Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

The Art of Access with Cheryl Green

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The camera catches Cheryl & Cynthia from a jaunty angle. Cynthia holds a beautiful plaque for Superfest Disability Justice Award for New Day Films’ Who Am I To Stop It. The plaque has text, Braille, and raised lettering. Cynthia smiles at Cheryl as she burst into excited laughter at the passer-by who shouted “Superfest, whoo!” she holds a bouquet of sunflowers by her face.

Meet Cheryl Green, a filmmaker focusing on disability identity and culture and making media accessible.

She began making films after acquiring disabilities from brain injury. Her media combine personal narrative and activism to create
dynamic tools that critically challenge misconceptions and stereotypes of disability, celebrate pride in disability experiences, and amplify marginalized
voices. Cheryl works to create a platform for people to use the arts to increase connectedness and to promote dialogue and change within the larger community.

Hear why Cheryl views Captions and Audio Description as an artistic part of the film/media and a means of achieving disability justice and equity.

Her latest film Who Am I To Stop it is a documentary on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.

She’s a fellow Association of Independence in Radio New Voice Scholar… hit play below and hear how that worked out for yours truly!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: “Fellow Americans, it’s with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this recording …” PSA, Jay Z (Just Blaze)
— Beat rides underneath…

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is…” PSA, Jay Z

TR:

T.R E I D, Moving podcasts by the GB!

. I’m your host and producer of this podcast.
Bringing you stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. Plus, I occasionally explore my own experience around becoming blind as an adult. I try to present that in my own way blending my words with audio and sound design.

Before we get into it, you know movin’

Audio: “Moving’ doin’ it you know” Sex machine, James Brown

I want to send a shout out to those of you who subscribe to the podcast. I truly appreciate you. That simple act of hitting that subscribe button especially if you subscribe via Apple Podcast, increases the chances for others to discover the show.

Audio: Music stops…

I don’t know why, that’s just what they do!..

Music re-starts…

One of my main goals of producing this show is to hopefully reach those who are new to the experience of blindness, low vision, vision loss I think the people across the Atlantic refer to it as sight loss. Maybe you are recently experiencing some form of disability. I think there’s something for you here.

It’s a shift in attitude that is not based on changing just to change but it’s based on experience. Experience from people who have been where you are right now and worked their way through it. People who accepted what they were given, people who didn’t feel the need to overcome but rather embrace and continue.

Hmmm!

If you are new to disability let me send you a very warm welcome. A virtual hug going out to you. I’m referring to anyone impacted by disability. Whether you are Blind or Low Vision or maybe you are the spouse, parent or child or even the friend of… we got something for you right chere. And yes, I said right chere!

So with all of that said, I hope you are ready because I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine who brings a different perspective to how we view accessible media content.

I just hyped myself up and I hope you can feel it too!

Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

# Cheryl Intro

My name is Cheryl Green. I am an independent documentary producer and audio producer.

TR:

She’s also a strong advocate and maker of accessible media content including subtitles, captions and audio description.

As an independent film maker, we see that’s just one of the unique perspectives she brings to her work.

# On Disability

[TR in conversation with CG:]
What is your relationship with disability?

CG:

I like that question. It’s so much nice and more nuanced then what’s your disability and what’s your diagnosis because disability experience is so much more than medical diagnosis.

One of my relationships to disability is political. I’m always looking at cultural and political things from a disability rights and disability justice platform. Another relationship is that almost all of my friends and significant people in my life are disabled people. And then because I like things in three’s; my relationship to disability is that I have multiple invisible disabilities, but I’m not sure that invisible makes sense as a term. Non-apparent or easy to hide. Some of them are acquired and some are stuff that I was born with that has shown up later in life from kind of living as a knucklehead and now it’s coming up. Laughs.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

Oh boy there’s a lot of stories right there. In that one statement, living as a knucklehead. Oh boy!

CG:

Laughing…

But it’s funny because that’s the one that I was born with. It’s a connective tissue disorder and for me it’s very mild , but I have dislocations and I have chronic pain chronic tendonitis, ligaments that are over stretched. I was born with it. The knucklehead part is that I over did it as an athlete through most of my life. So just chronic injuries and stuff but it’s nothing as fun and exciting as you know…what did she do?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

# Captioning

## TR:

Cheryl also experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury that she says is indirectly related to the complications of the connective tissue disorder.

Our conversation however, focused on accessible media content. Beginning first with captioning.

Now I know most of you listening are way smarter than me but I needed a clarification between sub titles and captions.

CG:

Subtitles are just a typed out version of what people are saying. It’s just words on the screen as the words are being spoken. Captions also provide descriptions of the sounds music, whether there’s traffic going by, dogs barking. When possible you can add in a description like whispering or tense voice . There’s all sorts of descriptors you can add in there.
They should identify who’s speaking and when the speaker switches.

The thing about subtitles is that they actually assume that it’s only hearing audiences watching a film that has subtitles because there’s no indication when the speakers change. And if you’re looking at a sunrise and two people are off screen talking and you just see sentence after sentence after sentence there’s actually no way to know who’s talking and when the speaker’s switching. And to me I don’t see how you can follow what’s happening if you don’t know when the different people are talking.

TR:

Maybe you can’t tell yet, but this subject has a special place in her heart. It’s not just about words on the screen.

CG:

I love captioning more than anything else that I do. One thing that I love about captioning is that it is so precise, detailed, tedious and repetitive. That just works for me.

I look at captioning as part of the art. I do not think of it as a piece of accessibility that you have to add or want to add at the end. To me it’s artistic. Translating things. I can’t literally caption every single sound that is in a piece of art. That doesn’t make sense it’s not even possible. So I have to make creative decisions based on what I think it most important from the creator’s perspective and what I think audiences will want to get from something. I don’t want to be like “Speaks slowly, whispers quietly, birds chirp” I want it to be rich and lush especially when the film or the show is rich and lush. I feel like it’s my duty to make the captions as interesting and beautiful and artistic as the film is.

For me captioning is something that I can do in a move towards justice and equity. It is access to information. Whether that’s the news or pure entertainment or something that’s informational or somethings that’s on a social issue. it’s about equity. It’s not just about meeting compliance. I love doing it and I love what it can bring to people and how it can include more people in media and in conversations.

# Audio Description

TR:
Captioning eventually led Cheryl to find an additional way to make media more inclusive and engaging.

CG:

Through one more piece of access that’s very artistic , very subjective and hopefully integrate it into the art itself.

TR:

Maybe that’s not the way you’re used to thinking about or even hearing Audio Description discussed. . but that’s what she’s talking about.

Cheryl recalls first thinking about AD after providing captions for a client and then reading their Facebook post which read;
CG:
“Hey my video has captions now it’s accessible to everyone!”

## TR:

This just wasn’t true!

CG:

You have to be able to read quite well and quite quickly to follow captions. No, captions are not accessible to all people because not everybody can read in whatever given language there in but also I looked at that and thought well these captions are just visible on screen and if you’re not
looking at the captions there not there.

TR:

There’s all sorts of benefits gained from captioning and Audio description. And not just for the consumer.

CG:

I think it takes a lot to acknowledge you know what, I made a great film here but I recognize that not everybody can access it because of the way I made it.

There’s a big piece of acknowledging this film is not complete until more people can come in.

From a capitalistic sense if you have great content and you want an audience why not make your content available to a bigger audience. It just makes sense.

But I hate capitalism so I do also value more of a disability justice and social justice and equity lens to say people need to be participating in civic engagement, arts, culture, entertainment and all of it. And What can I do to make that more accessible and available to more people.

# Film

TR:

She’s answering that question from multiple points of view. That’s a Caption & Audio Description provider and as a film maker.

Following the brain injury which impacted her ability to cook as well as organize she did what anyone would do;

CG:

I made a comedy film about it and it took off.

Audio: “Cooking with Brain Injury”

TR:
Okay, maybe that’s not what everyone does.

That first film was called “Cooking with Brain Injury”

A short film looking at daily struggles of life after traumatic brain injury with dark, honest humor.

CG:

I sold many copies of it. I’ve taken it to state and national speech therapy conferences. I’ve done Continuing Ed. trainings around it and it was totally impairment based. It was a window into my world.

TR:

After other films around brain injury, she decided it was time to close that window.

Audio: window closing

CG:

I realized I need to get out of the spotlight and get behind the camera and do more. Over the years my films have become much less about impairment and much more about disability experience, marginalization, self-empowerment, autonomy and decision making. I do a lot of cross disability work now. It was all brain injuries in the beginning but that didn’t hold my attention because it can be so impairment focused.

TR:

Cheryl’s first film didn’t start out with Captions or Audio Description.

CG:

I didn’t know about access at all when I started, but as soon as I found out I could copy down the spoken words and put them up on the screen; it didn’t look good , but those words were on the screen. And I loved it!
Then I got educated about Captioning software

TR:
She became quite serious about the craft.

CG:

I read up on the FCC guidelines. I love it when the FCC issues new guidelines new recommendations. I’m there with those white papers reading them to make things the best that I can.

I have seen some people criticize the FCC guidelines for example saying, “I don’t care what the guidelines are I want to know what Deaf people want.”

Number one, Captions are not just for Deaf people. There’s a lot of different kind of people who want and need Captions.

Number two, there were Caption users on the committee that wrote the FCC guidelines.

They’re really good guidelines . They make for beautiful Captions They included actual consumers actual Caption users in their creation and that’s another reason I really value them.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

You really are a Caption nerd! Laughs…

CG:

Laughs… I’m such a nerd!

TR:

Deep passion for a given subject. That’s what separates the nerds from the rest.

In this case, the passion is all about inclusion, social justice and equity.

CG:

I have a lot of clients a lot of filmmakers who come to me for captioning and they have a lot of complaints about the way captions look. Or they make requests that I find unreasonable. They’re unreasonable because they are centering that hearing filmmaker who doesn’t actually know what Captions are or can’t really articulate what Captions are for. And I say, your aesthetics around Captions are not what I’m working with. I am working to serve Caption users and I have very explicit reasons why I make the choices that I make. I’ll negotiate with you. I’ll talk with you on the phone but you have to understand that Caption users come firsthand I’m not interested in your aesthetic choices around the Captions.

If you want access you would make captions the most accessible that I know how to make. I get into fights with people all of the time and it’s so much fun!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs!

TR:

Don’t worry, know one’s out here recklessly out starting fights. This is all about advocating for the user.

CG:

IF content creators always included Caption users and Audio Description users in their minds and their target audience then it wouldn’t be a thing. But it’s specifically because people whether it’s willfully or they just have somehow remained oblivious through their careers, they don’t even consider people who would benefit from the access as part of their target audience. That’s why I harp on it . I would love to get to a place where it’s just we have to do color correction, we have to do sound sweetening, we have to trim off 35 seconds on this, we have to add the Audio Description. Boom, boom,boom boomboom!

When it’s just part of the practice, yeh, I won’t have to be so political and I won’t enjoy fighting with people. But until we’re at that day for whatever reason I enjoy being super fired up and political about it.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

The order in which you laid that out where you said ok, they have to do some color correction, do this and let’s add Audio Description. I want that thought about in the writing because to me the end result would be better. I still think that when it comes to things like Audio Description and Captions, there’s a charity model that starts off the process.. Let’s do this because you know (the following said mockingly) it’s a good thing to do for the people. Let’s give this to them so they can be happy.

If they thought about it has what you said which is it’s going to make our film better Not just because more people are seeing it but it actually may do something better to the film Meaning, if you think about Audio Description at the time of writing it at the time of producing that film chances are you’re going to think of something that’s going to enhance it.

CG:

Oh, hundred percent! Oh my gosh, I just got interviewed yesterday they were like what’s the one take home message that you 3want filmmakers to have.

I say, you put access in your budget in the pre-production phase. You put it in your budget so there’s no “oh we didn’t know”. And then you always consider it. You don’t just get the supplementary footage or the daily footage.

There’s kind of this idea that you find something beautiful you hold the camera on it for at least 10 seconds, get a good shot. You know what? Do it for 40 seconds because then when we’re editing there’s the opportunity to say let’s stretch out this shot a little more because then we can put the Audio Description in.

I am totally with you that if you are considering this stuff from the beginning you’re going to film it differently. You’re going to edit it differently. It is going to be better.

TR:

This is coming from an experienced film maker.

CG:

When I filmed my documentary and I was still new to this, I told my Director of Photography, “Don’t ever do extreme close ups. Ever” I don’t want any extreme close ups. Even with the mouth off to the side because we are going to have captions in every version of this film ever shown. I told the Editor, “I need you to put in spots, stretched out spots where Audio Description can come in.”

Now unfortunately I wasn’t trained in Audio Description back then, and so we didn’t nail that as well. We didn’t have enough stretched out spaces and the Audio Description isn’t as lush as it could be.

We did some re-editing and we added in more space. I re-wrote the script, the original Audio Description script, hired other voices to do it. As you watch my film progress over time the same film different versions Audio Description becomes more lush, more engaging more honest because now I understand Audio Description a little better. So there were things that were a little vague in the description.

TR:

For many such re-writes would feel like a chore.

Like her latest production, “Who AM I to Stop it”, a documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury, was selected for Superfest International Disability Film Festival.

The longest running disability film festival in the world – co-hosted by San Francisco’s Lighthouse and the
Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State.

Superfest is one of the few festivals worldwide that is accessible to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.  
CG:

I got an email from the director, hey we love your film it got in, it got an award, but we had to stop during the screening a few times because our Blind jurors felt left out by a joke in the film. It wasn’t described well enough. She said I’m sorry I don’t mean to be negative but are you at all available to re-record.

TR:

I suppose it’s viewing this process as art that produces Cheryl’s response.

CG:

Negative, this is the biggest gift in the world are you kidding me let’s go.

I rewrote several parts but I specifically rewrote the part that people felt left out by. My Blind Audio description teacher helped point out some spots where she still felt a little bit excluded or maybe even confused about what was happening. It’s just more descriptive. That’s how art should be. As you learn and develop your skills it gets more wonderful.

Audio: Basic Able

TR:

Wonderful, like the time she described an improvised dance segment for a video podcast. It featured Antoine Hunter

CG:

He is a really phenomenal person. He’s a dancer, choreographer and healing artist. He teaches dance. He’s marvelous. He’s Deaf and he’s the Artistic Director I think, of the Real Urban Jazz dance Company.

I’ve never done dance before. It was so fun and it was so exciting to try and get the dance moves and match them. And because he’s Deaf he incorporates some sign into the way he dances.

I’m not fluent at all, but I’m familiar with Sign language and I’m familiar with the role that facial expression plays in the grammar and expression of Sign language. So I was able to make references to his hand gestures as being Sign and references to his facial expressions.

I think I said his facial expressions mirror the expansiveness of his bodies motion.

Audio: from podcast if available…

TR:

Hopefully, by now, you too should at least start to see the art. It’s the familiarity with the culture that enables Cheryl to recognize such detail.

CG:

Everything that I do has something about disability or Deaf culture in it. I engage with it seven days a week. Whether I’m making something or reading or watching something. I try to immerse myself in the cultural aspects of Deafness and Disability. That brings a more lush Audio Description

TR:

That level of detail and equity goes as far as seeking input from those being described.

CG:

I sent Antoine the script because it wasn’t going to be in the captions for him to read. He really liked it and he corrected one part that he didn’t like. It didn’t feel fair to him and he gave me words that not only feel more fair to him, but were more beautiful than the words I had chosen. It was so collaborative and so beautiful.

When I’m describing what somebody’s body looks like or how it moves I send them my script. I ask them what they think about how I wrote it. or I tell them I’m going to audio describe this please tell me how you want time to describe what you look like. Sometimes people will send me a description that’s actually not very visual.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Like what?

CG:

Like when I say how do you want me to describe how you’re moving? And the response is a man with Cerebral Palsy. That doesn’t give me a sense of how you move, but I asked and you answered. And I respect your answer. But it is tricky because the point of audio description is to give people a flavor of the visuals and man with Cerebral Palsy that’s not very visual is it?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
No, not at all.

CG:

If it’s your content and I’m describing you and that’s all you give me ok, that’s what I’ll use.

When it’s my content I’ll use their words as the starting point and expand to make it more descriptive and more visual oriented.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

Give me an idea of the types of things that you would include in a description of someone.

CG:

I try to always describe something that relates to race or ethnicity. If I know how the person identifies then I can use those terms. If I don’t then I might be more descriptive. for instance, I describe myself as a white woman, which is kind of descriptive but not really because my skin tone is darker than any of my white friends. I’m the darkest person I know in my circle of white friends so it’s not super descriptive to say that I’m white. But it wouldn’t be useful to say I’m a brown woman because I’m white. I just have kind of light brown skin. If I don’t know their ethnicity I might say someone with a dark skin tone, someone with a fair skin tone. Sometimes I’ll defer to hair. A woman with bright red hair.. She’s probably white if she has bright red hair. now not necessarily of course.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

(Laughs…) Now-a-days!

CG:
There are different reasons why someone would have red hair regardless of their ethnicity.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

What would make you choose their hair and what would make you include that in the description. I wonder why would they say that? Why did they now tell me that this person is a Black person or whatever. And I’m like hmm, let me see if this is going to be really necessary to the story line.
CG:

Yeh!
[TR in conversation with CG:]

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. And it leaves me wondering why they made that choice and why they didn’t describe the white person.

CG:

Ok, get ready!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Yeh, ok! (Laughs.)

CG:

Oh my! I cannot tell you how with you I am. I’m going to describe something if it feels relevant to the story or for political reasons.

Just end my career now if I ever put something out there where I say the black person and the person meaning white. I don’t know if I would ever recover from my remorse.

I don’t do, a wheel chair user and a person. Huh! No! If there’s a wheelchair user and there’s someone else standing. One person sitting in a wheel chair and one person standing. I make political choices If one person’s race or ethnicity or nationality becomes relevant to the story, I am going to make a point to name everybody’s so that I’m not singling one person out as the other or the weirdo or the outsider.

There is no way that someone is ethnic and some other person is not ethnic. I just cannot even wrap my head around … I don’t even know what ethnic food means, what on earth, what? (Said with a lot of annoyance!)

What food doesn’t come from a culture? What? (Said exasperatingly)

No, I will name them all or I will name nobody. And it really depends on the content creator, what they’re going for, how much time there is and yes is it relevant. Is it going to make a difference to the story for me to know something about the ethnicities of the people involved and is there time to get that in there. And if I can’t describe them all then I can’t describe any. or sometimes I will tell somebody, you need to stretch out that first scene because I have got to get that description in there. I have to!

TR:

Movies, television are often a reflection of society. It’s not surprising that the politics of the world impacts the way we think about and create access to content.

There are many who believe the best approach is to ignore race or ethnicity all together. As Cheryl points out, the results don’t lead to equality.

CG:

I think when Audio Describers are shy, oh I don’t’ want to say those words, as an Audio Describer your comfort and discomfort are not supposed to be part of this. You’re censoring it for the viewers.

You know I was really moved by your episodes around Black panther. There’s the access piece, but also one of the ways we white wash is to pretend like white people are neutral and just people. And so whatever we think is important is what’s important. And yeh, they had some cool costumes in Black panther, but ok, cool costumes whatever. That’s not fair. It’s so beyond not fair, it really is a show of white supremacy.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Mm Hmm! (In agreement)

CG:

To neutralize overt displays of culture that are not white, you erase them, you ignore them. That is white supremacy. And it’s not ok.

If the film maker did not erase culture then the Audio Describer or Captioner really should not erase culture as well.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Absolutely!

CG:

Some people feel like it’s just the detail, no. We’re talking about humanity and we’re talking about dehumanizing people. Willfully dehumanizing people when we leave stuff out

TR:

Cheryl says the same occurs in captions.

Not only is she creating films, accessible content through subtitles, captions and audio description, Cheryl produces the podcast Pigeonhole.

As described on Apple Podcast:

Pigeonhole challenges the stereotypes that disabled people are all white, straight, middle class people in search of a cure for their bodies and minds
the way mainstream media would make it seem. Made by from disability community, and centering disabled people as audience, Pigeonhole interrogates the
assumptions and biases we hold about disability and embraces all parts of people’s identities. We uplift disability culture, celebrate identity, and break
out of the narrow pigeonholes people attempt to stuff us in.

She’s a fellow recipient of the New Voice Scholarship warded by Association of Independence in Radio.

Receiving that scholarship puts us both in a very exclusive group of some of the best audio makers currently making radio and podcasts.

Audio: Microphone and other equipment collapsing during my conversation with Cheryl.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

We are having operating difficulties, please stand by

TR:

Well, maybe not all of us!

You can find Cheryl online at WhoAmIToStopIt.com She tweets under that same name, which again is her latest production.

Her films are available through New Day Film.com.

Checkout Cheryl’s podcast Pigeonhole – that’s P I G E O N H O L E. I especially like the episode titled “A nap and a bird.” It’s a short well told story that says a lot.

# Close

Audio: “As we proceed”

We’re continuing to advance our ongoing conversation around Audio Description and content access in general.

Considering captions & AD as art? Why shouldn’t it be. It’s the written word that has some pretty strict requirements including the time constraints and a need to quickly convey a message. We’re talking about talented writers and voice actors/narrators.

Let’s spread this way of thinking about accessible content.

Let’s push for content creators like Cheryl whether independent or in the major studios to see it as a tool to improve their storytelling. Then maybe we’ll see it become a part of the pre-production and be more of a reflection of the film’s conceived vision.

Looking at content access through a social justice lens feels like it leads closer to inclusion.

A big shout out to Cheryl Green! I enjoy speaking with her and appreciate her perspective. I guess I’ll go ahead and put this right here… I hope you will hear more from her right here on the podcast in the future.

You know, I still hope to hear more from you the listener. I’m not looking for you to write me long messages about how much you love the show or how funny you think I am or how much you like the production, or how much you think this podcast should be the top podcast on the charts or how it makes your day when a new episode publishes… no who would want to hear any of that!

I just want to know if it made you smile, gave you an idea or maybe encouraged you to do something.

I send myself fake messages about all the other stuff so I have that covered!

Seriously, holla back!

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

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

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

So make sure you Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud
Audio: Bring the audio to a screech!

## TR:

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

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and wherever you get podcasts.

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Up and Moving Again

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

William at the finish line of the Prickly Pear

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

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

This episode includes an original piece produced by Tilly Jones.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

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

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

WG:

I was riding a bicycle, not wearing a helmet.

TR:

This is William Greer.

WG:

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

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

TR:

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

WG:

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

TR:

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

WG:

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

TR:

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

WG:

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

TR:

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

WG:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Audio: “Marciac Master” By Tilly Jones

WG:

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

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

## TR:

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

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

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

WG:

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

Audio for each of the movies is included.

WG:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t like Forrest Gump obviously.

Oh, Al Pacino was in it…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Laughs… Scent of a Woman? Laughs…

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

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

TR:

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

WG:
Yes.

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

And what made you do that?

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

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

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

WG:

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

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

TR:

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

WG:

The sighted guide enables me to concentrate on running.

TR:

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

WG:

Even picking up water or Gatorade from the water stops.

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

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

WG:

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

TR:

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

WG:

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

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

WG:

Laughs… With a hundred mile it is one day!

TR:

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

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

Audio: 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing…

WG:

We finished 5 minutes before the first bomb.

That was luck as much as running skill.

## TR:

Such incidents are rare, but there are risks.

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

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

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

TR:

Sound advice. For more than running!

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

WG:

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

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

WG:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

WG:

You know that’s … Pause…

Because I can’t imagine not running.

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

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

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

[TR in conversation with WG:]

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlike my addiction to chocolate!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace!

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We’ve Been Here: Black Disability History

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

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

Courtesy of: Raven Reid


Happy Black History Month!

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

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

Cover art for the Krip Hop Nation Graphic Novel

Courtesy of Krip-Hop Nation

Special Shout Outs:

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

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

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

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

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

today we’re recognizing and saluting Black History Month.

That’s next up on Reid My Mind Radio !

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music…

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

One thing however that rarely gets attention; Black disability.

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

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

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

Audio: African flute music…

Please welcome, Raven Reid!

Raven:
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913).

Ms. Tubman is best known as an abolitionist.

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

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

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

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

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

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977)

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

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

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

Ms. Hamer had polio as a child.

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

# Leroy: Black History Month

Audio: “Audio Call” Voice Over speech from iPhone

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

LM:

Thank you. You too.

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

LM:

I love his story!

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

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

TR:

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

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

LM:

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

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

TR:

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

LM:

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

TR:

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

Soul singer Robert Winters and

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

even one third of the legendary rap group Run-DMC

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

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

DMC – so I can see!

— The above is playing while TR talks over…

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

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

LM:

We just didn’t see nothing.

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

TR:

Those letters? Well, they aimed high!

LM:

Jesse Jackson, The Urban League, The NAACP

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

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

LM:

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

We can’t do nothing for ya!

LM & TR laugh!

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

TR:

So Hip-Hop!

LM:

Now at 51 years old still doing this.

# Leroy Graphic Novel

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

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

LM:

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

LM

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

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

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

LM:

Black Lives Matter protest, Open Mics…

TR:

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

LM:

Her wheelchair turns into Hip-Hop.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

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

LM:
Yeh, definitely.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

That’s what it is? Laughs.

LM:

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

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

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

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

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

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

LM:

As a little kid outside of the cipher..

TR:

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

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

Now here comes a young Leroy

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# Leroy Krip Hop Update

Audio: Hip Hop don’t stop…

TR:

Like Hip-Hop Krip-Hop don’t stop.

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

Krip Hop Nation has two events coming up in 2019.

LM:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

[TR in conversation with LM:]

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

LM:

Yeh, thank you for bringing that up.

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

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

TR:

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

LM:

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

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

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

LM:

You got the Blues with all the Blind artists.

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

LM:

Especially on the mainstream stage.

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

TR:

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

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

TR:

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

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

LM:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

Want to recommend a topic or person for the show?

Hollaback…

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

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

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

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

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Celebrating Loving & Living Blind

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

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

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

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

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

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

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

That’s up next on Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music!

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Audio: “The Baddest Chick”, Trina

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Can you please just state your name for the record?

Marlett:
Marlett Reid

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And who are you?

Marlett:
I’m the baddest chick!

Audio: As the music gets louder …

Marlett:
I’m your wife!

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

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

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

Then there’s external forces.

Marlett:

People can be really rude!

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh, I didn’t know!

Marlett:

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

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

They would just stare at you!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

… long pause

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

Marlett:

Laughs… Yeh, they stare at you too sweetheart.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Ah, thank you Hun!

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

Marlett:
Such an idiot!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

(Regarding the men staring)

What do you think that’s about?

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh! Now the ladies they stare for different reasons!

Marlett:

Because they think you’re hot. mm hmm!

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

Marlett:
You’re welcome!

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

Marlett:

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

TR:

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

Marlett:
They look at us as being different.

TR:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

Marlett:

Yeh!

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

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Acceptance of what, what does that mean?

Marlett:

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

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

Marlett:

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

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

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

Wow!

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

They had that back then?

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

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What did they say?

Marlett:

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

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

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

Marlett:

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

TR:

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

Remembering the good and bad.

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

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

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

Like my baby girls!

A 6 year old.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Please state your name.

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

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

Riana:
Laughs… shut up!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

laughs… For the record, how old are you?

Riana:
21.

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

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

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

Audio: “Hi my name is Raven!”

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with Riana.

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

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

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

Riana:
Mmmm!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

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

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

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

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

I don’t get angry. I get annoyed.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
About?

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

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

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

TR:

Riana’s passionate about this subject.

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

Riana:

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

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Laughs.

Riana:

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

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
No doubt!

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

Woosa!

The two laugh…

Riana:

Daddy I’m rocking back and forth…

The two laughing!

It just gets on my nerves some times.

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

Riana:

You did. All the time!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Laughs…

Riana:
I’m serious you did.

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

Riana:

Communicate how I felt!

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

Riana:

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

Normal

Raven:

I thought everyone had a parent that was blind.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

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

Raven:
I don’t know either.

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

Raven:
I really did.

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

Raven:

I have cousins. I did not process this thought.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

No, but that’s cool though!

TR:

Laughs…Normal is in the eyes of the beholder!

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

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

Raven:

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

Like “How does he eat?”

Like with a fork!

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

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

Raven:

I would have punched them!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

Ok, I raised you right!

Raven:
Laughs!

TR:

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

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

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

Raven:

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

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

Raven:

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

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

They are incorrect!

Raven:

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

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

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

But if you plug a speaker in…laughs…

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

The two laugh together.

Wow, my own daughter has that false belief.

Raven:

I was told that every single year of my life.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
By who?

Raven:

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

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Senses?

Raven:

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

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

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

Raven:

Did you feel that punch!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Yes.

Raven:

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

The two laugh…

TR:

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

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

Audio: Mix of songs featuring metaphors for blind…

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

Like choosing how you view disability.

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

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

What about an alternative perspective?

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

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

This is recognizing Blind as an additional characteristic.

Riana:

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

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

Riana:

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

[TR in conversation with Riana]

You changed my Netflix profile to say that!

Riana:

Laughs.. Yeh, baldy!

The two laugh…

TR:

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

Audio examples from news segments bridged by static signal…

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

TR:

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

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

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

Marlett:

Yes.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Tell me.

Marlett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mmm! That’s cool… that’s cool!

Marlett:

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

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

Marlett:

Thank you!

TR:

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

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

Marlett:

Absolutely! I was, I was hungry…

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

Marlett:

I didn’t try to be sexy…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

Marlett:

I was looking for something, anything…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

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

Marlett:

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Long pause…

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

TR:
Hollaback…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio: On Music & Identity with Graham Norwood

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Full body picture of Graham in all denim in front of a brown wooden background with a white framed door.
“It’s been a long time coming…” and we’re finally here. Back with another episode and finally bringing you a request from a listener. NYC based Musician Graham Norwood spoke with me about his music, the process of becoming a part of the disability community and more. Plus hear some samples of his music and become a fan!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Hello RMM Radio family.
I hope you all are doing well.
And I mean that with real sincerity.
I honestly miss you!
Before we get into this week’s episode I feel as though I should apologize. I’m truly committed to producing this show so when things get
reprioritized in my life I still want to make it happen.
Missing the last installment really bothered me but we’re back today with a new episode and a special one at that.
This one itself is long over do
Last year I received a request from a listener of RMM Radio asking me to interview a musician she followed on Instagram.
I know, it sounds like I am a private investigator for hire minus the fees. Actually, I think it’s pretty cool. She wanted to know more about this person and thought he would be a good fit for the podcast. She was correct and for that I send a sincere thanks.
It took some time for he and I to find some common ground in our schedules, but because it was a request, I couldn’t drop the ball on this one.
So here we go.
Audio: RMMRadio Intro
TR:
You’re listening to Graham Norwood, a New York City based musician.
He currently also serves as the Director of Foundations and
Corporate Relations for the Partnership for the Homeless a
New York City based nonprofit.
GN: I grew up a town called San Mateo which is about twenty miles south of San Francisco. I have a condition called L.C.A. Labor’s congenital amaurosis which is similar to R.P. Actually I thought I had R.P. my whole life until I had genetic testing a couple years ago and they said it was actually L.C.A.
TR:
LCA or Leber’s congenital amaurosis
has similarities to RP or retinitis pigmentosa and many
eye doctors consider it to be an early-onset form of RP.
Just like RP or retinitis pigmentosa,
LCA is a slowly progressive condition that
also has several forms, each with
different genetic causes.
As Graham experienced this all of his life it was his normal.
GN:
I honestly didn’t give it that much thought. All the schools I went to really kind of were willing to provide whatever accommodations were necessary but I don’t know I didn’t really need a ton of accommodations. Growing up my sight was a little bit better. I was able to kind of follow along okay, so wasn’t it wasn’t that big of a deal.
TR:
Music came pretty natural to Graham.
Starting with the piano around 7 or 8 years old, moving on to the guitar at 10.
He later realized he could sing and since then music was a central part of his life.
GN:
Music is kind of like a level playing field where whether you can see or not is pretty irrelevant. If you sound good then it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t think I was ever consciously aware of that but you know looking back that’s very true. I think I was able to meet and play with a lot of you know really pro level musicians and they were very accepting of me there was never any sort of like “well you’re blind you can’t do this.” That’s not always the case, I mean, there are certain professions in careers where even if you maybe do have a work around and people are still kind of suspicious and the joblessness rate in the blind and low vision community is seventy percent. It’s very hard for people with low vision to build careers for themselves and they deal with a lot of prejudice even just sort of unconscious bias they really don’t have a sense of what the technological adaptations are how people go about their lives they try to empathize and try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. But if you don’t have the experience of being blind and figuring out the work arounds and having a good problem solving skills then you have you know your first thought is like “oh my God if I couldn’t see I couldn’t do anything.” So they don’t realize how adaptable people are and how they come up with ways to get around all that stuff and be successful in spite of the little vision
TR in conversation with GN:
Do you find that that was in all aspects of music? So do you get involved in the recording side of it as well?
GN:
You know, I honestly don’t really I’ve never really been that good with kind of recording myself. Certain programs like Reaper, an audio software program that’s pretty good and pretty accessible for low vision people, but I’ve honestly never gotten too far down that road I’ve always worked with other engineers. I really like the kind of studio atmosphere being able to focus in on the performance and having somebody else kind of worry about the engineering side of it.
TR in conversation with GN:
I am recording you through Reaper right now. (laughs)
GN:
(Laughs) Right on! Yeah it’s cool I just spent six months at Colorado Center for the blind and they showed me a little bit of how to use Reaper. And yeah it was cool. I did a little bit of recording on that it’s a pretty cool program.
TR:
The Colorado Center for the Blind is located south of Denver.
Taken from their website;
the center provides innovative teaching techniques and philosophy
that continues to have Far-reaching effects on
the lives of blind people, taking them to new heights of independence.
I was a little surprised to hear that he just returned from the center since he has experienced vision loss his entire life.
His explanation made total sense and gives a bit of insight into his character.
What sounds like the type of guy who will fix a perceived flaw.
GN:
There were certain things that I didn’t really learn when I was growing up. My domestic skills were pretty limited. I didn’t really know how to cook I didn’t really learn that much about like how to clean you know keep an apartment clean and things like that. I got to a point where I really wanted to learn those things. Colorado school teaches that stuff they also teach Braille, they teach mobility assistive technology. Some stuff I found more immediately useful than other things. I mean, I’ve had a cane training, I’m pretty mobile so the mobility stuff I felt like I had a pretty good handle on. Certainly, the home management stuff was really helpful to me and you know has made a pretty big difference.
TR in conversation with GN:
Did you have a lot of contact with other people who are visually growing up?
GN:
No I didn’t at all. That’s a good question because that was actually the thing I think that was most beneficial to me or made of the biggest impression when I did finally get the Colorado school. It was the first time really that I had been around a lot of other blind and vision people. It’s really only been in the last maybe five years maybe not even maybe four years, that I’ve kind of become much more involved and aware of that blind and low vision community and also the larger kind of people with disabilities community. When I was going up I was the only blind person I knew. I think in a lot of ways it was it was great for me in the sense of I never really thought of myself in those terms and I kind of when I would come to a situation where it would be harder for me to do something than a sighted person I would just sort of figure it out. I didn’t put any barriers or restrictions on myself in terms of what I could do. But I think what I didn’t get was it was the vision thing was something that I always kind of marginalised and I never really embraced it as a part of who I was. At the end of the day it’s a pretty big thing. It’s certainly not what defines me but it’s definitely a significant piece of that identity. And so I met some people maybe starting four or five years ago I started working as a grant writer at The National Organization on Disability and getting more and more interested in the sort of employment issues for people with disabilities. I met a few pretty cool blind people and the best advice I got actually was that you know you got to meet other cool blind people and you know see these other blind people that are doing really interesting stuff. So I found that very inspiring to start meeting other people in the community.
TR:
And that’s exactly what he did.
By volunteering with Team Sea to See.
GN:
S E A to S E E. It’s for kind of very successful business people who are also blind who are athletes and they’re taking part in this crazy bike race. Basically the world’s toughest bike race for blind people and then for sighted people riding tandems coast to coast in nine days. I’ve been helping them with fundraising we got funding from Google and the American Foundation for the Blind. Gatorades helping us out and some other pretty cool sponsors. And it’s basically to raise awareness of this godlessness issue. That’s kind of indicative of my transition over the past few years to really feeling more a part of the blind and low vision and people with disabilities community and wanting to be more involved in that. I think the biggest issue that people have, people with disabilities have, in a lot of ways is visibility and just getting out there. I don’t think people without disability see enough of that. One in six Americans has a disability I think something like one to two percent of the population this is low vision. It’s not like one in fifty people that you know are blind that’s not true for most of the population. People just don’t have a sense of how blind and low vision people or people with other disabilities can really thrive and succeed in and do amazing stuff. I’m much more aware of this idea now and I’m wanting to get the word out and just wanting to live my life in public as a low vision person so that other people can kind of be aware of you know the fact that they we’re out there and we’re doing awesome stuff and people can just sort of revise what they think is possible for people with disabilities.
TR in conversation with GN:
Was there any one thing that made you go that way? Was there something that occurred in your own experience?
GN:
I don’t think strictly so. I had a long term relationship and I think on a very practical level I went from living with this person for eight years to suddenly living on my own again for the first time in a long time. And I think you know on a very practical level that was a wake up call in terms of like the things that I took for granted that this woman helped me out with suddenly I had to do myself. Honestly, it was just maturing a little bit and realizing that I had been marginalizing this big component of my identity because I was so I was so paranoid of the idea that someone would just label me as like “oh the blind guy” you know and I never wanted to be that I wanted people to think of me more broadly and see the whole person as opposed to just the disability. That was something that I intuitively felt even from a very young age and so I just never wanted to make a big deal out of it and never want to be engaged with it and as I got a little bit older I think I realised that, I understood why I did it and I see you know the motivation behind feeling that way but ultimately I thought “this is kind of silly.” I need to own this more and be proud of who I am and you know not ignore this one thing but really embrace it and turn it into a positive. In addition to starting to work for the National Organization of Disability I went to National Federation of the blind, a national convention in Florida one year. I don’t know if you’ve ever been it was like completely overwhelming to me it was like twenty five hundred blind people in a convention center just like absolute chaos you know people like crashing into each other and just like (laughs). It was it was so overwhelming when I first got there. But then it really struck me because it was basically just a bunch of people who were like “you know what screw it like I this is who I am and this is this is how I get around and this is the way I live my life.” I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way but one of the takeaways for me was you know blindness isn’t always elegant, right? Like you use a cane to feel what’s in front of you and you know sometimes you whack a trash can and it’s like super loud. But that’s what the cane supposed to do and that’s how you get around and it may not be the most aesthetically beautiful way but it’s how we operate. I think I also felt like maybe I had been I had been trying to minimize those kinds of situations but I was going to such great lengths to not have those situations that I wasn’t authentically being myself and you know being just a person with a visual impairment who is out in the world and being independent and so that was my other, I think, turning point was seeing so many other blind people just living their lives and doing their thing and and being proud of it and not ashamed of it. So that was another thing that happened around the time that I started working for a National Organization of Disability that just made me realize you know this is how it is and there’s nothing to be ashamed of there’s nothing to avoid. I came away thinking this is a really beautiful thing that I haven’t been authentic and I haven’t been embracing and I want to start being more more real about being a person with a visual impairment. I don’t think there was any real like turning point that brought me to that it was it was a slow process and I really kind of started by like dipping my toe in the water and starting to reach out individually do a couple in the vision people and then it built from there. Then you know I had these these moments where I was like oh I get this now and I want to be more apart of this.
TR in conversation with GN:
I know I met so many people with low vision who straddle that line. And I’m not saying that they need to make a decision and go one way but it sounds like what you chose was the best for you to continue on and be your authentic self and sometimes I don’t think that people necessarily make that their choice I don’t think they’re being really authentic. And you know I’m trying not to judge necessarily but I’m also just saying like I see them that they’re not doing everything that they can and they’re hoping they holding on are grasping on to something. Do you understand what I’m saying?
GN: Oh absolutely and it’s hard because especially you know like I said I was born and grew up with this. And I think it’s probably really hard if somebody has you know normal or relatively normal vision and then they have to navigate that transition. Because you know let’s face it there’s a lot of stigmatization out there and you don’t necessarily want to suddenly identify as being a, well I avoid the term disabled person I was always say person with a disability because like smoke alarms get disabled and people are still people whether they have a disability or not. But yeah I mean you know I think I’ll always probably straddle that line. But the important thing for me was was the realization that I could exist on both sides of it and I didn’t have to make a choice and when I want to I’m fully qualified to be part of the blind and low vision community and there’s nothing wrong with that and people except me there and I didn’t know if they would it and then I realize that they totally do. And if I want to just hang out with all of my sighted friends and I don’t want to talk about or think about blindness I can do that too. For the longest time I felt like I didn’t belong in either world and then eventually I realized that I belonged in both.
TR:
It’s pretty obvious that raising awareness of blindness and disability issues is a high priority for Graham. I can respect that.
Learning to self-identify as a person with a disability is a process.
It begins with real self-examination and truthfulness.
Based on those I have spoken to who have gone through the process, it appears it leads to a greater level of comfort in one’s own skin.
In a way, Graham’s relationship with music is mirroring his life.
He traditionally played a more supportive role as a musician.
Playing in bands and producing records for others.
He’s currently working on his own album and he hopes will
get picked up by a label and released later this year.
You can learn more about his upcoming album, show dates and more.
GN:
My website is just my name Graham Norwood Music dot com (spells out grahamnorwood.com ). Custom tracks up on there I put my upcoming gigs on there know we will be putting up some announcements about the album when it comes out later this year people can email me through that and that’s that’s probably the best way.
TR:
Producing this episode probably began sometime last summer. It took some time to actually reach Graham, then scheduling problems, then my back issues and more recently my other commitments.
With certain people I interview, I can’t help but think how effective it would be to have the opportunity to really hang out with the person and observe them in their environment.
I suspect I would have seen relationships between his day job,
his self-discovery and acceptance of his identity as a person with vision loss and his music of course.
I couldn’t help but hear some of my own story in Graham’s.
I always mention the impact attending the state conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind had on my life.
While it wasn’t as large as the national conferences and conventions it was impactful.
Meeting the cool blind people who were living productive lives.
Observing their level of comfort in their own skin made me know it was possible that I too could attain that.
I’m reminded of hearing about these cool blind people from
prior guests on Reid My Mind Radio including Josh Miele, Chancey Fleet and more.
I know Using my white cane to navigate effectively may not look very smooth at times.
Occasionally, I might mess up but that’s ok. I get better. Most importantly I’m better at accepting when I get a bit thrown off.
Like I did with this podcast.
Just to let you know I have some episodes coming up in the next few weeks so please stay tuned.
Remember, 2BlindMics; the number 2 capital B, lind capital M, ics.
This is the show I co-host with my podcast partner Doctor Dre. It’s right down the block on your local podcast app. Give it a listen and feel free to let me know what you think good or bad. I’m interested in hearing from the RMMRadio listeners. We have a lot of interviews with some of the rap artists and others involved in the Yo MTV Raps experience.
I really do appreciate feedback. it’s the only real way to improve…
Even if it’s something I disagree with, I can decide to not do anything about it but at least I was informed.
Sort of like Graham making the decision to go to the Colorado center to improve his own skills. You have to respect that. We’re supposed to fix our flaws and become the best person we can be.
You can do the same by subscribing to this podcast – Reid My Mind Radio – remember that’s R E I D.
It’s available just about wherever you get podcasts plus Sound Cloud, Stitcher and Tune In Radio.
And I plan to talk to you soon!
Peace!
Audio: Graham:
Whether you can see or not is pretty irrelevant, if you sound good it’s not that big of a deal.

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