toni’s been known under some other names.

Toni:

when I was on Suave House, which is a record label where I have done gold and platinum musical performances, my rap name used to be Slim Goodie.

Everybody in the industry that knows me they still call me Slim like everybody call me Slim so it’s crazy if I would have got fat right they’ll still call me Slim.

TR:

That really does sort of make you think about the importance of a name. It can be really about who you are at one particular moment in time.
Yet, it can also be about who you are meant to be.

Toni:

A lot of people like in the conscious community call me Alika. Some people in the conscious community come up with other names for themselves and I think that’s okay too because sometimes we have to define who we want to be in this world and When we’re given our government names it’s not always where we are you know, so I get it but yeah, Alika is actually my real middle name.

My dad gave me Tony and my mom gave me Alika.

Alika means beautiful warrior.

TR:

On social she’s known as the Real Ms. Toni Hickman. Perhaps there is an impostor out there, but I’m thinking it’s more like representing her ability to share her truth. Keeping it real! Namean!

An early sign of that is in her poetry which she began at 9 years old.

Toni:

I had went through a lot of things with my mom and my father’s splitting up and so I would write this poetry to help me. It was philosophy, even at a young age.

It was like, I wish I was a bird so that I could fly away, but I am just a child, so therefore, I have to stay.

TR:

When her school put on a talent show, Toni teamed up with some friends and started rapping.

Toni:

We was the Bally Trooper Adidas group, and we had a beatboxer and my home girl and me. And we won the talent show. And from there, I was just like, Oh, yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing right here.

TR:

That first performance was not really indicative of how Toni wanted to rap.

Her partner wrote the rhyme. Which was about Now & Laters.

Toni:

I was just like, Okay, I need to be doing this all the time. But I can write my own raps. And from there, I always wrote my own lyrics.

MC Lyte, Salt N Peppa. That was like my big influences at that time as far as female hip hop. But honestly, my reality was a little bit different.

I grew up kind of, like, always looking out for myself. I’ve been on my own since I was 15. I’ve been doing music professionally since 16.

TR:

Writers of any sort are encouraged to write about what they know. Toni wrote about her environment.

Toni:
My environment was watching people die, like right in front of my face, people getting shot and killed.

And so I started rapping on the negative side of that, like, I was T Capone, I was Al Capone’s daughter.
I was the gangsta hip hop. And I gradually started going into stories of like, why this wasn’t a good choice, or why even being in that environment can get you stuck.

TR:

With a rap name like T Capone, well you’d assume not all of the stories were positive.

Toni:

It wasn’t just about killing. I can only remember one song I did that and they went platinum, but it was about killing. And that didn’t sit well with me. Like, during the process, it was dope, the song was called armed robbery. But then afterwards, when I listened to it, like my soul was just like, no, Toni , this is not your path, you have to correct and that’s something that happens in life, like, you know, we don’t come in this world knowing exactly what we need to do or what direction we need to go. And it’s only from these harsh lessons, that we get to learn our true purpose.

TR:

Telling stories with messages, was her thing.

Toni:

Like Scarface or Tupac. They used to actually call me a female Tupac because that’s really kind of how I related to the world.

And then even after that, I started going into Slim Goody.

Slim Goodie had messages in her music and that was very important for me Even then, even though I didn’t even know my whole way. I just knew that it had to have something that somebody could learn from.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Being compared to like a Tupac and Scarface, where do you think you got that? Were you reading as well as writing at a young age?

Toni:

My mother raised me as a reader. She was putting books in my face, like, As a Man Thinketh”, “Back to Eden”.

My mother was like this person who everybody would come to if they were sick or had an issue, and my mother would be the one to give them a solution. Like, she was known as the medicine woman in the church.

Now I do that as well.

TR:

During the time she was rapping under the name Slim Goodie,
Suave House moved Toni from New Orleans to Atlanta.
The record label however was experiencing their own change as their premiere artists 8 Ball and MJG were leaving the label.

Toni:

When you put your project in somebody else’s hands, and it’s no fault of anyone, but if you put your project in somebody else’s hands, you have to wait on their hand and move right. So if something happens with their hand, their hand get cut off or something like that thing, you’re stuck because you’ve put your dreams in somebody else’s hands. That situation happened to me. And so I eventually got out of the label legally, and started doing my own thing and started working with big artists like Jagged Edge, Petey Pablo

TR:

That got the attention of the infamous Suge Knight.

— Audio from the 1995 Source Awards…
“Any artist out there want to be an artist, want to stay a star, don’t want to have to worry about the Executive Producer trying to be all in the videos, all on a record, dancing, come to Death Row.” Suge Knight

TR:

Yes, that Suge Knight, from Death Row Records.
He liked what he heard and reached out to Toni.
Of course she was aware of his reputation which includes
allegedly hanging rapper Vanilla Ice off a balcony during let’s say contract negotiations.

Toni:

He called my phone personally right That was still huge for me that I was on the phone with him.
He was like yeah, I want to fly you out to Cali and you know we’re gonna do this because I love this song. This is a dope song.

Then three days later, I had my first brain aneurysm.

When I look back at it now its like, you definitely was not supposed to go out there.

TR:

Toni recovered from that aneurysm and moved on with her career.
About a year later, while celebrating the release of a new project back home in New Orleans, she felt ill.
It was another aneurysm.

Toni:

But this one actually burst in my head. Most people die when that happens. But they rushed me to the hospital. I had to wait for my mother to come from Atlanta and give them permission to operate on me. They told her I had a 5050 chance of living or dying.

When she gave them permission, they went in my head and started operating. But while they were in my head, I had a stroke on the table because my body went into shock, and it pushed my pressure up.

When I came to, which was a minute, I think I was out for a couple of days. But when I came to I couldn’t speak. And I couldn’t spell water. I couldn’t say water. But I noticed what I wanted.

TR:

She wanted to live! Even if she didn’t realize it at that time.

Eventually she was moved to a rehab facility in Louisiana.

Toni:

I had this song playing in my head, (Toni sings …)feels like I’m hopeless.

And every time I was thinking in my head, I just burst out crying because that’s what I felt. I just felt hopeless. Like, I had no hope. And I have been doing music all my life. And so I was like, What am I doing now?
Okay, now, the industry definitely is not focused on people with disabilities. And so, like, What am I supposed to do?

— Music begins, an eerie menacing slow Hip Hopbeat

One of my nurses came in and she said, Well, what you need to ask is, how did you have two brain aneurysms and a stroke and you’re still alive?
So that’s the real question you need to ask yourself. That stuck with me for the rest of my life.

TR:

Toni describes herself as very stubborn during this period.

Toni:

I had this energy on me that was like, I’ll be damned, that’s the only way I can describe it.
I just never gave up on myself. I had to either be hopeless, or I’ll be damned. And I chose the I’ll be damned.

I just had this energy where I was like, this cannot be my reality, I have so much more in me, this can’t be it.

I have so much more in me, like, just can’t be it.

TR:

She made her own rules.
Like refusing to remain in bed even when she couldn’t walk.
Eventually she began walking with a cane and was transferred to the Shepperd Center in Atlanta.
A rehabilitation facility that helps young people with brain injury.

Toni:

There were people in there and they were just like giver uppers, and I hate that that can happen. But some people when they fall or something has happened seemed to defeat them, they travel in that energy, they choose to stay in that energy of just being defeated, instead of fighting. And for me, I just didn’t see the being defeated, being my option, I wanted to fight for my life.

TR:

The physical, that was just part of her fight.

Toni:

I had to deal with the outside world and walking differently and not being able to wear heels or being self conscious about what I look like, and being judged by what I look like.

Before I was this six foot model type looking girl.

— Music Begins, a bouncy up-tempo, high energy Hip Hop beat!

“I got a little a, a little something I want to lay on y’all.” !”

TR:

Hey did you know; Reid My Mind Radio, is on Facebook and Insta Gram. We’re going to do some things on these platforms so stay tuned. You can find us on both FB and IG @ReidMyMindRadio.

On Twitter I’m at tsreid

Don’t forget you can also ask your smart device to play Reid My MindRadio by T.Reid on your preferred podcast provider.

Make sure you say that full statement including, T.Reid.

— A hint of “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

The holidays are among us. If you’re looking for a way to give yourself a present while supporting what I’m hoping is your favorite podcast… one of your favorites? A podcast you’re kinda diggin’?

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Purchase a shirt, hoodie or any item to show your rockin’ with Reid My Mind Radio! Or maybe you want to show your support for Flipping the Script on Audio Description. or of course, Young Gifted Black & Disabled.

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“D” and that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick) Like my last name.

Now back to the episode. ———-

— DJ Scratch leads into
— Crippled Pretty, by Toni Hickman

Lyrics:

I was kind of wishing I was dead
They shaved off all my hair to do surgery on my head
And then my eyes turned dark and my world got black
I never thought my life would take a turn like that

My world is Cripple Pretty

I’ve seen the sun and…
I’ve seen the rain and…
Life is beautiful
I can’t complain, man
… song continues under the conversation.

TR:

Toni didn’t want to be seen in public

Toni:

A friend of mine, he was just like you done lost your confidence What happened? And then I was like, I didn’t lose anything. I’m telling him that but he was right. I hated that he was able to identify that with me that pissed me off. I’m supposed to hide it.

— Music begins, a melancholy ambient piano melody

I had to get all my hair shaved off during this process.

I went and got braids in my hair so I can just feel beautiful.

One day I was in the mirror and I was taking the braids out. And I had this energy that came over me, and it was just like, I love you. And so I’m looking in the mirror, and I’m crying to myself. And I’m just I love you, I love you just how you are like, I love you. And even to think about it. Now it’s bringing tears to my eyes, because that was the moment when I decided that I had to love myself internally. Before I can really reflect that in the world. You know?

TR:

Yeh, I do.

In fact, I think a lot of us do.
What I think could be helpful is figuring out how to access that energy.

Toni:

I think it’s in all of us, but we have to tap into it.

When I was in the mirror, and I was crying to myself, and I had to tell myself, I love myself. That was definitely God energy. And that was definitely learning what self love really means. Because everybody talks about you got to do the self care and the self love, but self love really comes in when you are down at your bottom. And you can’t even figure your way out and you have to find your way of understanding what self love means. That was my turning point.

TR:

She took the braids out.

Toni:

I put my two palm palms in my head naturally. And I was like, Look, this is me, you gonna have to accept me as is. I started going to the gym, the local YMCA in Atlanta. And I was working on myself so hard that they put me on the wall is like just being so determined to grow and succeed.

I don’t care what your issue is. You feeling like you need to go Get your nails and your toes done, whatever makes you feel beautiful. It’s okay to, to go in that energy because that inspires the same energy that makes you feel that self care and this self love.

I do it because it makes me feel better not for anybody else. I do it for me.

TR:

While she says her gate is off, Toni became strong enough where she no longer needed a cane and was able to return to the studio.

Unrelated to disability, today she chooses to record from home.

Yet we know, disability can introduce some change into our lives.

Toni:

Oh everything changes. As a melanin dominant person, or black person in our world, there have been so many ways to see how, as black people, we have been discriminated against, but disability takes it to a whole other level.

I’m not saying that it takes away from discrimination as black because if you’re black and disabled, like that’s a double whammy.

What I realized is this community of people with disabilities First off, is so strong, like there’s so many strong spirits , disabled activists.

I was kind of just trying to figure out my way, and Krip Hop came to me.

TR:

The Krip Hop Nation was started by Leroy Moore and Keith Jones in 2007.
It’s a worldwide association of artists with disabilities campaigning for equality through concerts, tours, workshops and much more.
Leroy reached out to Toni on the early social media app, My Space.

Toni:

When Leroy came to me, I was just like, yes. I have spoken at different events with Leroy. We’ve just done a lot of great things.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

There are many people within the world of hip hop who have a disability, but they don’t all identify it as such. So I’m sure Leroy has approached some people. And their reaction was probably not like yours, right? Like, no, I’m not disabled, you know what I’m saying? So what is it? How did you come to identify as disabled?

Toni:

I’m not gonna hide it. That was one of the things of like, self love. I can’t hide what has happened. I didn’t feel like I needed to, like, I felt like I needed to speak for this community versus hide.

I know rappers in the industry right now. They’ve never shine light on it, because they know how the industry looks at that. And it’s unfortunate, because this is something that needs the light. The disability community needs inclusion.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Do you think that can change within hip hop, specifically?

Toni:’

I’m not sure.

At first, my goal was to be a part of the industry without being like, an activist.

I just wanted to be that slim girl that was rapping. But now my goal is not to be a part of them, my goal is to be a part of change. And even if my voice can redirect, to change them in some kind of way, then I’ve still fulfilled my purpose. Because at the end of the day, all Hip Hop artists have some form of duty.

I told you, I started with the poetry. And it’s always been philosophical. So we’re channeled,

Nipsey Hussle talks about this too. We get this energy that comes through us, we don’t know where these lyrics come from. They come through us and that is how we express. Those that channeling for negative, that is not helping our environment, but if we choose to channel and help our environment, then we are really being what we’re supposed to be on this earth.

TR:

There’s real purpose in sharing stories about disability and our experiences through
lyrics, musicianship, dance, art!
So it’s really great to se Toni and fellow Krip Hop artists
George Tragic and co-founder Keith Jones, receive recognition for their work
in the Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix.

Toni:

The documentary is about the Paralympics, and all of these amazing people who have stories.

it is a story of just pure, I’ll be damned. I’m gonna do this.
TR:

Daniel Pemberton, the music director for the film wanted to make sure the project included disabled musicians.
That first just meant hiring disabled orchestral instrumentalist.

Toni:

Then he decided that he wants to have like, a hip hop song attached. And so they got in touch with Leroy, who is the founder of crip, hop, and Leroy got in touch with us. And they kind of wanted me to add the energy of the singing into it, because they had listened to our projects.

I speak from the heart always, and I work on people always being able to feel that emotion that I have and so they wanted me to add the energy of the song.

I had more than what was there. And then the director came back, he’s like, Well, you know, maybe we take this off and just use this. And that’s how we ended up with the hook.

I’m a Rising Phoenix, I’ll rise above you.

— Song mixes in with the lyrics…

Toni:

And that is pretty much the story of what you have to do when you have a disability, you have to gain this, I’ll be damned attitude, and fight for your equality.

TR:

Not only is Toni singing the hook, but she drops a verse as well.

Toni:

I was just happy to be a part of the movie because just that alone was so powerful.

We had no idea that it was gonna win an EMMY.

I was just floored.

— News footage…
“A lot of people online are criticizing the award show with the hash tag #EMMYsSoWhite, trending on Twitter. No Black actors won big awards despite a record number being nominated. 49 by the way.”

Toni:

This goes back to that inclusion thing. This song was so amazing that it won an EMMY.
That’s the statement that I want to make because, I’m Black.

TR in conversation with Toni:

Mm! Yeh!

Toni:

We won because of this song so don’t say that we were not include it you need to think about us you need to understand that we are included

TR in conversation with Toni:

Yeh, that’s that “well they’re not Black they’re disabled.”

Toni:

That’s what i’m talking about!

TR:

Sometimes y’all, when you’re Black and disabled, It feels like well, am I not Black enough for ya!

— Sample from Billy Paul “Am I Black Enough”

TR:

Despite all that, Toni has an EMMY. And naturally, it’s in her studio.

Toni:

it’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful.

TR:

Toni’s working on a new project right now!

Thakur>

Toni:
Thakur is definitely a project that I must confess is confrontational. But it is focused on I guess, bringing in the deep thinkers and, and also helping people understand that, like, in the process of us looking outside of ourselves, for someone to save us, we also have to look internally and tap into our God’s self and work on saving ourselves.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

What’s the controversy though?

Toni:

Well, the controversy, I mean, even in Christianity, we’ve been taught to pray to a white God, and look for white gods to save us.

And so in that process, we have given away all of our power. For us to access who we truly need to be, we have to redirect how we look at God.
God is everywhere. God is in the trees, the grass. God is energy. But we also manifest that energy. And so we have to also just see how looking at a white God, who has also been the same image as our slave master has damaged our psyche.

TR:

The Cure , spelled T H A K U R is Toni’s new group.

Toni:

It’s just me and my homeboy.

I was doing a lot of big things before I went in the hospital. And he was one of the people that just kind of came in and was there before and after. He’s a really dope artist, he’s a dope producer. But also a person that has just been influencing me to just keep going regardless of the standards that the music industry tries to put on artists, like age, disability or whatever. He was one of those people that just was always in my corner and encouraging me to you know, live my greatest life.

He’s Big Yo!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

When we’re talking about disability. I love to hear about the friends in the family who really were holding people down, before and after. I always feel like they deserve a real special shout out. So shout out Big Yo, for real!

Toni:

Yes, shout out to Big Yo!

TR:

You can check out Thakur’s first release titled Telepathy right now on YouTube.
By the time this episode is released, their second single Daylight should be available and an album soon to follow.

Toni:

it’s just really to enlighten and that’s what my whole journey has been about. Understanding my own truth while I can relay My message to others.

TR:

Krip Hop and rap in general is just one vehicle Toni uses to improve her environment through positive change.

Toni:

I started speaking for the American Heart Association, and this other organization called young stroke. And young stroke focuses on people with brain injury, aneurisms, that happen at a young age.

TR:

She writes books.

Toni:

The doctors told me to keep chemicals out of my hair for at least two years. And so when I researched why I found that you know, a lot of these chemicals can lead to cancer, aneurysms, all kinds of things and we don’t even think about it because as melanin dominant people, for so long we have just tried to fit into the status quo of what America or the world in society portrays as beauty and so we’ve been putting these perms and stuff on our hair and that understanding that our roots are definitely supposed to be out and that’s what we’re supposed to wear. I wrote a book called Chemical Suicide.

TR:

She has another titled ” A Man’s Cry for Health”.
It’s a response to a lack of information and attention placed on men’s health.

Toni:

It’s hard for them to focus or even bring attention to their health issues because society makes it look like they are less than a man if you have issues or you’re weaker or something and that shouldn’t be the case we need to pay attention to our men as well.

It doesn’t just help men because it talks about all ailments that us humans have but we’ve even raised our boys to think like you never cry you’re never supposed to cry you’re never supposed to shed tears and the reality is yeah you know one of my spiritual teachers he’s like you know if we weren’t supposed to cry we wouldn’t have tear ducts.

You don’t dwell in that energy but it’s okay for men to cry. It’s okay for you to let out that emotion.

TR:

She’s even working on the story of her journey. Toni:

I started on it. And then I stopped and I started again.
It’s my book. Just everything that I have been through and going through the changes of loving myself

My goal is to eventually get it turned into a movie or a series.

TR:

I’ll spare you all my audio description lecture and my selfless pitch to narrate.

Music, poetry, writing, Toni’s about creating.

Toni:

I paint, I’m constantly working on stuff just trying to see where I’m supposed to be. You know my purpose.

TR:

It’s why she shares the lessons she continues to learn throughout her journey. What she calls Alika Lessons.

Toni:

The Alika lessons can vary.

I don’t really think about direction. I just get on there with lessons that I constantly learn to help me grow. And I understand that whatever can help me grow is probably going to help somebody else.

TR:

The content she shares on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube isn’t tailored to any specific identity.
However, I think it does center the experiences of women.
And fellas, you may want to listen to learn a thing or two.

Toni:

The importance of loving yourself, but also the importance of understanding that it is okay for you to be properly pleasured.

This is not a disabled thing. Women have a tendency to kind of Like fake an orgasm because they are not truly being pleased because their spiritual connection is not there with their partner.

They’ve just bypassed that to please their partner instead of focusing on pleasing themselves.

TR:

Pleas ing oneself begins with seeing that inner beauty.
Being comfortable and loving that person in the mirror.

That first poem she wrote as a child;
choosing to be true to herself and write meaningful honest lyrics;
healing on her terms;
embracing her disability;

All of these things, on her time.

You should take some of your time to check out Toni’s music, purchase her books and art; Visit
ToniHickman.com

Toni:

that’s T O N I H I C K M A N.com

My social media is the real Tony Hickman except for Twitter on Twitter, I’m just Tony Hickman

TR:

Oh, no, she’s never [emphasis on just ]just Toni Hickman!

She is the real Toni Hickman, which happens to be the name of her YouTube channel.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

So since I got the real Tony Hickman online not that fake imposter running around out there you know say we got no time for that fake one so since I got the real one on that I just want to let you know that because you were so open and you shared everything and when folks do that right here with the family, with the Reid My Mind Radio family we let you know that you miss real Tony Hickman are now an official member of the Reid My MindRadio family

— Airhorn!

Toni:

Happy to be a member

TR in Conversation with Toni:

I really do appreciate you and you know I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and I’m glad we finally did it Tony we got this done Congratulations, to us!

TR:

Yes, congratulations to us as we celebrate… Young Gifted Black & Disabled

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – The Price of Blind Girl Magic

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Jeanetta Price is an advocate, writer, spoken word artist and the CEO of Blind Girl Magic. She’s using her talents and experience to reach out to women adjusting to vision loss.

Blind Girl Magic Logo: Blind girl written in black bold letters, outlined in white. The white cane is in between the "G" and the "R" Symbolizing the letter "I" in Girl. Magic is written in bold red letters outlined in black  and white accompanied with black stars

I can’t think of a better way to kick-off this final season of 2021 than with a bit of magic! Not that hocus pocus stuff. Rather the kind of magic that we all possess somewhere inside

In this episode, we’re taken on a magical journey that includes some familiar experiences, unexpected turns, and some passionate spoken word poetry.

I’m not a magician, but today, please allow me to show you one of my hidden talents; I can Reid your mind!

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Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!
Welcome back to the final series of 2021. We call this one: Young, Gifted, Black and Disabled.

Shout out to my brother AJ Murray who co-hosted and produced an episode with me last year with that same title. It is the inspiration for this series.

Young: Well, that’s relative. It’s up to each of us to define how we feel.

My maturity level has probably never passed 5 years old. I’m extremely silly, y’all!

I’ve been working on the gifted part since the other areas are undeniable. I’d like to share with you today and let you judge my progress.

I’ve been enhancing my own ability to read minds. I know, it makes sense right, Reid my mind. Now, I’ll attempt to read yours.
But first, I need your full attention.

If you’re walking on a treadmill, don’t stop, I don’t want to be your excuse. Just listen carefully and follow along.

Choose a number between 1 and 10.
Now multiply that number by 2. I’ll wait! Come on y’all I shouldn’t have to wait this long.
Again, choose a number between 1 and 10 and then multiply it by 2.
Ok, add 8 to that number. That’s right, 8.
Now, I need you to divide that number by 2.
Ok, you with me?
Subtract your original number from that number.
Ok, Braille users should get this part quickly, take the corresponding letter from the alphabet where A is equal to 1. B is 2 and so on.
Now think of a country that starts with that letter.
Now take the next letter in that country and think of an animal that starts with that letter. What color is that animal?

Now just say, out loud, “Reid My Mind Radio is my favorite podcast!”

Got it, You are thinking of a gray elephant!

If I got it right, well you need to show a brother some love. Head on over to ReidMyMind.com and hit that link that says survey. It only takes a few minutes. Or hit that link that says Shop and get yourself some of our cool Reid My Mind Radio inspired merch.
Or give us a shout out on social media. @tsreid on Twitter and check us out on InstaGram at ReidMyMindRadio.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Thomas Reid. I’m your host and producer and I’m really not a magician. But we are about to hit you with some magic!

AbraCadabra baby!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music —

Jeanetta:
I am Jeanetta Mary Alice Price, founder and CEO of Blind Girl Magic.

I am a chocolate voluptuous sister with a big ol curly Chaka Khan looking black wig that really compliments my outfit, which is a black dress.
It’s a little, but I guess we don’t need to know that. It goes down to my knees.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:
Alright! That was a very nice image description. That Chaka Khan’ thing, that paints an image for somebody who knows what Chaka Khan look like.

— “Chaka Khan… From “I Feel for You”–

TR:

Chaka Khan represents a strong, confident, proud Black woman. In fact, she said she’s every woman, and it’s all in her.

— “Woh, woh!” Chaka Khan, “I’m Every Woman” —

Confidence we know can be tested. Blindness, disability that’s like a graduate level exam.

Jeanetta: 02:02
At the age of 25, I began to lose sight due to aggressive glaucoma and also Cornea disease.

After the cornea transplant, the glaucoma became uncontrollable. So glaucoma is the primary cause of me losing sight.

TR:

The causes of blindness are unique to everyone, but there are some common reactions: like isolation.

Jeanetta:

When you isolate yourself, then, you know you allow the negative thoughts. A lot of the misconceptions just begin to take over.

I lost my fiance, but finding out losing him was a game. So that was because he was not my husband. But we was engaged and this is what I said.

I was having my procedures back to back. And I was like, Oh, I’m going down the aisle as no Blind woman, who does that? That’s how naive I was about blindness.

We bought our home. And I just kept pushing away and back cuz I was like, No, I can’t do this. But it took for me to really walk away from this situation to begin the healing process.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:
Did you have any sort of experience with blindness and disability?

Jeanetta:

You never know when you’re looking at your destiny. When I was younger, like say, junior high school. There was a blind man in my community. I used to see him walking with his white cane.
I recall being on a school bus, sometimes just staring at this man. He was independent. But when it came to younger, blind women, I’m 25 I felt like I was at the prime of my life. I didn’t see that. I’m from a small community, Beaumont, Texas about an hour and a half away from Houston, Texas.

TR:

Of course blind skills training is crucial, but one of the most important aspects of adjusting to blindness is meeting the people like you or those you can relate to who have similar experiences.

Jeanetta:

One of my professors introduced me to the Federation. And I went out for a scholarship. I did not receive the scholarship. But I did gain a community. And I knew I wasn’t alone. So that was the game changer.

I was using my resources with division of blind services locally but to be able to begin to network and build sisterhood with other blind sisters. That was priceless for me. Because I knew if they can do it, then I can do it as well.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

How’d you find them? Other blind sisters?

Jeanetta:
I went to my first national convention, with the National Federation of the Blind. It was in Texas at the time in 2012.

I never seen that many blind people in my life.

I don’t do dogs. I’d just never seen blind people, and they moved so fast. And they was a little rude too. They would run you over! I’d tell anybody, it’ll make you gain blind skills, because you have to protect yourself.

I begin to just go to the different seminars. They had a talent show. And I was like, I don’t do talent shows, but they asked me to do a poem, and I did.

Once I became open, then I began to meet other blind people

I believe in networking, and the Federation allowed me to meet other blind people my age and people that I could connect with as well.

I love networking with my blind brothers and sisters. I believe it’s priceless. Because if there’s something I don’t know, then I can tap into one of my resources, and they can definitely help me out.

TR:

When we talk about adjusting to blindness and other disabilities, so much of the conversation focuses on learning to accept help. It can take some time to recognize the other side of that coin. That is, you too, as a person with a disability, have a lot to offer others.

But after all, it’s called an adjustment process, because it takes time.

Jeanetta:
From 25 to 29, I suffered with severe depression.

Everything that I’ve always associated blindness with, like losing my job, just not able to drive, everything was negative. I didn’t want anything to do with blindness.

Long as you’re in denial, your healing cannot start.

I’m a writer, I didn’t write from 25 to 29. I didn’t pick up a pen. I didn’t do anything. I was angry. I was bitter. I was non productive.

TR:

That desire to write and create seems to be a part of Jeanetta’s identity.

Jeanetta: 17:14

My fifth grade teacher actually told me I had a gift from God. She placed me in theater arts when I was in sixth grade.

Everybody in class, they used to say she don’t really read, she reads! (Strong emphasis on the latter “reads”)

When it comes to expressing myself, I’ve always been very vocal, very bold.

Ever since then, not only did my school embrace me, my church, my family, everybody embraced my gift.

TR:
An obvious challenge for a writer new to blindness is access.

Jeanetta:
I use all tools.

I’m on my computer if the spirit Hits me, two or three o’clock in the morning, I’m on my phone, I do voice audio.

Sometimes I get up real early, in the morning that’s a time where I love to write and I just pull up my laptop. Sometimes my Victor Reader Stream, you know, it’s whatever I have my hands on at that time will serve as my tool of writing.

I tell people, whatever your style of writing is, just embrace it. Before I became knowledgeable of different tools I used to just get a sharpie. But even though I really couldn’t see, I was still releasing what I was feeling. That was my way out.

As I begin to just really grow in my blindness, then here come the poetry, where now I can write from a healing place.

TR:

Notice how for Jeanetta the act of writing soon after blindness wasn’t really about editing her own words as much as it was an opportunity to purge some heavy emotions.

Her passion for writing was obviously strong enough where she wasn’t deterred from finding new ways. Proving when it comes to the art it’s just never really about the tool.

Jeanetta:

I was always a paper queen. I wrote everything. It was definitely hard. But once you accept what you’re going through, then you start finding ways.

I was like, Okay, well, I can’t do this. But what can I do? So I stopped focusing on the I can’t and the I can’ts became my best friend. I never forget that same fifth grade teacher. Miss Maduro, we used to call her Miss Mad when we worked her nerve. She said she gave us those 10 two letter words if it is to be it is up to me.

As I began to lose sight, I thought about my fifth grade teacher so much. And how she really changed my life because she helped me find my purpose.

TR:

That ability to accept what you’re going through is so important to really understand the challenge. A very common experience is to blame blindness. Therefore it’s natural to reject any association with it.

Jeanetta:

I don’t know if they thought it was a compliment. And maybe they’ve done this to you before.

“Are you blind? You don’t look blind!” Okay, what does blindness look like?

So when people would tell me, Are you blind, like, No, I’m not blind. But then, when I began to embrace my blindness, I begin to just walk in my purpose in my truth, and I knew all the time that blindness is a mindset.

TR:

I think we should really hear Jeanetta express how she feels, in her way.

Jeanetta:

Are you blind?
That’s the question at hand. Before they even shake my hand. The only thing that they see for sure is not me, of course, is my b l i n d. Standing bold and beautiful as I tap across the room shoreline and with a burst of confidence.
Excuse me, ma’am. You don’t look blind? Well, could you please explain to me how blindness look? See, blindness is not the presenting problem. The lack of knowledge and misconceptions of blindness serve as society blindfolds. Low expectations, create social barriers that prevent us from reaching our goals.
Excuse me, ma’am? Why do you walk with that stick? That is the question. Correction. This is not nor would it ever be a stick. It’s my cane. And in the Blind community, we name our cane. So please, show some love for my bestie. She never leave my side. And a matter of fact, she’s my eyes. I walk with faith into a world of possibilities. Believing that I can tap into my vision. Faith that detects roadblocks allowing me to overcome life obstacles, change direction and discover the impossible.
Excuse me, ma’am. Are you blind? That is the question at hand before they even shake my hand. Are you blind? Yes. Once I finally said it with no shame I took back my name is Jeanetta Price and I am blind. That’s when I realized that the question all this time was not for me. But for you who have sight but no vision. Are you blind?

— Music begins – an energetic, upbeat bouncy Hip Hop beat–

— Sample: “: Now wait a minute” “Shout”, The Isley Brothers–

TR:

Hey did you know;
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We’re going to do some things on these platforms so stay tuned.
You can find us on each platform @ReidMyMindRadio.

Don’t forget you can also ask your smart device to play
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preferred podcast provider.

Make sure you say that full statement including, T.Reid.

Finally, you know we’re on most podcast platforms so why not just follow or subscribe there.
That way, you’ll never miss an episode.

Tell a friend to do the same. Let them also know that we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com. Now you’re already family so you know, that’s R to the E I D!
(“D” and that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)
Like my last name.

Now back to the episode.

— Music comes to a slow end.–

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:
So tell me what is Blind girl magic?

Jeanetta:

Oh, I thought you’d never ask? (Spoken in an ultra innocent tone with a Southern twang!)

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

(A very hearty laugh in recognition of her surprised response!)

TR:

That right there is a part of Blind Girl Magic. It’s subtle, but not really!
Like her eye catching fashionable t-shirts.

Jeanetta:

My last shirt was in May, my mother’s day edition. It said “I got it from my mama”

It’s A beautiful teal turquoise shirt with a shimmery I. The M, one of the legs was the white cane. And the letters were shimmery and purple. And it was like Mama was big. I sold over 200 shirts all over the world.

Blind Girl magic is for everybody. Not only do I rock Blind Girl Magic, my niece’s, my co-workers. It’s not just a blind thing, it’s a movement.
TR:

A movement that’s about starting conversations.

Jeanetta:
Many people tell me how when they out and about in the community and they rock in Blind Girl Magic it’s an eye catcher, because the shirts are beautiful. We are beautiful.

We don’t have to force feed people when we want to share about blindness. But if we rockin’ Blind Girl Magic gear, and they looking at all this like is that a white cane?Yeah, my cane is symbolic for independence and blindness. We can have those conversations and we don’t have to feel alone. I felt alone in my community.

TR:

Starting conversations not only through random encounters, but
by partnering with peers and hosting events within our community that embrace and highlight blindness.

Like one titled I Am Black History.

Jeanetta:

It was a total of 20 blind and sighted Individuals which did monologues. Each monologues were like five minutes. And each person was able to pick somebody in the past or present in history. At the end of that monologue, they flipped it. And they began to say, I am black history and began to share about themselves. We are history makers as well.
So many times we don’t acknowledge I know, I’m bad at it, you know, people like, “Jeanetta, I didn’t even know you had a master’s in counseling, or I didn’t know you did, you know. So many times, we don’t really acknowledge our greatness.

TR:

Part of Jeanetta’s greatness is using her talents and experience to help those who as she mentioned earlier feel alone as a result of blindness.

Blind Girl Magic offers workshops that provide an opportunity to explore the inner emotions through words. It’s called the Write to Heal.

Jeanetta:
That’s W R I T E.

I believe in the power of writing. God poured in me that there’s healing in your words, not just for you, but for others as well.

What we have is a line up of poets. So I’ll have some of my poetic Blind sisters with me. We’ll perform, we’ll share our truth. And because we want to be vulnerable, so people can feel comfortable and share their truth.

People think, Oh, she got this “S” on her chest. And they don’t even have a clue of some of the things that I went through. I’ve been there. And every day is healing for me.

TR:

After performances and Q&A, participants are encouraged to take about 30 minutes to write.

Jeanetta:

Maybe 20 minutes to write and I’m gonna put a little heat on them. I don’t want them to think about it. I want them to write about it. Because if you have too much time to think then you might try to change some things and just allow it to flow. And so, afterwards, if those who participated, they want to recite the spoken word they can, but sometimes it’s personal. I respect that too.

We can also encourage them and then you know that you’re not alone.

TR:

These workshops aren’t just for those experiencing blindness.

Jeanetta:

I’ve worked as a behavior specialist for like, four years. My Master’s is in clinical mental health counseling. Writing was a way that I was able to help my students to express themselves without using profanity and end up being suspended from school.

I used to do the Write to Heal seminars. I made them write. They say, “Miss Price we write more here than we write in English.”

One of my most recent was for a school in New Jersey. I did the Write to Heal seminar for the administrators and the teachers.

If I have a teacher that’s real with me and just sharing, you know, not afraid to be open as well then they respect that as well. You know, so more of your kids are coming to talk to you.

TR:

Jeanetta says student’s can feel when authority figures are authentic and encourages teachers and staff to recognize that.

Getting them to be vulnerable is part of accessing their authentic selves. Jeanetta was kind enough to share some of that vulnerability with the Reid My Mind Radio Family. She calls this one: My Left Eye.

Jeanetta:

My left eye left me long time ago.
My left eye is lazy. It drives me crazy, baby.
My left eye, always causing problems.
Attention seeker.
Stop sighted people in their tracks stare at the glare of my left eye.
I wish I was invisible like air.
Can you feel me?
My left eye just refuse to be a right eye.
Never following procedure, failed attempts after failed attempts.
See my left eye is clouded with insecurities.
My left eye sings the Blues clueless of the melody rocking and rolling.
My left eye has no rhythm, grove to his own beat.
My left eye left me numb to the pain of the spoken words in the curiosity of the unknown.
I should have known not to write this poem about my left eye.
As I recite I want to punch the lights out my left eye!
See, I’m not mad that you left, but it’s how you left.
No warning signs or trace of evidence in sight.
I swear my left eye left me in the darkest place, spiritually blind, my left eye.
Trust me, I tried to resuscitate my left eye performance, see people realize that I am hiding behind my designers.
Blinded by the bling, my left eye is a shady queen.
I’m taking back my crown.
My left eye do not define me.
I am a queen perfectly designed by the King.
See, my left eye is beautifully created.
Ocean blue scenery mixed with the clouds of joy.
My left eye is my testimony.
How I gained vision on my journey of losing sight.
See, my left eye is the center of attention.
Did I mention?
Today starts the shades off movement.
This is not just about me.
Let’s take our shades off together on three.
You will no longer have power over me, two.
I am perfectly designed by the King, one.
Today I removed the shades of self hate, doubt, and negative self talk.
Remove it!
Generational curses, addiction, physical and mental abuse.
Remove it!
Dream snatchers, haters, envy, jealousy.
Remove it!
Remove the mental mass and join the movement by setting yourself free and share with the world boldly, your beauty.

So that’s what you’ll get at the Write to Heal.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

Wow. (in awe)

TR:

Blind Girl Magic is the fashionable gear, the workshops and events, the healing. Ultimately though, it’s about that movement or journey.

Jeanetta:

At the age of 21, I had a brain aneurysm. I don’t know if I shared that with you.

They told my mom that I wasn’t gonna live. If I did, I’d be a vegetable and I wouldn’t be able to walk or talk and you know. And you know I aint stop talking now, right.

TR:

So by 25, when the vision loss occurred, Jeanetta was once again really just finding her stride.

Jeanetta:

I took it pretty hard. And I remember just for days not getting out of bed not wanting to live. I was too afraid due to my Christian background to take my life but I will wake up and ask him Why did you still give me life? I used to sleep a lot because I actually just wanted to just leave this place. I just thank God for not listening to me right? Because I was blinded by my blindness. I had no clue that I could live my best life out of sight.

TR:

We don’t often talk about these feelings when it comes to adjusting to disability. Here or elsewhere.
I’m guilty of wanting to promote positivity and optimism.
But I want to also be honest and these feelings are real.

If you find yourself struggling with these thoughts, call this number;
1-800-273-8255. There’s no shame.

Things get better. And our feelings change. This is Blind Girl Magic!

— From
Jeanetta:
Blind girl magic is the type of magic that struts in a row with her white cane extended.
Her hips shift like the motion of the eyes of the sighted.
Who would have guessed that this blind girl possessed magic.
Abracadabra.
Now you’re convinced that I have some magical superpowers with a supernatural S on my chest
Well, that will be yes for success.
As I leap over obstacles in life, dodge negativity, slam misconception of society, slap our kids in the face when I did that is a fact that blind girl magic goes back to Helen Keller.
Way back to Harriet Tubman, born into slavery escaped the freedom but she did not stop. She went back and back and back to leave us the freedom.
Blind girl magic is built off the shoulders of phenomenal women.
Blind girl magic is the independent movement that is leading our blind sisters to freedom of depression, low self esteem, lack of confidence, anger, bitterness, rejection, Abracadabra, You are set free, blind girl magic lives within me.

TR:

Sometimes I think I should stop and give you a bit of audio description of what was taking place during the conversation. Hmm, I’ll call it Audio ReidScription”

— Rewind —
— Portion of Jeanetta’s poetry begins and is lowered as “Audio ReidScription” begins. —

Jeanetta’s audio:

Way back to Harriet Tubman, born into slavery escaped to freedom but she did not stop. She went back and back and back to lead us to freedom.

Audio ReidScription over Jeanetta’s audio:

All of a sudden, as if driving with a diamond in the back, sun roof top…, Thomas leans back in his chair with a big toothy grin.

Jeanetta’s audio:
…that is leading our blind sisters to freedom of depression, low self esteem, lack of confidence, anger, bitterness, rejection,

In a comic strip thought bubble hovering over his head, text appears : Go head Sis!

Jeanetta:

I recall when you couldn’t say “Jeanetta” and “Blind” in the same breath, now I have the nerve to own a company, Blind Girl Magic. I took back the power.

In my blind journey, I accomplished much more as a blind woman than I ever did as a sighted woman. I went back to school and received my bachelor’s, my masters have my own company.

I always tell people it took for me to lose sight to gain vision and once I gained vision God allowed me to see better.
But then I knew it wasn’t just about blindness.

TR:
At first I thought that was poetic or a metaphorical way of seeing her blindness.

For years, Jeanetta was in and out of surgeries and eye procedures. Her doctor offered different specialized contact lenses. They did nothing to provide more sight. In fact, the left eye only offered a bit of light perception, but the doctor determined there was more available in the right eye. Jeanetta just didn’t want to experience the eye pain.

Jeanetta:


Doc I have blind skills. Leave me alone.

But my doctor knows I’m a little feisty or whatever. But he knows that I trust him and I follow his lead.

TR:

The doctor wanted to try a new contact lens

Jeanetta:

They say the older you get, and people of color, our glaucoma begins to simmer down.

My doctor, he was just like, you still have something there and your Glaucoma is stable at this time. So he was super excited about it.

It was a challenge getting the contact in. Because my eyes were pointed, it was just a struggle, and I was crying, and everything.

My doctor said, Now look at your face. I haven’t seen my face in over 15 years.
So the doctors expected me to see better. But they did not expect me to see 2040.

I receive a special contact collar square lens that I put in, insert every day and take out every night. But sometimes, I don’t use my contact lens. I don’t ever want to lose, is my blind skills.

TR:

I’m sure there were all sorts of thoughts and feelings taking place, plus Jeanetta had to learn how to use vision once again.

Jeanetta:

I had to train myself not to trust my eyes, because I always had enough sight to get me in trouble if I ended up falling off the curb and stuff like that.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:
That’s a really interesting sort of twist, but I think that says a lot because you could have bounced, you could bounce you could be like, I’m out of here. (Chuckles)

Jeanetta:
I’m gonna be honest with you.

I know a young lady, we had the exact same condition, she received that contact, and we have not heard from her in the Blind community at all.

Everybody wasn’t happy for me. Sighted or blind.

So now it’s like, oh, you’re not blind enough to be a part anymore. It was bittersweet.

God had to remind me like who I am, and I have to walk in my purpose.

I’m going to continue on my journey of where he want me to be. Yeah, I could have bounced. But I’ll never, never this, this is who I am. And just like He gave it to me, He could take it away. And if you take it away today or tomorrow, I know, I’m okay.

My thing is this, I know that I can do it without sight. Because that’s what I did for years.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta: 52:00
Okay, I believe you, and you reppin, that Blind Girl Magic. You rocking it. You can’t get away from it. You don’t want to get away.

TR:

I’m really not sure how one could just give up what has become a strong part of their identity. Especially, when you can see the impact it has on those you care about. For Jeanetta, working as a school Behavioral Specialist, those were her students.

Jeanetta:

Our kids were victims of their environment, a lot of violence, crime, everything. However, for my kids, to see me tap into this school as a blind woman. And then to see me to be able to drive to school as a blind woman that’s been gifted an opportunity to see better again, that gave them hope that it’s not over.

As the behavior specialist at the school, I worked with all the kids at risk. I really was having a hard time, cuz, I see the greatness up on my kids and I see some of my kids drop out and just give up. My story, my testimony. It gave them hope. They like for them to witness that was priceless.

TR:

Jeanetta’s whole story is poetic.
Meaning it’s a chance for all of us to interpret for ourselves.

This was sort of a challenge for me.
Not on a personal level but rather as someone who is thinking of the listener who’s possibly in the early phase of their adjustment.

I hope you didn’t in any way check out.
I need you to know that I know hearing this can spark all sorts of feelings that don’t necessarily equate to jealousy of another person, but maybe questioning your own worth or value.

For me, the hope in Jeanetta’s story isn’t really about her getting access to some vision. That’s another tool. Similar to the way I wouldn’t be jealous of someone who has a fancy powerful computer or gadget nicer car. What it really comes down to is, whatcha gonna do with it!

Jeanetta’s continuing to find ways of spreading her magic to help heal.

She was a finalist in the 2021 Holman PrizeContest. This conversation was recorded prior to the announcement of the winners.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t selected. But don’t get it twisted, she definitely won!

Jeanetta:

When I made it to the final list, that opened my eyes that being real with you and sharing your truth. People will respect that.

There’s so many times that we, especially as an African American woman, we’re frowned upon. You’re too loud, or you’re too big, or you’re too this.

It’s okay to be you.

It took me a while to get here to be unapologetically Jeanetta Price and to have people to just really embrace me and appreciate my truth.

TR:

Understanding and accepting that what makes us different should be appreciated, well yeah, that’s priceless.

Jeanetta

I am a bold, black, voluptuous, advocate not only for the blind, but for beyond. I stand in my truth.

I am healed from insecurities and I am healed from negative self-talk.

Every time I get in front of the audience, I have that white cane. I’m tapping and making room for the next Jeanetta .
Everybody else that come behind me that you don’t look like the norm. We all have a purpose on this earth. It’s okay to be you.

TR:

You all can reach out to Jeanetta Price as she rocks that Blind Girl Magic and serves her purpose.

Jeanetta:

Facebook and Instagram and also Club House Jeanetta Price, Blind Girl Magic either one, it’ll pull up.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta: 1:01:39
Jeanetta Price. Let me tell you right now, you are definitely now an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Jeanetta:

(Giggles)

TR:

Not only did she share her journey with us, but she even gave a little something extra, check this out

Jeanetta:

It’s called I’m From.

I’m from double dutch to hopscotch.
From what your mama gave you a hoola hoop?
I’m from what cartoon said yabba dabba do not. Screw you.
I’m from pressing combs to Jheri curls from skipping just for me.
Graduating straight to Super TCB.
I’m from 123, red light, Duck Duck goose, hide-n-go-seek what?
I’m from mayonnaise sandwiches and syrup sandwiches and peanut butter, Mama where is my jelly at sandwich.
I’m from grandfather hustle selling 25 cent cool cups.
I’m from when grown folks talk children shut up.
I’m from when your mama made you go to church every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
You was there too.
I’m from what a church folks did the holy dance and now they TikToking.
Well, chicken thunder, that reminds me I’m from a family of big mouths that cause big fights and Big Mama stepping and everybody got right.
I’m from God first family next in line come on down to the price is right even when we wrong. I’m from box fans in the windows of the projects .
I’m from my sister sitting on the front porch doing my crochet braids drinking Thunderbird mixed with a pack of cherry Kool Aid.
I’m from finders keepers losers weepers.
I’m from one size fit all but not all this.
I’m from when stripper poles hung our clean clothes.
I’m from stop, everybody get down, it’s a stick up. Psych. That’s just my cam folks running from the popo. My brother on the dice with his pocket swole. Baby daddy in jail, sister on the corner selling fruit cocktails.
I’m from telling on big sister and hiding behind big brother.
I’m from begging my siblings to please take me to the playground because that’s where all the kids hung around.
Question: when the last time you seen some children at the playground?
I’m from when it ain’t gonna cost you a dime to stay out of mines?
I’m from ain’t no ones where we come from and adversity don’t want none.
I’m from losing sight to gaining vision. Rewind I’m from losing sight to gaining vision.
I’m from where my brother reid My Mind and my sisters feel my words.
It’s not about the sight loss but the vision gain.
I’m from when we get up, dress up, and show up.
I’m from backstroking in the river of faith.
I’m from what a blind is the new vision.
I’m from living my best life out of sight, let the truth be told I am chosen.

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:
Huh! See, that’s how you do it! That’s how you do it right there. Appreciate that, look at that, look Ma. I made it, I made it.
Jeanetta:

You so crazy!

TR:

Holman Prize, y’all missed out! From my humble perspective, you had two dynamite opportunities. One with Ms. Jeanetta Price and another with Reid My Mind Radio alumni Dena Lambert.

Her ambition, archive the experiences of the remaining Black & Blind men and women who grew up in segregated Blind schools. Here, in the United States.

That to me sounds like an exploration that is truly worth supporting.

Coming out of 2020 when it was fashionable and safe to say Black Lives Matter. I guess in 2021 it’s back to playing attention.

I didn’t grow up Blind, but I do know that those who were Blind before me gave me the opportunity to have what I do. They were Young Gifted Black and Disabled and to them, I dedicate this episode.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description – More Than One

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Headshot of Alyscia Cunningham
Alyscia Cunningham is an author, photographer and film maker. Her latest book and documentary “I Am More Than My Hair” explores women’s hairloss. One of the subjects of the book and documentary is Marguerite Woods. Through this relationship, Alyscia became aware of the lack of access to the arts among Blind and Disabled people. It changed her approach to producing and thinking about art.
Yet, she couldn’t do it alone. It takes more than one…

In this latest FTS episode, we explore the power of one persons ability to spark an interest in access, help shape how we think about it and even create it. Once again, proving Audio Description is about so much more than entertainment!

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TR:
Your listening to Reid My Mind Radio.
Chances are, you know that already because you pressed play!
Duh!
This is where we examine this art form that in its basic essence, is making visual content accessible to those of us who are blind or have low vision.
But in actuality it goes way beyond that.
Today, we look at the power of one.
I know it’s the loneliest number and all, but really that’s only when it chooses to stay by itself.
This experience directly led her to her second book of photographs titled, “I AM More Than My Hair”.
It tells the stories of women who are bald.
Yet, according to Alyscia, the most common cause is stress.
And that can occur earlier than we may expect.
As part of both a marketing and fundraising effort, Alyscia recorded footage of some of the women included in the book.
She applied to Docs in progress – a nonprofit organization that fosters a creative and supportive community for documentary filmmakers.
— Music begins, a slow jazzy piano Hip Hop groove
That required her to contact some of the women featured in the book and arrange to capture their stories on camera.
I am bald, My skin is Mocha. leaning towards chocolate, and about five, seven. I normally wear certain shades. And I love interesting earrings. And so I normally have those on as well. I’ve got on a black dress. It’s sleeveless.
Her first experience began with Bustin’ Loose,
A film starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.
The description Marguerite says was horrible.
— Richard Pryor saying…
so it kind of took a backseat for me for a while. But the thing that really got me with audio description was I like to go to plays and conferences and music shows and that kind of thing.
TR:
We didn’t get into that for the purposes of this particular discussion, but that to me sounds like a case of a lack of cultural competence.
— Music ends
What is more of a part of this discussion is her response.
When Alyscia was looking for women who were bald to participate in her book,
she put the word out and heard back from a friend who told her about Marguerite.
Marguerite wanted Alyscia to understand that while she herself is blind she doesn’t represent everyone.
I’m always encouraging people to go to places where there are lots of other people that may look like me, because we’re multifaceted. We’re not all the same, just like sighted people we’re not all the same we are of all manner of variables and we’re diverse and in so many things so don’t just think you really understand what’s going on with blind people cause you’ve met me.
About two months following that meeting, Alyscia premiered her documentary at a theater.
Marguerite was there.
She realized the impact of the visuals based on the audience response…
Check out the Reid My Mind Radio family connection y’all!
That documentarian was none other than 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni Day Al-Mohammed.
— Music Begins – an up tempo energetic, inspirational Hip Hop beat
That’s my good friend and another 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni,
Cheryl Green, Captioner and Audio Description Writer and Narrator extraordinaire.
It’ goes beyond Audio Description and captions in the documentary.
Alyscia created an accessible exhibit on display at Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland.
My hope for this was having the exhibit and also having a panel discussion with Cheryl and marguerite, Judy and three other women was that this will be an example of how museums and artists can incorporate accessibility in their work and into their venues.
One of the main challenges from the perspective of the museums and venues is often funding.
Unfortunately, we know that sometimes museums and other venues and businesses want to see a return on investment.
But it’s not as simple as build it and they will come.
this can’t be a onetime thing.
it’s like now that you know How could you not do anything about it because now you’re aware of it. It’s in your space.
Did you get any feedback from non-disabled people?
— Music ends.
I’m sorry y’all, but sometimes I really do just have to laugh.
Spending time and energy advocating for something can be challenging.
I was more interested in her getting a sense of, of blind people, and that we are asking for opportunities to be able to relate to our world, just like sighted people are, and that she as an artist and a creative person would do whatever she would do with it. And that would be good enough.
Marguerite: 26:36
Just interact ting on different levels, and asking people to recognize, I’m here in this space, and I want to participate.
And sometimes, because people don’t know, you got to be in there, in their mix to get your conversation in there.
Marguerite herself is an artist. She is quite thoughtful and makes some deep connections between the More than My Hair project and well,
life for example.
Marguerite: 30:51
People tend to want to treat you like you’re less then because you don’t have the same access to vision that other people had. But
As an African American?
Most of us realize that we’ve grown up in a country that has not been kind or fair to any of us. And even if we don’t have the words to speak about, it’s a heavy burden, to exist and grow in this society. And when you know that the majority of the power structure is literally walking around with disdain for us, because of the color of our skin. You can put on a happy face and move around. And that’s fine. But I think that it’s deeper than a happy face, I think that there are some natural laws of the universe, that are, are at work all the time. And it would be beneficial to get in touch with what they are, and try to work your life from there. Because if you go with the laws that this country is offering, it’s telling a story, and I’m just given a message that’s not healthy. And it’s not about wellbeing, especially for my community and for me.
Totally unrelated to that project, she’s also working on a new project in the horror genre and says she’s making sure to build in the space for Audio Description.
She’s continuing to give panel discussions on how to make art accessible based on her experience.
Whether you’re a consumer who can help someone learn about access,
a creator who can make your content inclusive or
you’re someone who can provide the funding,
we all play a part.
— “One” Sample from Public Enemy Number One, Public Enemy
— Music begins, an upbeat bright Hip Hop funk groove
The I’m More than My Hair, accessible exhibit will be on display through September 5, 2021. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions have probably been a factor in the lack of feedback from the Disabled community, but Alyscia is hopeful that the restrictions being lifted will help bring out more people.
She’s currently seeking distribution for I Am More Than My Hair the documentary,
which at some point will stream online.
This is just one example of what we know to be true.
When creators learn that their content is not accessible to an audience, chances are pretty high that they will want to do something about that.
Well at least the cool ones!
— Sample – “What the hell are you waiting for” from “Encore” by Jay Z
— Sample (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)
— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

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Envizion – I Don’t See Nobody!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Whether you’re someone adjusting to blindness or a creative person with a specific vision, sometimes being blind to those trying to alter your goals is what’s required.

Envizion , his hair in Locs, is dressed in jeans and a hoodie, as he poses against a brick wall
Musician and artist Isaiah “Envizion” Woods became Blind while in his second semester in college. By the next semester he was back on campus, despite the advice from his counselors.

Hear what helped this young Musician/R & B Artist/Rapper walk his own path in the pursuit of his goals.

Plus, do you know about that Go-Go?

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TR:

Whats up Reid My Mind Radio family!

Back again and right on time!
FYI:

Some thought we should have been here last week, but this podcast is being published on the second and FOURTH TUESDAY of the month.
In most cases, I’ll let you know if I’m taking a break because we family and that’s what good families do — communicate!

So `wlet’s start the conversation!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Envizion:

My name is Izaiah Woods, I go by RoZae in the gogo world. My stage name is also envision that’s an r&b title. I’m from the DMV, from Maryland to be specific.

TR in Conversation with Envizion: 57:49
Your spelling of envision, do you want to break that down? Because I’m seeing Zion in there.

Envizion:

SO, it’s just basically the Z cuz my name is Zay. And I always do that. And to be honest, InVision wasn’t my initial name. It was Vizion. But somebody had that name. I was like, What can I go with? Because I still want that. And I was like, Envizion. It just came out and stuck. Like a magnet to a refrigerator.

TR:

Envizzionn appears conscious about the type of energy he himself puts out in the world.

Envizion:

I’m an enthusiast for inspiration. I love to spread love and light. And I like to be an inspiration to those who are struggling with putting their best foot forward and beginning on a journey that they have a lot of passion for

TR:

Let’s begin with a glimpse into Envizion’s journey. Including aspirations and interests like sports…

Envizion:

I enjoyed driving. Love dogs, German Shepards to be specific. I had a few of those.

I played the piano and the drums. Not just the traditional drum set, but also the Timbales, a Latin percussion instrument as well as the Congas.

— from later in section —
I began when I was probably 12 or 13. My mom signed me up for drum lessons. And then my dad surprised me with a drum set. And from then on, I was just like, yeah, I want to play.

TR:

He’s about more than playing.

Envizion:

Really family oriented, went to church and always been a strong believer in the Lord.

I aspired to go to school, college after school.

— Ambient music

TR in Conversation with Envizion:

Tell me a little bit about how you lost your sight. Now, let me tell you, you share as much as you’re comfortable. I don’t make these types of pieces fully about the vision loss. Sometimes it’s irrelevant. SO, share as much as you want.

Envizion:

Oh, no doubt. I’m pretty transparent about that. Because I tell people all the time, like my story is mine, you get it? I don’t have any shame in or about what happened. Because at the end of the day, what ended up happening? happened and I’m still here.

I was a second semester freshmen at Boise State University. And I came home one weekend in April of 2011, to get my brother situated for his prom that weekend. We were coming from the barber shop and we stopped at the gas station across the street, to get something to eat and ran into somebody that I had issues with.

TR:

In addition to being a musician and singer, Envizion has bars… he’s a rapper.
He shared this verse with me taken from a performance he did with a friend on a Gospeltrack. It summarized the events that followed.

I want to be mindful of anyone who may be triggered by violence. If this is SO, please just fast forward about 50 seconds.

Envizion:

Lord, now if it wasn’t for you, I’d be sorry behind bars or locked away in a tomb
See, for a while I was doing whatever, they say birds of a feather flock together. That’s when the devil has room
But see me, huh, I could have been dead and gone. Came home one weekend to get my brother ready for prom.
We stopped at the store to eat and seeing somebody we dislike took across the street and we was prepared for a fistfight.
We started walking towards him, but he had a gun in his hand. I blacked out he shot once, my brother’s turned back and ran
16 that he popped up was 15 that he missed. Everybody thought Zay was dead and he would surely be missed.
He shot me right in my dome in the front of my home with a nine millimeter Chrome. But now my vision is gone.
And my father kneeled and told me son pray to the Lord.
And I said, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I need you.

And that pretty much sums it all up.

TR:

It sums up the cause of his blindness, but let’s be clear, it doesn’t sum up the man.

Envizion:

What’s so good about God is the fact that I didn’t lose my mind and the way that your senses operate. Yeah, everything that I could hear literally provided a picture for me.

TR:

And he had his family.

Envizion:

My next memory was me laying on the chest of my mother, she was just kind of cradling me.

And it hit me that I had been shot. And it also hit me that I was still living. And I cried so hard, thanking God, that I did not die. I never felt such a strong sense of gratefulness, like, I was so grateful to be alive. I don’t think anybody could really understand that feeling until they’ve gone through something where they could have lost their life. The gratitude was just through the roof.

TR:

One way of showing that gratitude is to resume life.

And that’s exactly what he did. The shooting occured in the spring and Envizion was back in school for the fall semester.

— Music begins – Bright calm melodic beat…

Envizion:

And I was ready to go. However, they set me up with a DORS counselor.

TR in Conversation with Envizion:

What is the DORS? You said DORS?
Envizion:

Yeah, yeah. Division of rehabilitative services.

Everything with blindness has that …

TR in Conversation with Envizion: 20:30
Yeah. some

acronym. (TR and Envizion say simultaneously and chuckle…) YOU gotta get familiar with all of them.

Envizion:

All of them!

TR:

Those acronyms are just part of the process of educating yourself with the available services.

TR in Conversation with Envizion: 21:08
How did you know? How did that happen? Who knew to do that?

Envizion:

I will say my dad, he is my largest advocate. My mom is too. But you know, she works and does more like, you know, office work. She’s occupied. But my dad, he goes hard for me, man. And he will always be calling and trying to find out information, just to get me help so that I can learn how I can help myself.

TR:

Shout out to Dad for that!

And to Envizion for that understanding that he would have to help himself.

Envizion:

No matter how much somebody is saying that they’re going to work on your behalf, you have to be able to advocate for yourself.

Self advocacy is the biggest thing, like when it comes to someone with a disability or not does anyone technically but when you have a situation where you’re dependent on someone, you have to have it within yourself, because they will begin to try to dictate your future based upon their education. And the most difficult thing for a sighted person to do is be blind, because they don’t know how to be. So as much as they empathize with you, you gotta have it within yourself to say, Hey, this is what I want to do. And this is the way that I want to get it done.

TR:

For Envizion that meant going back to school. Meanwhile the counselor suggested he postpone school and get independence training first. But Envizion had his reasons.

Envizion:

I’m in school with my peers, people that I graduated high school with, like, I want to do that, like that camaraderie, and just the whole image of in feeling of being around people that are similar in age to me and stuff like that, like, that’s what I want to be a part of. And she did not want that for me at all. SO, I did what I wanted. And I went to school.

TR:

Beginning with DORS in June, by the time the fall semester came around, Envizion didn’t have much in the way of computer training.

Envizion:

It was scary. But I was ready.

I went up to the school and talk to the people with disability support services. They assigned me a note taker. And everything just happens to work out just the way that it needed to. God is so good. And he’s all the time.

My first note taker was a girl named unique that I actually knew of.

TR:

They sort of met the summer before his Freshman year in a PRE-COLLEGE program.

Envizion:

I introduced myself to her because she was cute. I introduced myself to her when we were in that summer program, but nothing came up. And I was familiar with her.

We hit it off phenomenally. And that’s my friend to this day.

— Music ends…

TR:

In addition to his friend Unique serving as his scribe, Envizion received assistance in completing course work and getting around campus.

Envizion:
it got better and better each year, because I got more and more confident and more independent.

Self advocacy is a big thing.

I’m gonna tell you what I need. And I’m gonna tell you what I don’t.

I would always have to set the parameters for the relationships between my teachers and I or my professors and I, because one thing is that you’re not going to try to pacify me, baby me. But then another thing is you’re not going to treat me like a slave.

I definitely will advocate for myself and I will go back to the guidelines. The contract that you signed.

TR:

He’s talking about the agreement to have access to note takers, extra time for assignments or test taking etc.

Contracts are one THING BUT speaking with Envizion highlighted another part of self advocacy that we don’t often speak about.

Personality.

Envizion:

My upbringing was always to speak up, and not in a disrespectful way.

My mom has always been just a huge influence on me as far as being articulate, being attentive, and speaking to where I don’t waste my words, say what you mean. And mean what you say

TR:

For example, one of Envizion’s professors who gave him a hard time.

Envizion:

ACTUALLY, two of them. I ended up becoming one of they’re favorite

TR:

The issue with one in particular.

Envizion:

He just thought that I was an angry person. Because I got shot. And now I’m blind.

You can’t project how you would take this on me. I’m living and I’m here to get an education. You got to help me get that. Me breaking that down to him and him seeing my work ethic, seeing my test score and seeing how I complete my assignments

TR:
The other side of that is actually being personable. For Envizion, he uses his sense of humor to charm.

Like the time in class after the professor projected an image on to the screen and asked “Can everyone see the image?”

Envizion:

I’m like, Can you can you brighten it up and enlarge it a little bit? I’m nearsighted.

He didn’t know that I could take light. You know, he didn’t know that. He didn’t know that at all. SO, him becoming aware of that. It made him happy. It made him really happy.

He almost cried one day talking to me because he appreciated the joy that he didn’t know that I had then.

— Triumphant Hip Bewat begins….

TR in Conversation with Envizion

You graduated?

Envizion:

Yes, sir. In 2016, Cum Laude. Three point five cumulative GPA, I was excited, I had to FIGHT FOR that one.

TR in Conversation with Envizion

Salute! Nice!

Envizion:

Yes, Sir!

TR:

Envizion has no regrets on the choices he’s made.

Envizion

I feel like I made the right choice by going to school first, because I grew a lot and I met a lot of people that I still have to this day.

I wouldn’t have been able to come in contact with a guy named Jeff Gittens. He was the assistive technologist for the disability support services. He actually passed away a couple of years ago.
I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet him. It was a lot that I went through that I needed to go through.

It may not have all been perfect, but you know, the hardships that will really make you

TR:

Young Mr. Woods had the chance to share some of that knowledge with others also experiencing blindness.

Envizion:

I went to blind industries and services of Maryland, which is a company that helps blind people just get reintegrated back into society as far as independence is concerned. SO, I moved to downtown Baltimore.

I got through the program learning how to travel through the city, by bus or Uber or Mark train or light rail. They call it the trolley. I finished the program, but I did great.

after I successfully completed my training program, I got really close with one of the managers there, named Melissa Lomax. And she was the youth coordinator. And she would tell me all the time, yeah, I work with these students. And I tell them a lot about you. They can’t wait to meet you. Would you like to work on one of our workshops one weekend?

TR:

He said yes! And that weekend, turned into a month.

Envizion:
I went to the workshop and basically explained to them what it was that I’ve done and how I made it through the program, what I like, like fashion and how I like music. And those kids, they gravitated towards me.

I had two students that live with me in a dorm or it was like an apartment. I taught them how to cook, safety techniques. And there’s a lot that we went through and they kind of like little brothers to me.

TR:

And then, there are other ways to influence people.
— Music ends…

Envizion:

My goal is to inspire people. My goal is to bring back meaning to music.
People used to make music and a music video will be so telling. Or when you heard music, you could create your own visual, like, while you’re listening.

TR:

As a drummer and percussionist, the lyrical writing process for Envizion all stems from the same place.

Envizion:

It’s a feeling. I hear the beat. I just get inspired by whatever it is the beat gives. A good beat a lot of times it’ll produce a melody. And that melody will come with the words like you know, the energy of the song.

TR in Conversation with Envizion: 53:24
how prevalent is blindness within your music?

Envizion:

I featured in this song called “Money on the Line. (Laughs…) And I said a little cleveer thing now… I have this tag where I say (singing…) I don’t see nobody.

I don’t know why. I mean, its trueI’m Blind you know what I’m saying? It’s me.
(TR laughing…)

TR:

But we know it’s also a play on words.

Envizion:

It’s a hater blocking term. Yeah, really. I’m blind. It’s all of that. And when you’re on your way to the top two, you don’t want to be focused on everybody.

TR:

There’s all types of distractions.

Envizion:

(Singing…)”Girls on my line. I said I’m not wasting a dime. She said boo, can’t you see I love you? No baby. I’m blind.”

TR:

We’re so used to NON-BLIND people using blindness as a metaphor in ways that conjur negative feelings

Envizion is using the term to empower. Saying I’m not paying attention to anyone trying to take me off my path. In fact, being Blind to you meaning, empowering myself.

While he has his tag line, he doesn’t play on the blindness much.

Envizion:

I really own my blindness. I really feel as though my blindness has granted me the ability to really envision true beauty. I’m able to see people’s hearts, I’m able to really test and know who you are from the inside.

I’m just a realist.

When it comes to music, I don’t force anything.

I don’t want to tell you how to feel when you listen to my stuff. I just rather give my perspective. And then you take and do with it what you will.

TR:

We know he RAPS; we heard his bars earlier. He sings R & B,

TR in Conversation with Envizion:

Do me a favor, talk a little about Go Go. I know a lot of folks don’t know about Go Go.

Envizion:
Go Go is dc, dc, Maryland and Virginia. originated by Chuck Brown. Inspired by like African, tribal music and feel like a little bit of gospel and blues and jazz. SO, it’s like a swing starts from a pocket beat.

Prime example. Jill Scott song. Do you want it on your rice and gravy?

— Insert song…

She got that from gogo.

But then it breaks down. There’s sub genres. You have the crank circuit, which more so sticks to the traditional side of gogo. And then you have bounce beat, which is like like what I do is for the younger generation, originated by the late Polo, rest in peace to him.

Go Go music, it really like is the heartbeat of DC.

TR:

Go Go found it’s way into the mainstream through songs like Doin’ Da Butt by EU and multiple hits from Salt n peppa…

Envizion:

I play for a GO-GO band, ABM, all about money.

and We also go by The M, which is a much more mature way of presenting ourselves.

We also take current songs and popular songs or old songs. And we just mix it to a GO-GO Beat.

TR:
Like Hello by Adel, remixed to a Go Go beat by Backyard.

— Music “Hehllo” by Adel covered BY BACK Yard

Envizion:

Nice song that kind of helps people to get warmed up into what it is because sometimes it can be a little aggressive.

Like, how rock and roll is to some people that don’t understand it.

TR:

That’s something I think many of us can relate to.

TR in Conversation with Envizion: 43:01

Before you were blind, what do you see, if any, any differences in the way you are perceived? And how people deal with you, how they approach you, how they interact with you?

Envizion:

I feel like I exude a different type of confidence. Now. I don’t feel like I’ve had more I don’t feel like I was more confident when I when I had sight. Although I was confident. I just walk WITH; I just work with more purpose now than I did before.

I had a lot of insecurities. As a sighted person that I used to hide them.

I just walk and talk different now.

I’m pretty easy going.

However, there was a lot of people that were intimidated by me when I was sighted. Why I never got it. But once I went blind, let me tell you… so now you think I’m weak and vulnerable. Now you think I’m easy pickings.

There are some people that try to get a feel for me. They’re trying to feel me out. They’re kind of close but kind of far.

Certain people really try to figure me out. And I’d be like, I see you looking like I just feel it. Like I know. What’s up. Nice to meet you. I’m still people, you know, I just can’t see. I’m blind. That’s it. Don’t get it twisted.

TR:

That’s an attitude we all can use. Even if you are more than just Blind, be confident in whatever you bring to the table.

You can check out Envizion’s music on Apple, Spotify, Tidal…

Envizion:
Better yet go to my Instagram. The Real Envision envision it has two ends with T H E R E A L E N V I Z I O N N.

In my bio, I have a link to my link tree and all of the links of music that I put out there.

my most recent single is call everlasting. We’ll be shooting the video soon is actually going to be my first video.

TR:

You can also find Envizion on Twitter, except it’s with one N at the end.
TR in Conversation with Envizion:

Envizion brother, you know I got this thing that I say, you know once you come on Reid My Mind Radio you become official part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family so Salutes brother, welcome!

Envizion:

Thank YOU, BRO, thank you. I’m …

TR in Conversation with Envizion:

Absolutely!

Envizion:

Glad to be a part, glad to be a part. Shout out to you I appreciate you for the opportunity.

TR:

Isn’t that all any of us really want? Opportunity? But before it arrives, we have to make sure we’re ready for it.

Brother Izaiah, had that drive following vision loss.
I’m not just talking about the will to live as in breath and remain on earth. Rather, self determination to follow his own path. Pursuing those things that he loves and appreciates.

I respect and admire that. Especially considering all of the self doubt that can accompany blindness.

If you feel the same, go ahead and let him know. You can also reach out here via ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com. Tell a friend, a loved one a co-worker, co passenger or even your Uber driver to check out the podcast. Let them know they can find it WHEREVER they consume podcasts and there’s transcripts and more on ReidMyMind.com. Now the tricky part is you have to let them know, it’s R to the E I D
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Envizion” Baby I’m Blind… I don’t see nobody!”
TR:
Peace!

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