Floating Above the Lane with Prince Bri M of Power Not Pity

Prince Bri M. A Black, disabled, nonbinary alien prince looks somberly at the camera. Ze is wearing a purple jacket and a cheetah print shirt along with a multicolored choker. Ze is also wearing bright purple lipstick and round earrings.
Prince Bri M is the producer and host of Power Not Pity. A podcast that
aims to amplify the lived experiences and perspectives of disabled people of color everywhere.

We talk about Bri’s experience;

  • Being Black, non-binary and disabled.,
  • Accessibility & Disability Justice
  • Getting started in podcasting

PlusBri hails from the Bronx, so you know this episode is set between some BX Love on the intro and outro!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: South Bronx, Boogie Down productions

Yo, what’s up Reid My Mind Radio? I’m your host and producer, T. Reid bringing you another episode of what I hope is your favorite podcast. I don’t know if that’s really the case but I’m going to say if you’re a person adjusting to Blindness, adjusting to Low Vision or disability in general this is definitely a podcast with you in mind.

If you’re new hear welcome! Just about every two weeks or so we bring you a profile of a compelling person impacted by disability most often blindness or low vision. Sometimes I bring you a story from my own experience as someone becoming blind as an adult.

Chances are if you’re new here, you’re like wow, this doesn’t sound like we’re about to talk about disability. Well, that’s how we do it here.
Disability doesn’t look one way. It doesn’t act one way. It definitely doesn’t sound one way.
In every episode, we hope to challenge your beliefs around blindness and disability. even if you think you are already quite familiar. Today’s episode is no different.

By the way, you’re listening to a track by Boogie Down Productions called South Bronx! A personal favorite of mine and in my opinion the official unofficial anthem of the borough.

Since we’re all about challenging beliefs…
I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life when I proudly declare my birthplace only to have people either look at me just a little differently or outright say something offensive or judgmental. Showing their familiarity with the borough is probably based on the images of the 1970’s. The burning buildings and the poverty and crime. They don’t see the beauty in the diversity, the culture and the people.

Today, my guest also hails from the BX so it just seemed appropriate. Truth is I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to include Boogie Down Productions in the podcast and let you know where we come from…

Audio: “South Bronx…” from Boogie Down Productions

TR:

BX, let’s go

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

Bri M.

“I want to float above the lane. That’s my state of existence.”

TR:

Meet my guest, Bri M.

Bri M.

I’m a podcaster and I like to be an agitator because I like to interject disability justice in the conversations I have . I’m politically minded about what it means to be a disabled person of color in America today. My podcast is called Power not Pity and it’s about the lives of disabled people of color. I try to preserve and amplify the voices and lived experiences of disabled people of color through the show. We talk about our experiences. We talk about what we’re going through and how we can dismantle ableism with every episode.

## TR

Managing all production aspects of the podcast including interviewing and editing, Bri is also host. That’s the Bronx spirit yawl… it’s how we do!

I’ll try to go easy on the Bronx love but the truth is I try to find that common thread between me and all of my guests. It just so happens Bri and I share several experiences. But it’s the differences which makes the conversation even better.

Beginning our interview, I wanted to be fully sure about all aspects of Bri’s identity as noted in the following bio:

Bio:
Bri M is a Black, Jamaican-American,
queer, non-binary, disabled alien-prince from The Bronx.
Ze’s pronouns are ze/zir.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

…So what does all that mean?

Bri M.
What does all that mean?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I know the Jamaican American part (laughs…)

Bri M.

I think all of the other things I say they all intersect into creating the person that I am.

I think what I wanted to express by saying all of the different parts of me is to really display that disabled people are a myriad of things. Especially when we’re racialized in society as Black people as Black disabled people. We face such hardship that white disabled people don’t even understand.

I want to name who I am because I think representation matters.

So I say that I’m a non binary person to because if we don’t go out there and speak about who we are we won’t be known as human beings. I put myself out there as non binary because I want to combat the idea that non binary people are usually seen as white you know the typical image. When you go into a Google image search for something and you search for non-binary what you’ll get in images is usually white people. I want people to make sure that people know that black non-binary people exist. Black disabled non binary people exist.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

No doubt.

Audio: Free Your Mind & Good Thoughts Bad Thoughts by Parliament Funkadelic

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What’s the Alien Prince because when I hear that I’m like ok is this Alien Prince on some George Clinton …

Bri M.

Yes, yes definitely. I’m very influenced by that. I really do think that as a Black person in society today like this apocalyptic society that we’re living in I really do feel like I’m not from here. I’m not from where we are on this plane of existence. I really do think that Black people are not from here. I’m really on that Sun Ra tip like space is a place you know.

Because I identify as an Alien Prince I want people to know that I’m a part from mainstream society because I can see… I live on the margins of society right, as all of the things I named who I am so I can see how society works because I’m on the outside of it. I want to name that. By saying that I am Alien, I’m strange, I’m Black and apart from mainstream society because that’s just how we have been oppressed and forced into being so I want to highlight that and I also say that I’m a Prince because I think I deserve to be seen as royal and I deserve to be… to accept the part of who I am that wants to be valued.

Because I’m an only child , growing up I was always called a Princess and I used to hate it, I hated it I wanted to be known as a Prince instead because that felt way more true to my identity as a non-binary person. A young binary person and I really didn’t understand what it meant to question my gender identity but as I’m coming into my understanding of who I am especially as a disabled non-binary person I realize that you know I got to celebrate the parts of who I am and celebrating the parts of who I am that means naming myself as a Prince.
[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Ok, I like it! It’s all about being your authentic self. When you have that that’s like a sense of freedom. And when you can show it and just hold your head up nobody can take that down so shout out to you for that!

Bri M.

Thank you, thank you Thomas.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I’m going to blame it on my screen reader so you correct me… the pronouns… Ze Zer Z …

Bri M.
Ok, so let’s break it down

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Yeh!

Bri M.

So you know she, her, hers, herself right? What I want to do with my pronouns is to say Ze as in she. zer (pronounced zear) as in her, zers (pronounced zears) as in hers and zerself (pronounced zearself) as in herself.

So when people see me they automatically assume that I am a woman because I present in some ways as a woman just for safety reasons.
[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Mm!

Bri M.

In my chosen family people refer to me as Ze Zer because they know those are my pronouns. Those are really important to me because again they highlight the fact that I want to be set apart from society because you know I want to reclaim the fact that I live on the margins. Being known as Ze Zer is also part of feeling like the Alien Prince that I am

TR:

Bri’s identities intersect with so many marginalized groups. And then 5 years ago ze added disability to the mix.

Bri M.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. I wake up in the morning and never know what might happen to my body or how much pain I might be in . I walk with a cane so I’m visibly physically disabled. So my relationship to disability is that it’s very much in the forefront of my mind all of the time . I’m constantly having to engage with unsafe spaces because I don’t feel like I can move in the same way other people can but at the same time coming into my own understanding of disability justice has been really freeing because I’ve come into a whole new community of really accepting wonderful brilliant people. Brilliant disabled people of color, brilliant white disabled people and it just feels really good to know that I’m not alone and that at the same time people consider me to be unique and vital to the different conversations that we’re having around access and around what it means to be an ally.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What were you doing before you were diagnosed with MS?

Bri M.

Oh wow!

Well I was actually working in the music industry and I don’t know if you know anything about like working in that industry but it’s very much like very able bodies. you have to be on like 110 percent all the time. You have to be there you have to show up you have to make connections with people and often times these were connections I was making with white straight Cisgendered people who didn’t understand who I was as like a Black non-binary person and it was hard but I loved doing the work that I was doing. I remember I was doing grunt work for this one venue called the Music Hall of Williamsburg – it’s pretty famous . It’s been a while for a long time. I was one of those people who would shop for a band and set up the green room and you know if you know anything about that it’s very active work. I was also facilitating a lot of workshops around social justice and racial justice.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Ok, so you were already there doing the justice work That was already a part of who you were.

Bri M.

Yeh! I did quite a bit of that in college. I did a lot of radio. At one point I had three radio shows in college. It was really good for me. Getting through college was really difficult.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What college and tell me about the radio show?

Bri M.

I actually went to three colleges …

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Same here

Bri M.

I started at Colgate University…and then I transferred because it was so hard to be a Black Queer person up there.. so difficult. People were like actually throwing slurs at me when I would walk around on campus. Honestly the stress of it all of being there… I remember feeling these weird symptoms on the left side of my face like a permanent tick on the left side of my face I remember feeling that and looking back on it now I think that’s when my symptoms of MS started.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Wow!

Bri M.

Then I transferred to the University of San Francisco. I did a lot of thesis work there because there’s a big body modification movement out there. And then it got to be way too expensive Thomas, so I came back to New York and finished my degree in Sociology at the City College of New York. City! What, what!

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

I’m Baruch… throw it up!

You did a radio show where…at all three?

Bri M.

All three but mostly at Colgate.

it was pretty much straight music. I was a bigger metal head when I was in like in my 20’s but I’m still very much a metal head now.

There was one show that I did that was “World Music” I don’t know what that means but a lot of Reggae and another one I did with Metal pretty much all Metal music, Hard rock. My third one was a mash up of Hip Hop, Pop and R&B.

It’s just funny, I’m thinking back on all of the things I’ve done so far before I became disabled and decided to do this podcast , it’s funny how they all link together.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Exactly.

Bri M.

I was already doing radio, I was already interviewing people like yo it just makes sense!

TR:

Looking back allows us to view our experiences as preparation. Individual events that are in no way related come together to make something new.

In Bri’s case, the result is Power Not Pity.

Bri M.

I’d say for like a year in a half I was pretty much bed bound and didn’t leave my apartment very much . Listening to a lot of podcasts. Listening to these voices of white Cis hetero people who just weren’t on my wave length.

I decided I don’t see anything for disabled people of color out here . We exist and we’re fully human beings and we deserve to be heard and seen as human, full unique genuine authentic human beings and I didn’t see that so I was like yo I’m going to make it.

TR:

Bri started by taking a course at BRIC or what was originally an acronym for Brooklyn Information & Culture. In addition to presenting free cultural programming they present and incubate work by artists
and media-makers who reflect the diversity that is Brooklyn New York.

Audio: Where Brooklyn At, Notorious B.I.G

Bri M.

They advocate for doing media studies for the people.

I took an intro to podcasting course there and then from there I just started to edit episodes , started to interview people. I just tried to immerse myself in podcasting and the podcasting world and disability justice that world too. Trying to put the world together along with all of my other identities. I started there and something that really validated me was actually being a part of this cohort that I just finished, this certificate program from Made in New York Media Center. They’re out of the Mayor’s Office of Media and entertainment. So whenever you see a film that’s been made in New York it’s got a little Made in NEw York patch attached to it and whenever you see media that’s been created in New York the Mayor[‘s Office on Media and Entertainment usually is behind that as well.

So this podcast certificate program was like a really big deal for me. When I got accepted I was just so happy about it because I felt like I’m on a different level now and I feel so much more confident in my skills as an editor and as a producer and I just want to keep going.

TR:

That movement is essential.

Like any creative project, it’s going to continue to change over time. In addition to the college radio and interviewing experience, Bri is in some ways ahead of the game.

Not only does Bri have a natural cool relaxed voice that kind of draws you in and makes you comfortable, but there’s also a good understanding of the target audience.

Bri M.

I’m talking to all those people who feel like they have never been seen in mass media in major society. I’m talking to all of those disabled people of color specifically for us by us. I want you to know that I’m here and I’m saying that I see you and that I want your voice to be heard and uplifted because it matters

In highlighting our voice and me saying that I want to uplift disabled people of color it’s like something that doesn’t happen often enough. That’s my audience.

# Compare

TR:

Disability impacts every aspects of society. Some experiences are common across different demographics.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

I know a lot of my audience are basically people experiencing Blindness and vision loss to whatever degree , but I think there are so many similarities …

What are some of the access issues that you experience on a daily?

Bri M.
Mm, mm… Well living in New York City, it’s the most inaccessible city, I think.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

See that’s so funny… that’s from your perspective, but from other people’s perspective it’s like New York is accessible. It always bugs me out…

Bri M.

What? … Are those Able bodies people saying that?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
If a person is Blind or visually impaired, having that access in a city compared to where I live… I live in the Poconos so I don’t have access to jack! There’s nothing ok! But in the city you know if you don’t have an issue where you need to climb steps , then it’s not going to be a thing for you but most of the train stations aren’t wheel chair accessible or they only have steps It’s such an incredible difference how within the same community people view that differently.

tell me about it from your perspective.

Bri M.

Everybody has different access needs… for me personally the things that are difficult for me have to do with my physical needs right. I don’t want to say I’m the access notes police because I am not trying to align myself with the police but I’m constantly finding myself as a person to say ok where are the access notes where is the information about the accessibility of the building at so and so event.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What about in terms of interacting with society, because your disability is visual right, meaning people can see that you have a disability you are disabled. That is similar to blindness because they recognize that off the jump. How do people respond to you.

Bri M.

I live in Brooklyn and everybody’s like super rushing around really fast and so they look at me , they perceive me as a young person but they don’t look down and see that I’m using a cane. They just gloss over me and so a lot of people don’t even realize that I use a cane until I’m in their immediate space and so I think I throw a lot of people off just by being . There’s a saying out there in the disability justice world to exist is to resist. I really do feel like when I’m in able bodied spaces like yo I’m the only black physically disabled Queer person non binary person there. I know I already stick out like a sore thumb but the cane makes me stick out even more and people … because I walk slowly to people just pass me by and treat me like an obstacle.

I’m a person too and I’m valid.

I really truly believe that if we had disability justice in our high schools and our middle schools things would be so different. This world would be so much less ablest. This world would be a more just place because people would know like you don’t pass someone with a cane .. don’t pass them on the right side, their cane hand side because that destabilizes them. That’s just a little thing that people don’t even realize you know. The way I move is different from you but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong or it’s bad.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What about the actual face to face conversation interaction? Are there any differences there?

Bri M.

Well yeh I’ve definitely noticed differences over time. People will say oh well you look good now maybe you don’t need to use that cane anymore. How long are you going to use that cane for… I have people who I live with in my building , my neighbors , you know I say hello because we’re all out here living and struggling to survive so I say hello because I want to say yo I see you and I want you to know I’m your neighbor too but my neighbors will be hella rude and say like yo when are you going to stop using that cane? I get a lot of that and I think it’s because I’m young, I’m about to turn 30 and disabled and people expect me to be on all the time when that’s just not my lif eThomas.For half the time I’m out here living I’m in bed. I’m working from bed so a lot of the conversations I have are just not nuanced. Their very ignorant and I constantly feel like I have to educate people which is so tiring, but I do it anyway because I think it matters so much to me. I want people to know that there are other ways of viewing disabled people of color. There are other ways to regard us besides thinking that we’re something to be pitied. That’s why I name the show Power not Pity.

TR:

While people from different walks of life and different disabilities have common experiences; others can be quite unique.

Bri M.

I decided to create this thing because I wanted d to find more community around me because that’s so desperately what I wanted so

I made the show Power not Pity and decided to focus on disabled people of color because we are the ones who are most marginalized. We deserve to be seen first and heard first because we are the ones who are brutalized by the police. Half of all cases of police brutality are enacted on black disabled people.
Audio: Multiple news clips about police brutality cases against Black people with disabilities. ends with the actual recording of police realizing a driver was Deaf after they pulled him out of the car…

Bri M.

It’s not a game. It’s not something to just be swept under the table. We need to talk about this, get conversations going around why black disabled people are dying out here and nobody’s talking about it.

TR:

Well Power Not Pity is now a space for such conversations and more.

Bri M.

I love storytelling. I love listening to stories. From a very early age I was a book worm. I always enjoy the art of getting to know someone through an interview and I think one thing that I really do love about podcasting is it still feels very much like DIY. A lot of people say that right now is the wild , wild west of media and content creation because there’s a lot of possibility in podcasting.

I think people are starting to realize that there are voices out there that are underrepresented that need to be heard, that need to be expressed fully because podcasting is so homogenous, so white so Cisgendered , so hetero and so male oriented. I counter act that just by being there. I counteract the idea that podcasting is only this one way. Podcasting is a myriad of things. If you have a mic and you have the desire then you got it you can go. It’s one of the more accessible ways of reaching people and connecting on a deeper level.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I look at the podcast hing and anything, life is about finding your lane. Finding that lane where you fit in and kind of riding there and if you want to venture out go into another lane ok, you can do that but you always got somewhere to come back to where you got your people and all that . So what do you think is your podcast lane?

Bri M.

Mm my podcast lane! You know what being a non binary person I just feel like I don’t want to be in any lane . I want to float above the lane because that’s how I feel is my state of existence is just floating behind everything because I want to be able to see how things are constructed.
Everything we do in life, it’s all made up it’s all built upon all of these different made up notions of being. That’s the way society works . Ok so maybe I’m trying to drop some truth on you right now…

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Drop it, drop it!

Bri M.

None of it is real.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Explain that

Bri M.

For example, the idea that you as a person, body hair is something that’s really interesting about society and how things are made up because like say you have short hair. I’ve been mistaken for men in the past because my hair is short. You know it’s like why do we assign short hair to maleness and why do we assign longer hair to femaleness because it’s just hair. At the end of the day … laughs…
Other societies don’t function in that way. That’s what I mean when I say it’s all made up right. We create these systems that are now enacting violence and oppression us. One thing I want to do with the podcast is highlight that. Highlight the fact that we are in a serious time right now. We are in some serious dire straits and things need to change and part of that change is putting yourself out there and saying hey no you’re not going to silence me I know that these systems are here to silence me and to put me into institutions of oppression and I just want to make it more known for people understand and come away with the idea that yo things can change and I can do something to change this just by rearranging my actions and rearranging my thoughts around what disability looks like and what it means or feels like.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
No doubt, droppin’ it! I already know what the title of this episode is because it’s hot… “Floating Above the Lanes with Bry! That’s so hot! Laughs…

Bri M.

Laughs… Yes! I love it!

TR:

Floating, but not aimlessly.

Power Not Pity is about representation.

Bri M.
The ways we move in society , the ways we adapt to things like the different ways we connect to each other that we try to cultivate access with each other is revolutionary because society tells us that no it’s about you. You have to be the one to pull yourself up by your boot straps . It’s all about the individual and the ways that the individual can overcome their hardship…and rise up as assimilated person in society. When it’s really not that way. Realistically no one can live that way . I think disabled people of color know that we don’t do it alone we move together. We are all valid.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What do you like to do when you’re not fighting ableism?

Bri M.

Oh my gosh! When am I not fighting ableism?

Honestly, part of the editing process is sometimes how I unwind actually. That helps me feel less stressed to. When I get into that mode , that editing mode . I don’t know if that makes me like a really big podcasting nerd?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Oh absolutely!

TR:

And podcast nerds is where it’s at baby!

Big shout out to Bri M!

And I know what you’re asking yourself right now…

Where can we find Power Not Pity…

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
And where can we find Bri M?

Bri M.
Laughing…

Ok, well you can find Power Not Pity everywhere you find social media. I’m on Facebook at Power Not Pity, I’m on Twitter and Instagram @PowerNotPity.

You can go to my website PowerNotPity.com. All the episodes are there, the transcripts are there. I’m on Linked In if you want to look me up professionally.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Thank you so much Bri, that was really really dope!

Bri M.

You’re welcome. Thank you Thomas this was great!

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Cool I appreciate it!

Audio: Uptown

# Close

TR:

I hope you too appreciate this conversation.

how you lived your life prior to disability will impact how you live your life after disability. If you were motivated and driven, open to new experiences then chances are you’ll continue that way. If you were closed minded and stuck in your ways well you’ll probably be the same way with a disability.

Becoming disabled as an adult can impact a person’s career path. It doesn’t have to. But it’s also an opportunity to take reassess and make use of other skills and interests.

If you’re fortunate, the result could be at the least a new career and at most a mission.

Now, if you choose to accept, I have a mission for you.

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!

TR:

And in case I forgot to mention where I’m from…

Uptown baby, for the crown baby, we get down baby!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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