Archive for the ‘PWD’ Category

Disability Representation – Same Goal Different Strategy

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Titled Disability Representation, this collage includes scenes from ; Forrest Gump, Rain Man, Ray, Wait Until Dark and The Rear Window; All movies with a disabled character played by a non disabled actor.
If you think about portrayals of people with disabilities on the screen, movies and television, chances are extremely high that the actor was not disabled. At least two recent projects have sparked this conversation including “The Upside” and “In the Dark”.

The latter series on the CW Network caused the National Federation of the Blind to launch their #LetUsPlayUs Campaign.

In this episode we learn why representation matters from:

Plus, “Blind Face” is that really a thing? I had to speak on it.

Consider this the beginning of RMM Radio’s exploration of Disability Representation in Media.

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Transcript

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TR:

What’s up RMMRadio Family?
It’s me, T.Reid, host and producer of this here podcast.
This is your place to hear stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. And yes, occasionally I throw some of my own experiences in there pairing those words and music and sound design.

Today, I want to jump right into it. We have a lot to cover.
So…

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Audio:
* Rain Man – Dustin Hoffman

TR:

Each of these clips, are from movies featuring a main protagonist with a disability.

Audio:
* Forrest Gump – Tom Hanks

Yet, each starring actor does not have a disability.

Audio:
* Ray – Jamie Foxx

TR:

It’s not a new issue

* Audio: The Rear Window

A scene from The Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart, in 1954

* Audio: Wait Until Dark

And Audrey Hepburn portraying a Blind woman in 1967’s Wait Until Dark.

Audio: “The Upside” trailer

TR:

Most recently, Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston star in The Upside.

Cranston, known most for his lead role in “Breaking Bad plays a wealthy quadriplegic who hires a former criminal, played by Hart, to be his caregiver.

With fewer than 2 percent of characters in movies being a person with a disability, well it’s understandable that the disability community took to social media to express their disapproval.

Cranston’s reply?

According to a BBC report he said;
“If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy? Does that
mean I can’t play a homosexual?”

In fairness, he does agree that there should be “more opportunities” for actors with disabilities.

I guess just not those that he’s slated to play

Audio: “In the Dark” trailer

TR:

In the Dark is the new television show on the CW Network that stars Perry Mattfeld as a blind woman who is the only witness to her friend’s murder.

Perry herself is not Blind.

The NFB, National Federation of the Blind, believes this is not acceptable. The organization which says they have 50 thousand members in all 50 states including DC and Puerto Rico, began a campaign called #LetUsPlayUs.

I reached out to NFB’s Director of Public Relations, Chris Danielsen, to learn a bit more on what sparked the protest.

CD:

We’ve been concerned for some time that there are not opportunities for and roles for Blind actors. I know we passed a resolution at our National Convention in 2018 on this topic and I think we had passed one even before that.

Fast forward a little bit to early 2019 and the CW Network began heavily promoting its new series “In the Dark”. CW was asked why a Blind actress was not cast in this role and they really made excuses for not casting a Blind actor in the lead role of Murphy in their show.

TR:

According to TheWarp.com:
Nicky Weinstock, an executive producer for the show said:
“We went about searching for a blind actor immediately, and looked allover”

That included 29 different organizations for the blind where he said they were hoping to find the lead actor.

NFB’s Chris Danielsen had this to say about that.

CD:

We were not one of those organizations by the way.
And then they kind of said but we do have a blind writer, and a Blind Consultant and we do have a another Blind actress in a supporting role

They made those sound like compensations for not having cast a Blind person in the lead role.

TR:

You have to wonder, what do they really know about what it really means to be Blind.
Especially when you hear that same CW Executive Nicky Weinstock describe Mattfield as accurately portraying a blind person based on the committment she demonstrated after acquiring a cane and using it around her apartment for weeks.

CD:

This could be really tone deaf publicity on their part, but it’s pretty typical of the behavior that we see from the entertainment industry. There have been literally dozens of films and television shows about Blind people and in none of them that we’ve been able to find, was a Blind person actually cast in a lead or recurring role.
CD:

We felt that this is the right time to really respond to what the CW has said and done but also to this type of behavior that is just recurrent in the entertainment industry. And for that reason we launched our Let Us Play Us Campaign.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

Tell me what is exactly the objective of #LetUsPlayUs?

CD:

The immediate objective is to have the CW reconsider its decision to cast a sighted person in the lead role.

Given that they have really sought in a very discouraging way to justify their decision not to cast a Blind actor in the role, we feel like the only way they can really make it right at this point is to simply re-cast and re-think the show.

TR:

The showed debuted on Thursday April 4, 2019.

It doesn’t look as though this demand is going to be met.

There is time however, to expand the conversation about representation.

CD:

We have found over the years that a lot of the portrayals of Blind people are very inaccurate and often even offensive.

We want to engage in a dialog with the entertainment industry and talk about why it is that Blind actors are not cast. Why there are such low expectations for Blind actors and performers. And how we can work together; the entertainment industry and the National Federation of the Blind to actually identify Blind actors, to develop their talent and to actually see them included in the future projects so that those projects have an authentic perspective on blindness.

TR:

Disability representation in media can be categorized in four groups of characters according to a white paper recently published by the Ford Foundation.

Disability Activist and Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation, Judith E. Heumannn authored the paper titled; Road Map
for Inclusion Changing the Face of Disability in Media.

The four stereotypes:
* THE SUPER CRIP – think Daredevil
* THE VILLAIN -The James Bond Franchise is known for many.
* THE VICTIM
* The Innocent Fool

I’ll link to the report on this episode’s post over at ReidMyMind.com.

The show’s trailer, gives the initial impression that “In the Dark” may not be too interested in changing the paradigm.

Murphy, the main character is shown trying to hide under a glass table.

Audio: The above scene from the “In the Dark” trailer
In case you’re new here, Blind people know glass is transparent and they know how it feels.

And probably even more concerning, the trailer includes what appears to be the ol’ feel the face!
You know that all too popular scene in just about any movie or television show featuring someone who’s blind where the brilliant idea comes to the sighted person to have the Blind person feel their face so they could know what you look like.

Audio: “Hello”, Lionel Richie Music Video
— From the video, Music plays and a telephone rings…”Hello” says the Blind woman in the video.

TR:

Hey how are you doing? This is T.Reid from Reid My Mind Radio. May I speak to the creator of this music video please?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Hello”

TR:

Lionel?
Was this video your idea?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Hello Is it me you’re looking for?

TR:
Well yes, if you’re the creator of the video.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Cause I wonder where you are”

TR:

My brother, I’m in the future.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “And I wonder what you do”

TR:
Well, I host a podcast, it’s sort of…

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Are you somewhere feeling lonely”

TR:

Well now that you ask?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Is someone loving you”

TR

Hey bruh, that’s personal.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings as echo and fades out “Tell me…”
— Music continues…

TR:

Look man, on behalf of Blind people around the world who have been asked to feel somebodies face.
You know, that thing in your Hello video.

It’s 2019 I think we can end this stereotype.

It’s 2019 & the results are in, we’re over it!

— From video: Door shuts!

Blind woman says: ” I’ve wanted you to see it so many times, but I finally think it’s done.”

TR:

At least I guess we can be happy that in the actual scene from In the Dark, Murphy was resisting and even protested saying that’s something Blind people don’t do, but her friend insisted.

We later see it was needed to advance the plot. This was how she identified her friends body.

I personally would have suggested something like Microsoft Seeing AI which allows you to take a picture of someone and it will recognize them in future pics. But maybe that doesn’t work for the rest of the show.

But that’s just me. Everyone is different.

Not all Blind people use technology.

Like any other marginalized group, we don’t all act one way, we don’t think the same and we all have our own voices.

In fact, I tried to get some individuals with opposing opinions to share them on this episode but I didn’t get a response.

Not everyone believes this issue should garner as much attention from the NFB.

Some believe, the hiring of a Blind writer, consultant and additional cast member are steps in the right direction.
Therefore, demanding the network pull the show well that’s not a way to open a dialog.

Most of the discussion I thought was valuable, focused on strategy.
That’s always going to be a source of contention.

TR:

On April 2, 2019, the NFB protested outside of the CBS offices, owners of the CW Network, in New York City. .

CD:

We had well over 100 Blind people from five different states, at least, participating in the protest. We protested for two hours

We told the CW Executives who bothered to look out the window or listen, we don’t know for sure that any did. We told them that Blind face is just as unacceptable as Black face for example.

TR:

In addition to the protesting outside of CBS, NFB and others have taken to social media including Facebook and Twitter.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

So Chris let’s talk about something because I was going to go one way but now I have to switch it up. The social media campaign, and I’m gathering that the future consists of continuing with the hashtag… (#LetUsPlayUs). One of the things that tends to happen around this topic is that comparison to people of color. I’ve seen things where people are saying “Oh you don’t want white people playing other nationalities, ethnicities etc. Even though that happens and it still happens today.

CD:

Sure, sure.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

I think that’s almost like, defeating the purpose, but then also the one you just mentioned which was the comparison of Blind face to Black face. What is the NFB’s position on that because in social media I notice that the official NFB account kind of stayed away from that. And I was wondering if that was on purpose or if that was just a coincidence.

CD:

Well to be fair that comparison came up in the protest. It wasn’t intended so much as a comparison as kind of a play on words I think when it was originated.

We are a diverse organization. We have a makeup of membership that is racially diverse, ethnically diverse different sexual orientations and all of that. We respect all of that, all of that diversity. That said, we’re not focused so much on trying to make that comparison. That said we do see some commonality in the idea that we don’t, we don’t allow people anymore to sort of appropriate and sort of pose as others. It does still happen, but there are areas where it doesn’t happen anymore and doesn’t happen as much as it used to . But so far disability isn’t one of those areas.

There wouldn’t even be a thought at this point of having, really seriously, of having a man play a woman. Back in Shakespeare’s time it was common for woman to be played by men, typically young boys. You did have situations where it was considered appropriate to put on black makeup. So why are those things largely gone and why is it still appropriate and considered the norm in fact to have non-disabled people play the role of people with disabilities. It’s the norm and it’s rewarded . Think about how often we’ve seen Oscars awarded to people for doing this; Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino Daniel Day Lewis.

Audio: “And the winner is…” followed by each of the above winning Oscars.

TR:

Chris is right about that last part. Let’s take a look at some others who won in roles of someone with a disability.

Jack Nicholson, John Voight, Tom hanks, Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke both won for the Miracle Worker playing Annie Sullivan and Hellen Keller respectively.

And oh yes, my bad…
Audio: Jamie Foxx winning for Ray.

Does anything stand out to you about that list?
I’ll give you a second.

Audio: Jeopardy music

All but 1 are white.

Which brings me back to this idea of Blind Face.

That’s a made up term, it doesn’t have the history that is tied to how Black face was systematically used to dehumanize an entire race of people.

And it’s not gone.
.
Audio: Multiple news segments regarding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam & Black Face.

TR:
Even outside of medical schools in the 80’s.

Audio for below Two college girls suspended for Black Face
College campus frat parties still have it… sometimes they use different names but it’s the same. Parties where they dress like rappers. There was even a so called Gangster Halloween costume. And don’t get me started on other examples of appropriation.

Audio: About Redskins

Does it mean that those who used the term Blind face have the same intent?
I don’t believe that.

But what can we expect when this history isn’t taught, when people prefer to be color blind and refuse to have these conversations. Especially in this world of social media and the re-tweet.

There are valid and strong feelings in all marginalized groups. Something we all need to take into consideration.

CD:

We’re not Oscar bait. We’re people with real lives. We don’t exist so that actors can play us and feel good about themselves because they’ve supposedly experienced what we experience. Which of course they haven’t. That’s what’s really offensive.

I’m interested in your perspective too because you know we don’t want to make an offensive comparison. We want to be careful about that and at the same time the point that we’re trying to make is that there are situations where it’s no longer appropriate and the industry seems to understand that it’s inappropriate to have certain kinds of portrayals. Why is blindness and disability the exception to that.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

That’s where the difference of opinion definitely comes into play and I think the perspectives where you say that the industry understands that; I don’t think most people of color would say that the industry reflects their real lives.

CD:

Sure.

TR:

Remember those 4 stereotypes of disability in media?
* THE SUPER CRIP
* THE VILLAIN
* THE VICTIM
* The Innocent Fool

Black stereotypes have existed and continue to make up what we see in film today. Slightly modified versions of, well take your pick:
Sambo or the lazy happy go lucky Negro
Mandingo – the over sexed, big Black man
Mammy, subservient Black woman who’s nurturing ways usually focus on the white children
Jessabelle – over sexualized Black woman

So many films and television shows to this very day still have some version of these stereotypes.

In fact, as the years went by new stereotypes came into existence. The Welfare Queen, the criminal or thug and of course some of your favorite movies might star the magical Negro. who’s there to mysteriously make the white persons dreams come true.

Stereotypes also exist for Latinex, Asians and just think about the context of when you’d see a Native American on the screen.

So for those of us who are aware of this history in culture, hearing what can sound like an implication it no longer exists, well that can feel like all of that struggle and history is being erased.

With that said, let me make it as clear as I can, disability experiences deserve to be on the screen as much as any other human experience.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

You don’t have to make these comparisons.

CD:
Mm , hmm!

[TR in conversation with CD:]

There are comparisons that can be made. And the thing that I like to say is we can compare apples and oranges, they are both fruit…

CD:

Yeh, yeh, yeh. (In agreement)

[TR in conversation with CD:]
… but they are so different.

CD:

Yeh, certainly the intent is different. I would say that some portrayals of blindness have been specifically meant to put Blind people down, but some haven’t. There just profoundly mis-informed. So I totally agree with you, then in that sense it’s not an appropriate comparison. I think that’s why we have stayed away from the comparison on social media. We definitely don’t want to minimize the real pain that, that has caused, but sometimes the paper trail of disability does cause pain as well. Not the same kind, but the misconceptions out there are harmful to people with disabilities and they do trickle through.

TR:

Now we’re getting there!

Probably the strongest argument for increasing representation and the one that lots of people with disabilities feel on a regular basis.

Kristen Lopez:

There is so much mis-information out there about disability. Films are a gateway for us to learn about people and cultures different from ourselves.

TR:

This is Film Critic Kristen Lopez. She also writes reviews on new and classic films.
She has a much cooler way of saying it though.

Kristen Lopez:

Freelance Pop Culture Essayist, who writes a lot about representation in cinema, specifically gender and disability.

I’ve had so many embarrassing encounters with people. Unbreakable being a great example.

People who’ve seen the movie and they feel like that’s some sort of gateway into relating to me and it’s completely wrong.

TR:

Unbreakable, is the film starring Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson whose character is a wheel chair user and has Brittle Bone Disorder, as does Kristen.

Kristen Lopez:

I refused to watch it because I didn’t think it was actually going to be a movie that represented me. And for a year solid when people heard I had Brittle Bone Disorder they were like oh have you seen Unbreakable? it’s great, you’d love it. And I was like, why would I love it. And they’re like because it’s about you.

I’m not a super hero or super villain

I was very indignant; no that’s not me. I actually never saw Unbreakable until two years ago and I thought it was fine. It didn’t offend me.

TR:

Dr. Adam Pottle, is an author and screenwriter in Saskatoon, Canada with
4 published books and two produced plays.

He himself is deaf.

He’s experienced firsthand how misperceptions and stereotypes find their way into common belief. Like this idea that Deaf people carry on conversations by reading lips.

As he explained to me via email.

(Note the change in sound when I am reading Adam’s words.)

Adam Pottle:

It’s not enough. Reading lips is fucking exhausting, and we don’t always get things right. We need visual confirmation, whether through Sign language or captioning.

I was bullied in school about my ability to read lips. Older kids would point to their lips and mouth out, “Hey deaf boy. Can you read this? Fuck you.”

TR:

The argument for representation is less about personal offense and more about the impact images have on society.

Kristen Lopez:

Movies have sold disability as this grand mystery. We are this enigma that unless the audience knows how to handle us their not going to be able to interact with us and I think that that’s very wrong.

It’s just important to get rid of the little things. We’re talking now about a time where politically people are talking about who’s entitled to what and who needs what. Do we need healthcare? Do we need the ADA at all?

I think a lot of that has to do with movies which fuel the dialectic, fuel the culture and presented disabled people which is entitled, spoiled and massively wealthy and doomed to die relatively young. The movies have sold us as a burden on society.

TR:

Interestingly enough, I read a review of The Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston film, The Upside titled;
“The Upside” is a good representation of life with disabilities.

I don’t know if this writer is disabled. It wasn’t mentioned.
But disability isn’t one size fits all. We can’t forget the intersections;
Gender, sexuality, …

And as Film Critic Kristen Lopez explains, it’s complicated.

Kristen Lopez:

As an adult, I’ve slowly grown to be like I do identify as white, but that’s only because my skin pigment is white. So I know most people, I tell them my last name is Lopez and they look at me and they’re like what the hell are you talking about. I don’t identify as Hispanic, but I do identify as Latino just because my father is.

Now as an adult as I’ve seen how white disabled narratives are it does bother me on that level as well because you know there are no movies with disabled people of color. There’s barely any movies about disabled women but disabled people of color is completely absent in these movies. That doesn’t even factor into people’s discussion of disability because they’ve never seen it.

TR:

Representation is more than who is on screen. It’s about who is producing directing, writing and in general influencing the overall message and feel of
the project.

Adam wants to add his voice to the conversation. Currently trying to make his way into the business. He’s an aspiring screenwriter with three horror scripts under his belt. He has a PhD in English literature, for which he studied how Deafness and disability are represented in Canadian literature.

Adam Pottle:

Because my scripts all feature Deaf and disabled characters in lead and supporting roles, it’s a bit difficult to get them produced, even if they’re well-received. I have one script, a horror story, that’s been selected by six different festivals that I hope to have made one day.

TR:

When it comes to inclusion of any form, the first reasons also known as excuses is often we can’t find “them”.

The CW, couldn’t find a Blind lead. Silicon Valley can’t find people of color in STEM, Corporations can’t find women executives.

Well, I have less than 600 Twitter followers and A Blind Black Man in the Poconos, Pennsylvania found a deaf white writer in Saskatoon, Canada.

(Laughing…)

So in the words of Mr. Biz Markie:
Audio: “C’mon, don’t give me that” from “Just A Friend”, BizMarkie

Adam Pottle:

The problem is systemic. The film industry is ableist to its core. It prefer stereotypical narratives. It doesn’t understand that Deaf and disabled people have rich lives with their own stories to tell. It prefers to look at us with pity and scorn. Recent examples include Me Before You, The Upside, Stronger, The Theory of Everything…

Notice these films all feature white actors, too. We don’t see Deaf and disabled Black characters, or Indigenous characters, or Asian characters. We don’t see LGBTQ2+ disabled characters.

Deaf and disabled people must be allowed to tell their own stories, from the ground up, as writers, directors, editors, photographers, producers, costume designers, and of course actors.

TR:

So #LetUsPlayUs, I’m with that. But can we let disability drive the conversation. Call out the many valuable reasons for representation and inclusion and rather than using the history of others as catch phrases use the lessons and honor those who paved the way.

I think we can agree the more marginalized you are in the society the lower your chances of seeing a real representation of yourself. Go ahead and think about the various marginalized communities. As you filter and each segment appears to have less and less representation not only in society but also on screen.

Just imagine if rather than re-booting movies and shows from the past, Hollywood start out by seeking multi marginalized Non Cisgender women of color with a story to tell.

As Adam Pottle points out.

Adam Pottle:

the first producer or major studio to truly recognize the potential of disabled filmmakers and disabled actors will experience a tremendous cultural and financial windfall. There are over a billion disabled people worldwide. We want to see ourselves onscreen. When we do that, disabled people will come out in droves, leading to changes in theatre spaces and screening options. In short, disabled people will change the way the world watches movies.

TR:

We’ve literally already started that process; Caption and Audio Description have already begun seeping into the mainstream.

So let’s continue.

By the way, the reviews of “In the Dark” are in & mixed. I started watching the premiere via the app but there’s no Audio Description. I don’t believe it’s offered by the network. One review had this to say:

“One thing In the Dark does get right is that the blind characters are completely in control. There’s a murder mystery at the center of it, but the real thrill is watching Murphy live such an imperfect, independent life. She goes out; she smokes cigarettes; she has sex—these are things we rarely see blind
characters do onscreen.

TR:

Seriously? Yawl need to go to a convention!

Apparently 80 percent of the writing staff is made up of women and several LGBTQ+ and blind writers and led by a female
showrunner.

And Calle Walton, the young lady who is Blind and part of the cast, said:

“When I lost my sight, I was devastated. I had to throw my acting dreams away. I thought there was no way I could become an actress now that I was blind. This experience has just been amazing:
getting me back on my feet, getting me back into my love for acting. I hope this really opens up the field and it makes it so blind people are getting looked at as characters that can play roles, instead of sighted people playing roles as blind people.”

Same goal, different strategy!

Shout out to :
Chris Danielsen , Director of Public Relations for the National Federation of the Blind.
You can find out more about them at NFB.org. And #LetUsPlayUs on social media including Twitter and Facebook.

Freelance Pop Culture Essayist, Kristen Lopez. You can find her work on line where she’s written for Rotten Tomatoes, Forbes.com and other outlets.
She has two podcasts;
Ticklish Business – all about classic movies before 1970
Citizen Dame – she’s joined by three other female film critics talking all about the latest entertainment news from a feminist lens
You can find Kristen on Twitter
@Journeys_Film

Dr. Adam Pottle is @AddyPottle on Twitter (Also spelled out)
His website is www.adampottle.com
He has a new book out now title Voice.
Where he explores the crucial role deafness has played in the growth of his imagination, and in doing so presents a unique perspective on
a writer’s development.

I think it’s clear that there’s a lot tied up in this topic of representation.

Consider this episode as just the opening of this discussion here on Reid My Mind Radio.

I hope to bring you more in the future which will include highlighting those behind the scenes as well as in front. I got my eye on some talented peeps.

You know there’s only one way to be sure you don’t miss an episode…

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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Up and Moving Again

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

William at the finish line of the Prickly Pear

Meet William Greer, Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. Hear his story of finding his passions after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and vision loss.

We discuss TBI, Ultra Marathon running, disability representation in films and that time he ran a certain Boston Marathon with NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Host Peter Sagal.

This episode includes an original piece produced by Tilly Jones.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
I’m your host and producer, T. Reid.

Today I’m speaking with William Greer. He’s the Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. In this episode we’re talking;
* multiple disabilities,
* disability arts
* marathon running.

That’s next up! On Reid My Mind Radio. Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

WG:

I was riding a bicycle, not wearing a helmet.

TR:

This is William Greer.

WG:

And I went in the middle of the street when I shouldn’t have. Nothing between me and the pavement. My brain was exposed to light air and dirt. I’m told those are the three worst things that could come in touch with the brain.

I was in intensive care for probably three or four weeks. I’m told that there were a couple of times that I was legally dead while I was still in ICU. it took a lot of therapy and patience just to get me out of the hospital and back in school.

TR:

William was only 17 and still in high school at the time of the accident which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
In William’s case, the effects include a reduced ability to understand and learn math, facial paralysis…

WG:

I have poor short term memory, my balance is not as good as it used to be. The most dramatic result is the vision loss.

TR:

In order to return to school, Will would have to adjust.

WG:

Figured out new ways to take notes. Learned that I had to listen to a book rather than visually read it. graduated high school got in to Kenyon College and now I’m working full time.

TR:

In 2003, unable to find full time employment, William was volunteering for the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities when he had an idea.

WG:

Oh, we can raise money and awareness by showing films that have good representation of disability.

TR:

In 2004William produced the first festival known as Cinema Touching Disability. It began as a one day event.

WG:

We would pick out films about people who have disabilities. Sometimes they were documentaries, sometimes it was fiction film.

It started off as one art form and it sort of grown into others.

TR:

Among those included were a disability photography competition and a live re-creation of a piece of art originally produced in the documentary Getting UP.: The TEMPT One Story

Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, almost completely paralyzed, a graffiti artist regains his voice through technology that reads
the movement of his eyes and enables him to create art and write once again.

Audio: “Marciac Master” By Tilly Jones

WG:

This year one of the people who entered my competition is someone from Australia with Cerebral Palsy and Asperger’s and a couple of other disabilities.

She plays 5 musical instruments and writes her symphonies. So I asked her to write an introductory piece for our festival. She did that. So we got the funds together and brought her over here. We had her playing music with other musicians and playing music during the intermission.

## TR:

The music you are hearing is the composition William referred to. The young musicians name is Tilly Jones.

As the years progressed the duration of the festival increased from one day to up to five days one year.

The festival like art itself serves multiple purposes that go beyond entertainment. Like representation.

WG:

We need good representation. Non stereotypical representations wherever we can get it. Whether it’s advertisements like commercials on TV. In paper representations; signs or in the ways that people with disabilities are treated in restaurants, libraries or movie theaters. When the community as a whole sees positive representation of disability it can only improve outcome and help people learn more about it.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Do you have any favorite films about people with disabilities ? Anything that you would recommend?

Audio for each of the movies is included.

WG:

The two best disability films I’ve ever seen are;
The Best Years of Our Lives.” That was made in 1946One of the stars of it, Harold Russel, actually lost both of his hands in a training accident for World War II.

“Duet for One” which is about a music teacher who has I think its Multiple Sclerosis so she has to stop playing the violin.

Now those are the absolute best. No question about it. My favorites include “The Crash Reel” which is about a snowboarder who has Traumatic Brain Injury while trying out for the Olympics. It’s about his recovery and his desire to get back into competitive snowboarding and his family saying please don’t.

There’s “Right Footed” which is about the only armless pilot in the world. There’s lots of others that I really like

[TR in conversation with WG:]
What’s a (laughs) what’s on the bottom of your list?

WG:
There are so many of them. I really hated Memento. I think that that was a horrible representation of brain injury.

Don’t like Forrest Gump obviously.

Oh, Al Pacino was in it…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Laughs… Scent of a Woman? Laughs…

WG:
Scent of a Woman, . I really hated that film.

Audio: sounds of a runner’s feet hitting the pavement…

TR:

William says he himself isn’t much of an artist. Growing up with horses, she’s definitely more of the outdoors type. He cycled over 30 miles at a time. I figure we can assume he’s athletic?

WG:
Yes.

I’d run when I was younger. I was on the cross country and track team when I was a Freshman in High School but there were lots of things they didn’t teach you like the importance of stretching, good diet and running wound up being incredibly painful . So after my Freshman year I didn’t start running again until 2005.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

And what made you do that?

WG:
Well, just looking for a good way to stay in shape and keep myself entertained.

In terms of sports that you can do as a Visually Impaired person on your own there aren’t really a lot of them and running seems to be like the best way to go.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

A lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think that because you’re talking about outdoor running.

TR:
As we know there are degrees of vision loss. William has some usable vision that enables him to manage independent running under specific circumstances.

WG:

I can run in a straight line and I see well enough to avoid obstacles so as long as I’m going on a familiar path I don’t have a problem running.

When I’m in marathons I prefer to run with a sighted guide just so I don’t take a wrong turn.

TR:

Training with a sighted guide prior to a race is optimal. It allows the two runners to become used to the preferred guiding method.

WG:

The sighted guide enables me to concentrate on running.

TR:

William has the guide run in front providing directions about obstacles and other information like approaching hills and changes in the terrain.

WG:

Even picking up water or Gatorade from the water stops.

Todd, the person who guided me on my first 30 and 50 Ultra Marathon, we ran two or three times together.

And I’m glad we did that because an Ultra is a heck of a lot different from a marathon.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I thought a marathon was 26 miles. You said a 30 mile and then a 50 mile?

WG:

A marathon is 26.2 miles. An ultra is anything longer than that. Most of them are on trails. the trick with an ultra is a slower pace, you also got to avoid creeks, roots, rocks, holes in the trail. there are times when you have to walk because the hill is too steep or unsafe going either uphill or downhill. It’s not the same as a marathon.

TR:

In your standard marathon runners consume water and energy gels. In an ultra, you have to consume more carbohydrates including food like nuts, bagels, burritos, pretzels and chips. The body loses a lot of salt so that needs to be replenished.

WG:

In an ultra-marathon the runners carry their own water. You’ve got to be hydrating all of the time. You either carry something like a belt that can hold 5 or 6 bottles of water, a backpack that can hold a couple of big bottles of water or something that they call a camelback which is just a pouch that you fill with water and you can drink from the whole time.

In the ultras you can stop refill on water, have a bit of food maybe stretch a little bit if you need to and then go on your way.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Wow! Fifty and one hundred mile, you’re doing that all in one day? Laughs…

WG:

Laughs… With a hundred mile it is one day!

TR:

William has 20 marathons under his belt. In fact, since he began tracking his runs, he’s logged in over 9,000 miles.

In 2013 Williams ran the Boston Marathon with his guide, NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me host Peter Sagal.

Audio: 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing…

WG:

We finished 5 minutes before the first bomb.

That was luck as much as running skill.

## TR:

Such incidents are rare, but there are risks.

Running in his second Austin marathon without a guide, there was a change in the route and William was unaware of a natural depression in the street’s pavement.
WG:

It went down about a foot or so. I wound up going head over heels as a result of that.

It didn’t happen to the other runner because they could see it and avoid it. And that’s just one of those things where it hurts a little bit but you just got to stand up and start moving again.

TR:

Sound advice. For more than running!

If you’ve been considering starting your own personal running program, William has some advice for that too.

WG:

Buy yourself a good pair of shoes. If you can go to a store that specializes in running. You don’t have to spend 200 to 300 on running shoes especially if you’re just starting. If you got the wrong shoes it’s going to be painful. Don’t worry about having to run fast. Just run at the speed that you’re comfortable with and run on a route that you know.

The best piece of advice that I ever heard about running is if it hurts you’re doing it wrong. Just run so that it feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I think that might be a foreign concept to a lot of people… laughs…

WG:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

The average person who doesn’t run there like probably saying, why? Laughs… Why do you do this man?

WG:

You know that’s … Pause…

Because I can’t imagine not running.

There’s something about it that really feels good. And makes me feel just incredibly good right and centered. It’s a bit like an addiction. And I find that I’m always wanting to increase the distance I’m running or increase the difficulty of the race or find a different kind of challenge to add into it.

The next marathon I’m going to be in I’ll be running a 10K on Saturday and a 50K on Sunday. So yes a 50 K is challenging let’s make it extra challenging by running a 6 mile race the day before it.

Yes you’re soar but it’s a soreness that feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Have you found anything that can possibly match the feeling that you get from running? Laughing… Yoga? A good movie… laughing…

TR:

William says he gets a lot of fulfillment out of organizing the film festival but nothing compares to running.

In addition to that two day event William is planning on running a marathon in December 2019.; 100 mile Ultra

The next Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival is scheduled for October 25 & 26, 2019 in Austin Texas. For more information you can visit CTDFilmFest.org

It may not sound like it but I used to run years ago and actually enjoyed it. I never did a marathon but I can grasp why someone would find it addicting.

There’s a freedom that comes with running. Especially trails. You’re forced to be present – dodging fallen tree stumps and low hanging branches, jumping creeks and being aware of nature.

Being Blind or visually impaired, so much of the daily grind is about people and aspects of society concentrating on what they think you can’t do.

Running and other such activities can for some remind and reinforce a feeling of independence. Athletics and sports provide the opportunity to excel based on strengths while continuously improving weaknesses. Plus progress is measurable.

Unlike my addiction to chocolate!

Big shout out to Mr. William Greer. A special shout out to Cheryl Green who suggested Will to the podcast.

Cheryl’s a film maker who focuses on disability identity culture and justice. She’s an advocate for accessible media. And you’re going to meet her on an upcoming episode.

You too can be a part of the show; Want to suggest a guest or topic, comment on an episode… hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to
subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify and Google Podcast. All other platforms will be updated as well.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And tell a friend to listen. Help spread the love!

Don’t forget, you can always find me at ReidMyMind.com.

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

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We’ve Been Here: Black Disability History

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

black background, red square with a yellow shadowing underneath and a green shadowing that one. Black fist coming up from the bottom, the words Black History Month over the squares with the word “disability” written through black and history in orange.

Courtesy of: Raven Reid


Happy Black History Month!

We begin this episode by honoring two historic Black Women of history. That’s followed by Leroy Moore Jr. of The Krip-Hop Nation. We talk a bit about the importance of including Black Disabled men and women in not only conversations about history but all aspects of society and culture.

We hear how he himself is contributing to that effort with his latest publication; The Krip Hop Nation Graphic Novel Volume 1.

Cover art for the Krip Hop Nation Graphic Novel

Courtesy of Krip-Hop Nation

Special Shout Outs:

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!
Welcome back to another episode.

If you’re new here, welcome! You’re among friends. My name is T.Reid host and producer of this here podcast.

Every two weeks I’m either bringing you stories about or profile of people impacted by blindness, low vision and disability. Occasionally, I bring you stories from my own experience as a man who became blind as an adult.

You can check out the last episode if you want to know more on that.

today we’re recognizing and saluting Black History Month.

That’s next up on Reid My Mind Radio !

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music…

Audio: “Like It Is” with Gil Noble featuring John Henrik Clarke

# Black Disability History
Gil Noble:
Black History Month as it’s called. From whence does it come? How old is it?

John Henrik Clark:
What we now call Black History Month formerly Negros History Month and I call Africana History month started around 1927 by Carter G. Woodson who had found the Association for the Study of Negro Life now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, had found this organization in Chicago in 1915. He began the week in order to call special attention to the contributions that people of African descent made not only to America but the world.

TR:

That was renowned historian, the late great Dr. John Henrik Clark appearing on “Like It Is” with host Gil Noble. This was a
public affairs television program in New York City that focused on issues relevant to the African-American community.

I grew up watching this show with one of my personal all-time great Black mentors Mr. Reid, my Daddy.

Black History Month celebration unfortunately usually consists of the same references;
Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa parks and the usual version of the Civil Rights era.

One thing however that rarely gets attention; Black disability.

Today, we’re going to change that a bit.

I thought it was time we had our own celebration of Disabled Black History.

Let’s begin by , paying honor to two historic Black Americans that you should have heard of, but may not be aware of their disability.

Audio: African flute music…

Please welcome, Raven Reid!

Raven:
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913).

Ms. Tubman is best known as an abolitionist.

Risking her own life to help lead enslaved African people to freedom.

Since age 12, Ms. Tubman was disabled after a severe beating by her slave master.

As a result she experienced seizures from epilepsy as well as vision loss.

Yet, she tirelessly traveled back and forth through slave country multiple times via what became known as the underground railroad.

Audio: Flute fades out into a more modern sounding flute with accompanying instrumentation.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977)

Ms. Hamer was a civil rights activist who helped African-Americans register to vote.

She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and was involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Like many poor blacks at that time, she was sterilized without her knowledge or consent.

Ms. Hamer had polio as a child.

She protested in the face of heavy opposition and was beaten in a Mississippi jailhouse, which caused kidney damage and a limp.

She is known for saying, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

Ms. Harriet Tubman, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer we honor you!

TR:

Once again, that was my baby girl, Raven Reid.

Thank you to Vilissa Thompson over at Ramp Your Voice.com. You should go on over there and check out the great articles on Black Disability History and more.

# Leroy: Black History Month

Audio: “Audio Call” Voice Over speech from iPhone

[TR in conversation with LM:]
Happy Black History Month brother.

LM:

Thank you. You too.

TR:

If you’ve been riding with RMM Radio for a while, you may remember Leroy Moore Jr. A disability activist, writer, author, artist and one of the founders of the Krip-Hop Nation.

The Krip-Hop Nation’s all about educating the media industry and the public about the talents, history, rights and marketability of Hip-Hop
artists and other musicians with disabilities.

It wouldn’t be right to have an episode on Black history from the disability perspective without Leroy.

Leroy schooled me on some noteworthy disabled Black people in history.

In addition to the many early Blues artist, he dropped a bit of science on Reverend Cecil Ivory.

LM:

I love his story!

He was a brother back in the 50’s and 60’s.

He organized his whole town to do this counter sit in. He was also an NAACP Chairman at the time.

TR:

Falling out a tree as a child, resulting in a broken back Ivory became a wheel chair user following an additional fall later in his life.

In 1960, Ivory organized a sit-in at a South Carolina lunch counter

LM:

And so he was sitting there and the cop told him he had to move. He said well I’m not taking up a seat because I have my own seat.

They took him to jail but couldn’t book him because the booking place was downstairs.

TR:

One of the few times that inaccessibility works in our favor.

LM:

The National Black Disability Coalition is putting together this whole exhibit around Black Disabled people in history. We’ve been working on it for the last two years.

TR:

The exhibit will include people like the Blind Jazz singer Al Hiddler who sang with Duke Ellington’s orchestra and later marched with Dr. King.

Soul singer Robert Winters and

Audio: “Check this out!” DMC from “Here we Go live at the Funhouse” Run-DMC

even one third of the legendary rap group Run-DMC

Audio: Run….(from King of Rock)
LM:
DMC

Audio: DMC… of the party. The D is for doing it all the time, the M is for the rhymes that are all mine. The C is for cool, cool as can be …
Run – and why you wear those glasses…

DMC – so I can see!

— The above is playing while TR talks over…

TR:
DMC wrote all about his experience with Depression and mental health disabilities.

Stories highlighting the contributions of people like Reverend Ivory and others when Leroy was attending grade school in the 1970’s were limited. In fact, that’s probably generous.

LM:

We just didn’t see nothing.

We just got so pissed! Me and two other Black Disabled men, boys at the time, wrote letters saying that there’s no Black Disabled nothing on TV, radio…

TR:

Those letters? Well, they aimed high!

LM:

Jesse Jackson, The Urban League, The NAACP

I knew back then that I had to do it outside of school because the school wasn’t offering anything. It started my quest to really learn about my history as a Black Disabled man.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
Did you ever hear back from any of those organizations that you wrote to?

LM:

Form letters saying dear such and such sorry there’s nothing out there.

We can’t do nothing for ya!

LM & TR laugh!

Audio: Flavor Flav “I can’t do nothing for yo man”

TR:

So Hip-Hop!

LM:

Now at 51 years old still doing this.

# Leroy Graphic Novel

He’s doing it alright. He’s the author of Black Disabled Art History 101,
Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics

Now, hot off the press is
The Krip Hop Graphic Novel Volume 1 published by Poor Press.

LM:

Yeh, I’m so excited to have this come out.

TR:

Familiar enough with comic books and graphic novels Leroy recognized the lack of representation of Black Disabled Women characters.

LM:
You have Misty Knight that came out in 1975.

Came back to life in Luke Cage. For me, when comics “include” disabled characters they just include them. It’s a diversity kind of thing. I wanted to flip that and say no Krip Hop graphic novel tells you that disability has always been there in Hip-Hop. It’s not inclusion, we’ve been there.

TR:

The novel’s protagonist is a young Black Disabled girl who uses a wheelchair.

LM

This young lady from New York her mother tells her the stories about the old time in Hip-Hop in New York.

She gets more and more confident when she finds Krip-Hop on the internet.
TR:

Traveling through the city, the reader joins the young girl as she participates in various events.

LM:

Black Lives Matter protest, Open Mics…

TR:

As she continues to learn more about Krip-Hop her power increases.
That super power?

LM:

Her wheelchair turns into Hip-Hop.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

Now when you say her chair becomes Hip-Hop , so I’m like oh man, she got two turntables … laughs!

LM:
Yeh, definitely.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

That’s what it is? Laughs.

LM:

Yeh, laughs… She got two turntables , she’s scratching’ yep! She also has a spray can you know graffiti. She dances in the wheelchair, yeh!

[TR in conversation with LM:]
So you got all the elements?

TR:
For those outside of the culture, you may think rap music and Hip-Hop are synonymous. But they’re not.
Hip-Hop is made up of five elements;
1. DJaying – This is the genesis. There’s no rap, there’s no Hip-Hop without the DJ.
2. Emceeing – the rappers who controlled the microphone and the crowd.
3. Break Dancers – the original B boys & B girls… acrobatic floor moves, electric boogie or what some call popping’ and locking’… where folks were doing the moonwalk way before Michael Jackson.
4. Graffiti – Probably more difficult to explain if you never seen the amazing moving art murals on the 2 or 5 train for example, running from the Bronx to Brooklyn and other boroughs.

“I’m feeling very nostalgic right now!” BX stand up!

The story also includes other disabled characters like a sort of guardian angel for the protagonist, and some real Hip-Hop pioneers with disabilities.

There’s even a bit of time travel. And we meet Leroy himself.

LM:

As a little kid outside of the cipher..

TR:

Taking a page right out of Leroy’s personal history during the early days of the New York Hip Hop scene.

Traveling on a Greyhound bus from Connecticut to the Bronx to check out and maybe join the rap ciphers. Picture a circle of young rappers honing their rhyme skills. Each of them ready to take their turn to impress the other rappers with their latest lyrics or flow – that’s their cadence or rhyme pattern.

Now here comes a young Leroy

LM:
Kids used to see me coming with my walker. The kids would say ok, you can’t go into the cipher because you’re too cripple. So you’ll be our watch man for the police. Anytime I saw the police I used to shout “Po Po”. They used to scatter. Police used to see me and just like kick my walker because they were so pissed off.

TR:

No longer looking out for the police, but Leroy is still the Watch Man.

Now making sure those with disabilities aren’t relegated to the sideline.

When you think about that early experience, it gives you a sense of the depth of his love for the culture.

That appreciation of history explains why he chose to name the protagonist Roxanne, as in Roxanne Shante – probably the first female MC to gain real notoriety.

recalling Leroy’s grade school experience where the lack of Black Disabled representation sparked what became a lifelong mission to find Black Disabled ancestors, leads us to that very important, but often forgotten fifth element of Hip-Hop.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
It sounds like there may be knowledge of self built right in.

LM:
Yes, exactly! That’s the whole concept of the book because once she gets the confidence about herself then her powers get stronger.

# Leroy Krip Hop Update

Audio: Hip Hop don’t stop…

TR:

Like Hip-Hop Krip-Hop don’t stop.

Maybe this is Leroy’s super power. He continues working on letting the world know that people with disabilities have and will continue to represent the culture in every aspect.

Krip Hop Nation has two events coming up in 2019.

LM:

We’re having an all-women’s event here in Berkley at the Premium Cultural Center.

That’s going to happen on march 30th. We’re highlighting ADA 420. She’s a rapper from Detroit but she’s from the Bay area.

TR:

the event will include about 7 other artists representing a variety of art forms.

LM:
Dancers, singers, spiritual workers. So it’s going to be dope!

TR:
In addition to the event, The Krip Hop Nation is putting out a CD featuring women artists with disabilities.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

So Krip-Hop Nation is pretty active on the African continent, correct?

LM:

Yeh, thank you for bringing that up.

We’ve been really connecting to our African brothers and sisters for the last 10 years.

Krip-Hop went to South Africa in 2016 and we did a tour. We hit up like 8 cities in 4 weeks.

TR:

When it comes to all aspects of disability, we often assume that living in a developed nation brings the most opportunities and equality.

LM:

I’ve only been to South Africa. I’ve interviewed artists from all over Africa and it seems to me that America needs to catch up to African countries when it comes to supporting Black Disabled musicians. Especially physically disabled musicians.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
It seems as though America is comfortable at this time accepting musicians who are blind

We know Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano and there’s the others.

LM:

You got the Blues with all the Blind artists.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
But even going back, it’s like when it comes to physical disabilities you don’t see you don’t see that. I’m trying to think who, did I ever see any artists with physical disabilities… at all!

LM:

Especially on the mainstream stage.

You got Bushwick Bill, the rapper who’s down with the Ghetto Boys

TR:

Of course it’s not until we’re off our call that I remember two well-known soul singers, Curtis Mayfield and Teddy Pendergrass who both acquired a disability after their initial success.

Audio: “Only You” Teddy Pendergrass & “Pusher Man” Curtis Mayfield

TR:

The Krip-Hop Nation continues to push forward and create platforms for artists with disabilities throughout the diaspora.

Like a festival scheduled for July 2019 featuring several disabled artists.

LM:

Artists from Uganda, Tanzania, the Congo. All coming here from Africa.

It’s happening in July. We’re doing a tour in the Bay area. We’re going to get a chance to talk about what’s going on in Africa around people with disabilities. Really collaborate.

One artist that’s coming from South Africa , he’s bringing a mayor of a town in South Africa. They want to see what Krip-Hop is doing They’re thing about doing an international arts festival in South Africa next year.

TR:

The Krip-Hop Nation Graphic Novel is currently available in print form. I’m hoping we’ll see a digital version in the future.

You should check out the first episode featuring Leroy talking about Krip-Hop Nation & a documentary about Joe Capers – another notable historic Black man. Capers owned and operated an early accessible analog recording studio where some of Oakland’s Hip-Hop and R&B artists recorded. People like The Digital Underground, Tony, ToniTone , EnVogue and MC Hammer.

Audio: “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop”, Dead Prez

TR:

As this episode comes to an end, so does Black History Month.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to highlight not only the accomplishments but also the issues currently and disproportionately impacting the Black Disabled community like;
access to healthcare
police brutality and the school to prison pipeline.

Once again a big shout out to Leroy Moore and the rest of the Krip Hop Nation. Thanks to;
Ramp Your Voice.com
Raven Reid
This episode included some beats from Chuki Music the link will be on the episode page.

There’s lots of clips and old episodes of Like It Is on Youtube including interviews with Malcolm X, Bob Marley and so many more.

Do you have a favorite historic black disabled person you think we should know about?

Want to recommend a topic or person for the show?

Hollaback…

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

You too can help make Black history…
Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.
Visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Celebrating Loving & Living Blind

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

This past January marked the anniversary of my becoming Blind. For most, this doesn’t sound like something to celebrate. I disagree. And in this episode I invited the three most important people in my life to reflect on the past 15 years.
Side by side photos of the Reid Family in 2004 & 2018

It’s not just a personal reflection. Rather something I think can be of use to anyone in the early stage of vision loss. Take a listen and hear how much there is to celebrate.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio. I’m your host and producer T.Reid. In addition to bringing you profiles of interesting people impacted by blindness, low vision, disability, I also use this space to share my own experience with vision loss.

January 2019 made 15 years of being blind. I thought about this on the day that marked the event, the anniversary of my surgery. After reflecting for some time I decided it should be a celebration. So I invited three of the most special people in my life to join me.

And it wouldn’t be a true celebration without you.

That’s up next on Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music!

Audio: “It’s Our Anniversary”, Tony Toni Tone (Instrumental)

TR:

Today, I’m celebrating a gift of 15 years.

I know celebrating blindness seems strange to some so let’s make this clear right now, I’m not celebrating loss.

Audio: “Do you know what today is…” ” Anniversary!” from “It’s Our Anniversary”, Tony Toni Tone

TR:

Interesting fact, most marriages where a partner experiences a disability, end in divorce.

I know a little bit about marriage and disability, but I invited a special guest to help me think about this subject.

Audio: “The Baddest Chick”, Trina

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Can you please just state your name for the record?

Marlett:
Marlett Reid

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And who are you?

Marlett:
I’m the baddest chick!

Audio: As the music gets louder …

Marlett:
I’m your wife!

TR:
First, I asked Marlett to talk about what she felt were the main challenges to relationships impacted by blindness.
Marlett:

One of the challenges would be communicating. Which is considerably hard if that’s not something you normally do. And even between us we needed to be a little bit more gentle with each other’s feelings so that the other person can hear and then once that takes place then I think both parties would be able to work together. I think that was a huge challenge for us. Being able to work together or to hear each other because of not fully understanding how to communicate.

TR:
Poor communication impacts any relationship. Now take away the most relied upon method of communicating among sighted folks. That just enhances any existing problem.

Then there’s external forces.

Marlett:

People can be really rude!

They look at us as being different and their just curious. I remember it was our anniversary and we went to Atlantic City and we were online and waiting to get into the restaurant or it was a comedy club. I leaned in to tell you something and you bent down and the two women behind us leaned in as well. Laughs!… to hear what it was I was telling you or to see if they could read lips. And then I started telling that they’re leaning in… laughs… they’re leaning in to hear what I’m trying to say to you. This is what I was whispering to you.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

TR:
Laughing.. And what did I say…cause I know I probably said something stupid!

Marlett:
I know you were fascinated by it. You were like “seriously!”

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh, I didn’t know!

Marlett:

Right. But that wasn’t like the first time which is why I told you. it was way more than once…

Or, we’re walking down the street and especially if it was men. They weren’t rude or anything, they would get out of our way . They were respectful in that regard. Not trying to mess with us or anything but they would just stare at you. I would look at them and then they would acknowledge me.

They would just stare at you!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

… long pause

So wait are you saying women don’t stare at me?

Marlett:

Laughs… Yeh, they stare at you too sweetheart.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Ah, thank you Hun!

Marlett:

There was the time the woman tried to give you her number. You thought I didn’t know.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

You making this up… Long pause…
Did that really happen?

Marlett:
Such an idiot!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

(Regarding the men staring)

What do you think that’s about?

Marlett:

You look like them. Yet you don’t.
And the fact that you look like them kind of bother’s them. They’re fascinated like how are you able to do this and that. There’s many things that are probably going through their mind, but they’re still freaking rude.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh! Now the ladies they stare for different reasons!

Marlett:

Because they think you’re hot. mm hmm!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Thank you sweetheart.

Marlett:
You’re welcome!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
I appreciate that. Do you want to share what we came up with because I always thought that was a great response to those types of situations. On how to handle it when people are leaning in to our conversations. You want to share what we came up with ?

Marlett:

It’s G, G rated! (Referring to the podcast.)

TR:

Putting my begging for compliments and attention aside, did you notice that. Listen again!

Marlett:
They look at us as being different.

TR:

She could have said they look at you as being different, but she didn’t. She said us. Just an observation.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

We know that relationships are tested during times of all types of hardships. We had a lot of things going on at the time that people say are the most difficult things to deal with;
We bought a house, you were pregnant, my brother passed away and then we found out I was going to be Blind.

Marlett:

Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
If you could kind of go back to any point in these 15 years, is there anything that you would tell yourself then that you think might be helpful based on what you know now?

Marlett:

I think I would tell myself to know the imp0ortance of total acceptance.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Acceptance of what, what does that mean?

Marlett:

Finding out that you were going to be blind just to accept that. Understand that is the way it’s going to be. He’s going to be blind. So go from there, what are you going to do now? Not try to find a cure. What are you going to do? How are you going to live your life? That’s the important thing.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
You’re saying you sent time trying to find a cure?

Marlett:

I would say probably about three months or maybe a little bit more. I would go downstairs in the basement that’s where we had our computer at the time

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Heh! And it was cold down there too!

Marlett:

agrees)
It was really cold and I had contacted a lot of Doctors. I got responses back. If they didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear I’d continue.

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

Wow!

Marlett:

You see some of these people and they saw their wives for the first time. They have the glasses they put on and they

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

They had that back then?

They were working on it back then and I knew about that. I would see if you were a candidate.

I would tell my story . I got a lot of responses.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What did they say?

Marlett:

One Doctor I think he realized that I was contacting almost everybody. He said to me.. let me explain something.

They would need the Optic nerve and you didn’t have the Optic nerve on the left or on the right. There was absolutely nothing they were going to be able to do. He was trying to let me know I could stop writing everybody and (laughing ) I guess stop annoying them. Although he didn’t say that. He really went into detail and I think that was my last one I got and then I stopped.
[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

So if you’re doing this and somebody’s telling you to accept it, I don’t think that would have done anything for you. Just the words, like what would have made you…

Marlett:

No, that would have done it and I’ll tell you why. No one was telling me anything. They would tell me… “Oh I’m so sorry!” “Oh you poor thing” I didn’t want to hear all that. If someone sat me down and said you’re trying to find this cure that’s not there when your husband’s there you just need to accept him. If it’s meant to be, if there’s going to be something you know you’ll come along and you’ll find it. But not to sit down here and spend hours and hours because I had no one to talk to. No one understood. I was just annoyed when they did say something which was usually something stupid.

TR:

15 years later, I can see the value in celebrating all aspects of My adjustment.

Remembering the good and bad.

All of the thoughts following the realization that I would never see again. The things I naturally thought I’d miss. The inability to see a future.

After a while though, there were breaks between consecutive days of feeling that way. Bridged by small successes along the way. Days that included accomplishments, random laughs and even short glimpses of hope.

A bit more confidence returning every day. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Like the realization that the things I thought I’d miss weren’t as important as the things I still had.

Like my baby girls!

A 6 year old.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Please state your name.

Riana:
My name is Riana. (Sounding tired or sad…)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, what’s the matter Riana… (baby talking voice…)

Riana:
Laughs… shut up!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

laughs… For the record, how old are you?

Riana:
21.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What happened to 21 Honey!

Riana
No, it was 20 Honey! And 21 is 21, 21, 21 cause that’s what 21 Savage says. Duh!

TR:
And that little baby who was born just prior to me losing my sight.

Audio: “Hi my name is Raven!”

TR:
Well, that was her at about 3… here she is now.

Raven:
Hi, I’m … (laughs)!my voice cracked! Hi, I’m Raven!

TR:
Two baby girls and two separate experiences of my blindness. Well, maybe some overlaps.

The differences seem expected. One knew a father with sight the other never really did.

Let’s start with Riana.

I asked both of my daughters to give some advice to a little girl who is experiencing what they did as a child of a parent who becomes blind.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

She’s dealing with issues that you did deal with . People who stare.

Riana:
Mmmm!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

What would you say to her in terms of dealing with those types of things.

Riana:
I’d say first off, I completely understand what you are going through, because I deal with it all the time! (Expressed forcefully)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What is it that you deal with?

Riana:

People staring at my father. People staring for too long. That’s what the problem is…
I feel like… (exhales in frustration) I’m trying to get my words together because my temper’s coming up! I don’t want people to view me as such!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, so you get angry.

Riana:

I don’t get angry. I get annoyed.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
About?

Riana:

About people. I’ll be blunt. People just don’t know stuff. Their trying to learn because they’ve never seen it before. I don’t even mean a Blind person. It can be anything. I stare at things some times. You might stare at things.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Laughing… No I don’t …

Riana:

I get it. I’m talking to that little girl.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Oh, ok!

Riana:

Saying that like she might stare at things too. Everybody stares

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What do you think the difference is between a normal stare and a stare that becomes intrusive?

Riana:

When you stare too long! When you’re staring at people just doing regular Things. Let’s say your father has a guide dog. You’re looking at the guide do and you’re like ok this is interesting this is new, well maybe I’ll Google this and then you stop staring. But when you’re just staring a person if you literally turn the table clearly that would make you uncomfortable. Stop doing that!

I’m trying to do like the four principle things and one of them is don’t take things personally but when people are in your personal space I’m going to take it personally!

TR:

Riana’s passionate about this subject.

She’s referring to the book by don Miguel Ruiz, called The Four Agreements.

Riana:

You have every right to take it personally, but don’t let it hurt you because you have to understand that it’s all on the person and not your father or mother who lost their sight. And I know for a fact that I knew that when I was younger but I did not know how to communicate that to you Daddy because sometimes I thought that, you did say that, that I was embarrassed by you but I wasn’t . I was just annoyed by people. That’s literally been me since day one. I don’t like when people are r nosy. When we go to all white places like the diner and I would get mad that people stare. People were not staring because you were Blind people were staring because we were Black and that makes me mad.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Laughs.

Riana:

But I’m not embarrassed. I’m serious, I’m not embarrassed to be Black.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
No doubt!

Riana:

You know what I mean. That gets on my nerves when people are so intrusive. I can be quiet and shy, but I do have a very strong opinion about almost everything in life so I sometimes want to communicate that opinion to these people. Stop looking. You want to learn more, YouTube. There’s literally the whole entire internet for you to learn. Or if you want to learn more come talk to him. Like ask him some questions that are not offensive you know what I mean, think before you say. So that’s what I would tell to the girl. If you really truly have a problem and they’re really staring you can go up there and talk to them and say like hey if you have some questions you can come up and talk to my father or my mother. But if you’re not going to ask the question stop staring, cause you got a phone!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Got a phone as in you can Google it!

Riana:

There’s computers. If you don’t have a phone or a computer there’s a local library. Like come on! There’s so much knowledge you can get! (Said very intensely!)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ok, alright, alright! Easy easy, woosa!

Riana:

Woosa!

The two laugh…

Riana:

Daddy I’m rocking back and forth…

The two laughing!

It just gets on my nerves some times.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ok, so now what would you say to the parent. Because you said something interesting that I assumed you were embarrassed.

Riana:

You did. All the time!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Laughs…

Riana:
I’m serious you did.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
I don’t know about all the time but, but ok, ok! Part of that is because you were too young like you said to communicate back.

Riana:

Communicate how I felt!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
So what would you say to a parent?

Riana:

That sometimes kids don’t know how to communicate how they feel. Sometimes the other person doesn’t know the words to say about the situation.

TR:

Good advice and the whole idea that the problem is with the person staring and not taking it personally… I love that.

For Raven, who was born right before I became Blind there’s no change, nothing to really adapt to. Having a Blind Dad, well that’s just…

Raven:
Just like having a Dad but he can’t drive me places. Laughs… Like that’s it. That’s the only difference.

TR:

Normal

Raven:

I thought everyone had a parent that was blind.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

Laughs…I don’t know why that makes me laugh.

Raven:
I don’t know either.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
It’s cute and it’s also… I think my child needs help.

Raven:
I really did.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
No, I’m just joking!

Raven:

I have cousins. I did not process this thought.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

No, but that’s cool though!

TR:

Laughs…Normal is in the eyes of the beholder!

Now look! Don’t let her calm approach fool you.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
What were the questions that you got from school?

Raven:

I remember getting annoyed at certain questions because people would ask really stupid things.

Like “How does he eat?”

Like with a fork!

If someone asks like how you lost your sight, I’d be like oh cancer. I would be fine answering those types of questions. But yeah, they either ask stupid questions or it would just be like how did he loose it.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Nobody was like you know, teasing or nothing like that?

Raven:

I would have punched them!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

Ok, I raised you right!

Raven:
Laughs!

TR:

Raven’s advice for that young girl who’s parent is newly Blind is a little different.

Raven:
Well, I’d tell the child that their hearing is advanced so you can’t get away with anything. So don’t try it!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Laughing… Oh my goodness.

Raven:

No that’s an actual thing. You lose your sight other sights (senses) get hire.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
I pay attention. No, no it’s not!

Raven:

It’s a thing. I learn that every single year in Science.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

They are incorrect!

Raven:

It’s like if you’re trying to listen to a conversation and there’s a bunch of conversations going on around you and you’re listening to that one conversation and you’re focused on that one.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
You’re focused. Nothing increases.

So for example. If you have a radio in here, right. That radio only goes up to a certain volume.
Raven:

But if you plug a speaker in…laughs…

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Laughing… No but , just because that speaker loses a button doesn’t give you an extra speaker.

The two laugh together.

Wow, my own daughter has that false belief.

Raven:

I was told that every single year of my life.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
By who?

Raven:

My science teachers. I’d tell you the stories back in the day how like every time we’d talk about …

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Senses?

Raven:

Senses! I’d be like hey guys my Dad only has four… laughing…

But we’d always talk about the senses and they’d be like if you lose one of your sense the other ones are increased.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
No, it’s false!

Raven:

Did you feel that punch!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Yes.

Raven:

Exactly, you would not have felt it if you could see!

The two laugh…

TR:

Not only is there false information and stereotypes, but if you think about the way the word blind is used and it’s understandable why people can have a hard time accepting blindness.

More often used to describe everything other than the loss of sight.

Audio: Mix of songs featuring metaphors for blind…

“I’d rather go Blind” Etta James
“When a Blind Man Cries” Deep purple
“Channel Zero” Public Enemy begins with “You’re blind baby, you’re blind from the fax cause you’re watching that garbage!

TR:

Pair blind with other disabilities and oh boy!
As in you’re deaf, dumb and blind.

It’s no wonder that For many adjusting, blind becomes a word to run away from. I don’t think I ever had that choice.

Avoiding the word Blind was the equivalent of trying to pretend I was sighted. I just wasn’t going to be able to get away with that so why even bother.

the word that I did have some feelings about was disabled. I felt as though it ruled out all of my possibilities. Where blind was specific to my eyes, disabled seem to imply that there was nothing about me that worked. A disabled car sits on the side of the road until taken away and or repaired. Athletes on the disabled list don’t even get to suit up for a game. Once again restricted to the sidelines.

But, adjustment is ongoing. You learn new ways of thinking about it, new philosophies.

Like choosing how you view disability.

Do you see it from a medical perspective? As in we need to heal or cure it in order to fix all of the related issues.

If we cure that blindness you won’t need a screen reader. Just fix those legs and who needs curb cuts for wheelchairs. You don’t need wheelchairs.

What about an alternative perspective?

Like the problems with disability stem from the lack of access and societies negative perceptions and expectations.

I also became familiar with person first language as in a person with a disability versus identity first as in Disabled person, Blind person.

This is recognizing Blind as an additional characteristic.

Riana:

If somebody asked me what my father is, you know I might say he is Blind. He’s Black. He’s bald. My father’s probably why I’m this. Or he taught me this or he’s my best friend, I might say that!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, thank you sweetheart.

Riana:

I might leave the baldness out but I’d say he’s Black and Blind.

[TR in conversation with Riana]

You changed my Netflix profile to say that!

Riana:

Laughs.. Yeh, baldy!

The two laugh…

TR:

But, isn’t blindness and disability something I’m supposed to overcome?

Audio examples from news segments bridged by static signal…

“He overcame the odds and conquered his disability in the most incredible way”
“Made his disability anything but a disability”
“Doesn’t use her crutches as a crutch”

TR:

We hear things like ” You do that so well I forget you’re blind Based on the common belief around disability, around blindness well, I know I’m guilty of thinking it was a compliment. But it’s not!

More than likely, it’s not said with bad intent. No, they believe this based on their image of blindness. To them not seeing it says something good about you and them. Similar to the false idea that being color blind is helpful to race relations.

I want you to see my blindness. I really want you to know what it actually means and get rid of the nonsense we’ve been fed.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Do you think you look at blindness differently after 15 years?

Marlett:

Yes.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Tell me.

Marlett:

Blindness affects your eyes and that’s it. Not your mind. Not anything else. You just got to do things differently.

TR:
My blindness is now a real part of me. Like other aspects of who I am it’s reflected in the things I do.

My blindness is in the way I walk down the street. And yes, my blindness still has a bop to it!

My blindness is in how I raise my kids. The way my family and I travel. It’s right here in the way I produce audio.

I once thought my podcast shouldn’t be limited to my blindness.

I thought certain topics were blindness related and then there was everything else…

One in 5 people have a disability. Blind people participate in every aspect of life.
Politics, Art, culture, sex.

Me producing and hosting means I can bring a blindness perspective. It doesn’t mean I have to, but there’s no real reason I can’t or shouldn’t.

It’s a part of me and therefore a part of the things I do.

It’s not all of me but a part. I mean, I’ve been blind now for 30 percent of my life.

The name may not reflect it out right, but this is a disability podcast. It’s a blind podcast. It’s everything that I am. It’s Black, it’s Hip-Hop! Those who know can hear it.

It just is because it’s me and it’s my thing!

Audio: It’s My Thing, EPMD mixed into 7 Minutes of Funk…

I don’t consciously recognize my anniversary every year. If it makes itself present, cool! I acknowledge it and personally reflect. Would I like a cake and full celebration? Who wouldn’t like cake?

But I want this celebration to not be mine alone.
I’m thinking of those going through something similar.

For many, the idea of becoming blind is worse than death. That’s not hyperbole.
Different polls have shown this to be true for many.
I’m alive and kicking so I guess I can’t truly make the comparison.

I know not everyone consider celebrating 15 years of being Blind…

Marlett:

If I had to be honest, that’s not how I looked at it. Although I tell you, I remember the prayer that I had. I don’t care what happens, just don’t take him from me. I’m going to start crying. Just don’t take him from me.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mmm! That’s cool… that’s cool!

Marlett:

I just remembered that in that moment. It came back to me.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Thank you baby, I appreciate that! Nice job!

Marlett:

Thank you!

TR:

This is a celebration of adjustments, acceptance , love and life!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Instead of being in the cold basement researching. If 2003, 2004 there were a podcast called Reid My Mind Radio and you had a fly dude kicking’ the ballistics… laughs… No seriously, if there were a podcast for you to listen to would you have liked to hear from other people on a podcast?

Marlett:

Absolutely! I was, I was hungry…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
I think that was too, that’s too sexy Marlett. You can’t …

Marlett:

I didn’t try to be sexy…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I know but you can’t say hungry. there’s no way I can put that on the air like that. You got to explain it again.

Marlett:

I was looking for something, anything…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mmm! There you go again. You see, you’re making it sexy. Stop . Just say it without being sexy.

Marlett:

I was looking for answers and there were none. There was no one there to… I felt like to guide me through this journey.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Long pause…

I’ma guide you through this journey! Laughs… fade out.

TR:
Hollaback…

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

Another way to show your love if you like what you hear…

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.
Visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion,
… TR in unison with Marlett:
that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Hive Uganda – A Sweet Success

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Picture of Ojok standing outside in front of trees under a blue sky.
For our final update from the 2017 Holman Prize winners, we hear from Ojok Simon. The founder of Hive Uganda. This social entrepreneur established the organization to train fellow blind and low vision people of Uganda to create self-sustaining businesses through bee keeping and harvesting honey.

We hear about the relationships made during the year, the impact Hive Uganda is having on the community and the challenges that come with his success.

Listen, subscribe to the podcast and then holla back! Rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast. Send your feedback to me directly at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com. I’d love a voice recorded message that I could include on a future show!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Honey Bee, Lucinda Williams – Heavy guitar intro

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio.
It’s the final episode of the 2017 Holman Prize Update.

That means there’s only one way to get this started.

Audio: Vocals come in… “Oh my little honey bee!” Lucinda Williams.

TR:
We’re kicking this one off with some real energy.

My name is T.Reid. I’m your host and producer of this here podcast.
First time here? I hope my energy doesn’t scare you.
I’m just feeling good because that’s my choice.

Like producing this podcast is my choice to focus on presenting people and topics I find compelling. Every now and then I drop some of my own experiences from my personal adjustment to blindness.

For some my energy right now may not fit what you think about being blind, having a disability.

Well that’s cool. Give me a bit of your time and just maybe something here can expand your mind.

You see, right now we are in the final episode of our look at the Holman Prize winners.

These are the 6 blind women and men to date who have received the $25,000 prize awarded by the San Francisco Lighthouse to implement their ambition.

It’s awarded in the memory of James Holman. A blind explorer in the 1800’s who travelled independently to all 6 inhabited continents.

If you haven’t yet checked those out I strongly suggest you go back and take a listen.

So let’s get this started!

Audio: Heavy guitar and drum backing track moves into lyrics, “Oh my little honey bee”
Audio: Reid My Mind Intro Music

Ojok:

First, thank you to the Lighthouse. Congratulations for the new winners of the 2018 Holman Prize winners.
And I’m ready to give my updates to the listeners.

TR:

That’s Ojok Simon. The third of the 2017 Holman Prize winners.

Before we get into his update let’s go back to the beginning of his story.

First, it starts in Uganda.
Ojok:

I am from the Northern district of Gulu.

I was a child growing up in a rural community. I used to play a lot with all my fellow peers. We enjoyed hunting for wild honey . We liked playing hide and seek games. I used to have a lot of friends.

TR:
His beginnings as it relates to blindness, well that’s a much more complicated story.

Here’s a summary from the 2017 episode.

TR in narration from 2017 episode

during the late 1980’s
Joseph Kony came into power and his Lord’s Resistance Army
terrorized Northern Uganda.

The LRA is Known for forcing children to serve in their army and
all sorts of brutal atrocities.
At 9 years old, Ojok’s home in Gulu was the site one such incident.

Ojok:

They found me and my mother were still in the house. And they thought that being a child I was going to run away. So they started to beat me at the temple of my head using the butt of the gun. I fell down with a lot of pain. I didn’t know and my parents didn’t know that there was that kind of internal injuries of my sight. After three years they started to realize that my vision started deteriorating and there was no medical attention that I could seek because everybody, every area was in war. The doctors live in fear so you can’t get medical attention.

TR:

Sometime later Ojok left his home and went to study at a school for the blind.
Returning home for the holidays, Ojok explained in 2017, is what lead to him being stung with a prize worthy idea.

Ojok in 2017:

While I was pursuing my studies one day during holiday… Remember I told you that we are also in the war torn area, people then were taken to concentration camps. I was now walking around our broken home where we used to stay. Now while I was walking around there, bees were stinging me from all directions. Then with my poor vision I was trying to run. The direction where I was running that was where the bees were coming from . Then I came across an abandoned clay pot. it was just on the ground. There were bees in that clay pot and I said wow now what can I do.

TR:
Create opportunities for himself and other blind people in his community through bee keeping and harvesting honey.

As we’ll hear from Ojok, these opportunities are more than life sustaining entrepreneurial ventures.

Since we last spoke in 2017, Ojok traveled to San Francisco to claim his prize.

Ojok:
It was my first time in San Francisco.

I stayed there for one week.

TR:

A week full of activities which included meeting the other two prize winners.

The trip gave Ojok a chance to share how blind people live in Uganda.

His presentation of bee keeping was not only to show how this can be performed by a blind person but also to prove its viability as a vocation.

On top of all that, he says he had the chance to learn.

Ojok:

… About how people keep the environment clean.
The connectedness with different human creatures – create friends, you meet with friends.

TR:

These informal networking opportunities Ojok explains inspire new ideas and thoughts. Meeting the people was just a part of what he found appealing.

Ojok:

I love the environment. The surrounding waters. I love how considerate and how they take care of different citizens from different part of the world. It’s so so amazing. I love San Francisco so much.

TR:

Following the week of activities in San Francisco, Ojok return to Uganda where he began implementing his ambition.
Training blind men and women to own and operate agriculture businesses through bee keeping.

Ojok:

Through the Holman prize, it has been amazing!

We were able to strengthen our foundation base by training 6 master trainers who help a lot to enlighten about self-employment of blind people through bee keeping.

TR:

From our initial conversation with Ojok in 2017, the trainings include much more than bee keeping. Orientation and mobility along with leadership training are a major component.

Ojok from 2017:

Now something I could not provide they can advocate for their own needs, because bee keeping might not answer all their problems. But it’s just like a spring board.

TR:

Ojok initially anticipated training about 16 people this year.

Ojok:

These master trainers were trained by Hive Uganda where they will be able to run more training whether Hive Uganda exists or not.

We were also able to reach right now 36. Imagine 36. Which is a big impact and this is not the end of the project we ar4 still moving forward.

TR:

At the time of this recording, Ojok had an additional 10 people to receive training. Bringing the total trained to 46.

That’s 46 individuals. Multiple families and communities directly impacted.

Ojok:

For instance, one person is called Okot Thomas who started bee keeping after the training. And through his effort of bee keeping he managed to change the life of a young person who is not disabled to come and work in the area of environmental conservation of bee keeping with the blind people.

TR:

The implications are social. Impacting the entire community.

Ojok:

The neighbors accept him as a blind person And then the neighbors understand how important to involve blind people in agriculture especially in bee keeping. And how sweet it is to work in the same environment with different abilities.

TR:

That positive effect has even reached the government – which Ojok says traditionally hasn’t done much for those who are blind.

Ojok:

They were monitoring our training. They were so amazed how we are promoting bee keeping for people with disabilities especially blind people. How we are promoting inclusion to the families. And how we are trained to promote extra abilities of blind people into agriculture and self-employment.

TR:
This development is quite significant.
It’s more than recognition, the government has provided assistance in the form of specific support including;

Ojok:

Inspecting the bee hive, pest control. They’re not giving money to Hive Uganda, but they start including visually impaired persons in their program when they return to the community.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]

It’s making them official business where at some point it was a “charity”, but it’s moving from that and now they are even more officially entrepreneurs in the eyes of the government. They’re seeing them as entrepreneurs.

Ojok:

Exactly, exactly, exactly!

TR:

That shift in how the government views the bee keepers is not just symbolic, Hive Uganda has been tasked with registering their graduates as businesses with the local government.

Ojok:

So that they can easily ask the local government directly minus Hive Uganda.

TR:

You may have noticed that was the second time Ojok mentioned Hive Uganda in the past tense. As in a time when he is no longer training or supporting other bee keepers.
I’m happy to report, he has no plans of going anywhere anytime soon, rather it’s just a sign of a strong leader with good planning.

Ojok:

I am still 24/7 working with Hive Uganda. Actually, I’m looking at the sustainability at this age of mine. So that when I reach my retirement or when I say ok, let me sit down Hive Uganda should continue.

TR:
In case you’re not familiar with the terminology…

Ojok:

24 hours a day

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Mm hmm! (As in agreeing)!

Ojok:
7 days a week.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Do you ever get any people with other disabilities who want to participate outside of blindness?

Ojok:

Through the last training that we had, that was in July, we had to force people to go back because our target was to train 16. But people were demanding the services. They are people with disabilities. They look at that as an opportunity. Just waiting for the opportunity so they can also jump in.

TR:

While Hive Uganda’s focus continues to be supporting those who are blind and low vision , future increased resources
could enable their expansion.

Hive Uganda has already developed cross disability partnerships.
As Ojok explains, the value goes beyond economics.

Ojok:
To build strong advocacy system we need to also bring other people so that when we are talking to the government , when we are going to speak to other development partners we will say yes, this is the need for people with disabilities.

TR:

Expanding Hive Uganda’s reach also means geographic.

Ojok

Remember we are in Gulu. Uganda is a big country. Where we are is less than ten percent of the population. It’s not even more than five percent of the population, but the need is still too much. We want to reach other parts of the country.

TR:

Extending the reach of Hive Uganda is now more possible with the training and deployment of the six master trainers.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
This all started [from] a tragic situation. In terms of how you lost your sight and then how you almost literally stumbled upon the idea. How does that feel when you look at where you come from brother? How does that feel for you?

Ojok:
When I look at where I came from and where we are sometimes I have mixed feelings. Yes I’m helping . I’m trying to show to the whole world that yes, out of sight is not out of mind. Should I be the victim of my own success? When I say the victim of my own success, yes I’m doing great what is that reality that will make you self-sustaining If the project of Holman ends, which is coming to September, what will happen next? You . You have raised a lot of expectation, you have proved that you are able to do it, are you going to continue? So that makes me do so much concentrated fundraising , trying networking with others so that we can all together come and say yes.

TR:
Yes to the future of Hive Uganda.

That future right now could be summarized based on their 5 years strategic plan.

Ojok:
One, continue training of blind people around Uganda as well as if possible East Africa.

Also, continue doing value addition to honey and wax products supplied by blind people because we already have a production unit. And then continue advocating for inclusion and participation for people with visual impairment into agriculture livelihood especially in the rural setting. And continued mobilization of resources because all of this to be done, Hive Uganda is in a developing country where everything is not the same. You have to fundraise, look for possible partners, share your ideas so that you’re able to be self-sustaining.

TR:
Strategic plans look forward. Sometimes there’s value in looking back.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]

At some point along this whole journey of yours, you have to reflect on the lives you touched. Hive Uganda is already a success.

Ojok:
Laughs, yes that is true!

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
You changed people’s lives. You have and so I salute you for that You know, you are the man to do this 24 7and I’m happy to see that’s what you are doing.

yeh man, don’t put too much pressure on yourself Laughs… because that’s what it sounds like.

Ojok:
Laughing, yes thank you, thank you… thank you for encouraging me.

TR:
He’s the one doing the encouraging.

Whether it’s the students of Hive Uganda or those who are exposed to his story. Ojok’s passion for creating opportunities for people with disabilities through bee keeping is infectious.

During an interview with New Vision a local newspaper in Uganda, Hive Uganda Master Trainer Francis Okello Oloya describes the programs beneficiaries as
“change agents in their communities.”

It’s as if the new entrepreneurs are out spreading the message that blindness alone is no real barrier for participation in any aspect of life. Sort of pollenating the community with the hopes of reaping a sweeter life for themselves and others.

While back in San Francisco reporting on their progress during what is the conclusion of their Holman term, Ojok plans to visit bee keeping friends in San Diego. This is just one of the relationships established as a result of the prize.

Ojok:

We congratulate Lighthouse for coming up with such amazing idea.

Whether with the Holman Project or not we will remain in collaboration with the Lighthouse.

I have to remain.

TR:

To stay up to date or find out how you can support their mission visit HiveUganda.org.

Once again, salute to Mr. Ojok Simon and yes, may you remain!

Audio: “Honey, Honey” Fiest

By the time this podcast is published December 4th, I believe the 2017 Holman Prize trio would have met for their final reports in San Francisco.

I really did consider trying to make my way out there to meet them all in person. Unfortunately, personal obligations and finances in that order didn’t permit that from happening.

First of all, it would have been nice to just give them a hug or shake their hand. Ah, forget that, everybody would get a hug!

Of course I would bring you the listener along. I think it would make for a great episode and I have the feeling you all grew almost as fond as I have of these three.

That’s Penny Melville Brown, Ahmet Ustenel and Ojok Simon.

Shout out to the San Francisco Lighthouse and everyone responsible for the Holman Prize including the judges,
Jason Roberts, author of the biography A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler.    

Shout out to Lucinda Williams on the opening track Honey Bee and Feist for Honey Honey riding underneath us right now.

Shout out to you the listeners. I truly hope you enjoy these episode because I have a good time producing them.

I hope to have another episode to finish out the year. I’m not sure if my daughters are taking over the podcast this year for the last episode. My oldest is 21 and the other 15. If not I think I have a good way to wrap up the year.

You know what’s a good way to wrap up this episode…
Subscribing to the podcast! You can use Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or your favorite podcast app.
You can always slide on over to ReidMyMind.com and sign up for the email notifications

You know, I would love your feedback. Either

Rate the podcast on iTunes if you like it of course. If you don’t like it I’m not sure why you are still listening. I have no plans on doing anything differently at this stage in the game.

You can even leave a review there.

Send me direct feedback at Reid My Mind Radio @ gmail.com.
If you feel up to it, you could even record a message on your voice recorder and send that over. That would make my day!

Plus my daughter doesn’t believe anyone listens so it will help me convince her! Yawl think I’m joking’?
She says like all the time. I’m talking’ 24/7
Ojok:
24 hours a day

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Mm hmm! (As in agreeing)!

Ojok:
7 days a week.

TR:
Peace!

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