Posts Tagged ‘Adjustment’

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

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Transcript

Show the transcript

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Hey, Toni, can you hear me?

Toni:

Yes!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

How you doing?

Toni:

I’m good how are you?

TR in Conversation with Toni:

I’m good

Toni:

we finally got to do the interview.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

I was just I had something else that came…

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:
Thomas

TR in Conversation with Toni:

There you go.

TR:

Things happen when there supposed to

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

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

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

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

So you see, you’re right on time!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Let’s get it!

Toni:

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

I was born in New York City.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Can you be specific?

Toni:

I was born in the Bronx,

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Yeh! say that one more time for me…

Toni:

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

No doubt you can’t hide that.

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

Alika means beautiful warrior.

TR:

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

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

Toni:

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

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

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

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

Telling stories with messages, was her thing.

Toni:

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

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

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

Now I do that as well.

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

That got the attention of the infamous Suge Knight.

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Eventually she was moved to a rehab facility in Louisiana.

Toni:

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

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

— Music begins, an eerie menacing slow Hip Hopbeat

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

TR:

Toni describes herself as very stubborn during this period.

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

The physical, that was just part of her fight.

Toni:

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

Before I was this six foot model type looking girl.

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

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

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

Now back to the episode. ———-

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

Lyrics:

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

My world is Cripple Pretty

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

TR:

Toni didn’t want to be seen in public

Toni:

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

— Music begins, a melancholy ambient piano melody

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

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

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

TR:

Yeh, I do.

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

Toni:

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

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

TR:

She took the braids out.

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

Toni:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:’

I’m not sure.

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

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

Toni:

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

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

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

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

— Song mixes in with the lyrics…

Toni:

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

I was just floored.

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

Toni:

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

TR in conversation with Toni:

Mm! Yeh!

Toni:

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

TR in conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

That’s what i’m talking about!

TR:

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

— Sample from Billy Paul “Am I Black Enough”

TR:

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

Toni:

it’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful.

TR:

Toni’s working on a new project right now!

Thakur>

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

What’s the controversy though?

Toni:

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

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

TR:

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

Toni:

It’s just me and my homeboy.

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

He’s Big Yo!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

Toni:

Yes, shout out to Big Yo!

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

TR:

She writes books.

Toni:

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Toni:

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

TR:

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

Toni:

The Alika lessons can vary.

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

TR:

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

Toni:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

All of these things, on her time.

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

Toni:

that’s T O N I H I C K M A N.com

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

TR:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

— Airhorn!

Toni:

Happy to be a member

TR in Conversation with Toni:

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

TR:

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

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

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got it, You are thinking of a gray elephant!

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

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

AbraCadabra baby!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music —

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

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

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

— “Chaka Khan… From “I Feel for You”–

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

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

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

Jeanetta:

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

How’d you find them? Other blind sisters?

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

I never seen that many blind people in my life.

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta: 17:14

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

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

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

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

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

Jeanetta:
I use all tools.

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

TR:

Hey did you know;
Reid My Mind Radio, is now on Facebook and InstaGram.
We’re going to do some things on these platforms so stay tuned.
You can find us on each platform @ReidMyMindRadio.

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

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

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

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

Now back to the episode.

— Music comes to a slow end.–

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

Jeanetta:

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

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

A movement that’s about starting conversations.

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

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

TR:

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

Like one titled I Am Black History.

Jeanetta:

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

TR:

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

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

Jeanetta:
That’s W R I T E.

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

TR:

These workshops aren’t just for those experiencing blindness.

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Jeanetta:

Wow. (in awe)

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Jeanetta’s audio:

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

Audio ReidScription over Jeanetta’s audio:

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

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

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

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

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

Jeanetta:


Doc I have blind skills. Leave me alone.

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

TR:

The doctor wanted to try a new contact lens

Jeanetta:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

Jeanetta:
I’m gonna be honest with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

It’s okay to be you.

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta

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

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

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

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

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

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

Jeanetta:

(Giggles)

TR:

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

Jeanetta:

It’s called I’m From.

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

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

You so crazy!

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

A Season for Honoring Ourselves

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

To conclude this first season of the podcast which fully focused on those adjusting to blindness, I share a few thoughts from guests featured so far in 2021. Some of these comments were not included in the original episodes.

This episode also includes some of what’s in store for the next season beginning in July. Plus, I too am personally headed into a new season of my life.

Please rate & review Reid My Mind Radio on Apple Podcast. It helps more people learn what we’re doing over here!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Greetings! My name is Thomas Reid, host and producer of this here podcast called Reid My Mind Radio.

We’re just about half way through the year. And this year has been full of emotions. I’m realizing now that 2021may be the start of a new season in my life.

Later this year, I’m sort of joining that category of parents known as empty nesters.

Both of my baby girls are moving on in their education in pursuit of what I hope is their passions. my oldest is headed to grad school. Shout out to Temple University and just a few miles away, her little sister will be at Villanova. Proud Dad in full effect.

Things are really going to be different around here.

— Audio – Knock on the door

TR:

Uh, come in.

Marlett:

I need you to come wash these dishes please!

TR:

Okay, I’ll be right there.
Maybe not that different after all.

I’ll be right back y’all!
Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

Creating content for people adjusting to blindness and disability has some inherent obstacles to overcome.

For example, much of my targeted audience may not even be online. After all, they need to learn how to use the Access Technology assuming they were familiar and comfortable using computers prior to their loss of sight. If they were not, well that could be a very frustrating challenge that not everyone is willing to take.

Then there are those who don’t even want to see themselves as Blind and definitely not disabled so why in the world am I including that in my description. Compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability?

I’m sure some may not even think that’s possible. “What’s compelling about a person with a disability?”

In this first part of 2021 I really wanted to highlight exactly that. I wanted to really make sure this podcast is being a resource for all those new to blindness. When I say a resource, I don’t mean providing steps 1 through 10 on completing a specific task. I mean the sort of resource that stimulates that confidence and belief in the idea that it’s possible. not by me shouting at you and telling you you are a winner and coming up with a cool slogan but rather, introducing you to the cool people who are either doing it or have done it already.

One great example of what’s possible when we change our perspective is my friend Cathy Kudlick. Among many things, she discuses the important role history played in her moving from denial to where she is today.

Cathy:
I direct the Longmore Institute, it’s a cultural center that tries to put disability at the center of all culture and academics. It celebrates scholar activism, and tries to get people to think about disability as a creative, generative force for change, and to really revolutionize social views around disability.

We believe in a world where everyone thinks that disabled people, they get better, and that the world is better because of disabled people. And that’s a very radical idea, but we do it through the film festival, we do it through lot of online programming over the past year with different cultural groups and trying to look at intersections and look at convergences and all of these ways that di sability is not just pity and tragedy and trauma and terror and all of those, but to really see it as a creative force.

TR:

Where we get to in our thinking about disability is going to be based on a variety of factors.
Like how we process information and our ability to be self-aware.

Pramit Bhargava, founder of the Louie app, was so generous with his sharing. He admitted he never considered disability because he was caught up in his own climb up the corporate ladder.

He also realized how he wasn’t putting in the work that he needed to do which included learning how to use a screen reader as well as other blindness skills.

Pramit:

In fact, If I can Thomas add to that, sometimes what happens We process somebody as low vision, or no vision as saying, oh, he cannot see. But I think important thing is what is going on in that person’s mind. Right, and how do we process it? How do we deal with that condition? I think that’s the bottom line.

TR:

In this season of Reid My Mind Radio, I really wanted to bring you a different idea of what many people often consider when they think of blindness and disability.

Disability impacts across race, gender, sexuality. However, so often in the media we only see a specific white cis gender privilege experience.

Similarly, we often see a very specific version of success. Usually that is based on financial statements, awards and recognition.

Well, either I’m going to be a part of the problem or I’m going to set out to actively do something about that.

In March I was really happy to bring you an episode featuring Lachi. She’s a musician, producer and just someone who does whatever she wants to do and of course I say that with the ut most respect.

During our conversation she shared a bit on success and it’s definitely something I can rock with!

Lachi:

And when I say success, I mean, right now people would consider me successful just because, you know, I’ve been doing international songs and touring and I’m all over the place and do a lot of great things with a lot of spins. And being on the Grammy panels, but honestly, my success started when I was just able to come out of my shell and showcase to everybody that I’m really good.

TR:

Similarly when I met young brother Envizion who in his own words said he owns everything about his blindness. We saw how he made a clear decision based on what was important to him immediately after losing his sight. That continues as he pursues his passion. To me, that’s an important level of success that needs to be recognized.

Embracing every part of yourself and staying focused on your goal.

Envizion:

I have this tag where I say (singing…) I don’t see nobody.

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

— Applause …
— “We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin!” (Classic News Announcer)
— Applause continues… “Can you feel it?” (The Jacksons, Live in Concert)

TR:

That’s the message that we’re sharing!

— Applause continues… “Can you feel it?” (The Jacksons, Live in Concert)

TR:

I’m talking about this podcast!

— Music begins, Cool up tempo Hip Hop beat

TR:

For whatever reason, rating and reviewing the podcast on Apple Podcast actually helps.

Right now, we have a 5 star rating. That means if this was food being cooked up twice a month, it’s considered delicious.

Then there’s the actual reviews. Check out what people are saying:

Pioneer 94 says: Love the AJ episode it’s so well produced. Can’t wait to listen for more.

Angel Sweetheart says: Download and start listening now!
This podcast is very well put together. A strong activist in our community. Face with heart shaped eyes, grinning face
Grinning face with starry eyes, hands with medium dark skin tone raised in celebration, thumbs up with medium dark skin tone, flex bicep with dark skin tone

Thank you so much and I love the emoji’s.

shnupperdoodlez says; Great podcast
Engaging light hearted and fun, even when talking about the tough stuf. I enjoy popping in to learn more. your voice is needed out here

Hey Shnuppledoodlez, I appreciate you, but I’m going to need a bit more commitment from you. You are family so I’d expect you to be here on a regular basis. I miss you when you’re gone too long!

Blind Widow says This man knows his topic
I highly recommend this podcast to help people learn about disability and blindness and become comfortable with it and in all aspects of it.
It affects every aspect of our lives.
Ffor me a woman who is blind, acceptance in the arena of online dating as an older adult, the more normal people see us the better it is for everyone.

Blind Widow, I see you as super intelligent, powerful and go ahead with your bad self in the online dating arena. You’re a Gladiator, but don’t hurt them out there too badly love.

I hope I’ll be able to see more 5 star ratings and even more cool reviews. And go ahead and feel free to throw those emoji’s up there. You know that fire, raised fists, hearts and all that.

— Music ends abruptly.

— Now we return back to our show (Classic News Announcer)

TR:

Success is getting to know yourself and being comfortable with that person. Acquiring a disability later in life can feel as though you have to do this all over again.

It goes beyond the emotional. Catarina Rivera aka Blindish Latina recognized a real need to consider her blindness when moving through life.

Catarina:

I just started to see disability as something that I would incorporate into my life decisions, but not let it dictate my life.

When I was in college, the first thing that was happening to me with night blindness, and I had some issues with peripheral vision, as well. And I remember that I decided not to drink alcohol, because I didn’t want to impair myself any further, I saw that people were really cutting loose and partying. I remember thinking to myself is it’s every person for themselves here, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna get caught unaware, because, you know, I was a freshman.

My friends would help me navigate parties, I would dance, I would focus more on dancing, because I couldn’t hear people when the music was loud, and I love to dance. It didn’t stop me from having a good time. And making friendships and living life.

TR:

Whether disabled or not, chances are we experience something in life that changes our course. Most people I know had different plans for their lives. Yet, looking deeper, you may realize that your life contains the things that you were actually seeking. Love, friendships, opportunity

These episode make up the first season of 2021. All focused on that adjustment experience.

Lawyer and fellow podcaster Qudsiya Naqui beautifully wrapped up her episode and the season with some thoughts that can only come from someone who has been through their own adjustment experience.

Qudsiya:

Everyone has their own journey and their own experience and their own way of going through those stages of grief and getting to the other side, or whatever the other side looks like, and that’s okay. And you have to be kind to yourself, but know that there’s a community waiting for you. And there’s a lot of possibility and that you are a whole person. And your blindness is a part of that. And it is a really beautiful part of that. That’s something that you should honor about yourself.

TR:

Honor about yourself. I really like that.

Do you ever consider the decisions that we make that actually dishonor ourselves? It could be decisions based on money alone, how we spend our time or how we perceive our own value.

Honoring ourselves, that’s what this podcast is all about!

If you missed any of the episodes this year, I truly encourage you to take a listen.

Going forward in 2021 , we’re touching on topics. We’ll start with Audio Description. Now, at first you may think, wait, what more can we talk about with AD?
Well, I guess you’re going to have to wait and see. You know, it’s right there, but in order to really get into it, you have to Flip the Script.

I’m taking the month of June off. The podcast will be back in July
To make sure you don’t miss anything, my suggestion is that you follow the podcast on your favorite platform. Apple, Spotify, Google, whatever man!

You can also find it at ReidMyMind.com where we have all the transcripts and other resources too.

Now all that’s left is for you to properly spell that. Let me help you… it’s R to the E I D
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Qudsiya Naqui – Becoming an A+ Blind Person

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

The vision loss experience is different for everyone. Our responses to circumstances determines our outlook. Then again, our outlook on life can signal how we handle the tough situations.

Qudsiya is wearing a blue shirt and smiling besides plants outside of a building

Qudsiya Naqui, founder and host of the podcast Down to the Struts, shares several transformative moments throughout her blindness journey.

She discusses going from someone who hides their white cane to a proud Blind person who chooses to advocate on behalf of all people with disabilities.

Listen

Resources

Down to the Struts
WOC World

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Ambient music begins…

TR:

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!
Welcome back to the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.
You know, we’ve been here since 2014 so make sure you take a look in the archive if you’re new in these parts.

My name is Thomas Reid and I get to serve as host and producer.
I like to consider each of these individual episodes as a part of a larger collective story.
If you know anyone new to blindness or disability in general, please go ahead and let them know what’s happening here.
I’m confident that they would find a lot of value in the lived experiences stored in these audio file (and transcripts).
All just waiting for the right person.

Today’s episode is the latest addition to this growing archive that will not disappoint.
So let’s get down to it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Qudsiya:

My story of blindness is, to take a page out of Michelle Obama’s words, it’s a story of becoming.

My name is Qudsiya Naqui. And I am a lawyer and I’m based in Washington DC. I use she her hers pronouns.

I am a South Asian woman. I’m quite petite. I’m about five one. Right now I have sort of long, dark brown black hair that’s very long because of the pandemic and I haven’t been able to cut it and have kind of medium brown skin and brown eyes.

TR:

Qudsiya is the host of Down to the Struts, a podcast that explores the inner workings of
disability design and it’s various intersections.

Today, she shares some of the transformational experiences along her journey that helped shaped her view of blindness.

At 2 years old, Qudsiya was diagnosed with a congenital degenerative condition.
By the time she began reading, standard print was sufficient.

qudsiya:

But I had trouble in dark and dim places.

We were blessed and fortunate to be able to live in homes that worked for me. That had lots of sunlight, and we had lots of extra lighting. So that was the way that we kind of help make the environment accessible for me.

My mom was proactive and had me in sort of rehabilitation services with the state agency.

— Melancholy Ambient Music begins
TR:

That’s the New Jersey State Commission for the Blind, where she received mobility training and other blindness skills as a child

Qudsiya:

My usable vision was so good when I was young that I wasn’t quite understanding sometimes, like, why I had to use a mobility cane because

oftentimes, the trainer would come during the day, and I could see really well during the day.

When I reflect on it, I’m like, why didn’t they train me with the cane? At night? When I actually couldn’t see and then I would understand the benefit of it.

I had a hard time explaining to people what my situation was also because I present as sighted I don’t fit the sort of stereotypical appearance of what a blind person looks like. And so I sort of passed for lack of a better word because I didn’t have a vocabulary to talk about my disability, I didn’t even use the word disability, disability wasn’t even in my lexicon when I was a child and a teenager and even a young adult. I really struggled.

TR:

As a child, struggling with bullying and making friends.

Qudsiya:

I do think it shaped a lot of my identity. I was quite introverted, I love to read. It definitely did shape who I was when I was younger in slightly more negative ways, I felt like it was something I had to hide and that I had some degree of shame about. That really affected my willingness and desire to engage socially and to make friends and to put myself out there.

TR:

There are two main perspectives in viewing disability.
Whether you’re familiar with them or not, you may recognize your own way of thinking.

The medical model. This approach sees the problem as the illness, disease or injury. The focus is on fixing the person.

Qudsiya:

I started losing vision really quite rapidly kind of at the end of college when I was 22. At that same time, there was a experimental gene therapy. That became available and my parents really were encouraging me. They had very good intentions, and they love me very much. They wanted me to feel good about myself and be successful. And their pathway towards that was, you know, to have this therapy that would help me either gain vision back or halt the degeneration.

I did enroll in the clinical trial. I really believe that people should have choices about how they want to live, I have a little bit more healthy skepticism about that, because so much of it is rooted in ableism, which is a term that I use a lot now, but was really unaware of at that time.

— Ambient music ends

TR:

That’s the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.
It assumes that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and
defines people by their disability.

Qudsiya says she’s unsure if the therapy has helped reduce the degeneration but notes she didn’t regain any vision.
She did however slowly begin inching toward that alternative way of viewing disability, but first, she had to go through some things.

Qudsiya:

I went through a really dark time in my 20s, just trying to like sort of, quote, fix myself,

When I was young they told me that my vision would be stable, you know that I had nothing to like, quote, worry about, and it would just be the same as it was. And that was pretty doable.

TR:

While preparing to enter Law School at Temple University, Qudsiya began seeing a new doctor who explained that her vision loss was degenerative.

Qudsiya:

That really explained what I was experiencing in the two or three years prior, reading was starting to become really difficult.

Law school, is very difficult for a whole host of reasons. And it’s a difficult environment, it’s just a lot of work. It’s very hard. And there’s a lot of reading, like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading a week.

TR:

Since grade school, Qudsiya prided herself on her ability to study hard and have the grades to reflect that effort.

Her vision and grades both deteriorating she considered dropping out.

Qudsiya:

And somehow, I didn’t, I had a couple of really amazing professors. And then I got a really cool internship at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the summer after my first year, because I happened to meet the Legal Director at a career fair. And we just totally hit it off. And she was an incredibly supportive person. And between her and a couple of my professors, I just, I stayed and I didn’t quit, and I didn’t give up. I started to explore text to voice software and the different kinds of technologies that were emerging. Blind people have been using it for years.

I kind of taught myself to learn by listening because I’d always been a visual learner. And I had to completely transform the way my brain worked. And I was able, it took me a long time. And it was hard, but I did it.

TR:

The grades improved, her self confidence returned and she was making strides in her blindness journey.

Qudsiya:

Oftentimes, a lot of sighted techniques are foisted on you. Like there’s always the imperative for you to use your eyes. But that was the first time I started to realize you know what, like, it’s not about like forcing me to use my eyes if my eyes aren’t the most efficient way to get something done. And so I started to like embrace like new Non sighted ways of doing things which made me a lot more efficient and made things easier for me.

The day that I said, I need to use jaws 100% of the time, like changed my life.

TR:

But what about accepting that white cane?

Qudsiya:

There was so much stigma for me associated with it. Shame.

I got myself into real difficulty. There was one time I was in Penn Station, and I fell on the train tracks.

TR:

Thankfully, the train wasn’t moving and someone quickly pulled her up.

Although already familiar with proper cane technique, Qudsiya wasn’t a practicing user. Living in New York City at the time, she
reached out to the New York Commission for the Blind and got herself an Orientation and Mobility instructor.

Qudsiya:

I said, I need you to force me to use it in front of you until I get to a point where I’m okay with it in myself.

We worked every day a couple times a week for like an hour and little by little after a while, I started to just feel comfortable with the cane.

I went from someone who would carry the cane folded up in their purse, never even think about it, to a person who now uses a cane pretty much all day all the time and never is without it and has a very healthy relationship with it. That took a long time. And it took a lot of struggle and a lot of moving past my own stereotypes and my own ableism

TR:

Qudsiya offers some additional thoughts on what could be helpful in decreasing the stigma associated with blindness and disability.

Qudsiya:

There’s such a lack of education in a young age to a culture eight children to the concept of disability and like these disability positive messages.

I just remember in high school I never learned about the ADA, I never learned about the Rehab Act, I never learned about disability rights history.

I feel like if I had existed in an environment that was giving me all these positive messages and welcoming messages and accessible messages about who I was, and the fact that my disability was okay. I think my outlook would have been quite different. But I was in an environment where my disability was sort of invisiblized. I see that changing now for young people. But I think we have a long way to go.

TR:

Another transitional moment for Qudsiya along her blindness journey came when she experienced job discrimination.

Qudsiya:

That was the first time in my life, I had been exposed to disability rights and Disability Law and the civil protections that are available to people to prevent against discrimination. And I didn’t really understand that I had been repeatedly discriminated against in various work settings until I had this experience that became so extreme that I had to get an advocate to help me.

TR:

She credits that person with changing her life.
Helping her become clear about the problem and to see things from a different perspective.

Qudsiya:

Okay, it’s not me, that’s the problem here. It’s the system. That’s the problem. And it’s a system that is not designed to give me access, and I need to fight for that access.

— Music begins – a bright melody that moves to a driving beat…

TR:

The social model of disability.

This views disability as a part of life and not the problem.
Rather recognizing that society erects barriers in various ways that can limit opportunities.

Qudsiya not only learned how to advocate for herself, , she found a community of people who also had a positive outlook on their own blindness and disability.

Moving to Washington DC from New York City, she was introduced to another Blind Lawyer.

Qudsiya:

She and I actually connected over something completely unrelated to blindness. We connected over the fact that we were both athletes. She was a cyclist and runner, and I was a runner also.

She was starting up this sports group in DC called the Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes. And she kept encouraging me to come and try out tandem cycling.

I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a little kid.

I didn’t know anything about tandem. I was like, this is gonna be a disaster.

Finally she pushed me and I went and I got really into it, I just fell in love with it.

TR:

That led to other sports and activities like adaptive rock climbing,
guided running and most importantly friendships with other Blind people.

Qudsiya:

That was really transformative, mostly because I never had Blind friends in my life. And so I suddenly had this massive, wonderful, supportive, fantastic community of other Blind people that were doing all sorts of things had all sorts of professions came from all different types of backgrounds. And we just had fun together. And we support each other.

TR:

That support is invaluable. From the practical to the emotional, helping you become your best self.

Qudsiya:

I’m like a b minus blind person, and I’m trying to get to an A plus.

TR:

I think she’s being tough on herself.

Even if we’re not being graded, a community of people to learn and share with along any journey is important.

Qudsiya:

I started on that journey kind of later in life, as opposed to some of my peers who were born blind or lost their vision when they’re really young. They really became resources to me, and I just started to see the world really differently.

I’m also part of another new group that just started last summer. It’s called WOC World. W O C. It’s a group for blind women of color – a virtual community of blind women to support blind women of color.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya: 39:15
I always like to highlight the importance of meeting people. Because I think it plays a big role. I always bring it back to the podcast, because that’s what this podcast is all about. Not everyone is in an area where they can actually have access to all of these people. And so that that transition process that I think really is impacted by meeting people may take even longer because you have no sort of model of what blindness can actually be.

— Music ends with an ambient fade out

TR:

Qudsiya is a fellow podcaster. She’s the founder and host of Down to the Struts.

Qudsiya:

A strut is like an engineering device that you’d use to hold stuff together.

It’s sort of evokes this idea of like, what are the building blocks? What holds the world together? And how do we change structures and systems.

I wanted to make non disabled people see why they need to think about things from a disability lens and why that’s important and why we should care about it.

TR:

While she was being pushed to write and publish law review articles she found her heart just wasn’t in it.

Already a consumer of audio content including books and podcasts,
she recognized the opportunity to explore some of her interests and expertise.

Qudsiya:

The article I was working on was about disability, specifically disability in the US. And its intersection with immigration, which is one of my areas of expertise as a lawyer.

I really care about disability and its intersections with other types of things like race or other types of policy issues like disability, unemployment, disability and health care.

And I am a person who has experience with like policy and research and these sorts of things.

I really care about this area of work. And I love audio content. And it’s a pandemic, and I’m sitting at home and I got nowhere to go and nothing to do. And I was like, You know what, I’m gonna do it. That’s how Down to the Struts was born.

— Music begins a Hip Hop beat opening with hi hats…

TR:

Occasionally, I’m asked about starting a podcast. My advice closely aligns with the steps Qudsiya lays out.

Qudsiya:

I decided I wanted to do an interview style show and bring a mix of sort of people with lived experience, people who are experts in their fields to talk about sort of very broadly speaking, disability design and intersectionality.

I got a team of people together.

I don’t know how to design a website, I don’t know how to audio edit, I got a lot of brains together. And at first it was just for advice. But then a couple of friends of mine, really like wanted to be involved and wanted to work on it. And I was so touched by their desire to be supportive, they just loved the idea of the project.

I had a focus group of a whole bunch of friends that helped me vote on the title.

We launched our first season in October of 2020. And there’s six episodes, and we’ve just launched season two.

TR:

She narrowed her subject, figured out what aspects best fit her skills and interests.
Assembled others for advice and ended up with a team.
She’s also using a seasonal approach which I highly recommend.
It takes away some of the stress in producing regular content.
And of course, she got feedback on her podcast name. Did I mention she has herself a team?

Qudsiya:

I went to Barnard College, which is part of the women’s college that’s part of Columbia University. So I went looking for a student who was interested in audio editing. That’s how I came across Anna Wu, who is a junior at Barnard.

She brought along her friend Adrian Kahn, who does our transcripts.

I have two other friends. Ilana Nevins is our audio editor and my friend Adriana pole who is fabulous social media coordinator and manages all my Twitter and Facebook and Instagram so I don’t have to. (Laughs )

I’m scared of social media!

TR:

Yes, I’ll admit it, I am a bit envious of her team.

A lot of thought and planning went into the creation of Down to the Struts. Ultimately, it’s figuring out what you want. I get the sense that this is how Qudsiya operates.

Qudsiya:
I realized very, very quickly, that I did not want to be a practicing attorney, I think I probably even knew that before law school, but I knew I was interested in immigration, and I knew I was interested in kind of policy.

A lot of the policy people were like, Well, you can’t really fix the system if you don’t understand the experience of people who are going through it.

So I did practice immigration law, representing asylum seekers and survivors of domestic violence.

And then I went to a different organization where I was managing the program that was delivering services to unaccompanied children who were in federal custody, on the border and in other parts of the country.

TR:

She continued doing that work for a different organization while expanding into disaster recovery and other areas.

— Music ends…

Qudsiya:

now most recently, I’m at a big research like policy institution working on civil court reform work. Making this civil court system for like people who experience evictions and debt collection lawsuits and have to deal with child support cases and things like that to making the system more accessible especially for people who don’t have lawyers, and I bring a lot of my disability kind of focus in there too, because, especially with all the technology and courts, like a big concern is like making sure everything’s accessible.

I feel like, it all kind of bleeds together.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya:

What do you want people to sort of take away from your podcast?

Qudsiya:

For disabled people, I want them to leave the podcast feeling like their issues are being addressed, that I’m exposing and uncovering the barriers they face and providing positive solutions and proactive solutions to how we can break down those barriers and fix those problems. And for

For the non disabled people I want their eyes to be opened to how the systems and structures that we live inside, whether that’s the immigration system, whether that’s the education system, whether that’s health care, how, they affect disabled people, and how ableism plays a role in that. So that they can walk away and know, there’s solutions to solve them. And I want that information to get out to the people who are the decision makers and the stakeholders in the system so that they can start to make change.

TR:
Think about the importance of all the transitional moments Qudsiya experienced.
From her battle with the white cane to experiencing discrimination on the job
which led to her meeting people who would come to positively influence her life.
Combine these experiences with her own positive attitude and drive and consider her advice for those new to vision loss.

Qudsiya:

Everyone has their own journey and their own experience and their own way of going through those stages of grief and getting to the other side, or whatever the other side looks like, and that’s okay. And you have to be kind to yourself, but know that there’s a community waiting for you. And there’s a lot of possibility and that you are a whole person. And your blindness is a part of that. And it is a really beautiful part of that. That’s something that you should honor about yourself.

— Music begins, a bright inspiring Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya:

Qudsiya, you know that you are now an official, and I want to say it twice, an official member of the Reid, My MindRadio family now that you’ve been on the podcast, you know that right?

Qudsiya:

Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you for welcoming me into the family.

(TR & Qudsiya laugh…)

TR:

To get in contact with Qudsiya and or where to find the podcast;

Qudsiya:

You can email us at down to the struts@gmail.com. You can find our website which is www got down to the struts.com. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at down to the struts. And you can subscribe rate review the podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen, so definitely check it out.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya: 1:00:19
Spoken like a true podcaster.

(TR & Qudsiya Laugh)

TR:

I really liked the way Qudsiya identifies and appreciates the different moments throughout her journey for the value they helped bring to her life.

Once again shout out to Qudsiya, I really enjoyed our conversation.

If you too enjoyed it well you can always feel free to let me know that or any other comments you may have by emailing me at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.
Tell others about the podcast so they can listen for themselves. All I want to do here is to reach as many people experiencing vision loss as early as possible.

You know we have transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com right?

And I know you know, that I know you know, it’s R to the E I D
(“D, and that’s me in the place to be! Slick Rick)
)
Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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Cathy Kudlick: From Denial to Director

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

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

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

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

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Transcript

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TR:

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

Why you may ask?

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

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

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

TR:

I told you she’d be back!

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

She was developing vision!

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

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

— Music begins – calm melodic beat —

TR:

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

Cathy:
I inherited my condition from my mother.

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

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

— Music begins –
TR:

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

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

Cathy:
Growing up, it was just denial city,

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

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

TR:

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

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

TR:

That pain goes beyond the emotional.

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

— Ambient radiating sound begins …
— Music fades out —

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

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

Cathy:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

I had my first academic job at Barnard College.

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

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

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

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

TR:

That experience helped form a new way of thinking.

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

So Cathy used her tools!

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

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

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

Call to Action
— Music Begins
TR:

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

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

TR:

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

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

You could also give us a review on Apple podcast. The more reviews and 5 star ratings the more likely people will discover us.

Do you have a topic you want to recommend? reach out!

Email ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or call 570-798-7343 and leave a voice mail.

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

— Music ends! —

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

She died in a fire just like she predicted.

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

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

Cathy:

Good question.

So there are two kind of physical possibilities for them.

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

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

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

TR:

There’s even some evidence of more social activity.

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

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

Laughs!

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

— Music Ends

Cathy:

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

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

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

Centering people with disabilities, the results can be extraordinary!

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

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

Cathy:

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

TR:

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

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

Cathy:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

You learn not to be so afraid.

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cathy:

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

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

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

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

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

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

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

Probably

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

TR:

She’s Cathy Kudlick…

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

— Audio: “Official”

member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

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

TR:

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

You can find Reflections which contains the translation of Adele Husson’s original booklet along with thoughts from Cathy and Zina Weygand on Bookshare.org.
For that link, more of Cathy’s writing, transcripts & more head on over to ReidMyMind.com. And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Peace!

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