Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

Reid My Mind Radio – A Captain & Her Guide Dog

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Yes, guide dogs are cute! They are gentle animals that are trained to help those who are blind or visually impaired travel. Some know they shouldn’t pet these dogs while they are performing their jobs. Then again, some know but still act…
Liz and Bryce Krispy paired at Guide Dog School

In this episode we hear from Liz Oleksa who shares a story about an incident between her, her guide dog Bryce Krispy, a mother and daughter… what could go wrong?
Picture of Guide Dog Bryce Krispy wearing sunglasses!

We also hear from Dr. Andre Watson who shares some insight on this experience and the message it tells us about society and its perceptions of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups outside the dominant culture.

Plus, some great advice for anyone in need of checking your own self-identity after experiencing micro-aggressions. And it’s ok, don’t be scared to listen… I know I mentioned blind and disability, but really, there’s something here for everyone!!

Now, all aboard for another episode! Hit Play & then Subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio!

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good everybody! Welcome to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio!

I thought we could try going a little more in depth with one story.

generally, the stories on Reid My Mind Radio tend to have a positive spin. More than often, these stories and interviews revolve around the broad topic of adjusting to blindness.

Sometimes we need to hear about the problems, the reality.

And then discover the valuable lessons within.

That’s today, but first… you know how we do it

[Audio: Reid My Mind Theme…]


LO
I’m Liz Oleksa. and I live in Macungie with my son Logan who just turned 13 and my guide dog Bryce Krispy.

TR:
Macungie, Pennsylvania.

LO:
Yes Sir!

TR:
How long have you had Bryce Krispy?

LO:
May 21, of this year will be three years that Bryce and I have been together.

TR:
Is that his full name Bryce Krispy or did you put the Krispy?

LO:
Well at the school they called him Bryce Krispy, but on all his paper work it just says Bryce. So I use both. He likes when I call him Bryce Krispy his tail wags a lot faster. He really recognizes that as his name cause he knows he’s super sweet.

[Audio: Sound of rain and city sidewalk]

I was at a doctor’s appointment and I had just finished up . I had scheduled my pickup for 11:30 with my local transportation. It was raining so I waited outside but yet under the overhang. And I’m a people person so you know I hear somebody walking up I’ll say hi. This lady came up and I didn’t know it was a lady at first and I said “Hi how are you today?” She said Fine and there was a little girl; I am assuming it was a little girl with her. Around 5 six at most. She sounded kind of short so I am assuming she was younger. The little girl was really bubbly and they’re both talking and you know the cutie puppy talk; “Oh look at the god, look at the dog.” The little girl said, “We can’t touch the doggie, right? He’s a really pretty doggie, we can’t touch her?” I said, no you can’t touch him honey I’m sorry he’s working. The mom even said no you can’t touch the puppy, but he is really pretty. The girl said again, “We can’t touch the puppy.” And she’s starting to get a little I guess anxious? I said no honey I’m sorry you can’t touch him he’s working. As a handler if you distract him I could get hurt. Well now she starts yelling, “We can’t touch the puppy!” And the lady’s like “No honey we can’t touch the puppy.” And the girl yelled , I could hear her she was starting to jump around… “We can’t touch the puppy!” And I felt Bryce moving a little funny so I reached down and here the woman was petting the dog. Now she herself told her daughter don’t touch the dog, the daughter told her don’t touch the dog, I told her don’t touch the dog. So I said to the lady kind of calm at first but a little stern I said, ” Mam, please don’t touch the dog he’s working. Both your daughter and I and you just told you not to touch the dog. She goes, oh well its ok, I mean I just can’t help it look at his eyes. Now Bryce , I have been told has the most beautiful honey colored eyes. He’s a yellow lab and he has very very unique eyes, but I don’t care how cute his eyes are it’s still not ok. You know but she’s like, Oh itis ok I just can’t help myself. And I stopped and said Mam stop touching my dog. Now the little girl’s screaming she’s crying don’t touch the dog, don’t touch the dog. I’m getting frustrated so I reach down, just like I was taught at school, if somebody is touching your dog and you’ve kindly asked them you have permission to remove their hand from your dog because that do is an extension of you.

I reach down and I took her hand and I wasn’t rough but I took her hand and pushed it away.
She gasped when I took her hand off my dog She backed up and slapped me across the face and said you have some nerve to invade my personal space like that. I just stood there with my mouth kind of hanging open like “Are you serious right now?” And she said let’s go and she and her little girl went off either into the building or they left. I was too shocked at the time as to … oh my goodness you just slapped me across the face., but yet she was the one who invaded my personal space and my boundaries.

TR:
You heard correctly, slapped in the face!

With that in mind I wanted to examine this situation from a professional perspective.

AW:
Hi my name is Dr. Andre Watson. I’m a Clinical Psychologist in the Philadelphia area.

TR:
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Watson last year. We talked about some of his experiences growing up blind and the challenges he faced in attaining his doctorate in Psychology. If you haven’t heard that episode, I suggest you go back and give it a listen.

I asked Dr. Watson to unpack some of what took place in the incident you just heard from Liz as well as what he referred to as…
AW:
… what we have to deal with as blind people trying to make it in America.

[TR in conversation with AW]

Make it in the world cause hopefully people outside of America listen to this too. (Laughs!)

AW:

Absolutely!

Personally and professionally I hear about these kind of stories happening all the time with blind people whether it be with a guide dog or with a cane or with freedom. With he right to make a decision for you own self. And I think this was a clear case of disrespect and disregard for Liz as a person. A person with a brain, a person with choice. And so it really upset me to hear this story not because it’s not common, but because it is so common and so many people that are blind who are trying to live an independently life not only have to deal with some natural barriers to independence but also some of the social barriers to independence. SO Liz established like any dog owner, like any parent, you have established a boundary which you need to do, and so somebody else disregarded that . On one hand I would take it personally and on the other hand I wouldn’t. Because a lot of time people that do these kinds of things disregard a lot of people’s boundaries. This could have been a women who has been disrespected herself in her own life and now is doing that to other people. Bullying is a real issue and people that bully look for people that they see as being weaker and vulnerable. Ironically, people that do bully have been bullied. This is all about perception. Blind people being seen as vulnerable, being seen as less capable, less aware.

TR:
Being seen as vulnerable based on someone’s perception,
well no one can really be immune to these types of experiences. even those who can thoroughly recognize them for what they are.

I actually had a similar experience with my guide dog. I sat down on the bus. The dog is under the seat and the woman sitting to my right
tells me oh, the dog’s fine. And I’m thinking she’s saying the dog’s fine because the dog’s not intruding on her space. As I was checking my dog feeling her, make sure she was out of the way, but really what she was saying was she’s fine so that I can pet her. I reach up and I feel this woman’s hand on my dog and I say, oh excuse me please don’t pet my dog.

As much as I would like to think that people are fair and that they want not to take advantage of blindness or each other’s disability, that’s not the case.

People abuse children every day. People take advantage of people that they think they can get over on, all the time. And it might not be a willful planned activity, but it still happens

TR:
In case you’re unfamiliar with the issue when it specifically involves guide dogs and petting them…
That dog has been trained to work and concentrate on the task at hand while in that harness. The only instructions it should follow are from the handler. What may seem like harmless petting can lead to the dog becoming distracted and potentially not relaying important information or responding properly to the handler.

But it goes beyond guide dogs, beyond these specific incidents; as Dr. Watson explained, it’s about how we and others with disabilities are perceived.
Once again!

AW:
…what we have to deal with as blind people trying to make it in America.
How should we deal with these kinds of issues when they happen?
First what you don’t do is that you don’t stop going out. You don’t stop asserting yourself. That’s the hard part right there is to be resilient in the face of some of these obstacles. Secondly is to bring some awareness to these kinds of things to everyone that this is unacceptable. First of all petting the dog from the beginning was unacceptable.

TR:
In no way is this podcast about judging how Liz responded. She has the right to choose what is appropriate for her.

It just so happens, the steps Liz took, were right in line with what would be recommended for anyone in such a situation.

Let’s return to Liz still waiting for her local transportation company immediately after the incident.
And if you have ever waited for a para transit, you know how long that can take.

[And yes, shots fired! Para transit, step your game up!]

LO:
The bus is forty minutes late and I just stood there.

I wasn’t angry with the woman I was more disturbed by her lack of respect for my personal space and for the example she was selling her child. I can’t imagine if this is what I just went through asking her not to do something what the little girl must have to go through. My heart just went out to both of them for mainly the mother’s ignorance.

[TR in conversation with Liz]
Were you in shock?

LO:
I’m not going to lie, I actually had like a smirk on my face. Like Are you… serious, what really just happened here?

I was being friendly and said hello. My dog is doing his job. He’s sitting next to me not bothering anyone. Don’t they teach us in elementary school you hear the word stop or know you stop?

[TR in conversation with Liz]
has that changed you in any way?

LO:
I don’t want people to think that, don’t talk to me. Absolutely you know what, I want people to talk to me. Don’t talk to my dog though. You know talk to me, I’m the person. You have a question about my dog he’s not going to answer you so you don’t need to ask him.

“Oh are you taking good care of your mommy?”

I can answer your questions for you.

[TR in conversation with Liz:]
is that an actual thing that you hear?

LO:
oh my goodness yes!

When I leave places people are like “now you take good care of your mommy.”

“You show mommy how to get home!”

No, no I tell him how to get home. He just follows my commands.

There’s a time and a place for me to fight that battle too. If
I have the extra time I may start up a conversation with a person and be like Hey just so you know talk to me. It’s not about necessarily proving a point. Some people just don’t know!

The whole bus ride home I just was trying to wrap my mind around this. It took about an hour.

I made a post on Facebook about
it to kind of spread awareness. And I laughed at times. And after I posted it I cried. I wasn’t sad for myself I was really just sad for this woman and then I was like if I could see I probably would have slapped her back. But, then again that’s an afterthought and I don’t want to resort to. Ducking to her level?

I got quite a bit of negative feedback.

I had people telling me that my response to the situation was wrong and I should have contacted the police and file a police report

[TR in conversation with Liz]
Were these other guide dog users?

LO:
. Some of them were. Some of them were cane users. Some of them were sighted. I mean just people from all different aspects of my life

AW:
that’s called blaming the victim

TR:
Once again, Dr. Watson.

AW:
We do that a lot because something really terrible happens we can’t accept that it happened. It’s always easy to do Monday morning
quarterbacking and look back and say oh I would have been there so I would have done that. Who would expect to be slapped in the face by anybody? Nobody plans on that. You don’t know when that’s going to happen
[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
one of the reasons I wanted to call you Andre was because when we last spoke you mentioned something and I think you referred to it as the identity check. And it was these types of well I guess micro aggressions right that sometimes you have
AW:
yes

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
You get them and then you have to kind of go back and talk to yourself in the mirror Bill yourself back up. What would you say that people who experience these types of things in terms of kind of checking their identity. What advice would you give?

AW:
Definitely you need to be. Talking to somebody who knows you. Who can validate who you are.

You can talk about how this one event doesn’t define you. Whether it’s interpreting it as being vulnerable or weak or being second class; because these little things like this can happen. Like you know that slow drip of micro aggressions can happen and slowly eat away at someone’s
confidence. It’s helpful to be able to be around people that understand you. It’s great to be in a community of other blind people that you can talk to and they can share maybe share some similar experiences. It’s also good to be and situations where you feel like you’re on equal footing with people.

This is not some kind of militant radical idea but it’s good to be with family. By that I mean it’s good to be around people who have shared experiences as you. you don’t have to worry about being slapped. You know have to worry about people petting your dog when they shouldn’t do that. In many ways you have to put on an armor
when you go out so that you can remember who you are but that’s very emotionally taxing. It wears on your mind, from your thoughts to how you think about yourself. How you think about other people. You become angry, bitter, hostile. You could doubt yourself emotionally. You could be down on yourself. In some cases people actually feel it in their bodies. So you’ve got headaches and backaches and if you’re like me you like to have an extra piece of cake.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson:]
Laughs!

AW:
It’s good to be aware of these things and how they can affect you. And you make sure that you’re not consumed by it.

I know I’ve heard lots of stories from sighted people. They always say
oh oh I met a blind guy he was just so mean to me or blind woman she was so mean to me. Well these are the things that happen; things that happen to Liz, they happen to me and to you. And then you do get callous. And so when somebody says hi can I pet your dog; No get away from me!

That’s because it’s worn on you.

I think it’s good to find places where you don’t have to worry about that. Where you can be replenished. Where you can get affirmed. You realize that blindness is a part of you. Just like it’s part of somebody being a man or a woman or black or white or Asian. It’s a part of who we are. We don’t have to see it as something negative

Really we’re living in a sighted world so it’s not our issue it’s the sighted world’s issue. And they are the ones that need help with getting it together.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]

Can you talk a little bit more about that because a lot of people might feel like it’s the opposite because it’s like well no it’s your problem you’re the one who is blind. Why do I need to change, you’re gonna just have to deal with that.

AW:

Well that is a reality of it. I mean unfortunately we have to choose our battles so we do have to
be ready to adjust. But it’s not our fault. And we’re in a world that’s very narcissistic. People only see things and I specifically am saying the word see, people
only see things from their perspective. Sighted people only see things from their perspective and so this is not just an exercise in. Blindness versus sighted, but it’s just an exercise of us versus them or me and the other person. People really need to learn how to see things from other people’s perspective whether they be blind or deaf or wheel chair user or from another culture or from another country. I think we all have to share that responsibility but I think it’s
even more important for the dominant culture. To take some responsibility. It’s a pretty liberal perspective but I think the people in power, the people
within the dominant culture need to be able to consider how they’re going to integrate those who are in a subordinate role. Into our society. There are many many people who are very good at doing that. This is not an us against them, but there are some people that need to be informed.

so things are changing for our benefit but still there is so much more that needs to be done.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
Indeed! Cool! Very good Sir! And hopefully you just did a little more of that.

AW:
I’m glad you brought up this example because I really think it underscores a real issue within our society when it comes to independence and the kinds of obstacles that we
face as blind people. To the point where now it becomes and it could become an actual physical altercation and that’s not just talk about a slap in the face
I see some similar experiences as being out there all the time like when someone grabs me by the arm and decides that oh you’re going to come with me or they take my dogs harness and try to pull the dog where they think I should go. Or when I’m in a coffee shop and I finish putting some Splenda in my tea and somebody comes along and takes the packets without telling me and they put them in the trash.

I think it just begs for us to continue to make our voices heard. To let
people know that we want to be the captains of our own ship.

TR:
As for Liz, who by the way only lost her sight about 4 and a half years ago;
well she’s guiding her ship towards a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a minor in Neuro Psychology.

She’s also currently serving as the President of her local Lehigh Valley chapter of the advocacy organization, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind

She continues to spread awareness through her speaking engagements at local schools and nonprofits like the Boy & girl Scouts.

Big thanks to Liz for sharing her story.
And Dr. Watson for providing some expertise.

telling these types of stories can be really impactful especially to those who aren’t aware. But at the same time I know they can be of help to others adjusting. And Not just to blindness or disability.

Those unfamiliar with disability , tend to have a hard time seeing past their own stereotypes and immediately believe the material isn’t for them.

There could be some real gems, or useful information, included in a story that is applicable to anyone going through an adjustment, but that story is framed around the subject of blindness and well it’s no longer considered applicable.

Oh that’s not for me, that’s for those blind people. And feel free to change blind people to something else, black people, Muslims, women…

But like Dr. Watson said, we all need to do a better job at seeing the perspective of others. We have to stop thinking oh that’s a blind thing, that’s a black thing.

On that note, I’d like to invite you the listener… yes, I’m talking to you specifically…
I would love for you to check out another podcast I have the chance to work on. It’s for a site called TheReImage. The idea is that our stories as people with vision loss have the power to recreate the image and the perception that others have of what it means to live with vision loss.

The approach is to tell our stories from that perspective that unites us all… humanity. Despite what many may think, we have shared experiences.. People with vision loss have families, raise children, hold down jobs, have hobbies… you get the point.

The stories are told without focusing on the blindness but rather on the person. We call that person first storytelling.

There are two episodes up now and one actually features Dr. Watson. I think many of you would like the current episode as well….

Give it a listen and give us some feedback…
Go to TheReImage.net and look for the podcast link.

If you have any feedback on this podcast, please hit me at ReidMyMindradio@gmail.com.

I’m working on some future episodes so you should really go ahead and subscribe to the show. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering. I know that really keeps you up at night!

Anyway, time for me to get back to steering my ship!

Just call me El Capitan of Reid My Mind Radio!
All aboard!
[Audio: Ship Horn]
Peace!
———-

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – Certain Victory

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Occasionally, I come across a story that I think fits into a specific category. This latest piece for example was supposed to be about Robert Ott, a blind entrepreneur, but it ended up as so much more.

Picture of Robert Ott

Adjusting to blindness, disability  or any significant life change takes real strength, courage and spirit. Hear how Robert fought back from trauma to become a successful entrepreneur in the Business Enterprise Program.

Hit play to start listening, then subscribe to the podcast and tell a friend!

 

 

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good everyone!

In this episode I’m bringing you another piece produced for Gatewave Radio.
If you don’t know they are the radio reading service  out of New York City.
their purpose is to provide access to printed materials to those who are print impaired.
Meaning blind or visually impaired, or
for other reasons like physical or cognitive disability, they can’t read print.

Yes, many people today have access to technology that eliminates the need for this service, but
there are still a lot of people who either cannot afford or learn the technology.

One of the things I have realized over the last few years is that I really appreciate telling other people’s stories.

I’m also realizing it’s getting time for me to take another step.

To really tell some one’s story you have to spend time getting to see who they really are and what they are all about.

Doing that, takes a budget.
All of my productions are best described as NMO & NMI…
No Money Out & No Money In!
Well definitely NMI…
If you factor time and equipment well there’s a cost.

I’m honestly not sure what the next step is for me.

I guess I am just letting the universe know I am ready … or
at least open to taking a new step in telling people’s stories for a purpose.

Let’s get into this story and then some more immediately following the Gatewave piece.

But first…
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme Music]

&********

RO:
My name is Robert J. Ott. I originally graduated the Business Enterprise Program  in the state of New Jersey. I then became recertified in the state of Washington and moved my life out here and became a blind entrepreneur in this program.

TR:
The Business Enterprise Program  or B E P
is a federally authorized program implemented  by each state and territory in the United States.

they train and license   people who are blind or visually impaired
to establish and operate food service businesses in
public and private facilities.

RO:
That business did the food services for the western regional center of the National Oceanic Atmospheric  Administration. it was about  a thousand people in the complex. I took over the day care center, I fed 52 kids a day, overseeing 48 vending machines. We did all the catering; breakfast, lunch, fancy dinners . We used to get liquor permits from time to time for international meetings that we’d have there. I spent 10 years of my life there.

TR:
During a Washington state meeting of  B EP vendors,
Robert learned about an opportunity to gain a military contract.
Such contracts were never awarded to a blind vendor in the state and
only 35 vendors in the country had ever received such lucrative opportunities.

Feeling as though he reached a peak in his business at that time,
Robert decided he would pursue the contract.

After 2 and a half years of legal battles with the department of defense ,
Robert was awarded the contract.

RO:
I formed a corporation; it was titled Certain Victory Food Services Incorporated. I had 833 employees.

September 1, 2004 I walked into my office on what is now called  Joint Base Lewis McChord. We were providing the labor, proper service; we were taking care of these young men and women for fighting  for freedom and independence.

TR:
Robert success story can be defined by one word; Pilsung.

The definition, is in his story,
beginning with his introduction to the Martial Arts.

Growing up in Southern New Jersey.  Robert was raised by a single mom.

Like most boys who first watched Bruce Lee on the big screen,
Robert immediately began imitating the acrobatic moves.

[Audio: Bruce Lee’s fighting scene]

RO:
I wasn’t sure what I was doing. My brain wasn’t even doing the thinking. My body was simply kicking  and moving, punches and everything else.

TR:
Robert’s mom couldn’t afford to send her son to lessons.

When Robert turned 12, an affordable and convenient opportunity was presented and
he began studying Tae Kwon Do

RO:
I ended up  winning the New Jersey State Championships two years in a row. From there, the Junior Olympics down in Florida, The Fight for Cancer Championships, Northeast Pocono Championships Garden State Championships. I also lost some battles too. What it was really doing on the inside was  building my self-esteem and confidence to look somebody eye to eye and shake their hand with warmth, goodness and my own self security confidence  at the same time.

TR:
Robert continued studying different forms of Martial Arts with
multiple instructors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Each instructor providing something new,
One in particular stood out to Robert.

RO:
I remember opening up Tae Kwon Do Times magazine. In the back was the directory  of instructors and little pictures of their faces. And it was one in Pennsylvania  and I said this is the guy I need to go to. And I remember my girlfriends said what are you talking about. I said, he’s looking at me. And she laughed. I said no he is. There I met Grand Master  Go Chae Teok. I became one of his students. A year following that I became the officer manager and chief  instructor . I began to operate, run and dealt with sales instructing, maintenance, advertising, marketing and the biggest thing that happened during that time is that here I am  standing in front of a group of 60 children with all of the parents up on the second floor loft looking down  and I’m teaching. Or I’m standing in front of all of these adults that are much older than me and here I am their instructor and they’re looking to me for guidance. Here I am in the office when people would come in with challenges they’d have in life and we’d be talking. I began to realize more than anything  else that I  do this from the heart and I’m good at what I do . It’s a passion I had. I was 18 years old.

TR:
By 1990, Robert was running his own school teaching Hapkido.

RO:

Which is a Korean Martial Arts. It translates to art of coordinated power. It was growing. So much was going with my life. A lot of responsibility, my relationship was being challenged, I had a great business but I was still trying to figure out how am I going to get everything to tie in together and make ends meet. I’d just given my mother away at her wedding. She married a beautiful man  and my mother gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This is when I was 21 years old.

TR:
On October 6, 1990 Robert’s life would change forever.

RO:
It’s funny because all that night, I kept saying to myself over and over again you’re not gonna go out, you’re not gonna go to this bar. I couldn’t shut my mind down I had to do something and I guess going there was that answer at the age of 21.

[Audio: Sounds of bar crowd]

So I went in, I was chit chatting, this and that, it was no more than 10 minutes  later a large group of people came in who were heavily intoxicated. I was talking to a female , we were having a nice conversation and the next thing you know another individual  came between us and was getting involved, he wanted to put his hands on her.

She’s with me, I think you had a little bit too much to drink.

She went towards the back of the bar and I was slowly putting on my jacket  to go back to the end of the bar  to walk away from the situation. I certainly could defend myself  and take care of myself but I also learned in life that when you’re dealing with people in certain situations  they could be 1 inch tall and you may be in the best shape of your life but if they don’t care about life  you’re dealing with a whole other ball game!

As I was walking away he pushed me from behind . I turn around to defend myself. The next thing you know, the manager of the bar  was pushing me out the door . The bouncer was pushing the other guy out the door and it was all just happening.

I remember very little, but the key parts I do remember is my right leg going between his legs and sweeping his feet off the ground. Dropping my knee into his groin and I was on top of him. And then the next thing I remember I was tucking my shirt in with my friend in front of me. The door cracked back open  that went out to the parking lot and the  man while I was looking the other direction put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger.

[Audio: Gunshot, followed by ambulance…]

The bullet entered the left part of my skull  and went through the left temporal lobe of my brain. Caught the nerve to my left eye , destroyed my taste and smell and blew up in my right eye.

They got me over to Cooper Trauma Center which is located in Camden New Jersey. It was a total of 17 hours  that I laid there and it was nothing they could do.

TR:
Robert wasn’t expected to survive.
His mother was told if he did it was almost certain that he would have severe brain damage.

RO:
A nurse by the name of Fran Orth  who worked in the Trauma Center came in on the second shift. She spent time reading my information looking at me, reading information, looking at me,  she began to question why wasn’t my head lifted up. Why was not this done, why was not that  not done. And the Neuro Surgeon said there’s nothing we can do he’s going to be dying. She said but did you call Dr. Luis Servante?

TR:
Dr. Servante received the call and answered.
He went on to perform surgery that gave Robert another chance at life.

Recovery, would take some time.

He had to deal with Meningitis that required another stay in the hospital.

At the time of the shooting, Robert was a fit 185 pounds.
As a result of the fall after being shot
Robert’s jaw was broken and wired shut.
He dropped to about 125 pounds.

RO:
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Everything was racing through my mind. I’ve got pictures of me doing dive rolls over large groups of people and doing splits in the air. I used to go running a lot on the beach and hand springs and just all kinds of beautiful great stuff. I was so weak I couldn’t even do a push-up and now I’m blind. I can’t get around, my independence, my confidence, my self-esteem, my balance.

TR:
The recovery wasn’t just physical.

As the owner and operator of a Martial Arts school,
Robert was more than just an instructor to his students.

RO:
My school was still operating. My students were keeping it going for me, but I was embarrassed to go back. I didn’t want the children and people to see me now. I was ashamed of myself. I could have taught you ten different way when someone puts a gun to you. Techniques and things and ways of taking them down and removing the gun from their hands etc. How your body moves and how your eyes are and how you react to it.

I never thought it would really really happen!

TR:
It was Martial Arts that would once again  help Robert find his way.

RO:
Richard Kemon was my very first Martial Arts Instructor. I really looked up to him, respected him so much. He was like a father to me. And he said Bobby you have to put your uniform on, you gotta go back to your school.

TR:
Robert would go on to regain his  self-confidence and seek out new opportunities.

When it was time, he learned of the BEP program.

RO:
I remember this guy came by the house  to bring me a watch, a talking watch from the New Jersey Commission of the Blind. We started talking about the Business Enterprise Program. I decided to investigate it more. It was what I wanted to do, my dream, but I didn’t look at it as my dream. I looked at it as my tool.

TR:
This was just one tool of many.

Robert already had tools he began accumulating  when introduced to the Martial arts.

I’m talking about more than  the
flying kicks or wood shattering punches.

RO:
Working with people with self-control, confidence, peace of mind, communicating properly, sharing your energy and spirit.

TR:
That spirit eventually guided Robert to Washington state.
Fortunately, he didn’t leave his  sense of humor behind.

TR [In conversation with Robert]:
What made you go from Jersey all the way to Seattle?

RO:
Well that’s a lot of times what  happens when you’re blind and get behind the wheel.

TR:
[Laughs…]
Nice!

TR:
In addition to becoming a successful entrepreneur, he began once again teaching Martial Arts and more…

RO:
I started getting involved with working with other individuals who are blind. I put together a women’s self-defense seminar. I spent time with he Wounded Warriors. I got involved with the children at the Elementary School. I wrote a book.

TR:
The name of that book?
Certain Victory, which is also the name of Robert’s company.

Once again, it goes back to the martial arts; it goes back to pilsung!.

RO:
That same magazine that I told you I was reading when I told you I saw the picture of Grand master Goh.

The article I read in that magazine was called Pilsung. It was about a man and he just earned his first degree black belt.

TR:
Soon after, while piloting his own plane, he crashed.

RO:
And he ended up hitting the high tension line; wires. And 90percent of his body was burnt and he survived.

The whole story  was about overcoming this, getting through this, fighting the fight, finding what he called certain victory. In Korean, pilsung means certain victory through strength, courage and indomitable spirit.

TR:
One word, two syllables Pilsung  helped one man strive to reach his potential.

Robert’s book, Certain Victory is available on Bookshare.org.
It’s also available on Amazon.com and his website Certain Victory.com.

This is Thomas Reid
[RO:
There’s one in Pennsylvania and I said this is the guy I need to go to.]

for Gatewave Radio
Audio for Independent Living.

[Audio Bumper]

Some of my favorite conversations here on Reid My Mind Radio are with those who are adjusting to Blindness.
Notice I didn’t say adjusted.
I truly believe the adjustment process is a continuing practice.

If you ever talked to anyone experiencing blindness or disability,
you may have heard stories about body snatchers and mysteriously disappearing people.

Ok, I’m not being literal.

These are the people in our lives who no longer come around or
they just act very differently around us…

Robert says this was one advantage of making the move out west.

RO:
Nobody knew me here from when I could see.
Thomas the other issue I battle with is I was very well known when I could see. And every time I turned around I’d run into somebody in the supermarket or in the store and they were just always saying to me we’re so sorry for what happened Robert. But they were getting together with me anymore. They weren’t the friends they used to be. I was not the same Robert  any more. I was not the same Bobby. I was somebody different.

Out here I was who I was . No more nor less. people know me for who I am right now. It was almost like breaking free.

TR [In conversation with Robert]:

Yeh, a lot of people kind of fade away. They fade away! It is what it is!

RO:
They do!

TR [In conversation with Robert]:

That ability to start fresh really sounds nice!

RO:
Yes, there’s several components Thomas that I think have been  what I have grabbed onto to help recreate and or clarify who and what I am right now. And in so many words I am the same guy I always was. You know when we were younger all we wanted to do was know, know, know. Learn more and learn more  and learn more. And as I’ve gotten older I’m now trying to understand , understand  and understand more more more!

TR:
Those things that we want to know when we are younger and
try to understand more when we’re older
are said to always be inside us.

That idea that Robert talked about, Pilsung or
strength courage and  Indomitable spirit.
These are already inside of us and
we just need to believe that and
find our way of accessing especially
when we experience life changes.
It’s not easy, but hearing from people like Robert and others, it’s worth the effort.

I don’t know my next step in producing this podcast,
stories for Gatewave or any other outlet  or
even other things I tend to focus my energy on…

But I do know as Robert said…

RO:
Hey if it makes a difference  for one person in this world Thomas then we win!

You can win too!

Subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio in your favorite podcast app…
just look for Reid My Mind Radio… remember that is R E I D.

You can also listen via the Stitcher or Tune In Radio app.

Check out ReidMyMind.com for links, all past episodes plus more.

Big thanks to Robert for sharing his story.
Thanks to riley Gibson for recording Robert’s side of the conversation.
Thanks to you for listening!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro Theme]

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio: At the Intersection of Black and Blind

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Many would assume growing up blind in the 1950’s & 60’s had its challenges. What about growing up Black and Blind attending a segregated school for the blind?

Robert Lewis at work at the Radio Reading Network of Maryland

In this latest Reid My Mind Radio you hear from the Executive Director of the Radio Reading Network of Maryland, Robert Lewis.

We talk about;

  • Attending a segregated school for the blind
  • How being blind saved his life
  • Playing music with Stevie Wonder and much more.

Plus in the special podcast edition, we include some of his personal music suggestions for those times when you just need a lift!

 

Subscribe bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe

 

Press Play below to Listen now!

 

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:Happy New Year!

I know some of us are not feeling that happy in 2017 and possibly longer. I don’t know like 4 years!
Well, as long as we’re not six feet under or my personal favorite stuffed into an ern sitting on a mantle… we’re good and we can make things happen.
We can fight…fight the power!
But first a new Gatewave piece I know you’re going to like and some extra immediately following!
Hit me!

[Audio: RMMRadio Theme Music]

 

TR:
Meet Robert Lewis, the Executive Director of the Radio Reading Network of Maryland. With over 35 years in the business, he is more than qualified to run the network. We’ll hear more on that, but it’s his life experiences that are truly compelling and offer a glimpse to what it was like growing up as an African American attending a segregated school for the blind.

 

RL:
I went to the Maryland School for the Blind, here in Baltimore Maryland. It was a wonderful place to go to school. I started there in 1954. It was a nice school but in the very beginning there was one side for the blacks and one side for the whites. And you were not allowed to sleep on the white campus . The two races went together for school but after that we would go our separate ways the first couple of years that I was there. That’s the way they had the whole setup.

Things were done to you or things were done that would not be tolerated today.

In the beginning they wouldn’t  buy Black kids Braille writers and things of that nature until like 50’s or more like in the 60’s. They started doing some things for Black kids that they didn’t do before and they would do them for the white kids.

You would be surprised what we had to deal with  in the 50’s and 60’s in a blind school.

 

TR:
The discrimination, limited social interactions, like at parties.

RL
As soon as we started to dance with one of the  white girls, the party was over. That party was ended!
They weren’t going to have that.

Society makes people prejudice. If they had left us alone it would never had happen, but because the teachers and because of the house parents and so forth  letting you know that you were black, who cared?
The students didn’t care!

The Lion’s Club used to come out and deal with us.
And at one time the Lion’s Club did not deal with Black kids.

 

TR:
the discrimination lead to varying degrees of abuse.

During a school Halloween party, a member of the Lions Club was responsible for guiding Robert to his chair.

 

RL:

He grabbed both my arms and walked me backwards to the chair.
I’m a 6 year old kid and this is a full grown man and he was squeezing my arms as hard as he could to try and make me cry and I said to myself he’s trying to hurt me but I’m not going to let him know that it hurt. So I didn’t and after he got me to the chair he pushed me down with a little bit of force. That was his way of saying well I don’t really like doing this or I don’t like Black people and I don’t like Black kids.

 

TR:
There was the even more abusive punishments dealt out by those charged with protecting and educating blind children.

 

RL:
Some of the Black kids were punished to the point that we had to stand out in the hall at night with no clothes on.
First we didn’t understand it but then we realized that the person that was doing that may have had a little problem on the side.

 

TR:
The discrimination continued as Robert traveled outside of the state competing with the school Wrestling team. He recalls, they couldn’t eat in restaurants.

 

RL:
We went to one restaurant and the lady said you got to eat as fast as you can so we can get you out of here before the owner comes  back because if he saw we had Black people here he would fire me!

 

TR:
In North Carolina, it was more than getting a meal.

 

RL:
Guys jumped out of the car and came over and they were going to beat us
all up.
We had no idea … What is this all about? Is it because we are blind; no, it’s  because you’re black and you’re blind!

 

TR:
Eventually, the segregation came to an end. The children lived together.

At first the parents were very upset about it and they didn’t really want it but  in order for the school to get money from the state, they had to integrate the school.

 

TR:
Remember, Robert described the time he spent at the Maryland School for the Blind as wonderful. Discrimination and racism were just a part of his school life.

We had a lot of terrible things that we dealt with but  we also had good things because we had a lot of white friends that we went to school with that would do anything in the world for us.

Maryland School for the Blind had one of the best wrestling and track teams in the country so we went all over the place.
We learned so much and we had so much fun as far as the students together.
We had a really good soul band good jazz band.
I grew up with the Beatles . I grew up with the platters. I grew up with Elvis Presley.
Some of the kids that were white, we learned their music and they learned ours.
I would come home and my sister would say here comes the little white boy!

 

TR:
In some sense, Robert really does straddle two identities. Not black and white, but rather black and blind.
The intersection of the two present a fully unique experience.

As a young African American growing up in Baltimore Maryland in the 1950’s and 60’s , Robert observed the events taking place in his neighborhood from a different perspective.

 

RL:
I heard one day when the police came out and they sicked the Shepard on the neighborhood and one guy named frank grabbed the dog around his neck and killed him.
You could hear in the wagon, you could hear the beating he was getting.

 

TR:
The wagon he refers to is the police patty wagon used to round up and transport suspects charged with criminal acts.
Robert says that the recent episodes of police brutality in cities like Baltimore aren’t new.

RL:

When they would beat the kids in the wagon, you could hear the wagon going up and down. if they wanted to find out  if you were telling the truth they would take a phone book and put it on top of your head and then hit it with a police stick. And there were no scars. What they would do is open the window.  they’d say you can tell us what we need to know or you can jump out the window. or take the beating.

 

TR:
Once , the additional identity of being blind could have possibly saved his life. As a young boy traveling in the car with his family, he recalls when an officer stopped his father for speeding.

 

RL:
the police was giving my father a ticket and I reached out to touch his gun and the policeman stepped back and drew his gun to shoot me. My father said oh please don’t shoot my son, he’s blind. And the policeman said oh he’s blind? So he took the bullets out of the gun and put it in my hand and let me play with it . He said, I’m not going to give you a ticket I’ll let you go this time. He said, but every day  for the next week I want you to buy your son an ice cream cone and every night for the rest of the week he’d come by the neighborhood and say did your father  buy you an ice cream?

 

TR:
By no means was Robert’s childhood full of violence.
residing on the school campus during the week, he returned home on weekends.

RL:
Man it was fun because I could come home and tell  them what I learned as far as in school, but then I could get on the roller skates and skate up and down the sidewalk and ride my two wheel bike. My grandfather was a mechanic, I had my hands inside automobiles. My mother would take me to the five and dime store and let me buy a toy. She treated me just like she did all of her other kids. My cousin Mack Lewis had a boxing gym in Baltimore. He was a very well-known manager of boxing. He would train Larry Middleton Vincent Pettway… some of the big time boxers. I would go over to the gym and listen to the guys box. I’d go around listening to musicians. I went over to the stable and rode the horses. I could honestly say I felt just like any kid that could see because I really think I had some angels looking out for me. I really enjoyed hearing things and dealing with things that I dealt with  you know in the neighborhood. Friday nights and Saturday nights was a great time because everybody had a good time. They had crab feasts. They’d walk up and down the street.

 

TR:{In conversation with Robert.}
So you were not at all isolated. You were definitely part of the community  it sounds like.

 

RL:
I was part of the community, yes!

 

TR:
Community, in his neighborhood, school and even activities that lead to lifelong passions like music.

 

RL:
I got my start playing marching band music. I played Sousaphone in the band. I played the Base Drum and from there I went to a complete drum kit. Being totally blind and a drummer, drummer’s completely different than other musicians. When you go and tell people you are blind and you play drums … I told one guy and he said I mean, I could see you playing the horn, but ain’t no way in the world I can see you playing the drum set cause you blind. How you gonna find the drums and the cymbals. I play an 18 piece drum kit! I’m a very good drummer.

I played with 15 and 18 piece bands.

I played with Stevie before.

 

TR:
So we’re clear, he’s talking about Stevie Wonder.

 

RL:
He came to the Maryland School for the Blind and we played  together.

 

TR:
Today, Robert is back on the campus of the Maryland School for the blind.
Not with the school, but rather in his job with the Maryland Radio Reading  Network, a radio reading service for the blind and others with print disabilities.

 

RL:
I started as a board operator and I’d go to work and people would whisper and say is he blind? This is a radio reading service but they had no blind people working there. I started as a board operator and moved up the ladder and I became the Executive Director.

 

TR :
Some of his responsibilities?

 

RL:
Fundraising, directing,   , setting up all the program, fire those that need to be fired or hire the people that need to be hired.

 

TR: {In conversation with Robert}
What would you say are the aspects of your specific experience  that have either helped or make your job more challenging?

 

RL:
The hardest thing is proving things to people. Proving what you can do.
If I ask someone for money and they’ll say to me well what do you do at the station? How do you know if you’re on the air or not? Or how do you know what time it is? And after a while, all of these stupid questions just get to you but, you can’t let people know they’re getting to you because they really don’t know. So you have to answer those questions as polite and as nice as you can do it. You have to be nice to people and after a while I wouldn’t say you get tired of being nice, sometimes you get tired of the way people talk down to you

I love my job and I like what I’m doing. If I sit home retired I’ll probably weigh a thousand pounds.  so I’m trying to avoid that  or find something else to do probably go into some music, but right now my whole job is what I do now with the radio station and part-time  stereo sales.

 

TR:
This is Thomas Reid
{James Brown’s “Say it Loud”
“Say it loud, I’m black”
Simultaneously…
RL:
Your Black and Blind…
James Brown’s “… And Proud!
{}

for Gatewave Radio…

Audio for Independent Living!

[Audio from : KRS1 “We’re not done” “We’re not Done”… “Check this out” from “You Must Learn”]

 

TR:The intersection between disability and race, gender and other identities is something I’d like to explore more.

It’s now part of my own life experience and with people with disabilities being the largest minority group, it’s probably an effective way to promote disability related issues.

If any of these apply to you and you have a story to share or know of someone who does, please send me an email…
ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

It was a real pleasure speaking with Mr. Lewis and I hope to do so again. I can just imagine all of the other stories he could share.

In fact, there are more stories that were not included in the Gatewave piece.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain the level of ignorance people display in response to blindness or disability.

Some of the stories can be entertaining, but often they’re confusing. And as I like to say, you can’t make sense from nonsense.

As you heard in the end of the Gatewave  piece, Robert sells stereo equipment part time. After selling some equipment, he called the customer to check in with him two weeks after the sale.

 

RL:
He said, as long as you live please don’t ever call me. I said, don’t ever call you again? He said no, because I have to have eye surgery next week.

TR:
Ohhhhhh!

RL:
… and I know it’s only because I bought that equipment from you.

I said to him, did it rub off?
{laughing!!!}

He said please never, NEVER, never call me again!

I said, OK!

 

TR:

Recently I was reminded about someone who I knew for years, who didn’t say this to me but definitely treated me as if I were contagious!

And like Robert said…

 

RL:
Ok!

 

TR:

I wanted to end the conversation  on a positive note because we all know those haters are going to hate and ignorance is out here!

Plus it would only be right especially profiling someone who has been through all that he has and refers to his experience as wonderful. That’s an optimist folks!

I asked Mr. Lewis to give me some music recommendations. I thought I’d pass them on to the podcast listeners who enjoy a variety of music.

 

RL:
I don’t really listen to a lot of the new stuff.
If you’re a gospel person I consider the older gospel like Aretha Franklin or James Cleveland to be outstanding. If you really want to get into the going back into the world and listening to oldies but goodies and things of that nature think songs like “What’s to become of the broken hearted”. robins had some really good stuff out. “The Masters Call” It talks about a situation that a guy got involved with and was able to find god. When I’m really down if I want to hear something nice I listen to “Palisades Park” by Freddie Boom Boom  Canon which really is a very nice song to give you a little bit of upbeat or some things by gene Pitney  or things like that really will help you, inspire you music wise. Just getting a boost. Even down to Leslie Gore. I don’t mean songs like “It’s my party” but I mean really good songs that she did that were just outstanding; “Love and spoonful”. The Temptations had an unbelievable bunch of songs that really move me. I mean I love music. There’s so much music that that I really really enjoy. When you look at big bands sounds. I think one of the best instrumentals that I ever heard  in my life was Jimmy Smith’s “Mojo”. And only because no one plays an organ like Jimmy Smith. No one can move their hands and feet like he does; God bless the musician! He was unbelievable!
If you listen to that song and you listen to his right hand what he’s doing with his right hand is beyond what a musician can do. I enjoy so much of the old stuff. I mean Mandrill. I like a horn section. I love tower of Power. Ray Charles’ band moved media also have to put Jimi Hendrix in that line up. There’s so much harmony in some of the groups that came out of England. Crosby, Still, Nash &young. To me Cold Blood has an unbelievable band. They have Lydia Pense who sings for them. Oh my God that girl can sing!
James Brown’s band was fantastic. More so than his singing. His band was as tight as they come. But Ten Wheel Drive is also another tight band to listen to. And also Gail McCormick and Smith. They took the version of the Shirelle’s Baby it’s you. They have a horn section there that is fantastic. There’s nothing like 8 or 9 horns playing together like that . Like Tower Power does… My dream someday would be to play a song with Tower of Power or Ten Wheel Drive. These guys are tight!

 

TR:
Now before you go to your choice of music apps and begin listening to some of these suggestions, do yourself a favor and head over to your podcast app and subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio. It’s good for your mind, your body and your soul!

Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio: Traveling Blind, Go Team Zen

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

I’m pretty sure those unfamiliar with vision loss would assume that traveling alone is a nightmare. Well it definitely has the potential for that, but not necessarily for the reasons you may assume.

Picture of Monks with sun glasses on a plane

Some of the ingredients that can help make it a success…patience and team building.

 

“No individual can win a game by himself.” –Pele

 

Listen here for a recent example I just experienced… I gotta story to tell!