Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Audimance: Transforming Dance and Movement into Sound

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Alice Sheppard is a former Professor turned Dancer, Choreographer and the Founding Director of Kinetic Light. A believer in access, she knew it required asking the right question. “Not how you make dance accessible, that’s boring. The question really is how do you transform the art of dance into the art of sound.”

fellow Dancer, Engineer and Kinetic Light partner, Laurel Lawson had the idea; Audimance!

A mobile phone screen sports several pastel colored dots'; the word “Audimance” is visible. The dots represent different soundtracks, and a brown skinned hand reaches into the image pressing on a dot and thereby choosing a mix of tracks.
Hear how they became Dancers, the challenges of finding physically integrated dance schools, the film “Inclinations” and all about the app that is changing the way we think of Audio description. Plus, do you recognize that voice?

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome back to the podcast featuring essays of compelling people
impacted by Blindness and Disability.
it’s called Reid My Mind Radio!

Every now and then, I include some of my personal experiences as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

I’m Thomas Reid, producer and host of this here podcast
living up to the claim of making blindness sound funky!

I’m not only referring to the actual sound, but I’m talking about the energy.
It’s positive, yet real and always upbeat. Funky is my way of challenging how you the listener may
think a podcast geared to those adjusting to blindness is supposed to sound.
Should it sound sanitized, institutional? Not here it won’t.

So if you’re riding with the Reid My Mind Radio family well then you must be funky too!

On the podcast today…

Audio: “Dance”

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

“Once you start asking; how does your body move? How does it communicate movement? Movement is a rigorous and tough beautiful way of communicating. We owe it to ourselves and to our audiences to find, nurture and develop the greatest range of nuance in physical communication that we can. It’s an amazing kind of vocabulary.”, Alice Sheppard

TR:

Today we’re exploring some of that vocabulary with Dancer and Choreographer, Alice Sheppard. She’s also the founding Director of Kinetic Light;

AS:

Which is an ensemble of disabled artists making immersive dance experiences.

[TR in conversation with AS:]

Tell me a little bit about your first experience with dance.

AS:

I was a Musician, an Orchestral Pit Musician. Dancers were just simply the things above me on the stage pounding away, being late, needing the music to go slower, needing the music to go faster. (Laughs) I didn’t understand much about the art form . Dance was not something that my family had access to or I would have had access to even try. Dance just wasn’t there.

TR:

Eventually, She’d gain that access but the steps to becoming a dancer were far from choreographed.

[TR in conversation with AS:]

My understanding is that you became a professor… Yes?

AS:

Yes!

[TR in conversation with AS:]

(Laughing…) AS:

Laughing…

[TR in conversation with AS:] I just want to make sure the internet is correct.

AS:

the internet… in this case the internet is correct! Laughs…

TR:

A professor of Medieval Studies to be exact.

in 2004, Alice saw a performance by a disabled dancer.

AAS:

I didn’t really know what to expect. I was worried it was going to be cringe worthy and it wasn’t.

It was, … amazing! It was smart. It was political. It was sour. It was bitter. It was funny. It was tender, loving and joyful. It was the fullest expression of what you can hope for a body and mind and a heart. It grabbed me. It transported me and transformed me in ways I had not imagined possible.

TR:

Following the performance , Alice had a conversation with the dancer, Homer Avila.

AS:

We were talking about Disability and art and aesthetics and integrity and how you could work from a position of wholeness. He had an amputation to his leg, but he wasn’t saying things like he’s working from a deficit position, he was just working with the body that he had and reforming the art around his body. I was all into this because it was in line with what I was reading and thinking and writing about as a professor.

At the end of the evening he had issued a dare to me and a couple of other people who were hanging out

TR:

The dare?

Take a dance class.

AS:

I said yes because you know when you’re drinking you say yes to a whole pile of things.

[TR in conversation with AS:] Laughing…

AS:

Yeh, maybe this should be a lesson in bad alcohol. Don’t drink!

[TR in conversation with AS:]

Laughing… Maybe it’s good though because it seems like it worked out for you.

AS:

Yeh, yeh! (Laughing)

[TR in conversation with AS:] Not that I’m promoting alcohol. Laughs…

AS:

Laughs…

TR:

Sadly, that was Avila’s last performance. He passed away six weeks later.

AS:

I really felt like I had to honor that dare.

TR:

Finding a dance class doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it took Alice some time to find a school that would actually teach her. Instead she received responses like;

AS:

Well I don’t really know how to teach you or you can just be over there and maybe you can figure something out or make something up.

I never actually got to be in the dance class.

TR:

One school even had security post up outside of the class. We’re still trying to figure that one out!

I personally have never seen dance outside of that performed by someone with full use of their legs. So I asked Alice to describe how she does it.

AS:

Mostly in a manual wheelchair. Sometimes on crutches and some of my work is actually being done in a wheel chair with crutches on my arms as well.

[TR in conversation with AS:]

So tell me what does that look like?

AS:

If you can imagine a pair of manual crutches with rings like the European Lofstrand forearm crutches, they just have hoops at the top so you can hang them off your arms. I made them too short to stand up on, but long enough to be able to push my wheelchair like ski’s. Then I have these huge like 9 feet long, I can reach all the way up to the ceiling up to 11 1/2 feet and 9 feet wide. it’s just the incredible feeling of this huge wingspan and you can whirl those crutches. You can turn like nothing on earth, you just whirl them. Because they’re so wide they give you this incredible balance. It’s awesome! (Laughs…)

[TR in conversation with AS:]

Wow!

You’re going between the chair and the floor sometimes too, right?

AS:

Oh yeh! We use the floor in our chairs. We wear straps so the chairs come with us and we come with the chair. And then we can dive to the floor and roll and do all kinds of things on the floor. Sometimes we’re on the floor without our wheelchair.
It’s an amazing kind of vocabulary. I think once you start asking how does your body move. How does it communicate in movement? Movement is a rigorous and tough and beautiful way of communicating. We owe it to ourselves and to our audiences to find, nurture and develop the greatest range of nuance in physical communication that we can.

TR:

Eventually, Alice found her way to the Access Dance Company in Oakland California, where she took her first physically integrated dance class.

[TR in conversation with AS:] What was the experience like for you?

AS:

No one has ever quite asked me this before. Give me a moment to actually tell you the truth of it.

It was a sense of being at the beginning of something. Something I knew I couldn’t do. I knew I didn’t have control. I didn’t have the skill but it was being at the center feeling this whole area open up wide, wide, wide before me. And the joy and the pleasure of if I could be in there it would be amazing. I was aware that I sucked massively. I wasn’t doing the things that they asked, well. Even though I was doing them to the best of my capacity at the time. As a musician I recognized that I was at the same level of inquiry that I was at in the music practice. Where you’re like oh right I can see it, I can feel it, I don’t know what it’s going to be but I know that I have to work to get there.

TR:

Meanwhile, on the east side, in Georgia to be exact, Laurel Lawson was preparing to enter grad school.

LL:

I grew up playing music both as an amateur and as a professional and acting. I saw this dance class. It was in a great time slot right before I needed to be at one of my acting jobs. I thought it would be interesting, you know pick up a little broader skill base and it would be a good warm up. I’ve done a little bit of jazz like that minimum amount of theatrical dance that you need in order to get through musicals. So I went and signed up for this six week class. Boy I sucked so badly!

TR:

Well Douglas Scott apparently saw some talent there. He’s the founder and director of Full Radius Dance, a premier physically integrated dance school. He invited Laurel to audition for the dance company.

LL:

Two months later I was on stage in my first professional appearance.

It’s a little weird right. I often think about that. It’s like the most “bass awkward” way of falling into this field in some ways. A field that is so competitive that people work and dream and hustle from the time that they’re five years old and I took this weird circuitous path and almost wound up dancing by accident. Maybe that’s the title of my autobiography, “The Accidental Dancer”.

[TR in conversation with AS:]

Laughs…

TR:

The community of professional dancers isn’t that large. Eventually, Alice and Laurel met. First chatting about technique, exercises and shared experiences.

LL:

We always knew we had work to make together. It was just a matter of getting to the point for us as individuals, for us as artists where we were ready to do that. Where we could put together the kind of structure to support it and for the rest of the world to get to the point where we had this little bit of an entry to be able to get other people to realize hey we have something to contribute here. The funding and presentation landscape makes a huge difference in what gets presented and what does not.

TR:

That structure is Kinetic Light.

LL:

At the core of it, Kinetic Light consists of this collective of three artists, Alice, myself and Michael Maag who is our production, projection and lighting designer.

Kinetic Light is a little unusual in the way we operate compared to what you might call a conventional dance company. We’re a multi-disciplinary. In some ways we’re not necessarily a dance company. Dance is front and center but there are also ways in which we are a multi-modal performance company. Are we a tech company? That’s a question that we keep going back to because we’re not quite a dance company.

TR:

There’s multiple functions associated with running a dance company.
Of course, there’s the choreography, but we can’t forget the administrative work of funding, managing projects and more.

And then there’s something of particular interest to those with vision loss that Alice explains has always been a part of the plan.

AS:

My thought was always that we would do access. What I didn’t know was the kind of journey that it would become.

TR:

We’re talking about audio description. Well we’ll call it that for now. But the question is really how do you take a visual art experience like dance and make it available to those who are blind?

First, Alice invited friends to attend a live performance.

AS:

Georgina Kleege who is a Blind professor at UC Berkley. She’s a professor of Blind aesthetics and the arts and writing. She’s got this awesome book out right now called “What Blindness Contributes to Art”.

TR:

The goal was specific.

AS:

We want all of our people to come and have a good experience. How do we do it?

This was in 2016, but in 2012 I began exploring these types of threads anyway in my work. And then she picked up those threads and pushed them to the next level. And I was like ok, let’s do that.

Georgina and Josh Miele who, if you don’t know Josh you should talk to Josh, he’s an amazing technologist.

TR:

Shout out to Reid My Mind Radio Alumni Josh Miele. I’ll link you to his episode on this episode’s blog post.

AS:

Cool!

Georgina and Josh said yeh, ok, so you did better than the average and your definitely on some pathway but that isn’t it. It isn’t enough. We aren’t getting what everybody else is getting.

At that time what we were doing was making description of the physical movement.

LL:

That was really painful for us. this was our community that we had invited to come see us and we failed.
[
We hadn’t offered them an equitable experience.
]

TR:

Describing a dance performance isn’t a straight forward task.

Let’s take an example I feel almost everyone is familiar with.

Let’s say a dancer puts his left foot in.

Audio: Horn!

then puts his left foot out.

Audio: Two horn hits!

he does the Hokey Pokey and turns himself around.

Audio: Hokey Pokey song

Now that’s description!
It’s actually conveying all that’s taking place.
Well, if there’s only one person.

But let’s make that dance a bit more complicated.
say our dancer’s left foot is in while his right hand is up
and his partners right leg is up
and another dancer is flying across the screen with a particularly dramatic facial expression.
I’m not even getting into the lighting or stage props that often accompany the Hokey pokey!

AAS:

What you’re getting is this kind of displaced description. You’re not getting a sense of the art.

This is where Laurel comes in, she’s an engineer and designer and she thought of a way in which you could play multiple sound tracks on an app and a way for it to actually sync in time with the show. And so with this kind of technology at the basis the question became not how you make dance accessible, that’s boring. The question really is how do you transform the art of dance into the art of sound.

LL:

I had a little germ of an idea that would become Audimance.

TR:

Audimance was developed in association with Kinetic Light’s DESCENT.

AS:

Descent is a queer inter-racial love story between two disabled women.

Basically invents a backstory to the sculpture the Toilette of Venus and Andromeda by Rodan.

It figures out what does this goddess from Greek myth doing with this figure from Roman myth and why are they put together. Why does Rodan do that with them? It challenges Rodan’s own notions of feminism and lesbianism. It challenges the place of the incomplete body in Rodan’s thinking and sculpture. It’s an incredible kind of imagining of the relationship between the two. A love story maybe. It shows the ways in which disability and art go together. It re-imagines access ramps. It’s a thing this Descent!

TR:

With that in mind, let’s walk through how a nonvisual audience member experiences this performance using Audimance.

It starts with the pre-show. Here’s Alice.

AS:

The program is recorded. In the program there’s some background context to the work, and overall plot summary, a background on the set, an overarching narrative context if you want that. Rodan’s sculptures so there’s some information about that. Basically, information that is contextual.

TR:

That one aspect of Audimance is already surpassing how many of us experience description. Meaning, no longer are we confined to the strict time limitations dictated by the performance. Audience members may be able to access this pre-show information days before the event itself.

And then, if you arrive at the theater early, before the show…

AS:

One of the things we’ve been developing is a kind of tactile experience. This was something that josh was essential in thinking through. We 3D printed the set. The ramp and you could hold a model of the set in your hand and feel some of the things around that. There’s samples of the costumes, the surface, the flooring of the set, the kinds of material elements.

TR:

You may wonder, why a 3D rendering of the set if you’re physically there? the set of Descent is a ramp. And not just any ramp.

AS:

It’s 24 feet wide, 15 feet deep and it goes to 6 foot high at a kind of pointed mountainous peak that I sit on top of.

Each part of the ramp has its name. There’s the peak it’s a top of a mountain. At the bottom of the peak there are waves and there’s water, projections of waves water and rock. And then there’s this huge deck, this angled deck that is sometimes grass and sometimes a mountain range and sometimes an ocean. And the water waves whip up and down the ocean. It’s incredible!

TR:

You have all of the context information about the upcoming performance. And now, it’s ShowTime!

AS:

“How do you transform the art of dance into the art of sound.”

(Repeated from above but with an effect as if reflecting.)

TR:

That one question became several more that she proposed to her friends experiencing the performance non visually.

AS:

What are you listening to? What is communicative sound for you? How do you get art out of sound? What sounds mean something?

And then the question was what sounds are actually in the dance itself? Here’s where we ended up. We have to be able to convey the sounds of the work itself as a sound.

I rang Disabled Queer Trans gender Poet Eli Clare and I said, will you write poetry for this dance? Eli turned the dance into poetry. And I was like wow!

TR:

Audimance empowers the listener with choice and control. Pairing for example the poetry of Eli Clare with the original sound scape composition of Dylan Keefe from the sound rich podcast radio Lab.

Laurel tells us about other tracks and possibilities.

LL:

We can be working with people who are writing prose. For example maybe even describing it technically so that a nonvisual audience member whose also trained as a dancer is actually hearing in dance language about what we’re doing and understanding it in that medium. We can work with sonification of the stage or our bodies or interpreted sonification of the choreography itself. So for example you might be hearing a breath, a heartbeat a sound (slap, slap) as we contact each other as our chairs hit the stage

If you imagine you’re in a big room, a museum gallery, imagine that there are 20 speakers scattered throughout this room. They could be on the ceiling, floating in the middle of the air, on the walls or the floor and every speaker is playing a different track. But all the tracks are part of the same performance. As you wander through this space you can control what you’re listening to. You’re creating your own experience of this art. You can go cuddle up to a single speaker and listen to one track from beginning to end. find a mix, maybe between three or four speakers that appeals to you. Keep moving and keep listening to the way that the tracks and the performance shifts and changes as you’re constantly in motion between these speakers. Got that image. Ok, condense all of that down into a phone screen and you got Audimance!

Since I am sighted every bit of process all along the way we were going back and forth with non-visual audience members, collaborators, testers.

From the describer side I think we’re opening a lot of stuff up to. We’re trying to involve the describer as collaborator through this process. We’re not replacing audio description, we’re blowing it open.

TR:

With other options for Descent’s nonvisual audience members like an interpreted dramatic dialog, a description track specifically for those with kinesthetic imaginations or those who actually feel what’s being described, plus description of lighting… yeah, kaboom!

LL: on centering blind

Audimance is specifically designed for nonvisual users. It absolutely centers Blind users who have advanced listening skills.

TR:

You know you’re an advanced listener when you have the ability to audibly synthesize simultaneous streams of information. Probably more common is the ability to comprehend information at an increased rate. 25 percent, 50 maybe even double or triple its normal rate.

For example, a more seasoned screen reader user probably sounds like this…

Audio: Fast screen reader reading
“You know you’re you’re an advanced listener when you have the ability to audibly synthesize simultaneous streams of information. Probably more common is the ability to comprehend information at an increased rate. 25 percent, 50 maybe even double or triple its normal rate.”
TR:

Someone new to vision loss and therefore new to screen reader technology and synthetic speech and in general active listening sounds more like this…

Audio: Screen reader voice reading in a slow speed.
” You know you’re an advanced listener when you… Oh my goodness this is slow! I’m getting sleepy, sleepy”

LL:

obviously anyone who is hearing can use it but this isn’t a question of trying to make it work for everyone. It is made for and it centers this population that was being underserved artistically

TR:

With multiple choices, someone new to vision loss may be more comfortable simply choosing one or two tracks such as the poetry or traditional description.

Audimance allows users to make selections at any time since the tracks are synchronized to the live performance.

LL:
Are we providing an identical experience to a sighted audience member watching the dance? No Because that does not exist and saying that we’re making something identical is false equivalence. Do we think we’re creating something that is equitable in terms of a rich multi dimension complicated artistic experience? Something that has been crafted by the artist as part of the piece from the beginning?

Yeah! And that’s the feedback we have gotten about it.

TR:

Audimance is Open Source software that’s still in the early alpha phase of development. But there getting close to where anyone will be able to download the program.

LL:

Where venues will be able to download a creator interface and you can just go in a venue and have it pull up the experience for the show that you’re going to see.

TR:

That could be the more traditional description. But I’m hoping for a more artistic, thoughtful, equitable experience.

LL:

It was created for performance art, but certainly any theatrical performance, potentially even for music performances or for speakers to provide visual descriptions of the people on stage.

[TR in conversation with AS:]
That’s going to be fun to watch when people just kind of take that and say I want to play with it because they’re not even thinking about it from the perspective of inclusion or audio description. And it’s just I want to play with this and see what I can do.

LL:

I am so looking forward to that part of it because technically well when you think of it it doesn’t necessarily have to go with a performance. It can be an independent audio only artistic experience. Having people play with this kind of spatialized durational sonic art is going to be fascinating.

[TR in conversation with AS:]
And so that’s open source meaning anyone is going to be able to have access to that. There’s the equity component of that too. Or is this going to really cost people thousands of dollars? (Laughing…)

LL:

(Laughing)

Well you know the problem with that is if we make it cost thousands of dollars we’re going to have a real hard sell telling venues okay, there’s no excuse for your performance not to be accessible. Or dance companies, choreographers here, even if it’s just you describing your dance. You go into rehearsal and you just do the description if you have to. We’re not telling you you have to pay to bring an additional artist in for the week and house them and so forth.

TR:

Audimance is currently being supported by donations. That’s financial and labor.

LL:

If you are interested in contributing to this software itself as a programmer, as a designer, as a technical writer we need everybody right now. If you’re a project manager. If you’re interested in helping us write instructional content. We need tutorials and how to use it. We’re going to need tutorials to introduce presenters to it eventually. You can find the project on GitHub.

People can make financial donations on our website, KineticLight.org.

TR:

you can even earmark your donations specifically for the Audimance project.

Want to learn more about Audimance, Descent, Alice and Laurel?

AS:

There is a newsletter!

[TR in conversation with AS:]
Really and how would someone subscribe to that?

AS:

On your phone you can text 66866 to sign up.

[TR in conversation with AS:]
Wow, look how fancy you are? (Laughs…)

AS:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with AS:]

(Playfully)
So you’re telling me, you don’t go to a website and put in all your information. All you have to do is text?

AS:

You can do that too. You can go to the website and put in your information.

[TR in conversation with AS:]

What website would that be?

AS:

(laughs…)
KineticLight.org

[TR in conversation with AS:]
What would folks get from the newsletter?

AS:

That’s a really good question. You would meet some of the team. You would learn about the performances or film screening. You might learn about an award. Sometimes we put in cool ideas about Disability culture. Sometimes we’re talking about work friends of ours are doing.

[TR in conversation with AS:]
Yeh, I like it! Cool!

TR:

I’ll tell you something else that’s pretty cool!
That film screening she mentioned? It’s a film featuring Alice and three other dancers . It takes place…

called Inclinations. it too highlights performance on a ramp. This one however is outdoors.

This particular film consists of audio description with two narrators.

Audio:

TR:

you should recognize that voice. That’s Cheryl Green, a podcast alumni and part of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

And the other describer…

Audio:

TR:

Yours truly!

Big shout out to Cheryl Green, Lisa Niedermeyer and everyone else involved in making that happen! That was fun!

Inclinations has been screened at Festivals in Canada and the US including;
National Dance Day at Kennedy Center
Superfest Disability Film Festival 
Cinema Touching Disability

For more on Inclinations checkout Alice Sheppard.com

Audio: “Check it out y’all!”

TR:

there’s a lot to be excited about Audimance. The feature that in my opinion means the most; It’s empowering.

It shifts the conversation from providing access to creating nonvisual experiences.

There’s so much possibility. Especially when you factor in that the technology is open source. It’s made for live performances but the same concepts can be applied to recorded performances.

We’re in a time where audio production is on the rise. I’m talking about the growth of podcasting. I think about the potential in the live podcasting space. Moving away from the Q&A format to a sound rich experience.

Forget about that idea that we need to wait for the kind help from others. Audimance is a collaborative effort from the cross disability community. If you’re not throwing your fist up in solidarity for that one, check your pulse!

Salute to Alice Laurel and everyone involved with the project!

And if you like what you heard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AS:

And I was like wow!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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

A Few of My Favorite Things

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

It’s the holiday season. A time when we’re all expected to be festive and happy.

But there’s so much going on to make some feel sad. Here’s what I do… ” I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!”

You probably heard that before , but not exactly like this.

This is the last episode of the year. I’ll be back in late January, but you may want to subscribe because a podcast take over may be happening!

Happy Holidays!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: This Christmas, Donny Hathaway

## TR:

Season greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!

If you’re new here, allow me to welcome you and I hope you too will become part of the family.

I’m your host and producer of this podcast, T.Reid.

Reid My Mind Radio is my place to share interviews of people I find compelling. Most often that consists of people who are blind or low vision or in some way have been impacted by vision loss.

I’d like to invite you first timers to go back and check out some of the recent episodes featuring people like, Denna Lambert, a young woman who works for NASA.
Conchita Hernandez empowering blind people in Mexico
Penny Melville Brown who just traveled through 6 continents cooking in the local communities
Ojok Simon training fellow blind people in Uganda to become entrepreneurs through bee keeping.

And there are so many more great people and episodes waiting for you…

Occasionally I like to tell stories from my own experiences.

For this episode, I thought I’d focus on my favorite things.
It’s Christmas after all!

Meet me on the other side of my intro music and we’ll get it started.

Audio: Reid My Mind Intro Music.

Audio:
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” – Charlie Brown from “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

TR:

Feeling festive and in the holiday spirit isn’t always easy to do.
Holidays have been a bit of a challenge for me ever since My father first got sick in the late 80’s. Seven years later just a few days before Thanksgiving he passed away.

In 2003 shortly after Thanksgiving I was diagnosed with Cancer. I had a biopsy on Christmas Eve. That was the last time I was ever really able to see.

Audio:
“Sure Charlie Brown I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus from “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

Audio: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Andy Williams

TR:
Well, now that I got you in the festive mood! (Laughing)

TR:

Truth is, the challenging times are probably the best time to show gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Don’t get it twisted, this is something I’m learning. It is really difficult, but I know the alternative is sinking into misery and becoming cynical about life. Personally, I don’t like that feeling nor do I want to be around that for too long.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit, than a song that is all about the favorite things.

Audio: My Favorite Things, Tony Bennett

Let’s do this!
Don’t judge me!
I like the Christmas classics… with a little swing!

Shout out to Tony Bennett!

Let’s go!

Go to the movies, there’s audio Description
Santa might bring me that AIRA subscription
Increasing Access makes my heart sing
These are a few of my favorite things.

Guide dogs for some, my white cane is fine
A driverless car someday will be mine
Its Independence that technology brings
These are a few of my favorite things

Shout out to all of my podcast subscribers
Pass me my drink, I’m no designated driver
I got lots of episodes geared to those adjusting
These are a few of my favorite things
High Unemployment
Stereotypes
No access makes me sad
But I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.

(Oh man!)
(It was kind of bad!)
Music interlude…
Vibes!

— talking over instrumental break
What better way to get yourself in the Christmas mood.

These aren’t all my favorite things. Just a few ow. My blind favorite things!

You know you wanna sing it with me. Go ahead, I won’t tell anyone.

Shout out to all of my podcast subscribers
Pass me my drink, I’m no designated driver
I got lots of episodes geared to those adjusting
These are a few of my favorite things
High Unemployment
Stereotypes
No access makes me sad
simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.

(That might have been a little bad, but I don’t care!)

End of Song

I know what you’re thinking, Vegas right?
Just wait until I get that residency at the Bellagio. Caesars Palace? The Motel 6?

Audio:
“And they were so afraid and the angel said unto them, fear not and behold I bring you tidings of great joy.” Linus, “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

TR:

As 2018 comes to an end, I’m thinking about this idea that in order to receive something new you have to get rid of the old.

For example, literally speaking, many people like to clean out their closet and get rid of clothes they no longer wear, making room for the new.

2018 is bringing a close to multiple ventures including my employment situation.

Filtered voice: “More on that in 2019”

If you’ve been riding with Reid My Mind Radio for a while, you may know that Gatewave Radio –

Audio: “Audio for independent living”

the radio reading service in New York City played a role in this podcast.

In 2014 I began sharing the stories I produced for Gatewave Radio’s Our Voices audio magazine.

These radio reading services traditionally provided access to newspaper and magazines for people with print impairments.

With technology enabling access, many of the reading services throughout the country have been closing for years now.

I’m hopeful that technology like Smart Speakers from Amazon, Google and Apple are providing the access to information to those who will no longer have that access from the radio reading services.

It was announced that Gatewave too is shutting down at the end of the year.

The chance to produce for Gatewave came at the right time in my life. I wanted to start a podcast but had very little idea on what that should sound like. After producing my first story which was well received I figured I could share these productions.

Shout out to Gordon and Toby who I worked with directly over the years. I appreciate all of the encouraging words and production support.

Audio: Door slamming shut

Some doors are closing in 2018, but I’m going to stay optimistic that the new year will open many more for us all.

Audio: Door opening.

As far as this podcast is concerned, I have more. I have some ideas and things already in progress.

Audio:
“I gotta lotta more. A whole lotta more!” Mr. T. Final scene of Rocky III

TR:

To some extent, this podcast is an extension of my own adjustment to blindness. Some of the topics and people are things I become exposed to, ideas I think about. As these continue to expand I hope that can be reflected here.

I’m taking a short break from the podcast in order to both focus on the holiday and prepare for the new year.
I’ll be back in late January.

There may be a special episode of the podcast if my girls take it over. Theirs have proven to be way more popular than mine.

The best way to make sure you don’t miss that or when we get back in 2019;
Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio.
You can visit ReidMyMind.com and subscribe to get any updates posted there.
Just remember, that’s R, to the E I D, like my last name.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza,
For my people who celebrate Three Kings Day, Feliz Dia de Los Tres Reyes
Happy New Year to All.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

— Below said together…
TR:
Peace

Audio:
Peace and good will towards all men. That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!” Linus, “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

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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Reid My Mind Radio – Connie Chiu – For the Love

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Connie dressed in white whith her hair slicked back looking upwards. The background is a bright white.

Photographed by,Ellis Parrinder


Connie Chiu, known as the first Fashion model with Albinism, has much more to offer than a pretty photo… a great attitude.
Ask her why she does it…. She does it for the love!

I had to ask myself what do I love to do… so I did it! I call it Connie’s Jam, check it out in this episode.

What do you just love to do? Are you doing it? Holla Back!reidmymindradio@gmail.com

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s up RMMRadio family…

I have back to back episodes that touch on the topic of Fashion.

Although the last episode was really about entrepreneurship and goals…
Today’s episode is fashion related, but I think it’s more about attitude and doing the things we love to do.

I love working with audio,
talking to people with interesting stories and something to say.
Put those together and that’s a partial recipe for this podcast.

Dinner is served, come and get it!
[Audio: Dinner bell ringing, man announcing “Come and get it!”]
[Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme]

CC:
My Name Is Connie Chiu and I am partially sighted. I have albinism. The condition affects my eyesight, it effects my skin. Those two are the main things. I like to
look at it as a cocktail of conditions or a Smorgasbord of conditions to just make it sound a little bit more delicious

TR:
Delicious as in pleasing, agreeable or gratifying-
I get the sense this is an important theme for Connie.

Born in Hong Kong, at 7 years old Connie and her family moved to Sweden.

CC:
my parents thought you know she’s quite she’s got light skin she’s got white hair surely she would blend in better in Sweden with Swedish people. But I was just a little bit whiter than Swedish people and my hair was just so very very white. My features were still Chinese. So yes I did stand out in Sweden and yes I did stand out in Hong Kong as well. I’ve been to America and yes I stood out in America. So really I need to go somewhere with a lot of white Chinese people for me not to stand out.

TR in conversation with CC:
[Laughing] I don’t know where that it…!

CC:
[Laughing] I don’t know iether.

TR in conversation with CC:
Children are children so I’m going to assume when you went to Sweden, you said around when you were 7 years old, you obviously stood out in class so I am going to assume that some kids bullied.

CC:
Actually I was quite lucky you won’t believe it I was quite tall as a child. When I was about nine ten people thought I was twelve. So I think they were they
were all quite small, I thought all my classmates were so small you know boys girls doesn’t matter. I was like a head taller than what they were. I think that helped
I don’t know why but it kind of was a quite positive response. They sort of gave me gifts. They sort of gave me drawings. They gave me little presents here and there. They were just nice to me.

In Sweden they celebrate Italian Saint called Santa Lucia. Ideally you should be blonde to be Santa Lucia. In our class we had like a little vote. Then you dress up as Santa Lucia. It’s kind of a whole thing and you sing songs and you have a little parade. They voted me because of my white hair I guess. That was something positive.

It’s very hard for me to say why I wasn’t bullied in school but…

TR in conversation with CC:
I think I know, I think I know…
CC:
Oh, OK you tell me.

TR in conversation with CC:
Because you said you were so tall… I think you were bullying them? Were you bullying them Connie? Were you beating up these kids?

CC>
[Laughing…]
{Sarcastically} Yes. The secret part of my life that I never told anybody… [laughs…]

TR in conversation with CC:
I figured it out! Now, here’s the story!

TR:
Ok, Connie was not a bully. In fact, she says that as a child she was more like the quiet nerd, a real day dreamer.
Today, Connie is known as the first fashion model with Albinism.

CC:
The Thing is albinism is just one part of me.

I always loved beautiful images. I started actually behind a camera. I did an art foundation course and I was taking pictures of people and I had different ideas how I wanted my images and I try to make people pose in a way that I want. But then I kind of understood that well actually I knew exactly what I wanted so I started to take photographs of myself. It sounds crazy and I’m probably a bit crazy anyway so I just sent a black and white photo to a French designer with my phone number on the back. I did it because I admired his work, he’s a bit crazy to.

A few months later I ended up doing his Couture show in Paris. Even though I kind of liked modeling I knew nothing about it. I kind of didn’t know about the super models and so on. Of course they were all there doing the catwalk as well.

It’s just the passion of it drove me to modeling and you know it just in a way such an honor to be part of a beautiful image. iether it’s the catwalk or magazines or T.V. commercials … and it’s just great to work with talented people.

TR in conversation with CC:
The Catwalk, does that… the lights I am assuming that there’s a lot of lights and people taking pictures, how does that impact you?

Yes.

Well I wore my lenses, my light protective lenses and they were absolutely fine with it. Jean-Paul Gaultier and his team. Sometimes that’s all you need it’s not like big adjustments.

TR:
Accommodations that enable participation from a person with vision loss or other disability for that matter are often quite easy. The challenge is less about how to adapt but rather attitude.

despite Connie’s optimistic view on life, she still has to deal with situations where those she works with are less interested in accommodating her needs. Even when it’s something simple, like light protective lenses.

during a commercial shoot , producers ignored her request to reduce the room lighting.

CC:
I did point out to him that my eyesight is light sensitive. We’ll probably need to sort of work around the lighting so they were aware of that. So when I got there I saw that the light was too strong. I stood in the light, I stood on the set, it was too strong. I told them it was too strong. They turned the light down
a little and I said well actually it’s still a bit too strong.

In the studio a whole wall was just Windows really so there was day light on top of the studio lights you know.

So I said the them , Well actually if you could cover up the windows behind the camera that would take a bit of the light away and that would really help me. The team who did the interview all they said was actually we want as much light as possible. At that point I thought OK that’s the way it is.

TR:
She even told them she had her light protective lenses and
it would only take a moment to retrieve and put them in.

CC:
They kind of didn’t react to that whatsoever. They just said oh let’s just let’s just get started with the interview. they wanted to do quite a lot in about ninety minutes. They wanted to ask a lot of questions. They wanted me to wear different outfits. They wanted to take a lot of photographs. So I think those were the priorities.

TR:
It wasn’t just about the discomfort of the bright light; Connie was aware that her uneasiness would be reflected in the final image.

Ironically, this was a commercial where she was talking about her condition; Albinism which includes the extreme sensitivity to light.

CC:
I also thought to myself well actually I could walk out but I’m actually not doing this just for myself.

I don’t want people to fink this is how people
with Albinism usually look. This is only how people with albinism look when they are suffering from bright light.

Somehow I don’t think they realize that actually I felt like they took a bit of my dignity away. Because they didn’t listen to me.

TR:
It’s understandable how Connie would feel that way. But remember she’s an optimist. She’s all about making things sound delicious!

CC:
The situation is not ideal but there are things I can control. I can’t control the light obviously, but I could control the things I said, the way I felt, how I answered the questions.

TR:
These negative experience aren’t enough to dissuade Connie from trying. She does things for the right reason.

CC:
For me if I love something and I’ve really want to do I just do it I don’t even think about how difficult it actually is.

TR:
Connie’s currently pursuing another one of her love’s … singing!
It took her a while to build up her confidence while
pursuing her modeling career but she’s recently released an E P.

CC:

It’s Called my Huckleberry songs. In Moon River there’s a phrase my Huckleberry friend – it sort of means very good friends. My Huckleberry Songs are sort
of my friends in a way. Songs that I really like. For Moon river I’ve written my own guitar arrangement. It’s very simple but it’s kind of the way I see the song as well because I like to do something slightly different.

I perform mostly right now in the U.K. I love it performing live because that’s kind of what jazz is about to be in the moment. And things are never quite the same even though you’re sort of singing the same melody.

I think that’s another sort of common thing with my singing and modeling is daydreaming. [Sighs, as if discovering something new!]

It’s just to be able to use your imagination and you can be somewhere else. I think that that’s really what it is to be somewhere else. And I think people can feel it. it has happened when people say like you just took me somewhere else when you sang that song. I just went with you to a different place.
I tend to go to lovely places, so do come with me! [Laughs!]

TR:

If you want to travel to lovely places with Connie; you can purchase her E P from iTunes and Amazon or on CD direct from Connie…
She’s on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube…

CC:

Connie see o double n ie. My surname Chiu.
If you just search Connie and Albino on Google, it will all come up. (…my information)

TR:
I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio…

[Audio: extracted from Connie’s opening statement… Just to make it sound a little bit more delicious!]

TR:
Audio for independent living!

[Audio: Bumper – “Alright guys, I think we’re ready to lay this first track down” – Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live skit … “More Cowbell”]

TR:
Connie Chiu’s identity isn’t wrapped in Albinism or being visually impaired. That was a very clear point she made when talking about modeling.

She’s comfortable in her skin.

While she wasn’t bullied as a child and I still haven’t found the proof that she bullied the rest of the kids,
her method of dealing with those who are antagonistic is commendable.

If you are new to being the different person in the room, for whatever reason, Connie has something to offer.

CC:
I’m quite used to it now and I think the way I am as a person I don’t walk around and think about what I look like. It sounds very strange to a lot of people because “you look so different” but to me I’m just me. And it’s not until someone approach me and asked me about my hair and where you’re from When you get those questions you know that that’s oh yes oh yes by the way you know of course compared to most people I do look different. Of
course you will have a lot of people who would like to belittle you for whatever reason they can find. For me it’s quite obvious it’s like white hair and
I’m Chinese but it could also be that I’m not that tall really. So I think if someone wants to belittle you they will find a way after a while I think you learn to read people quite well and you start to understand where people are coming from. What’s behind all the things their saying. What’s behind their behavior. For me that’s quite important to me to understand for me to respond to them. So I think when some people try to belittle me or they try to make me feel different then I just embrace it. It’s like yes I’m different so what? Have you got anything else to add? I think it’s quite important of course that you have to be quite happy with who you are and being comfortable with who you are and I think it’s is that in itself it’s a learning process; ongoing process.

TR:

And then there’s something that I’m pretty sure impacts the majority… Pursuing our interests… for the right reason.

How many of us have dreamed of dancing, acting, writing or any activity, but we don’t pursue it. We have jobs, families , responsibilities…

It’s hard to justify pursuing our dreams.

When asking Connie why she decided to model, make an E P, perform on stage…

CC:
I know it sounds crazy but I did it just because I love it.

TR:
The older we get man we complicate things.

I’ll share my own experience…
I’ve always loved music.
I hear music in everyday situations… beats and melodies.
My family will tell you, I make up songs at the drop of a dime for no reason.
Yes, they’re silly… but their fun!

Ever since gaining access to a digital audio workstation;
that’s the type of software I use to record and edit this podcast;
I started recording some of these silly songs…
but honestly, not enough.
I tend to feel as though it’s a waste of time.
But it’s no more a waste of time than watching sports on TV… yeah I said it!

When the inspiration strikes, I should record..

Like during the production of this podcast, while researching Connie’s music, I came across this one song Surfing in Rio…
It was this one particular part…

Add that with Connie spelling out her name, like a rapper

Well, I had to do it! And I thought we should send a message to those commercial producers who wouldn’t listen to Connie…
Put some respect on that name!
[Audio: An original production by T.Reid using a sample of Surfing in Rio and added some Hip Hop drum beat and scratches as Connie spelling out her name (C o double n ie…) along with some quotes of hers yes, I’m different…
I call it Connie’s Jam! ]

TR:
What’s that thing you just love to do?
Are you doing it!

Seriously, holla back! reidmymindradio@gmail.com
let me know what you’re doing – I’d love to mention it here in a follow up episode…
that could be a source of encouragement for someone else.

If you’re not, consider what Connie said and do it for the love cause it’s simple…

Like subscribing to this podcast
available on Apple Podcast, google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio & Sound Cloud.

Now I’m off to pursue my other dream, to some a nightmare, interpretive dancing!

Don’t judge me!
[RMMRadio Outro]
Peace!

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