Posts Tagged ‘Representation’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: White Washing Continues

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

A Black  woman looking away from the camera as a white feminine hand is reaching in to touch her  locs. The text "White Washing Continues" is written in white dripping paint above the woman's head.

Many Audio Description consumers have been calling for an increase in cultural competency. From the script to the voice of the narrator. In addition to wanting authentic experiences of film and television, we believe #RepresentationMatters!

Last year, I published an episode, Black Art White Voices:A Flipping the Script Prequel where I posed that if the decision makers, AD Directors, were not going to practice cultural responsiveness, others in the production process including writers and narrators could use their power to help make AD more of an equitable experience for all.

But the problem persists – the “white washing” of Black content.

Considering all that’s going on in the world today including;
* The Reversal of College Affirmative Action
* Voter Suppression
* Banning books

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

But that doesn’t mean I have to be quiet. I couldn’t after learning that “The Hair Tales” a documentary all about Black women and their hair, featured a white narrator. That’s an egregious offense in my book!



The Urgency of Intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw


Show the transcript

Crowd applause
“We’re about to let our hair down. Woo!”


The episodes I least enjoy producing, are those in response to an injustice, unfairness or something I find plain wrong.

I’m not the type of person who looks for drama.
Reid My Mind Radio family knows I put time into explaining my perspective and I treat people fairly.

Ever since fourth grade, I knew, I have to be cautious about how I respond. My resting face or my angry face, was perceived to be “looking for a problem”. Especially to my white teachers.

Physically responding to being pushed or punched would inevitably classify me as the aggressor.

The challenge is not only to effectively make a case for my position, but also be respectful.

Honestly, saying that bothers me.


The truth is it’s not so much about my behavior. More than often, it’s about how I’m perceived – the aggressor.
There are those who will try and dismiss what I’m saying as the ramblings of an angry Black Blind man.

But that ain’t new!

— A montage of Black athletes speaking out against injustice and the resulting response
Muhammad Ali;: It has been said that I have two alternatives, either go to jail or go to the army, but I will like to say there is another alternative. And that alternative is justice!

News Reporter: Mr. Muhammad Ali has just refused to be inducted into the United States Armed Forces.

Narrator: The reaction was swift and severe. within hours, the Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission denounced his conduct as detrimental to the interests of boxing, stripping him of his license to fight in New York. Almost every other boxing commission in the United States followed suit.

News Reporter: Overnight San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the national anthem again. (Over singing of the anthem)
This time he took a knee right behind hundreds of service members being honored on military appreciation night. As the crowd and players stand you can see Kaepernick kneeling on the sideline. Teammate Eric Reid joining him.

The crowd booing every time he took a snap.

Fox Commentator: I’m gonna create a new banner, this is a dumb jock alert. (Ding, ding ding!) NBA superstar Lebron James is talking politics again…

Reporter: You spoke out on the Sterling issue. And you were also outspoken on Travon Martin.
Lebron James: Yes!

Fox Commentator: Keep the political commentary to yourself or as someone once said; “Shut up and dribble!”

It’s the same old story , when Black people call out any form of injustice.
Shut up and dribble. Stay in your place. Just keep your head down and do your work.

Speaking out, well that just leads to some form of punishment or being made an example to discourage anyone else from doing the same.
So they’re stripped of their ability to earn a living. They’re branded as ignorant and made to appear to be a joke.

Do everything, but deal with inequality.

Of course, once society acknowledges the inequity then they praise that outspoken person for their courage
and act as though popular culture always supported their efforts.

Now, I’m in no way comparing myself to these individuals or anyone else for that matter. I’m simply giving you some context for why
these are my least favorite types of episodes to produce.

For Black people especially, truly speaking out can have real repercussions. Some might say backlash.

Woof! What’s the origin of that word?

Yet, sitting by and saying nothing, well that isn’t really an option!

My mother made it clear, none of her children were going to be bullied.
Just watching her move through life, as her child, I learned as she would say, you don’t hold your tongue.
She believed, if you were about what was right and fair, then there’s no need for being shy about what you have to say. That was until she and I disagreed about something, but that’s another story!

I’m Marcy’s son, Thomas Reid. this is Reid My Mind Radio!
— “Here we go again! ” Chuck D, Public Enemy “Bring the Noise”

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music
— Turn it up!”

— Broken record effect

You ever feel like a broken record?

— Dream harp sound
— audio from the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices

Music begins, a pulsating ominous synth that opens up to a dramatic mid-tempo beat.


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

We’re in between seasons but I wanted to share some thoughts with the family.

Truth is, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to share these thoughts on this particular subject.
I’m hoping one day it won’t be necessary.

Several years ago now, I produced this episode that has really sort of attached itself to me.
It’s the Black Panther episode.
The episode I almost threw away. I didn’t think anyone would care.
I published it anyway.

People cared!

I think.

I’m just ready to move past it.
Meaning, I would love to see those who say they understand and support the need for Audio description to be more culturally aware and competent, put it into practice.

but, it’s like…
Audio sample: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” From The Godfather.


That was the opening of the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices.
I feel like the title says it all, but apparently not enough.

This issue didn’t start in 2022, it’s way before Black Panther in 2018.
In fact, it begins before audio description.

— Collage of audio clips —
— “European institutions like the British Museum and the Love are home to some of the world’s finest art. But some of the treasures on display were stolen during colonial times. Experts believe up to 90 % of African cultural artifacts were taken from the continent.”

— “Cultural theft has been, especially when it comes to Black culture, as American as apple pie.”
— “From the time we were brought over here on slave ships and our very lives were stolen from us.”
— “From white artists that put Black face on” … “Elvis Presley” …
— “Don’t do my thing and not give me my share. So that’s where it becomes theft.”
— Chuck Berry’s song followed by a replica from the Beach Boys.


The “white washing” of Black art and history is alive and just a part of this country’s fabric.

— “This fight against teaching America’s racist past has now been integrated into the broader Republican cancel culture wokeness moral panic being stoked with Joe Biden in office and since he’s a less appealing target than other recent Democratic presidents for oh gosh who knows what reasons, Mitch McConnell and his party decided the biggest threat to America is white people finding out America’s institutions are racist.”


Black art and culture isn’t made to be filtered through whiteness.

Non-Blind consumers are free to experience the art in the way it was intended. And so should Blind people.

Well exactly who are Blind people?

— From Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk
“Many years ago I began to use the term intersectionality… intersections of race, and gender of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism , all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique.”

That’s Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw , the person who first articulated and coined the term intersectionality.
Chances are, most of you are aware of intersectionality. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s often ignored.
Our lives consist of multiple identities and issues.
Recognizing these identities isn’t about ranking one over the other, it’s about acknowledging that we’re impacted differently and need to take this into consideration.

Blind people consist of every identity. (Hopefully that’s not news to you.

Audio description should center Blind people. (Again, I feel like the majority of you agree with this!)

All Blind people, not just those who are white and cisgendered. (Now this may be new for some.)

But, I’m going to move forward working under the assumption that we all agree that:
Blind people intersect with multiple identities. We are;
Black, indigenous, people of color, and white
We’re straight, gay, non-binary, trans
we’re from every socio economic background

I’ll also assume we can agree that we all have a right to experience content as it was intended by its creators.

With that said. let’s get into it.

— audio from “Hair Tales” show intro with Oprah

Tracey Ellis Ross: We created a space for us to gather our stories…

Unknown voice over:
“I never know what my hair will do”
Tracey Ellis Ross: Honoring our identity culture beauty and humanity.

Series of unknown voice overs:
“Braided locs, corn rows, twist out, hot comb, relaxed, any style you want; big, versatile, lush, beautiful, resilient hair. What version of myself do I want to be. You do not need hair to wear a crown. Whoop!
My hair is like laced…. laughs.

Tracey Ellis Ross: I’m Tracey Ellis Ross join me as we celebrate the truth of who we are through the wonderous world of our hair. So my hope is that these conversations we have create more space for belonging, self-actualization and I think there’s so much about our hair that’s community that sort of centers through our hair. And it can feel like it’s just a conversation about hair, but it’s not. Especially not for Black women.

Oprah: It never is.

Tracey Ellis Ross: No!


If you’ve been flipping the script on audio description with me over the past few years, you should be quite familiar with this idea.
I’m talking about conversations being about more than what they appear to be on the surface.

Black women and their hair is definitely about beauty, but it’s also political,

— Music Begins: “a dark, driving hip hop beat

it’s a reason for multiple generations to gather and share history,
it’s about economics. I’m sure someone can if they haven’t already, tell the story of humanity through Black women and their hair. The Black woman is the mother of us all! (Facts, not opinion)

Hair and the stories that come with them are personal.
Hair is a big deal to me, which is why my locks are past my glutes and reaching the back of my thighs. I have locks. And I’ve had them since I was 16. And I am 33 years old now. So I don’t see myself in any other style other than locs for as long as I can have them on my scalp.


That’s Casandra Xavier.

I mostly go by the screen name Caspher (spelled out) CASPHER. I am in Boston and grew up in Boston, originally from Florida.
I am identified as deaf blind, mixed combination of vision and hearing loss. AKA deaf blind champion, an African American woman. And I enjoy a good storytelling session. Whether it be on stage or in a small group setting. Great to be here.


The decision to grow her hair in locs is very personal to Caspher.

When I was younger, I was going through a lot of medical procedures that involved hair cutting. And so I had to wait till I was done with that awful passage of my life of surgeries every now and then to finally say okay, this is the hairstyle that I’ve always wanted.

I Couldn’t stand any other style because that would involve constantly getting your hair pulled on. And contorted into all kinds of styles. I just didn’t like people in my hair all the time.

I’ve always wanted locks.

— Audio collage on not letting people touch your head.


I don’t know if this is a spiritual thing, a Black thing but I’ve heard this all my life with different explanations.

I hear it mainly from Black people throughout the diaspora as well as LatinEx especially those from the Caribbean really

it’s the whole energy thing.

Where do they come from?
Did they even wash their hands?
What are their hand hygiene like?
Because you with your hair and then touching it. Later on? You’re gonna go lay down in the bed on the pillow with that? Mm hmm.

If there’s one thing we all should understand, three years after the pandemic, germs are passed through physical contact.

What may be more complicated for some to accept is the idea of transferring negative energy through touch.

Either way, the kindergarten lesson remains true;
Don’t put your f*%#ing hands on people.

I was actually taking my hair down from a style. And when it came out, it was extra curly. So the next day, I had to, like stand as far apart from everybody. Because once they saw those, like locks in the curls hanging down my thigh. Everybody wanted to be hands on.

They would just walk up to me first, touch the hair and then ask afterwards.

So as soon as you catch them coming closer, I’m already moving all the way away. I’m not anywhere near you.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
Can we be specific about the they and them?

I have an assumption.

The White folks. okay, a lot of black people they know better, so they won’t even.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
So they just do it. They don’t even ask, Do they ask?

They just touch. This is like the classic line that comes out of their lips. So this is all yours. It’s all natural.

Yes. Absolutely.

And I do have to answer with attitude, because it is my hair since I was 16.

They asked me if they can touch my hair. I will say no.

Hairstyles have different meaning to different people.

Caspher’s mom for example felt locs were bad. And then Caspher’s older brother went an grew his hair in locs.

It was almost like he went and signed up for the army without telling her.
And she’s like, Oh, so you’re one of the troublemakers now.

And then she realized really quickly now that her son has locks, it’s not all as bad as it seems.

I wanted to get locks, when she was a lot more lenient about it and was like, Okay, you can get it.
Just wait until all your medical procedures are done.

I said once I’m done with all these surgeries and when everything is healed, I want locks. And I meant it. So she let me try out twist for a year. And she’s like, do you still want it? I said absolutely. And that’s when it happened.

— Music Ends

I started growing my locs and I couldn’t be any more happy. I don’t regret My decision at all.

Tracey Ellis Ross: Every kink, curl and coil in a Black woman’s hair has a hair tale…

And now, let me ask.

Who should voice the audio description for the Hair Tales documentary?
Who should be the filter through which Blind Black women experience their stories?

— Audio Description Narrator: “A title appears, The Hair Tales” Tracey Ellis Ross sits across a table from Oprah. Flowers decorate the room. Photos of Oprah and her family.


If you watch television and films with audio description, you recognize that voice.

Hi I’m Tansy Alexander. I’m a Caucasian woman. I’m five foot seven, I have Auburn hair. I’m very athletic and active. I do all variety from narration to audio books, to commercials, promos trailers, IVR phone systems. I’ve done pretty much it all.


That’s from the time she joined me right here on the podcast in 2020.

— Original audio from episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.


Well that’s exactly the point of this episode, these continued series of episodes.

I reached out to Tansy to have a conversation on the podcast.
Here’s my email to her for context.

— Music begins: A slow piano with lots of ambience evoking a purposefully over dramatic melancholy vibe.

— With sounds of typing on a keyboard layered underneath, TR reads his email.

Hello Tansy
I hope you’re doing well.
I wanted to invite you back on the podcast.
I’m producing an episode continuing the conversation on the topic of cultural competency specifically as it relates to the choice of the narrator.
I’ve been vocal about this subject and I’m hoping you would want to share your point of view.
When you first appeared on the podcast you expressed that you agreed with the idea of equitable experiences in AD.
Last year, I referred to the HBO series “Insecure” which you narrated.
I expressed that I didn’t feel you should have been cast in that role as the series is heavily based in Black culture.
In this episode, I discussed the idea that narrators and others in the industry who believe in equity have the power to help
advance the change we want to see in the industry.
That is, turn down roles and or help find other narrators who are of the film’s or project’s culture.
In this current episode I’m producing, once again, you are narrating a series heavily entrenched in Black culture.
Would you be interested in speaking to me about your feelings on this?
You should know, I don’t want this to come across like any sort of personal attack on you, because it isn’t at all.
This is about making the AD consumers experience of film and television as close to what was imagined during its creation.
I look forward to hearing from you.


That’s me!

I really do believe someone like Tansy who says she’s interested in…
— Tansy “more inclusiveness on the narrator side.”

could really help the AD industry become more equitable in their practice.

But, when listening back to the 2020 episode, the equity she’s seeking doesn’t seem to be about the AD consumer.

— From “2020 Episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.

I get plenty of work, but I still think there’s a gender bias in the industry for males to succeed.

It’s the same it’s been for the whole spectrum of Voice Over since I started over twenty years ago, the belief that a male will sell it better. For whatever reason; the voice will cut through or people listen more to a man than a woman. These are stereotypes that probably aren’t true at all. These decisions to use a man or a woman are extraordinarily subjective.


I get it! Subjective AF!


I used to do a lot of action, landing on the moon, war movies, I’ve done a few last year. I can do a romantic comedy, I can do a children’s thing, I can get in there and get gritty. But all of a sudden they decide oh well for all the Marvel we need to have men.


That’s what makes her response to my invitation difficult.

Hi Thomas.

How are you doing? I just saw this last night and wanted to think about it before I responded.

I appreciate that you’re take on the casting decisions in audio description.
I am an actress first and foremost, who accepts roles based on casting’s advice.
I work on all genres of projects including Sci-Fi, documentary, rom-com, adventure, animation, horror, etc.

It would seem a better fit for this interview if you interviewed casting directors/project managers for audio description.
In that way, you could outline that you feel like all people who narrate a project should always look like the majority of people in the project, or
at least always be from the group that the project is based on.
Those casting people are the decision makers who could enact that change.

Although I always enjoy a great discussion with you, I have to take a pass this time.
Really appreciate you thinking of me!

Warm regards



Thankfully, I have the audio to pull from last year’s episode that directly responds to Tansy’s point.

— Sample: “Rewind Selecta”

— Original audio from 2022 Black Art White Voices

AD professionals, you have a choice.
If you’re aware of the inequity and say you want to see the change, well, recognize your power.


I find it really hard to believe that you don’t recognize when you’re not right for the project. Rather than finding a way to personally justify that with yourself, why not use your influence to suggest that someone else is hired for the position? Perhaps it’s someone you know and recommend, but in general, speaking up about the subject, being an ally, well that’s powerful.

— Sample: “You will not replace us” Chants of Alt Right Mob.

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

When it comes to the voice of the narrator on films that are culturally specific, we’re talking about a small piece of the pie. The total number of films and television shows that are focused on BIPOC stories is still a fraction of the total films made today.

White narrators get plenty of work. I don’t see any reason for them to feel threatened by these comments.

This issue is just one part of a much bigger problem.
It goes beyond films like Black Panther or In the Heights. Shows like Insecure. It goes beyond the voice. It’s about the visibility of Black and other people of color

That’s seeing and acknowledging color on screen and stage. It’s recognizing that Blind and Low Vision includes people of color.
— Reverse Dream Harp bringing back to present


Let’s be clear, I’ve come across other shows with insensitive casting; Abbott Elementary, Reasonable Doubt and others.
But this isn’t about individual shows.
It’s not about my individual point of view,
it’s not about one narrator.
This is about centering the Blind community in audio description.

(The full community!)

— Law and Order scene change sound


When I finally decided I had to speak about this here on the podcast, I knew I needed to hear from Black women.
I’m Black, but I’m also a bald man!
I like to think it’s still by choice but let’s be real, my options are limited when it comes to my crown.

Hair tales isn’t something I would probably choose to watch on my own.
However, I could see where I’d watch this with my daughters.
I’d enjoy sitting back and listening to their comments as they agree or disagree with one of the experts or explains something to me about a particular hairstyle.

today’s conversation is specific to the audio description.

audio description should always center Blind people.

I needed to hear from Black Blind women.

So I put the word out that I was seeking input on this topic.
to be clear, I was looking for opinion not a specific point of view.
If someone wanted to speak in favor of color Blind casting for AD narrators, cool, bring it.

I didn’t get much in the way of feedback. I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve come to recognize phases we go through as consumers of audio description. I’ll use my own experience as an example.

— Music Begins: An upbeat dance track…

Phase 1: Shock

“What? I can experience movies again?”

Phase 2: Denial
“I don’t know, this is probably going to suck. How will this work, someone explaining what’s happening? Augh! I don’t know.”

Phase 3: Bliss, Over Appreciation

How was the movie?

Oh my goodness! It was so good, it had audio description!
I can’t say anything bad about this film because it has audio description.
— Fades down while talking continues

Phase 4: Back on Earth

How was the movie?

Two thumbs down! I’ll never get those 90 minutes back.
— Fades down while talking continues

No longer are you easily entertained. Access alone isn’t cutting it.

Phase 5: Critical

How was the movie?

There was this one scene that stands out to me. The production is incredible.
— Fades out to an enthusiastic monolog…

Considering the fact that AD honestly hasn’t been that accessible for that long, I imagine there are a lot of people in the early phases.

— “It’s a man’s world”… James Brown

Let’s be honest, I have some privileges in this world.
I’m a straight cisgendered man. I don’t have all the privilege afforded to my white brethren, but I do recognize those within my reach.

— Roland Martin Clip:

Roland Martin: Recent study shows the most abused group on social media, Black women and women of color.
Jennifer Farmer: So what we’re seeing is pervasive attack. If you’re a Black woman and have a social media account, if you’ve been on Twitter, chances are you already experienced abuse. Eighty-four percent of the tweets that go to Black women contain some type of abusive or harassing message. The other thing that we’re finding is that if you have the courage to state your opinion, you’re also going to be attacked.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
On that note, if you ever get any sort of pushback from this episode, please let me know.
I don’t want none of that going on.
you know, it’s fine.
I’ve had people give me pushback for certain things that I put on Tik Tok.
I have like, nearly 9000 followers on there. Honestly, people are gonna have their opinions
I don’t care.

TR in Conversation with Casandra: 22:45
Okay, there you go.

No one should have to deal with harassment, bullying or threats for their opinion. Especially when we’re talking about fairness and equity.

I’m more than willing to listen to contrary opinions but I’m not interested in racist nonsense.

If you have anything to say, please send it my way.

— Sample: Sesame Street “Ok all you cats and kitties, it’s time for a little addition. Can you dig it! Here we go. Now! Adding is putting together! Mm.”

Factoring all of this into consideration, perhaps it helps explain the lack of public engagement and critical feedback on audio description.

— Sample “You got the mic… use it!” Ice Cube

I’m sure there are many Blind people who for them, this isn’t a concern.
Yes, they consume and enjoy audio description. Maybe they’re in that Bliss phase – just so happy to have access.
I don’t fault them for that because I understand the history of not having access to content.

Some people may think this is just a Black issue. A POC issue.
Meanwhile though, all AD consumers are affected.
The white washing of content denies all AD consumers access to a more authentic experience.
And isn’t that what we want?

(I guess it depends on how we define, we!)

— Music Begins: A bright, chill Hip Hop beat.

I want to send big shout outs to;
* Casandra Xavier AKA Caspher.
You can find her on Tick Tock.


At Caspher 31 CASPHER 31
On Instagram Cassandra dot Xavier(Spells out)
For those that can see. You want to look for the profile picture of a black lady wearing a crop top sweater standing next to a boxing bag, flexing her muscles.

Uh oh!

To all my sisters who shared my request for input as well as some others who talked to me for this episode. Your voices may have not made it into the final edit, but you were in my mind throughout the production.

— Airhorn!

You know you’re all official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

You too Tansy! Family can disagree, but I believe in leaving a place at the table to have a conversation.

You know, you too can be Reid My Mind Radio Fam!;
Subscribe or Follow Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: – Representation Really Matters

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

We continue the conversation around cultural competence – even though competence is setting the bar kind of low…

Representation matters. That’s on screen, stage and everywhere. For Audio Description users, our experience of visual content is filtered through AD. That includes the voice of the narrator.

In this edited recording from November 2022, hear how some believe AD is getting better at representation and others, well, feel there’s a lot more we can do.

With that in mind, please add your name to support The Pledge for Culturally Competent & Inclusive Audio Description.

Join Us Live

The BCAD Live Chats can take place on a variety of platforms including Twitter and Linked In.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* [Cheryl Green]*(
* Thomas Reid](


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Music begins
THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: [laughs] Okay!
[air horn goes off twice, then the Oscars theme song begins, and recorded light applause play]
NEFERTITI: Ooh! Welcome. Welcome, everyone!
[Oscars theme song jumps ahead and gets louder, more epic, then suddenly stops]
NEFERTITI: [guffaws] Okay! Wow!
THOMAS: That’s funny.
NEFERTITI: I was telling the people how this is new for all of us and that you are our fearless host tonight. And look at all the entertainment you’re providing us. This is amazing.
THOMAS: Yeah, entertainment, and I don’t even hear it.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: So, I’m not doing a great job. [laughs] My little doohickey here.
NEFERTITI: Generally, we’re granting people two minutes to state your case, ask your questions, whatever. If your two minutes run out, we will let you know. We’ve got Thomas with his doohickey, okay? So, [laughs] we’re gonna keep this very entertaining and do like, what is it, Thomas, how they do at the Oscars, that they—
THOMAS: Yeah, sort of like how they do at the Oscars. And, you know, if you start to hear some music playing… [Oscars music comes back in low and builds] then you know.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. We hear it.
THOMAS: You can start wrapping it up, you know what I’m saying.
NEFERTITI: But if you keep going? [laughs]
THOMAS: And it starts to get louder and louder. Yeah. It gets louder, and you should start to get the point. If not, it should get louder, and you should really get the point. [chuckles as music gets louder, then suddenly stops]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles] Love it. Love it. ) I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I’ve been the one talking at you this whole time. Welcome again. I live and breathe audio description: From the job I do every day, which I just started about a week ago, to my side hustles. Everything, anything about me and my life right now is audio description. I narrate it, QC it—that’s quality control—I write it from time to time, and most importantly to me, I advocate for it. I really believe that accessibility is a human right, and audio description has everything to do with that. All right. Let’s hear from Cheryl next.
CHERYL: How do I follow that, Nefertiti?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
CHERYL: Hello, I’m Cheryl Green. I am an audio describer. I do writing, narration. What are the other pieces? I do the audio editing.
CHERYL: Sighted QC when needed, editing, project management, also have had several wonderful opportunities to co-teach and present with Thomas on audio description and topics around it. I can’t remember if I said I’m a captioner too, but I also do that. And I will turn it over to Thomas now.
THOMAS: And that’s the amazing access artist, Cheryl Green. [laughs]
CHERYL: [laughs]
THOMAS: That’s right. I love that title. I love that title. What’s up, everybody? My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the host and producer of Reid My Mind Radio. And I am a voice artist, a audio description narrator, advocate, consultant. Actually, you know what? I’m a voice narrator, consultant, and most of all, advocate and consumer. That’s what it is, so. And happy to be here to have this conversation…. The end. I am done speaking. [laughs] Let me follow the rules.
NEFERTITI: There you go. )
NEFERTITI: All right, Thomas. Well, with that smooth voice that you’ve got, how about you get us started? You are our host tonight, so.
THOMAS: Thank you, Nef! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: You’re on. [laughs]
THOMAS: Nah, cool. I’m glad we’re having this discussion. I’m glad everybody came out. I’m glad to see an interest. And I really wanna find out where we stand, where we lie on this topic, and wherever you do, that’s cool. I hope we can have a conversation about it. I’m not here to necessarily only hear from one side, as if it’s a side thing. And so, yeah, that conversation is all about cultural competency, cultural respect, cultural responsiveness, however you want to kind of call it. But I’m gonna refer to it for now as cultural competency.
And just to talk about that. So, let’s talk about what exactly is that? What does it mean to be culturally competent? And so, to be honest with you, I wanted to make sure that I had the definition right. And so, I looked it up, and I like the definition. And there’s several. There’s several depending on what we’re talking about. But I think some of the things that I saw that they had in common, they had to do with, number one, valuing diversity. Okay? So, that’s differences, right? So, that’s putting a value on that, which is obviously important in anything we do in life because the things that we do in life, we should value. They should be consistent with what we believe in. The other part of that is having the capacity to sort of self-assess when it comes to your own culture and the culture of others. So, you kind of take that interest, right, and say, okay, “Hmm. Let me look at this. How does this impact, how is this impacted by or how does this impact the culture?” Being conscious of just the way different cultures interact. I love that word “conscious” because, you know, in order to make change or anything, we have to kind of be conscious about it first. And that goes into not only us as individuals, right, but also us as institutions or our place in institutions. So, whether that be a school, whether that be a corporation, whatever the case is.
And also, being culturally competent means you sort of reflect that in whatever it is that you do. So, if you make widgets, like we used to say in college, right in the Finance majors, you’ll know about the widgets. Whatever widgets are, whatever it is that you make, whatever service it is that you provide, if you include cultural competency in that, that reflects that, right? So, if you adhere to that, if you think about that, that makes up being culturally competent. And then it goes, if again, if we’re talking about an organization, it’s reflected in your policies, yes, your practice, and also in your administration in the way you do all of those things. That makes it a culturally competent thing. You can actually claim that.
So, obviously, when we talk about…maybe not so obvious depending on who’s here. But, you know, for those who are within the AD world, when we talk about audio description, there’s all of the different areas that make up audio description are sort of impacted by this. So, number one, if it’s valued by the organization top-down, then chances are it’s reflected in the end product, right? So, meaning the person who’s making the decisions from the beginning is thinking about culturally competent, competency. And therefore, when they pass it on to the writer of that AD project, they too are thinking about that. When it goes to the quality control process, they too are thinking about that. Of course, when it gets to the narration, again, say with me: “They too are thinking about that.” So, the whole, through the entire process, right?
But then I guess what happens is, if you’re familiar with the podcast, Reid My Mind Radio, I’ve been talking about this for a while, and we set up this audio description pledge. And the idea behind that really simply is that, you know what, y’all? We have a lot more power as people who work within the industry to say, “Hey, we believe in this. We wanna see this reflected in the end result. So, maybe there’s something that we can do.” Because if it’s not, again, if it’s not starting from the top down, maybe we’re thinking, “Well, okay, our organization isn’t about it. I’m about this. I believe in this, but the organization is not.” Well, maybe there are some things that we can do, and that’s really what that pledge is all about. That pledge is for folks who are working in the industry to say, hey, maybe there’s something you can do.
So, maybe we can start the topic. Imma back up a little bit ‘cause I guess I’m assuming that everyone knows what I mean and what we mean when we talk about that. So, after giving you that definition, we had a couple examples of when situations go wrong, where cultural competency isn’t reflected. And there’s one that’s pretty obvious. It’s the Black Panther, y’all. You know, I’m kind of tired of talking about Black Panther. And it’s not just Black Panther. It seems to be wherever Black Panther, any sort of reference to Black Panther comes into play because even a Judas and the Messiah. Again, same thing. But I’ll give you an example. Do y’all wanna— Nefertiti, let me ask you. Cheryl, do you wanna go to the example, or what do you wanna do? You think that’s cool?
NEFERTITI: I think an example would be perfect.
NEFERTITI: We can show you this in action what Thomas just beautifully talked about, because it happens all the time, and it’s, it’s…it’s insulting. It’s disrespectful. It’s…it’s just not okay.
THOMAS: It’s not okay.
NEFERTITI: And we three are staunch advocates for making it better. And hopefully, you’re here, you’re listening, so you are, too.
THOMAS: And before I even play the example, I wanna be clear. I wanna be really, really clear. This is not personal to anyone involved in this, okay? These are examples of someone who is not of the culture. And that is simply the case. It doesn’t reflect on them as an individual. It doesn’t reflect on anybody or anything like that in terms of personality. All right? So, I just wanna make sure that that is said. Even though I’m sure someone may wanna dismiss that. But—
NEFERTITI: That’s never our intention. Our intention is simply to underline the point we are trying to make here tonight.
THOMAS: Exactly. So, this first one, well, I’ll play it and then we could talk about it. All right?
[recorded clip plays]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A question appears in Spanish text.
GIRL: What does sueñito mean?
MAN: Sueñito? It means “little dream.”
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: As the question fades, the word “sueñito” (pronounced “swaneedo”] lingers.
[upbeat music plays, a digital alarm clock beeps]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A hand smacks an alarm clock, which reads 5:30 AM. The goateed man rises wearily and sits on the edge of his bed.
MAN: [sighs]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: He gazes across his humble bedroom at some items attached to a cabinet door, including a gray flat cap, as well as photos of a man sporting this cap as he plays with a young boy. There’s also a photo of a tropical Cabana and a sticker reading “Republica Dominicana.” [recorded clip ends]
THOMAS: Okay. ¿A dónde está mi gente? [laughs] Okay, so, if you are…. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [imitates an air horn blowing] I happen to be Dominican.
THOMAS: So then, you know what, Nef? You talk about it, sis.
NEFERTITI: Well, I will say I am American-born. I’m first-generation Dominican, but I’m still muy, muy, muy Dominicana, okay? I’m very Latina, very proud of it. First language is Spanish, etc., etc.. My folks are from the Dominican Republic, born and raised and all that. And this movie is, you may have heard of it. It’s called In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is Puerto Rican. And I guess I wanna know from folks when it comes time to speak, if you were able to hear the difference between how the character said a particular word in this case, “sueñito,” and how the narrator said it, “swanito.” That is very glaring for those of us who speak the language, for those of us who are of-the-culture. And it’s clear that this person is not Latino, and it’s baffling as to why that choice was made to not have someone do the audio description who is of-the-culture, who speaks the language, etc. These are choices that are being made every day with Black and brown cultures and languages and the like. And it just, it doesn’t make sense. As I said earlier, it’s insulting, disrespectful, jarring even. And we want you all to be conscious of that. I love that word, too, Thomas. Do we have another example?
THOMAS: We do. We do. I can play the other example as well. This example I’m sure folks are familiar with, but Imma bring it back.
NEFERTITI: While you get that ready, my last thought is simply that, you know, these directors, producers, actors, etc., everything that’s chosen to go into to be part of a film, a TV show, whatever it is, is done with great intention, right? There’s nothing in these works of art that the writers, the directors, etc. don’t want there. And so, it’s…why cheat that? Why change that so fundamentally when it comes to the audio description, right? Which is something that enhances this media and things of that sort. So, just something to think about again. Why go so, why stray so far from what’s going on, in the audio description? Why is that okay? Why is that the accepted practice?
CHERYL: I do know that there’s, there are different schools of thought on this. And there are definitely people who are like, “Well, this is our staff. This is who we have on staff. And they’re a very talented, highly trained person, and they’re gonna do a great job at this.” But one thing that you started to hint at, Nefertiti, is the intentionality of the casting. You’re very intent-, the director’s very intentional with the casting of who the actors are. And I just, I think there’s a lot of voice artists here who I’m not sure, some may be new to audio description or emerging in the field. And we don’t want the audio description to be disruptive to the flow of the film. And what happens when you have the audio describer who says, “swanito,” which when I say it like that, I think I’m sort of mimicking the way that person said it. There are at least three sounds that were incorrect in that, three or four different sounds. And if you are doing the audio description narration and cannot pronounce the words correctly in the film, that is creating a very disruptive experience for the audio description audience. And in Nef’s case, you’re Dominican. So, you really hear it and feel it. For someone like me who is not Dominican, I’m white, but I speak Spanish, and I can hear it. And it was completely jarring for me. So, we want this beautiful, immersive, non-disruptive experience and intentional, culturally sensitive. And culturally responsive casting is one way to really ensure that. And I shall stop now.
THOMAS: Cool. Cool. So, I’ll play the next example. And again, we’ll pay close attention to not only the…. I’ll play that example. We’ll talk about it.
[recorded clip plays]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Okoye sits in meditation, facing a window in the huge jet. [a cappella singing rings out throughout the clip] T’Challa sits beside Nakia, who holds his hand dotingly. Okoye gazes at the window.
OKOYE: Sister Nakia.My Prince.
NAKIA: We are home.
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Wakanda. Mist floats around mountain ridges. Nakia and T’Challa join Okoye at the window. The jet flies above a canyon nestled between vast shelves of rock. Shepherds wave on a slope of wild grass as the jet soars overhead. Two men gallop over scrub land on horses and wave up at the jet. The jet fires its boosters and accelerates away. It approaches a mountain.
T’CHALLA: This never gets old.
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: They fly straight at the mountain as though they’re going to crash into it only to fly straight through it like it’s a hologram and approach a futuristic city of tall buildings.
[triumphant, epic music, ship whooshing past]
THOMAS: Okay. Black Panther. Y’all know what it is. So, obviously, that gentleman— And again, I say it all the time. This is nothing personal. Would love to have a pint with him. [laughs] See how I did that? Yeah. Obviously, a white British man. And as Cheryl was saying, that was disruptive, I know from my experience. But it goes beyond that. It goes also into the pronunciation, I mean, literally. Let’s talk about QC. I mean, literally, he said, “Wakaenda.” It’s called “Wakanda.” And he says it throughout the movie. And so, again, extremely disruptive on many fronts. By the way, then, we know the next movie, the version two or part two is coming out on Friday. That will be, I’m really curious to see what happens there. And I really don’t wanna dedicate much time to an episode to talk about it. I really don’t. I really don’t wanna be here talking about it. I just wanna enjoy films and be immersed in it the same way everyone else is.
And AD is already sort of like a…it’s like a filter in a way. And we’re getting interpretation, to a certain extent, of the visuals from someone else. And when they are not culturally competent, when they do not respect that, I don’t think we should have to, I don’t think that should be something that we should have to deal with. And we talk about why. Cheryl, you talked about, you know, the person is on staff. And again, we talk about the definition of cultural competency and starting with the value, valuing difference, valuing diversity. And it goes into this conversation about disability. It goes into the conversation about intersectionality. Disability is not just white. Surprise! [laughs] It’s not. And so, there’s many different cultures. There’s many different people. And I think the audio description, like everything else, should reflect that. So, I wanna hear from some people. Do we have any one with their hand raised or whatever it is here?
THOMAS: Can we talk to some people? And again, I wanna make this clear. Nefertiti, Cheryl, and I, I think we’re pretty nice. We’re pretty respectful. I don’t think there’s ever been anything that I’ve heard from any of y’all or myself, at least, in my age now, that has [laughs], that has not necessarily been considered respectful. And so, if you are someone who does not value this, and you, or for whatever reason, you don’t think cultural competency is a big deal, if you’re perfectly fine with it…. Actually, I don’t necessarily wanna hear from you if you’re perfectly fine with it, unless you have something to say that is going to be like, give someone like myself an understanding of why this doesn’t matter.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Give us something to think about.
THOMAS: I really would like to know that. But I don’t necessarily just wanna hear, I don’t, “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me.” Okay, then, bye! Like, if it doesn’t matter to you, that’s okay! That’s okay. But then you’re not really part of the discussion because it just doesn’t matter to you. But if you don’t think that this is something that should be any sort of a priority, it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be a part of the process, and you feel that way, then you should be able to articulate why. And I wanna hear from that person. I really do. And again, you got the same time as everybody else, and I’ll be respectful.
SCOTT N: Hi, everyone. My name’s Scott Nixon. I’m over in Australia. I’m an audio description connoisseur, advocate, hopefully soon to be a narrator, working on the process as we speak, and I love the idea of cultural competency. Okay, I am whiter than white, okay? I would burn if I stepped out in the sun for more than two seconds. But I love the fact that audio description, when done properly, contains the cultural competency. If I’m watching something like Black Panther or [In] the Heights or something like that, I want an African American or a Latina doing the audio description because it gives me a greater sense of depth and helps me connect to the story a lot more, rather than having just boring old white person doing something that they really shouldn’t be doing. So, for me, as, you know, as a Caucasian, I find the use of culturally appropriate audio describers to be a fantastic addition to any production. And for example, I’m going to see the new Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever this weekend. And you guys in America are gonna hear me scream all the way from Australia if they use who I think they’re going to use. I’m hoping that they’re gonna be fixing the problem from the first one, but I’m not too sure. So, yeah, that’s where I stand. And that’s me done speaking for now. Muting.
NEFERTITI: Thank you so much, Scott. Remember, you’re always welcome to come up. I will return you to a listener in just a minute. Hey, Stephanae. Welcome.
STEPHANAE: Hey, how are you?
NEFERTITI: Good. Am I saying your name correctly?
THOMAS: Hey, Steph!
STEPHANAE: Yes, you are!
NEFERTITI: Oh, thank goodness.
STEPHANAE: And you can call me Steph. Thomas knows me very well. Call me Steph.
THOMAS: How you doing, Steph?
STEPHANAE: I’m doing well, thank you.
STEPHANAE: First, I wanna thank you guys for having this conversation. I think it’s a very important one to have. I am not a voiceover actor or an AD professional. However, I am a consumer of and an advocate for it as I advocate for the disability community at large with a specific focus for blindness-related issues. For me—I’m gonna be really quick—for me, it boils down to representation. Thomas, the sample that you provide of Black Panther, I was so excited to watch that movie with audio description. I was just over the moon because everybody was talking about it, and I thought, “Oh, finally I’ll be able to enjoy this.” And I wasn’t prepared for the person who was doing it. Nothing against him. He, I’m sure, is a beautiful person, but for that particular film, it just didn’t work for me. It took me totally out of the experience. And not just the pronunciation of some of the words, but just the…it just didn’t feel real to me, and [laughs] I was annoyed.
And I guess the closest I can get to providing an example that really gives me a strong reaction is text-to-speech voices. I don’t like those voices. And especially if you have to listen to them day in and day out, the last thing you wanna do when you’re doing something that’s entertaining or you wanna consume entertainment is to listen to an automated voice. And that’s sort of what this was like for me, because it was almost, it wasn’t like he was robotic. I understood he was a human, but it just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t relate to it. It wasn’t relatable for me. And if I was to take it a little bit further and was watching the film and saw somebody who was a white British person acting in the film that was supposed to be a Black person, I think I would’ve been just totally taken aback, so—
THOMAS: You mean like Liz Taylor? Like Liz Taylor did? Is that what you…. [laughs] Sorry. Sorry.
STEPHANAE: [laughs] But those are just some of the things that come to my mind, and now I’m gonna hand the floor back over to you guys.
THOMAS: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Steph.
NEFERTITI: Thank you for speaking. Definitely. That would be bizarre, right?
THOMAS: Well, it’s been done.
NEFERTITI: To have somebody playing something that they’re not, this day and age?
THOMAS: This day and age. Yeah, I’m glad you said that.
NEFERTITI: But why— Yeah, yeah. You know, so why not consciously cast the audio description too?
All right. We do wanna hear from folks who don’t agree with this or wanna know more about it or have doubts or what have you. So, please don’t be afraid to come up here. This is what discourse is all about. Let’s hear now from Cynthia! Hey! I know you.
CYNTHIA: Hey, Nef. Yes!
NEFERTITI: How’s it going?
CYNTHIA: It’s going really well.
NEFERTITI: Thanks for being here.
CYNTHIA: And congratulations on all of your successes. [coughs]
NEFERTITI: Aw, thanks.
CYNTHIA: I got so excited there I swallowed wrong. I don’t have a different viewpoint personally. I just kind of wanted to throw something out there that sort of came from some of my earlier classes, which was when the decision was made to cast a narrator, that sometimes…the casting person, whoever that is, decides specifically to look for someone of the same culture, of the same gender to fit in as you’re talking about. And that sometimes the decision is made to go completely opposite with the idea that it’s going to be somehow too confusing if the narrator sounds too much like the actors or someone that’s narrating not in the audio description realm. I don’t agree with that, but I wonder how the decisions get made to cast them because it’s not back when they’re making the film, and perhaps that’s when it should be made. What sounds, what sights, what are our intents in telling this story? And all of the people that are involved in bringing that story to life need to be on that same page.
THOMAS: Yeah. Thank you, Cynthia. Thank you. I’m glad you raised that, because the idea of, you know, like you said—and I get that—the idea of having sort of a contrasting voice, right?
THOMAS: And sometimes that really does, it can make sense, like the idea of perhaps you have a film that has, it’s all women, right? And so, you cast a male in that or vice versa. Sometimes that’s oh, that’s nice. It’s a change. It’s a little bit of a change, and it’s recognizable, and it just fits there. It’s a easier listen; it’s a comfortable listen. But I’m gonna go back to the idea of the definition of cultural competence. We’re not only valuing, but we also have an understanding of how cultures relate, right?
THOMAS: And so, let’s go to Black Panther, because when Steph was talking about that, something came up to me. And so, yes, it’s the words. It’s feeling disruptive. But let’s think about how cultures relate. A British white man. And I know Wakanda is not a real place. It’s based in, it’s a African country. But what is real is that Britain colonized much of Africa.
THOMAS: And so, for someone who has cultural competence would know that this film that is, again, very much an experience that is being pushed at Black people, and that’s fine. It’s fantastic. And Black people are very much like everyone else, right? I was really looking forward to what, let’s be honest, for Black people, this was an experience. Black folks were getting ready for this. This is beautiful Blackness, I like to say. And so, to make that decision, well, that tells you you don’t have cultural competence, right?
CYNTHIA: Agreed.
THOMAS: Yeah. So, that’s something that I think about. But you’re absolutely right. You asked. Like, contrasting can really, really make sense. And that does need to be a factor in the decision making when it comes to casting the narrator.
THOMAS: So, thank you for raising that. Thank you.
CYNTHIA: Thank you.
NEFERTITI: I’d also like to say, when it comes to a situation where like, “Oh, well, we bid for this project, and we’ve got some really qualified writers and narrators and such, but this is a ‘Black’ film say, but we don’t have any Black folks on staff,” does it not, is it not an option? I was gonna say, does it not occur? But is it not an option to cast out for talent that fits these particular categories, criteria, etc.? Maybe that’s a conversation for some other time or what have you. It would be great to have some providers join us at some point so we can get a better understanding as to how that works. As a company, you bid for a film, bid for a series, and you get it, but then you don’t have the corresponding talent. Why not cast out? Don’t tell me there aren’t any Black or brown talents out there. Thomas is here. I’m here. There are tons of us. There are a ton of us out there and other demographics too, right, that could fulfill these needs. Why isn’t that happening? And I’m not saying this to you, Cynthia. I’m saying this generally to the industry. Don’t tell me that these folks don’t exist and that you didn’t have them in your roster. That’s a problem in and of itself, don’t you think? Where’s the diversity in your roster of talent, things of that sort. So, yeah. I’m not one that really buys this idea of, you know, we don’t have these folks, we don’t, we didn’t know anybody kind of thing. So, I just wanna put that out there.
THOMAS: Let me piggyback off of that real quick, Nef.
THOMAS: Because, and I wanna keep going with the conversation, but I also wanna make the point that that’s where we started off the conversation in terms of what we as folks in the industry can actually do about that. And so, that’s where that pledge, the AD pledge comes into play. Because what I’m proposing is that if someone was to ask [chuckles], you know, ‘cause this works both ways. We’re focusing on POC, but it works every way. If someone was to come to me and say, “Thomas, I would love for you to do the narration for”–I don’t know–“the Riverdance,” I don’t know. I’m just thinking of something, right? And, you know, I’d be like, “Nah. I don’t think people would really like that,” you know? “I don’t think that would go over well.” “Thomas, okay, well, I want you to do this Asian movie.” “I don’t think that’s gonna go well. I think I’m gonna decline. But you know what? I think I know who can do that,” if I know.
THOMAS: So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us declining and being allies for one another and saying, “Hey, I’m not the right fit, but I know who is, or let me help you find it.” Or even just saying, “Hey, why don’t you go look for someone else?” if you can’t actually participate in the process, if you don’t know someone. But I think that’s up to us to actually say, “Hey, I’m not the right fit.” If we really believe, if we really believe that, if we really value diversity, going back to the definition.
NEFERTITI: 100%! And I’ve been asked to do Asian things too, which I’ve also turned down, Thomas.
THOMAS: Yeah, that’s a true story. Yeah, I was gonna say that was a true story for myself too.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. All righty. Cynthia, thank you so much. You sound great! [chuckles] Okay. I’m gonna butcher this name, so please bear with me. Is it Montreece?
MONTREECE: It is Montreece!
NEFERTITI: Oh, excellent! Hi. Welcome.
MONTREECE: Yeah, hi. Thank you. Hi, Steph! I know you’re not even on the panel, but I heard your voice, and I’m like, “Ahhh! It’s Steph!” And hi, Thomas. We’re actually new connections, and it’s very nice to “virtually” meet you.
THOMAS: Same to you.
MONTREECE: Thank you all for this opportunity. I’ll make this as brief as I possibly can. I barely even need to speak because, Thomas, you actually hit on my exact point. I am one who, while I am an African-American woman, I have a lot of Asian family members. And because of that, I’ve always participated in all levels, or not all but many levels of Asian allyship and Asian-American allyship at that. And I have a connection here on LinkedIn. She is another DEI consultant who focuses on that specifically. Her name is Jolene Jang, and we were working, well, I was supporting a project that she was doing on name pronunciation. And the reason why I bring this up is because she made a tremendous case for the importance of saying Asian names properly. And the point that I’m getting to is there’s so much importance to identity and making sure that, when it comes down to it, how names are pronunciated, actually paying attention to that and honoring that and first and foremost asking questions. And so, I think that actually translates over into what you all are talking about in this conversation, and this highlights the importance of that. And there is no way I would be, I personally, I am not even an Asian American. I would be infuriated if I was listening to an audio description for an Asian movie, and I heard any of your voices. I would be infuriated.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
MONTREECE: And it’s just because I take that, I’m a person who takes that very seriously. I think you’re absolutely right. Yes, pass the buck. Pass it on. And to Steph’s point, representation absolutely matters. It’s that much more the reason why there’s a need for a diverse array of voices out there doing description. Because when it comes to our younger people, this is what they identify with.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
MONTREECE: They find their identity in what is being narrated for them. And so, I hope that that makes sense. I really barely needed to say anything, though, because you really covered my point, Thomas, and thank you all so much.
THOMAS: No, thank you. You know, and just to emphasize that point, because yeah, audio description, you’re right. It does kinda bring that to light, so to speak. But, and I just wanna throw this out to Mr. Jimmy Kimmel, who likes to kind of butcher people’s names and think it’s funny. Like, it’s not funny. It’s not funny when you do that ‘cause that is someone’s, that’s a part of their identity. And I think he did that in one of those award shows or something, so. Yeah.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanna jump in also. Thank you, Montreece. And I wanna say I really liked what you said about “Ask questions.” Before you go and just pronounce all these names wrong, you can ask questions. And we’re talking a lot about cultural competency and sensitivity. And I’m also really big on the responsivity thing, which kinda comes from how you teach, how you would teach audio description. And that starts with asking questions and finding out about, you know…whether it’s what cultural knowledge and expertise the audio describer brings, or what is the expertise and the culture that the film is bringing? I just love that you brought up the questions because I think that’s at the heart of trying to achieve these things that we’re talking about. So, I’ll stop there.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, everyone. Gregg?
GREGG: Hi there. Can you hear me?
NEFERTITI: We can. Welcome!
GREGG: [delighted laugh] My name’s Gregg Stouffer. I’m coming at this from a little different perspective. I’m an editor, and I just fairly recently finished a documentary, and one of the producers on the documentary was Deaf. And she introduced me to the world of accessibility, and it’s actually been wonderful. One of the problems, though, is we had audio description done on the film, and unfortunately, when I’m editing the film, I’m taking out all of those little breaths [chuckles] and silences where audio description loves to live. So, I kind of painted my AD people into a corner, and so I wasn’t really happy with the results. Well, I’m now working on a, I shot a pilot for a cooking show, and I really want it to be…. Actually, the host of the show, her husband is Deaf, and I really want this to have accessibility baked in. I mean, that’s gonna, actually gonna be maybe part of the title. So, I want it to be organic to the process. And so, my closed captions are actually gonna be open captions, and I’m gonna creatively make those part of the visual look of it. But I also want to work with the audio description and figure out how to make all of this work together. So, I’m trying to plan it at this stage where I’ve shot it, but I need to edit it now. And all of those little moments of silence that I’ve taken out, I’d like to come up with a strategy for how to use AD in an effective way at the beginning, rather than wait till the end and make it an afterthought. So, I’m gonna stop talking, but I’m really hoping to get–I came tonight to listen for some–hopefully some pointers on how to make that happen in a meaningful way. And I’m done.
THOMAS: Excellent.
NEFERTITI: Well, let me just start by saying thank you so much for thinking about it. Even though you’ve already shot your footage and all that stuff, but you’re still at a point where you are thinking about this, which is something that we very much promote. Don’t let it be like a retrofitted mess, right? Do it meaningfully, do it with intention, do it with time. So, really happy to hear that. Thomas or Cheryl, any thoughts?
THOMAS: Yeah, I have a thought, and I have sort of a referral for Gregg. I think he should get in touch with the Social Audio Description Collective, quite honestly.
CHERYL and NEFERTITI: [enthusiastic imitation of air horns]
THOMAS: [laughs] Would someone like to give Gregg the website or a contact?
GREGG: Please.
NEFERTITI: Yes! You can find us— And hey, full disclosure, we three are part of the collective. So, just for full transparency. It is called the Social Audio Description Collective, and you can visit our website at Putting on my narrator voice. [laughs]
THOMAS: All of these topics are a specialty of the SADC, including disability.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: And so, I think it’s a perfect fit.
NEFERTITI: We pride ourselves on doing all of the sort of intersectionalities and areas that tend to be marginalized, etc. And we ourselves are folks who are LGBT, Black, brown, Asian, older, disabled, etc. We very much pride ourselves in not being your generic type of service.
THOMAS: Yeah, Nef, I don’t know who you calling older, though. I don’t know. [laughs] We gon have to talk that one! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: It’s okay. I’m getting old! And I’m proud of it.
THOMAS: Oh, yeah. I’m proud, but I’m just saying.
NEFERTITI: I’m so happy to still be here.
THOMAS: But you’re a young’un. You a young’un. [laughs]
CHERYL: She’s not talking about you, Thomas. She’s referring to RouRou, my cat Office Manager.
THOMAS: Ah! She talking about RouRou. She’s talking about the Office Manger? Oh, okay.
CHERYL: Yeah, mmhmm. Just him.
GREGG: Could you give that address one more time? I was scrambling for a pen. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. Definitely. So, AD—like audio description—
GREGG: Thank you so much.
NEFERTITI: And also, feel free to follow any of us or connect with us on here. And we can—
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: —we’ll be happy to speak with you more about it. And if it doesn’t work for us or we don’t work for you, we’ll be happy to help you find someone or some company that does. We’re all about the access, you know? And congratulations on your documentary.
GREGG: Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Very cool.
FRANCES: Hi, guys. Thanks for having me in your discussion today. I’m also calling in from Australia. Hi, fellow Aussie, Scott, who was on before. And I wanted to give an Australian perspective from a much smaller pool than you guys are talking because we are in our relative infancy, I guess. I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years here, but I was part of the pilot program to add AD to films in Australia, and there were like five of us. So, there are more of us now, but I’m in a business of one. And so, I wanted to bring in the horrible big C-word, the cost factor. Because when as someone mentioned earlier, I’m bidding for business, there’s quite a low bottom line here. I am not ashamed to say I’m a very low-paid worker, but I love what I do. And when I pitch for audio describing film or TV or other content, price is often the bottom line. So, I can offer services outside of my own by getting in contractors with more cultural competency in the areas of the film or the media being described, but the client is going to have to pay for that extra person, that extra input. And when given the option, they don’t wanna do that most of the time.
So, added to that, an extra problem is a very small pool of people to choose from. So, I’ve been in an amazing position this year in my capacity as a trainer where I’ve had access to people–particularly from Indigenous backgrounds–to training them up in audio description narration, and that’s been amazing. But I personally have described in the past many years many films and TV series with Indigenous content, and I’m not myself Indigenous. That’s partly been a factor of me being one of the only available audio describers, or as happened this year, being able to offer Indigenous voices for a project and having them knocked back either because in one case, this particular Indigenous voice artist didn’t sound Blackfella enough. In another case, because the person wasn’t available in a very tight window that was given. And what ended up happening was there was no audio description rather than using a voice that was non-Indigenous. So, I wanted to present that as well as something that may happen if there isn’t someone of the correct cultural competency for a project, it could be that nobody does it.
I wanted to throw that in and also to say that in the intervening years, as we build up our pool, and hopefully it’s gonna be as wide and varied very soon as the content that we need to audio describe, but I feel like I’ve given it my best shot in the intervening time to access other cultural competencies that I’m not privy to in order to do the best job that I can when I’m given a project. So, I’m of mixed race myself. I’ve got Lebanese, Irish, Scottish ancestry. I speak German. I speak Spanish. I’m a stickler for pronunciation and always have been to the extent that when I was training up some Indigenous voices this year, and we were voicing some Indigenous projects, and I was noticing discrepancies between how place names were pronounced within the program and how my Indigenous voice artists were pronouncing them, I had to flag that. Because as I’ve noted that you’ve all noted, that can be really frustrating hearing that difference between how a narrator and how someone in a program presents a name in particular. So, I’ve always been a stickler for that. And I personally feel like absolutely the ideal is everything you’re describing, but in the absence of that, I think me giving it my best shot in my own examples of my work is still better than radio silence. And I’m done.
NEFERTITI and THOMAS: Thank you, Frances.
NEFERTITI: How do we feel about that, gang?
THOMAS: I think that’s, I think Frances has some interesting points, and I think there’s a couple of things. Number one, I think it’s very— And she started off by saying it’s very specific to where she is and the things that she works on. And so, I can respect that. I’m gonna go back to the definition. And so–again, I’m not here to assign my value or my values to anyone–so I think as long as someone is comfortable with what you’re doing. And so, for example, you and I would probably disagree with the “not having cultural competent AD” versus “not having any AD at all.” As a person who, a consumer, I don’t, number one, I would not necessarily look at it like that, but I’m not sure if that would be, if I would be like mm. Like, so, for example, Black Panther. I don’t feel that I got the experience of Black Panther that makes me satisfied. So, if it was like, oh, I didn’t get to enjoy Black Panther with audio description, I’m being totally honest. I’m not sure if…yeah. I’m not sure if that, if I would weigh it like that or if I would be like, “Mm, I rather have it with this British white man.” I don’t think so. And that’s, for me, that’s personal. That’s personal. And that’s for everyone. That’s for each consumer. So, I would never say it like in a blanket statement where— Because we hear that with things like AI, right, with synthesized speech. “You have synthesized speech. That’s better than nothing.” No, not for a lot of people. We would just turn it off. We’re not gonna watch it and consume it. So, I would say the same for cultural competence.
But in terms of you doing the best you can, that’s fabulous. And it sounds like you would wanna continue to do the best you can. And so, the more people who are…the bigger the pool that you have access to, it sounds like you would make use of that pool, right? And so, if you’re actively working with people in the Indigenous community to sort of get them involved, that’s fabulous. I would say keep doing that. You can’t do anything about when someone says, “Oh, this person’s not Black enough.” “Oh, really? Who are you,” you know? So, that’s almost like a whole other conversation. But yeah, I guess we would disagree on that first thing, but I would definitely congratulate you, and I would urge you to continue to keep pushing for that, right? And I think that’s what we all need to do from wherever we are: Keep pushing for this.
NEFERTITI: 100%, you took the example right out of my brain/mouth, Thomas. Same argument with TTS. “Oh, it’s better than nothing.” And a lot of us don’t think so. It’s neither, for a lot of us, it’s not either/or. There are alternatives, which is don’t watch it. Don’t pay these streaming services for their service, you know. You don’t have to either/or. There are other options. Like, don’t settle for less.
All righty. Do we have Empish?
EMPISH: I wanted to put a little bit of a different twist on this conversation. I have been noticing that more and more audio description is culturally competent. And I’ve been really, I’ve been really happy about that. But audiobooks are another area where, you know, we had books that were by people of color, but yet a white person was reading the book to us. But now, with the big launch of commercial audiobooks, I’m seeing a lot more books now that have people from that particular culture or ethnic background actually reading the book. And I’m telling you, it makes a world of a difference when you read a book from a particular country or culture and a person from that, and a person from that country or what have you is reading the book. So, if people have concerns about it, pick up an audiobook, a commercial audio book and listen to that and see what a difference that it makes. And I’m gonna sign off ‘cause this phone [laughing] is getting on my nerves.
THOMAS: Empish, before you sign off, before you sign off, I’m curious. When you say, so, you find that more of the things that you’re watching are culturally competent? So, in terms of narrators, you’re finding more of them?
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Yeah, I am. I’m thinking the last movie I saw was the movie with Queen Latifah and Ludacris. I wanna say that one was available in a voice by a person that was African American.
THOMAS: Ah, that’s interesting.
EMPISH: I need to double check that. And then—
THOMAS: Yeah, I was gonna say, because I heard the opposite, and I don’t know. I never watched it.
EMPISH: You heard the opposite, okay.
THOMAS: I heard the opposite. And that’s what I’m—
THOMAS: And I know that there was one recently, Reasonable Doubt on Hulu, does not. It’s a Black film. It’s a Black show. White dude. Yeah.
EMPISH: Okay. I’ve gotta go ‘cause my VoiceOver keeps talking in my ear and it talks over. I can’t hear you guys.
THOMAS: Three-finger double tap! Three-finger double tap! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Thank you for trying, for joining us.
EMPISH: I’m so sorry.
NEFERTITI: Take good care of. All right. Let’s hear from Alejandra. ¡Bienvenida! Welcome.
ALEJANDRA: Hello, friends. Can you hear me?
THOMAS: How you doing, Alejandra?
ALEJANDRA: Hi. I’m good.
ALEJANDRA: So, you three are my friends, and I hope to join the cool kids at the Social Audio Description Collective sometime soon. AD is right now taking a little bit of a backseat, but I do work as an AD worker, primarily community arts events here in New York City. And you would think the pool here would be bigger, but it isn’t. Very quickly, I’m glad that we played the clip from In the Heights. I actually had a direct conversation with that particular narrator who is lovely and talented and at a high level for high-skill work such as that. And I called them out on that particular thing, and they said that they did the best that they could with what they had, and they gave the best narration from their heart. Which, to me, spoke a little bit to what I would call a benevolent sort of ableism. I’m a disabled person, and I’m sensitive to those things. And I also was a little bit talked down. It was in a group that some of us are part of by…. You know, I’m a mostly sighted disabled person, but then I had some folks say, “Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal. It was fine.” I think it’s tricky because I feel like she could’ve gotten away with it if she had called a Spanish speaking friend and said, “How do you say ‘sueñito?’ And how do you say ‘Republica Dominicana’?” Like, she could’ve gotten away with it, you know?
I also end up in situations, as a describer at the community level, where I am both the scripter and the narrator, and the event or the thing is due in a very short amount of time. Or I tried to reach out my net to find someone else who might be a slightly better fit, and that doesn’t happen. So, my baseline for starting a job is always ask a thousand questions, which I have the latitude to do with community projects because I can be directly in touch with the directors or the dancers or whoever it is. And I say, “How do you want to be described?” And I ask all the questions exhaustively, and I don’t always get the answers. But I research the pronunciations, and I realize for larger-scale projects and for the division of narrator and whoever’s writing the script, that’s not always practical or possible.
But Frances’s points made me think about it because there are going to be situations where you are the available person. And I don’t wanna feel like I’m the same choice as TTS or nothing, but like Frances, I too am always doing my best to produce the best thing that I can. And I feel like folks at higher levels doing higher skill work, like whoever gets to AD something like In the Heights or Black Panther does have more latitude to say, “Hey, maybe this isn’t the right fit for me,” or, “Hey, maybe I should learn how to say the things I don’t know how to say.” I’ve also been in a position where I narrated a book where I was chosen because I’m a particular identity, but the book was a collection of work from people with a variety of identities. And you can bet that I bugged all the QC people at the publishing house to make sure that I was saying names correctly and have the authors please send me recordings or whatever it was, you know. So, it’s a weird space to be in, particularly when you’re a freelancer on a smaller scale doing community work.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
ALEJANDRA: And I do wanna be better than TTS.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
ALEJANDRA: So, that is the hope. But I’m also trying to expand my pool so that I can do more referrals. But it’s harder than you would think, even in a city like New York. End of thought.
THOMAS: Well, you’re definitely better than TTS, okay? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: For sure. No comparison. Frances, also, you’re both lovely voices and I’m sure quite good at everything that you do.
THOMAS: Hey, Nef?
NEFERTITI: So, please don’t think that we were comparing you. What’s up, Thomas?
THOMAS: Because what Alejandra was saying made me think of a couple of things that I actually wanna, I wanna bring Cheryl in because if someone knows how much— Cheryl, talk about how much research goes into the writing of AD when someone, again, who values that stuff. I mean to me, that is not to be unexpected. But I guess because I come from, you know, I’m rocking with Cheryl.
CHERYL: [chuckles]
THOMAS: And Cheryl, talk about the amount of whatchamacallit research.
CHERYL: It’s a lot. And I would say ditto to what Alejandra said. I mean, yeah, I’m sending people a questionnaire and asking that the people who are in the film fill out the questionnaire themselves. If they are not available or don’t want to, then the filmmaker please fill it out. And that is to get all the vocabulary so that we are describing race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, like, just describing it in the words that are the best match for that person. But then, yeah, I’m going online, and I’m finding clips on YouTube. How is this person’s name pronounced? I’m sending emails to film directors all the time. “Okay, I finished. I need these 18 names from your credits. Send them in a voice memo.” And by the way, these are also Western European names that are unfamiliar to me and I don’t know how to pronounce. So, anything that I am unclear. And I’m asking them not just pronounce this name for me or write out what it rhymes with, but is this name Italian? Because if I know that, it’s gonna help me know how long this double-consonant’s gonna last. So, the research, yes, it goes on!
Gosh, one of the films I did for Superfest, I spent hours researching Brazilian architecture from the 1960s, both to understand the terminology around this architecture, but also to understand politically what was happening and culturally what was happening at the time that this architectural movement started. And who is the main architect who keeps coming up? It is a lot of research! And I do love to obsess and get interested and go down rabbit holes, so maybe I could get away with a little less research.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: ‘Cause I just say, “Ooh! I’ll keep reading this.” But I do feel really responsible to not just, you know, call this, you know, “a one-story tan building,” but to say that it’s a brutalist; it is not just tan. Like, a brutalist architecture that means something. And I know I’m talking about buildings and not people, but same thing. Yeah. A lot of research because I really do care. And I’m freelance, so I’m eating the costs on that. I’m not hourly, so I can make that choice to spend the time doing that, where I don’t know what it’s like to work an hourly job in this field, if there are hourly jobs, and feel like you have to race through. I feel really lucky about that. I yield the floor.
THOMAS: Thank you. And the floor accepts your yielding. [laughs] So, nah, I mean—
NEFERTITI: I just wanna— Oh, sorry.
THOMAS: Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: No, go ahead, Thomas. I’ll speak after you.
THOMAS: Nah, I was just gonna say, I guess the point that I think we’re making is that, like, really, research is a part of the process. It shouldn’t be thought of as extra. And maybe again, like Cheryl said, maybe Cheryl goes, she goes in. But some real basic research can go a long way and should just be considered part of the process. Nef?
NEFERTITI: 100%. And pronunciation, super important. Come on.
I just wanna say someone named StormMiguel Florez, I’ve been inviting you up since, mm, for about 10 minutes now. And I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m not, I just want you to know that I’m not skipping you. But you’re not coming up in spite of me.
CHERYL: No, he’s there now! He’s there now! StormMiguel!!!
NEFERTITI: Oh, great! Okay, you made it. Well, then go ahead. Welcome. [pause] Unmuted?
CHERYL: Still muted, but with a lovely profile picture snuggling a tiny, tiny dog that kind of might be part bat.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: [gasps] What a description. Part bat! All right. [laughs] Amazing. Well, I’ll tell you what. You’ve made it up onto the stage or whatever it’s called here on LinkedIn Audio, so half the battle is won. We’ll give you a few seconds to unmute. If we don’t hear from you, let’s move on to Scott Blanks. And we will try you again after Scott is done speaking. [pause]
SCOTT B: I think that’s my cue. Yeah?
NEFERTITI: All righty. Go ahead, Scott. Yeah. We’re just giving Storm a few minutes or seconds.
SCOTT B: All right. Now, I’m curious. I really want Cheryl to research what kind of dog it is now. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles]
CHERYL: I’m on it.
SCOTT N: Yeah, I kinda thought you might be. So, just a couple of brief points. My name is Scott Blanks. I am co-founder of the Audio Description LinkedIn Group and Twitter Community for Audio Description as well. If you haven’t joined us, please do. If you have questions about how to find them, you can contact me or Nefertiti. When I think about culturally competent audio description, I often think about in film and TV, unfortunately, we used to as a society, it was accepted that white people would play Black people. They would do it in blackface. They would play Native Americans. They would play just about anybody in America’s Hollywood at a point in time. And that changed. And we’ve heard about the audio books where there used to be a homogenous sound, and that is changing. I’m confident in saying that even when there are these scenarios, like what legitimately people like Frances have brought up, where there aren’t, there haven’t been the right people, my confidence is high that those people are out there. They always are. Whenever these kinds of things evolve, there’s not a question of there being enough people. They can be found. And so, I’m certain that there are always going to be plenty of people of every stripe to bring their voices or talents to the audio description field. And it will be a matter of for–and I should caveat this by saying I’m thinking about, in particular, when we talk about entertainment, when we talk about at a more of a kind of a mainstream, big movie-studio streaming service and the like–they have the resources to make this culturally competent audio description a reality. And I believe that if it doesn’t happen, it happens because they have made a choice not to make that effort. And I know the dynamic is different for people working as independent filmmakers or in other spaces, so I just wanna make that caveat.
And the last thing I wanna say is there are a number of examples where I concur with a couple of folks who’ve spoken earlier that audio description that is not culturally sensitive is, in my mind, I agree. It’s not necessarily better than nothing at all. This is not a cultural issue, but I will just share one thing. For example, there’s a little show called Breaking Bad that came out in 2008, ‘09, ‘10, whatever it was. No audio description at the time. And there wasn’t necessarily, I don’t think, an opportunity for that to have happened. But it didn’t, and what happened later? Well, it was picked up when it moved to a streaming service, and audio description was sought by that streamer. And it was provided by a quality company, Descriptive Video Works, a wonderful team of folks, including narrator Dianne Newman, who did a great job. Had that show been described initially with someone who maybe wasn’t a good fit or using text to speech audio description, the likelihood of it being redone and getting Dianne’s amazing treatment and DVW’s wonderful take on that would’ve gone way down. So, I think there is, it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. And I think things look bright. I really do think things look bright moving in this space positively. And it’s really great to see all these people coming out and listening to this tonight. So, thank you all for having the panel. I’m done speaking.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Thank you for speaking, Scott. Do we have anything to say?
THOMAS: No, I think Scott’s on point. Scott’s on point.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, I agree. I agree.
NEFERTITI: All right. Oh, go ahead.
THOMAS: No, no. I mean, I just wanna, you know, I appreciate the ideas, even though if I don’t agree with certain things, I really do appreciate it. So, I wanna thank those who had some additional ideas and things to consider for throwing them out there. So, all points of view are valid.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: Well, you know what? That’s not always true. I’m sorry. ‘Cause there might be a point of view [laughs] that might not be valid! I’m just gonna say it. Let’s be real. Okay? When somebody is like, “Ah! F that! F this person!” That’s not valid. So, I’m not gonna make that, yeah, blanket statement.
NEFERTITI: Or “I think it’s this way because,” and then there’s no intelligent follow up or what have you.
NEFERTITI: I mean, again, we wanna have that discourse. We want to be exposed to other perspectives ‘cause there may be things we’re not considering.
THOMAS: Talking about being exposed. I’m thinking about storms, like, you know, when you’re outside. What’s up with Storm?! [laughs]
CHERYL: Yes! StormMiguel!!! Hey!
STORM: Hey! I could not come up earlier.
THOMAS: [laughs]
STORM: Thank you. Hi, everybody.
NEFERTITI: Hey. Welcome. Glad you’re with us. [chuckles]
STORM: I’m so glad to be here. Hi, Cheryl. I know about this because of Cheryl, also. Thank you for sharing this with me. And I just, I love what everybody’s saying. And I love what Alejandra and Cheryl, they were talking about research from the AD side. I’m a filmmaker. And so, I think it’s we have to do research, too. We have to do research into how, or whether we’re doing a documentary or a narrative, how our actors or subjects, for lack of a better word, describe themselves, right? I think that there are ways that some people describe themselves that are really important to them. I know people that want to be described as fat if they are fat. I know people that, you know, there’s certain pronouns that we use that are really important. We want our skin tone to be described maybe. So, these are things that I think are also something to think about. You know, trans and non-binary competency are really important. If maybe there’s a film that’s multicultural and has different elements of race and ethnicity and queerness and transness, and I think in those cases, finding people who are competent and doing, as a director, communicating that, right? I wanna make sure that whoever describes this cares enough about it to have these conversations with me, to ask me questions when they’re unsure of something, and that I offer as much information as I can as a filmmaker.
And saying that, I feel like I just, I want so badly for filmmakers, independent filmmakers, to be thinking about this not as an afterthought, but to be putting it into our budget when we first start, right? That this is just as important as having good sound and good color. And I’m new. I’ve had my last two films have been audio described, probably not ideal, probably not completely competent in the way that I would have liked them to have been. But I love what I’m learning today so that I can do better next time. But yeah, I just, I wanna figure out how to get these conversations. I’m also a festival programmer, so I wanna figure out how to get these conversations in festivals as panels because it starts with the filmmakers. Once enough filmmakers are having audio description, then we can start pressuring festivals to make sure that it’s provided at the festivals. So, those are some of the things I’m thinking of. I think about this a lot! [laughs] So, I’m really glad to have this platform and to hear everything that everybody’s saying. I’m learning so much. And I am done talking. Thank you.
THOMAS: Hey, Storm, before you pull out.
STORM: Mmhmm?
THOMAS: So, what’s your films? Where can somebody check out your films?
STORM: Oh, thanks. So, I have a film called The Whistle. It is a documentary. It’s about lesbian youth culture in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you can find it on The audio description of that is really sparse because I think it’s just so dialogue heavy. The film is so dialogue heavy.
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
STORM: So, but it’s there and maybe hopefully, enough of the dialogue explains what’s going on, or it holds the interest. I do have a blind friend who really, who said she really loved the movie. She’s also of the community that the film is about.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
STORM: And the other one is called Vulveeta, and it’s on the festival circuit now.
STORM: And it’s a mockumentary. Thanks.
THOMAS: Very cool, no.
CHERYL: I also wanna jump in, StormMiguel, ‘cause you were talking about the research that the filmmaker needs to do. And that is such a beautiful bridge to something that Thomas and Nefertiti and I always talk about, and I know a lot of people who are here and not here talk about, which is the audio description can be looked at as part of the art, right? You said let’s not have it as this add-on at the end. We talked about research for the audio describer. You talk about research for the filmmaker. There you go. There are so many—and talking about casting—there are so many ways that we can use the same vocabulary to talk about the same process we have, because the AD is part of the art. And I happen to know that your closed captions, you do the same thing. You research, you get the words right, you make sure you check that you’re getting the words right rather than just like, I don’t know, “music, music playing, music ends, car sounds,” you know. I know you’re super careful with it because you value that…. You value that. So, I will stop there. And I will also say I did, I said I had one job, which was to let speakers up, which I don’t have controls. My other job is timekeeper. We have six minutes left. Just throwing that out there, and that’s it for me.
NEFERTITI: Thank you! Yeah. So, Scott Nixon, you’re back up, and we will end with you. So, go for it.
SCOTT N: Well, that’s a very great pleasure. I would like to firstly thank everybody for being involved today. I forgot to mention earlier that I am a co-moderator on the Twitter Audio Description Community. For more information about that, Nefertiti or Scott Blanks would probably be the people to talk to. And please, people, don’t give up on Twitter yet. Every empire must fall eventually.
Now, I just wanted to say two very quick things. Firstly, Frances, things in Australian audio description are about to explode. Government is looking to legislate audio description on commercial TV in Australia at long last. So, things are going to get better. Hopefully there’s gonna be more money out there for us to start doing quality and competent AD in all sorts of areas. So, just hold on for more information on that.
And just quickly rolling back to a couple of the points that Thomas made, redressing problems within cultural competency of audio description, I have a very brief story. I’ll have to speak in very vague terms ‘cause I can’t name any companies or anything like that. An audio description was produced for an Australian program, and the producer from the American company who did the audio description chose an American narrator to audio describe an Australian program, possibly the most jarring audio description I have ever heard, hearing all these Aussie accents and then this very deep, thick American accent doing the audio description. The director of the audio description company on finding this out was horrified that cultural competency wasn’t followed and desperately wanted to re-record with an Australian narrator. The problem is with the majority of the streaming services in particular, once the AD’s done, that’s it. They don’t wanna worry about it. They don’t wanna care about it anymore. It’s there. It’s done. They’re not gonna look at it. They’re not gonna get it redone, anything like that.
The only situation where there is AD re-record is when things are done so badly that it’s virtually unlistenable. It’s only happened once or twice before because audio description companies, when they–even when they themselves explain to the streamers that they have had a problem–they get a strike against them. And it’s a kind of like three-strikes-you’re-out system kind of thing where, if they make enough mistakes, they are delisted as an audio description provider. So, it’s a double-edged sword. So, we have to get the competency in from the very start, from the beginning and make sure that it’s there for everybody moving forward. That’s me, done. I’d just like to quickly say, gross self-promotion, please follow me on Twitter @MrBrokenEyes and also #ADReviews and #BrokenEyesVA. Thank you and goodnight!
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott. Something I wanna quickly mention here. I believe it was Scott Blanks, but what you just said, Scott Nixon, brought it back to the forefront of my mind, which is this idea that directors and filmmakers and big film networks and streaming services and studios, etc., have a say in audio description. It’s been my experience that most of these folks have no idea, and even when they do, they often don’t care enough to play an active role in casting, consciously casting for the audio description, be it the writer, the narrator. They barely even pay attention to quality control, etc. So, I think they can afford to do this, not that it’s right, in my opinion, but I think they can afford to do this because audio description is very often a third-party thing, right? The studios hire a company like a DVW, an IDC, etc., and then they, it is up to them to do the casting and all that stuff. So, to say that film studios, etc. should play an active role in this, absolutely 100%. But that’s not how the system is set up as of right now. So, I think the onus is on these companies, and I think that’s where we need to apply pressure whenever possible, when there’s something so egregious, like what you said, Scott Nixon.
SCOTT N: Yes. If I could just jump in for just one more second and give a perfect example of that. A company did an audio description for a program. It was incredibly successful, one of the best audio descriptions out there. Another series very similar to that one was being produced. The audio description company reached out to the production house and said, “Hey, we would like to do the audio description for this programing. This is very much like the one we did, and we had a lot of success.” And the company, the production company, turned around to them and literally said, “Eh, don’t worry about it. We’ll just get the company who do the captions to do the AD.” And it turned out to be one of the most disappointing audio description pieces of that particular year: jarring, terrible, wrong voice, whole thing. So, the companies need to be pretty much dragged up by the collar. And you look them in the face and say, “Do you like money? Do you like to make money? If you do this right, people will give you more money.” That’s pretty much how we have to handle the situation sometimes.
NEFERTITI: That is for a lot of them the bottom line. I agree with you. But this is where advocacy comes in and allyship and all that good stuff.
And we are now officially over, folks. So, thank you so much for being here. Cheryl, Thomas, any last thoughts?
THOMAS: Yeah, my only last thought is to let folks know this is, you know, these conversations, whether they’re here on LinkedIn—and we appreciate everybody coming out—whether they’re on Twitter, they’re gonna continue, because there’s a lot of things happening with audio description, whether they be this, whether it be blind people getting involved in audio description and all the fuss that seems to be around that and the disbelief apparently that blind people can actually do this work….
NEFERTITI: And do it well.
THOMAS: And do it well. And synthetic speech, that’s a really big one, and all of the implications that that has. And so, I’m just gonna end with what I always say, Nef. Audio description is about much more than entertainment. And if you think it’s just about a movie, just about a film, just about a Broadway show, you are absolutely incorrect. That’s it. I’m done speaking. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: 100! Cheryl, any last thoughts?
CHERYL: No, I can’t. The mic was already dropped, so I cannot speak anymore.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] All right.
THOMAS: Well, I got one last thing for all of us, though, for everybody here tonight. [air horn blasts]
CHERYL: [imitates air horn]
NEFERTITI: Are you listening? Are you out there listening? Whenever we get this recording out [air horn blasts] to the masses.
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Thank you so much for wanting to learn, for speaking up, for reaching out. Cheryl and Thomas and I are available on Twitter, on LinkedIn. Our email addresses are out there. Thomas’s podcast, Read My Mind Radio, R to the E I D!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Like his last name, y’all!
THOMAS: Thank you, Nef.
NEFERTITI: And Cheryl. Cheryl has a fun podcast, too. Can I announce it, Cheryl, can I talk about it?
CHERYL: [laughing] Sure!
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Pigeonhole! Pigeonhole! What is it? “Don’t sit where society puts you”?
CHERYL: I think so. I don’t remember! I’m all embarrassed.
NEFERTITI: I love that! That’s right, y’all. So, thank you again so much. This has been a pleasure. We really hope you go away with things to think about or things to implement. And we’ll catch you next time. We will try to be back with another interesting topic. And tell your friends. All righty. Thank you so much, everybody. Good night!
THOMAS: Peace.

THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: We Are Worthy

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

In vintage tan and black film, the words "Flipping the script on audio Description in capital letters &  “We are worthy” underneath. Framed in center is a photo of Nefertiti wearing a red top with light makeup on her brown eyes and full lips. She has clear brown skin, brown highlighted hair, and smiles toward the camera. Underneath the photo in capital letters reads, Reid My Mind Radio.

I’m excited to shine a spotlight on Nefertiti Matos Olivaras. She’s a bilingual, Blind Voice talent specializing in Audio Description. In addition to narration, Nefertiti is a Quality Control specialist, workshop facilitator and AD advocate and writer.
Unfortunately, it’s that last role, writer, that still continues to be a bit controversial. It’s expected that those with no understanding of blindness would doubt your ability, but receiving that from those within the community is another thing altogether.
In this series, it’s our objective to explore the exciting things taking place in the world of Audio Description that are less likely to be discussed. Perhaps the conversations we have here can filter through and effect the overall discussion. With that said, it feels like a great time to remind or inform; Blind people started Audio description. Even though several people have been trying to make this fact understood, I’m still not sure it is a part of the general AD conversation.
Today, I’m less interested in proving to the mainstream society that Blind people are fully capable and possess lots of talents. It doesn’t feel right having to convince people of our own humanity. However, I do understand that because these ablest ideas are so engrained into our society, many of us who are Blind or have low vision can unknowingly internalize these ideas and project them onto each other.
In this conversation, we talk about Nefertiti’s early experience with inaccessibility, ableist thoughts and the impact it had on her own life, her decision to pursue a passion and the response from the AD community when it was announced that she was writing description for an all Blind AD production project…
Hopefully, this conversation can filter through to all of the non-believers; we are worthy!

Want to continue the conversation? Join the Audio Description Twitter Community.




Show the transcript



One Two! One, Two!
Greetings, beautiful people. And welcome back to another episode of Reid My mind radio where we continue with our second season of 2022. Flipping the script on audio description.

[drum beat fades in]

If you’re new here, it’s very nice to meet you. I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer of this podcast. And I’m glad you found it. If you’ve been rocking with ReidMYMindRadio Let me say sincerely and from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. And I truly appreciate you.

Have I ever told you how much I enjoy hearing from listeners? Sometimes it’s just finding out how you learned about the podcast. Some people like to let me know they enjoy it, and why. Others tell me a bit about who they are just let me know they support what we’re doing here.

All of that is fantastic. And I truly appreciate it. If you ever want to reach out please is the email address. Feel free to holla at your brother.

I don’t know if y’all notice. But the Reid my MindRadio family is truly around the world. We’re not just in the States. We get some love in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa. That’s right. We on the motherland. Oh, yeah, and I’m definitely not forgetting my people up in Canada. I truly rock with y’all Canada.

I’d love to hear from more of my Caribbean brothers and sisters.

[shouting over a beat]

Puerto Rico! DR! Jamaica! Trinidad! Haiti! Come on. I know y’all out here. This is a podcast so we don’t deal with boundaries. We deal with energy. And there’s no border patrol for that. We don’t need no stinking passports.

Reid My Mind Radio family! Come on! Have you told friends about this podcast? What kind of friend are you just holding all this goodness to yourself? Sharing is caring. Baby girl. Tell them what time it is.

audio clip of TR’s youngest child:

Let’s start the show. One, two, three, four.
[RRMR intro]


Hi, I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, I am a bilingual voice talent and professional audio description Narrator quality control specialist and writer. I also do a lot of work in museum accessibility. Everything from writing scholarly articles, to representing my Latino heritage at the first of its kind, Molina family gallery, at the National Mall, the Smithsonian Latino Center. I advocate a lot for health care, assistive technology, Braille literacy. These are our lifelines on a lot of cases.

I spent a long time teaching folks sort of helping them, even the playing field in their own lives a little bit through technology too. I keep busy,

TR [singing]:
She’s a hustler, baby, she just wants you to know. It ain’t where she’s been, it’s where she’s about to go.


If hustler has a negative connotation for you, and swap that with entrepreneur, go getter driven, motivated, for Nefertiti it’s rooted in the quest for more access.

I live and breathe this sort of thing every day, the accessibility of a world that was not built for me, and having to constantly make my own space, just about everywhere I go. I believe in my innate worth as a human being. I know that I have a lot to offer. I claim my power and my value and I take that with me everywhere I go, and hopefully make waves so that other people behind me can trump on into the river to and get what they need to get out of this life and be their best selves. As cliche as that may sound.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Can we talk a little bit about early life experience within accessibility, if you want to mention anything about your blindness.

I was born fully sighted and everything was okay till around three and a half years old, I started exhibiting some odd behaviors. I had an astrocytoma, a brain tumor, and it was stopping the blood flow to my optic nerve. They were able to remove it ultimately, but it came at a price.

The result was blindness and no other complications. Growing up in New York City. Nefertiti attended schools for the blind through high school.

I knew there was a world outside of that. I have a sister and I have cousins and I knew there was mainstream stuff, but I kind of enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything in the blind schools. Plus, I could be in sports in a way that I knew I was never going to be allowed to be in a mainstream school. In the schools, I was able to be a cheerleader and Run, track and be on the swim team and all these things. Then college came around. And it was a very different experience, I had to really reckon with my blindness now that I wasn’t protected anymore now that I wasn’t around everybody else being like me.

Unfortunately, this story is not unfamiliar, leaving the comfort and generally accessible environment of the School for the Blind, and answering a college, Mount St. Vincent’s about an hour and a half from home. Nefertiti first realized not everything is built for her.

By the time I got to college. Braille wasn’t a thing. This was a private school, they barely had any funding for a disability office, heck Thomas, the first year I was there, there was no disability office, it came into play because me and another blind student joined. And then there was a student who identified as having a learning disability. And so they had to put something together.

She was forced to largely find her own way

To figure out what technology would scan my books for me, learning screen reading technology, more than I already had in high school, upping my typing speed, I had to do that pretty drastically because I was doing a lot of papers and even just the campus itself. It was some such Rocky, hilly terrain. And at that time, I was refusing to use my cane. I never used it in the blind school because in the blind school, I was considered somebody who had some sight. But in the real world, I’m blind. In a setting like that one. In the dark, especially, I had some really close calls, and some really kind of dangerous situations I found myself in. But because I was too proud, and too embarrassed, and too ashamed. I didn’t use my cane while I was in this school.

Living on campus, not using a cane definitely still has some valuable lessons.

That stress I put myself through just because I refuse to put that cane in my hands and how much easier it would have been for me, if I had accepted myself as a blind person back then.

Then the image of Nefertiti that I have is one of a strong, confident, proud woman

That finally did come. But I put myself through quite a bit. Before that happened. I had internalized a lot of ableism in my life, I just decided something had to give. And if this is the body, I have, and these are the things I have to put up with.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Things like additional health challenges and relationships.

And that’s when I put myself in therapy and went back to school and got myself in better shape. I was a triathlete for a time, there’s got to be better. And if there’s going to be better than I’m the only one that can make that happen for myself. That’s really what has transformed my life and to what it is today.

Today, Nefertiti is playing a role in flipping the script on audio description. That’s both on this podcast and more so by using her voice in various ways, as far as AD goes.

And then pandemic, that’s what happened, the pandemic happened. I’m not unique in this, a lot of people had found themselves rethinking and reevaluating situations in their lives, and I was no exception. And one of the things that I found myself really thinking about was my job at the library and the fact that I was there already for seven years.


That’s the Andrew high scale, Braille and Talking Book Library, a branch of the New York Public Library over in my old stomping grounds on 23rd Street, shout out to Baruch College, City University of New York.

I was teaching blind people mostly but anybody with a disability and mainstream folks to how to use technology. In the case of blind people and people with low vision, it was teaching them how to use the accessibility features in their mainstream devices like iPhones and things like that. I would also teach screen reading technology.

She facilitated workshops on HTML code, working with Google products, like docs and calendar, iOS apps, and even more lifestyle centered workshops on getting more active. Oh, and by the way, that’s an English and Spanish tambien.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
And you did one on games because I attended it.

Ah, that was a fun one on games that you could do on iOS, like accessible gaming.

Over her seven years working at the library, I imagined she was able to really directly contribute to helping lots of people not only learn their technology, and more, but really provide a foundation for their career and personal pursuits, but she was ready for something new.

Honestly, I really believe in making room and making space. I wanted someone else to have my job. I don’t believe in scarcity. I think that there is a myth around scarcity that once you have you need to hold on for dear life, or that you need to continue accumulating. I think there’s enough for everybody that goes for everything. I just got to a point where I felt like I’ve learned everything I’m going to learn here I’ve gone as far as I’m gonna go. I want to leave this open, hopefully even better defined than when I started and with more possibilities for growth for the next person to come in.

During the pandemic, I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of therapy. Therapy has been a constant thing in my life since I started taking it seriously. Accepting the fact that I wanted to do something else, I wanted to leave a space for someone else to be employed a blind person, a person with a disability, leave an employment opportunity open for someone else to come in with their own flavor and their own view on things to continue the work because it’s very valuable, very important, crucial, beautiful work. And I decided to pursue a passion. And that passion is specifically for audio description, but more generally, voiceover work.

I know what you’re thinking, leave a good job, you’re disabled 50 to 75, maybe 80% unemployment rate, anywhere on that spectrum is bad. She admits it was scary.

Again, the pandemic happened. And I was like, let’s get real here, you’re not really happy. And I didn’t want that to affect my patrons. And I didn’t want that to continue affecting me. So I did take the jump, I did leap. And I’ve been pretty fortunate that so far it’s working out really well. But it was kind of scary to do. But I think that a lot of things in life that are worthwhile are frightening, but still worthwhile

Pursuing a passion, you won’t get any argument from me on that. Since taking the leap. Nefertiti has been doing AD work on projects like Netflix original short film, Heartshot. New York Times, op docs selection, My Disability Roadmap, and several other projects, including the Jennifer Lopez documentary, titled halftime, currently on Netflix.

AD is a bit of a gig economy, unless you’re employed at a company, staff writer or staff narrator and they can make a living with that maybe as a nine to five but audio description in my life, it’s very much a gig economy. That’s something that I think is true for any type of arts job, you have some boom times and you have some downtimes. But I thought that audio description as my passion was a little too narrow. So then I decided to explore outward and sort of make myself even more employable by trying to do more generalized voiceover work.

The gig economy, in general is a hustle. You have to constantly think about and act on generating your next assignment. It’s far different from being an employee. You’re more like a farmer. You’re cultivating the land, planting seeds and watering them. You respond to nation and do whatever you can to assure a rich harvest. Not bad for city kid, right?

Similar to farmers, I’m not talking about those corporate conglomerates. The harvest doesn’t automatically mean a set payment. That often depends on other factors, many of which are bogus, but out of their control in the freelance environment, those seeds planted generate opportunities to work, which should lead to payment. I say should because well you might be surprised how often free or extremely undervalue labor is expected. Honestly, that’s another episode yo, if you have stories about being expected to work for free, email me I need to hear from you. Seriously.

Can I go here? Is it too sensitive? I don’t know.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You go wherever you want to go.

Okay, the pay in the audio description space is so unregulated, you could work for four or five different companies and they have different methods of paying some pay by the minute, some pay by the hour, some pay by the project, and some pay, not a lot. Some others pay out of other countries. And so by the time you convert, it’s not a lot of money here in this country. Hopefully the audio description viewer gets a quality product and enjoys the show, and has all sorts of access. But in the meanwhile, the folks who made that happen, are not even able to make a living.

That’s why you have to be a hustler, someone who can find multiple opportunities to make use of their talents.

I had the real privilege of going to Montclair State University to present to our lecture/workshop for Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino. She is this professor of language studies. And she’s built into her curriculum, this entire semester of audio description. It is a beautiful example of what’s possible when somebody is really dedicated and believes in something.

Hey, stay tuned to hear more about Professor Maria Jose in a future episode.

I lectured for an hour, took questions and answers from some really engaged, excited students. We broke into a hands-on workshop, I brought a movie trailer, which only really consisted of some music and some drumming. And I challenged the students to break into groups and describe the first 30 seconds of the trailer. What we had as a fun thing was somebody of the group designated to stand up and do the description, with the trailer playing in the background. And once that was all done, and we discuss what was good, what can be improved upon, we watched the trailers which had been already described in both English and Spanish to give the students an idea of how did you compare to a professional rendering, and I’m happy to say that they compared pretty well, Maria Jose, you’re doing a great job with your students. And again, it was a real privilege for me to be able to do that.

In addition to workshops for those interested in AD she’s presented to film students and more.

I participate on panels, I moderate panels, I facilitate workshops, did it in my tech job and continue to do it here. It’s one of my favorite aspects of this field that’s getting more and more recognition.

And don’t forget, that’s in English and Spanish tambien.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
In addition to us both being blind at narrators, we both come at this from intersectional space. So, ¿tú eres Latina? ¿Dominicana?

Sí! Dominicana! Me gente!

In terms of my more Latino side, I actually learned Spanish before I learned English. Some people have a hard time believing me, but it’s true. I’m first generation born American but I’m very Dominican. So I’m very lucky, not something I’m very proud of. Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t seem to be much by way of Spanish audio description, quality Spanish audio description, it’s getting better slowly but surely. But historically. And still right now, at the time of this recording. Spanish audio description is nowhere near as buttoned up as English audio description is and some people have complaints about English audio description. So imagine the condition of Spanish audio description. It is nowhere near as equitable as English audio description, this idea of more Latinos being on screen in movies and in TV shows documentaries about us. And that’s fantastic. We’re proliferating the cultural consciousness. But wow, I hear a lot of white people describing this stuff. And it’s like white people. Hey, you got enough to describe where are my Latinos at.

[In the Heights trailer begins playing in the background]

In the heights. It is by Lin Manuel Miranda, he of Hamilton fame. This was his big claim to fame before Hamilton actually. And it’s a play based in Washington Heights right here in New York City. I’ve got family living in Washington Heights. The person describing it in the American version, because there is also a UK version, I believe is a white woman. And I don’t agree with that choice.
She has a lovely voice, very clear, her diction is beautiful. She does a wonderful job. This is not a reflection on her as an artist, a narrator. You mean to tell me there wasn’t a Latina woman or even a man that could be casted to have done that job. I have a really hard time with that. That speaks to the cultural competency. Like we’re seeing more diversity on screen. The audio description should also reflect that diversity. It should match not just the script to the vision of what the director is trying to make happen trying to engender in viewers but also the narrator who is saying these things. Being part of that community and yes, the writer should also be I think of that community.
If I may give an example of the harder they fall. Excellent. I think audio description down to the point where they describe microbraids. They describe the different skin color. A really good example there of writing that clearly researched everything from what to call the different skin tones to the different hairstyles, all things that are of important to blind people of color other people to I’m sure, particularly since historically we haven’t heard about us, we haven’t heard about ourselves, having people who match the content to make a quality, audio description script and narration is, I think, crucial, and really speaks to the cultural competency that is still lacking in a lot of ways in this field.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Personally, I like to see more people in the blind community, more people of color, talking about this issue. Do you hear the conversation?

I really don’t. And I think that’s part of this idea of, well, let’s just be grateful to even have it at all. Let’s not stir the pot, because they know that audio description is a thing. So many people aren’t aware that audio description exists? I know I live in sort of in this bubble where everybody knows what audio description is, of course, right? I’m in the field now. And I’m a consumer and all this and all my friends know about it. My family knows about it. Everyone I talked to if media comes up, I talk to them about audio description. So in my world, it seems like everybody’s aware. But in the grand scheme of things, there are many, many, many who don’t even know that this is an option for them. And those who do a lot of them don’t even question the fact that they don’t hear details such as hair texture, or skin color, or different types of clothing, etc. They just default to this all must be a white narrative. Unless we hear like an accent or something like that. We may not know.

As consumers of audio description. It’s our place to provide critical feedback. That includes those things we like and don’t.

Access access, access access to information. I want to hear about skin color. I want to hear about set design, I want to hear about lighting. I want to hear about steamy sex scenes. I want to hear about gender stuff that’s going on. If there’s space for it, I want to hear about it. It’s getting better. But historically, audio description has been very sanitized and in my opinion, almost infantilized. I don’t know if it’s because there’s this image of like, oh, protect the poor blind people. I don’t quite understand why that’s the way it’s been. People are waking up and people are listening and taking note to the fact that we are well rounded individuals, we are of this world. And so race does matter. representation matters.

Back on the professional side of AD networks, Nefertiti and I got to work together on multiple projects, including an appearance right here, where she provided the audio description in a YGBD episode featuring Latif McLeod. She was the AD narrator during the ACB Awards Gala, which I had the honor of hosting, and I had the privilege of narrating her AD script for a film by Syed Dyson titled Say His Name: Five Days for George Floyd.

Big shout out to Steven Lentinus, one of the films composers himself an AD consumer. He got the buyer from both sides to produce an AD track for the film. He contacted Roy Samuelson who curated the all blind scenes to produce the track.

This was a really fascinating opportunity. I as the writer, Serena Gilbert as the quality control specialists, the one and only Thomas Reid as the narrator, a combination, I believe, a team effort between Byron Lee and Chris Snyder, as the engineers, all blind folks, we have the opportunity to come together as an all blind team to make this documentary accessible by way of audio description. And I think we did that beautifully. It is something that I will always be honored to have been a part of, especially holding the role, the controversial role of being a writer, while blind.

It’s not the first time we talked about this here on the podcast. I think I’ve been talking about this idea before I even knew of a blind person writing AD. It’s understandable that some people, especially those who are not blind, would be curious as to how this is accomplished. I can see how other blind people would be interested to. What’s not cool is the fact that it became controversial.

Controversy came from both sides from the sighted folks who I totally expected to get some blowback from, but also my fellow blind people who couldn’t fathom how it was done. When you don’t understand something, I guess it’s human nature to question it or to maysay it or doubt it, or what have you. But through the use of technology and a sighted assistant and my skills as someone who writes, I was able to do it. And I’m very proud of the job that I did. Blind people, yes, they can write visual experiences.

I would think it would hurt when it comes from inside the community.

Yeah, when your own community, the community, you’re trying to represent the community, you’re trying to uplift the community, you are trying to model what’s possible for, says to you, you can’t do that. When your own community turns the ableism that the whole world slaps you with every day. That is very hurtful. And that is very discouraging. But for one thing I had already committed to it. And when I commit to something I see things through. I mean, there has to be a real tragedy for me to not follow through on something I committed to, like, My word is my bond. That’s true. I wasn’t going to let you and the rest of the team down. And I wasn’t going to let myself down. Yeah, it hurt. It hurt. There were Facebook posts and things on Twitter, and even people in my own life questioning and the like, and I just I decided I was gonna turn it around.

From my conversations with Nef. I don’t think she has a problem with questions. It’s more of the assumption and the insinuation or downright claim that she can’t, which by the way, you know, translates to we can’t.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You were getting negativity before you even did it?


TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
I didn’t know that.

Yeah. Ableism is real and internalized. Ableism is real. I got a lot of positives too. But the aspect of all this, that hurts is the negative coming from your own kind, if you will. Very sad. It was a bit of a rude awakening for me. I’m glad I had it, because I’m definitely awake now. But at the time, yeah, it was bewildering. Honestly.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Yeah, sorry, I didn’t deal with that. But at the same time, it’s one thing to deal with it when it’s done. But when you’re going in, like you going into the fight, quote, unquote, and everybody thinks you can’t do it, you can either start to believe that and it messes your whole stuff up. Or you can take that as fuel. Let’s see, I got this, I’m gonna show yall.

Belief itself I think is is a big part of it. The thing is that it was published early on to Facebook. And I was alerted to do you know, what’s going on on Facebook? And there are these comments available in. I log on, and I see this post and I see these comments. And I’m like, Okay, I’m in the fishbowl. Now, I guess I had to deal with it. I was fielding these questions and these negative comments and dealing with a lot of anger as well that I didn’t want to let show because that’s just not professional. I’m not about making enemies or what have you, a lot of keeping it to myself and venting to family. And having a quality product. At the end of it all. People out there if you have the opportunity, don’t squander it. Check this documentary out. It’s really beautiful work and a real example of what’s possible when folks come together with a shared passion and skills and a dedication. And we just happen to be blind. Big deal.

I have to tell you, I respect the way Nefertiti handled this situation. She’s classy. Word to the wise, be careful what you say on social media. Not everyone is as classy. Just saying.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
What did you take away from the experience?

Sometimes when you are trying to like maybe break a wall down or, or do away with a barrier or do something unorthodox. People who are in this field, who you would think are less encumbered by ableist thoughts and ablest ways of carrying themselves, a superiority complex. There were a couple of people who showed their real colors, I think throughout that situation of what, a blind writer That was a lesson for me to that just because you’re doing something that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily of that thing.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You and some folks created a Twitter group for AD. What’s that all about?


It’s called the audio descriptions Twitter community. If you use the website and the Twitter app, you can participate in communities and these are spaces where people come together who are of like mind and I and my partner cofounded the audio description Twitter community and this is a pretty rapidly I’m very proud to say growing place for all things description, audio description, image description, self description, we want to know about all the panels the latest what we call #ADNews. Some companies announce oh we just did this, we just did that now on Netflix with audio description now on Amazon without a description etcetera and so we post that we post reviews of audio description that we’ve seen. We talk about the quality of audio description everything from mono audio to surround sound, all that sort of thing, jobs as well, in audio description, get posted on there, classes. It’s for all things ad and it’s on Twitter. Please join us. You just search for audio description.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
I’ll link to the group on this episode blog posts at

Whoever you may be professional consumer, it doesn’t matter we want you.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
continuing with that energy of sharing. Nefertiti offers advice for other blind AD enthusiasts interested in pursuing opportunities in the field as well as for advocates.

Be aware of what you’re getting into. It’s beautiful work. But like with anything, it does have its pitfalls, prepare yourself for those. But also really focus and celebrate your successes and improve on your craft. If you’re a voiceover artists coming into this, keep studying, keep learning. If you’re a writer coming into this, study other people’s work, and if you’re a consumer, consume as much as possible, let these companies know that you’re out here. Let them know what’s going wrong, but also let them know what’s going right. Remember, accessibility is a human right and part of accessibility is access to visual content. And audio description is one of the best ways to make that happen for us. We need to advocate for it. We need to through our collective voices amplify our cause. We are here and we are worthy.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Where can people learn more about you follow you, find you.


You find me on LinkedIn. I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I’m on Twitter at Nef Mat Oli. Email me if you’d like to

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
That stands for Nefertiti Matos Olivares. All right. If there’s anybody out there who doesn’t realize this, let me let you know right now. Nefertiti is an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family do not get it twisted. She is official!

And I got the t-shirt to prove it!

In addition to freelance work, Nefertiti is a part of the social audio description collective. Thats a group of diverse individuals who write QC, narrate, record and mix audio description for a variety of projects.
You can check out the episode featuring social ad from the 2021 flipping the script season, which I’ll link to on this episode’s blog post.

We’ve grown since that episode. Yeah, we. They had rule for our brother, and I’ve been wanting to hang with them for a while, a bunch of go getters. I’m just really honored to be a part of the collective.

I hope you all really felt the vibe of this episode. I’m sure many of you are contemplating breaking out on your own moving forward with your passion. Of course, be smart about it, but also be brave. That doesn’t mean you won’t have fear. It just means that you’ll do it anyway. On that note, I want to send a big shout out and thanks to my guy, Tony Swartz. For the audio editing assist with this episode.

I’ve been a bit nervous about finding a team to help with some production but Tony honestly made the process fun and easy. What the heck was I scared about. You know, it’s nothing to be scared about subscribing to read my mind radio. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. In fact, we’re even available where you may not get your podcast. I’m talking about YouTube. For those who like to consume content on that platform with no visuals just the podcast artwork and the audio.

We’re available via your smart speaker too just ask it to play Reid my mind radio by t Reid on your favorite podcast app transcripts and more over on Well actually this could be the scary part you have to make sure you spell it correctly that’s R to the E… I… D.
Audio sample: (D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

[outro music]


Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Unmasking Masculinity

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

On a dark and light orange background with water droplets, lays a white mask with the right eye whole cut out down to the nose. Starting on the outline of the nose is the word "Unmasking" in caps and below that is the word "Masculinity".

Only one way to conclude this first season of Young Gifted Black & Disabled. The original YGBD brothers;
Headshot of AJ Murray Co-producer, AJ Murray
D'arcee Charington - a dark skinned black man with blonde dreads and a black grey coat smiling at the camera. D’arcee Charington Neal
are back!

Our O.G’s join me to take the mask off masculinity and see what’s behind it race, sexuality, gender norms, the patriarchy and of course disability.

We considered releasing this as two separate episodes, but settled for one. Coming in at slightly over 43 minutes, longer than your average RMM Radio episode, we hope it sparks some conversation.

Content/Trigger Warning
This episode does contain adult language, references to sex and traumatic situations. Please be advised.

Reid My Mind Radio will return in the first quarter of 2022! Until then, please be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app, to assure you don’t miss an episode.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

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Show the transcript

— Music begins, a cymbal crash launches a calm ambient melody which leads to a smooth Hip Hop beat.


Ready to send it?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:


Ok, sent!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, cool!

You don’t know about Black Siri?


… No!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, hold on, let me have Siri say something.

Hey Siri, what time is it?


2:09 PM.


Stop! (Extended so Pronounced, Stoooooop!)

(Thomas, D’arcee and AJ all laugh…)

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

That’s the blackest it’s gonna get, but that’s Black Siri.


Oh…. I’m dead….

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

If you go into the Siri settings, it’s Voice 3.


I’m about to change that shit right now! Woo hoo!
! that really is a thing y’all!
Apple added some additional voices for Siri.
And voice 3 is a Black Man.
That reaction you heard is common.
At least in my experience specifically among those who are Black.
The laughter, was excitement.
Maybe you’re thinking, why would a Black Siri voice matter?
Well, Black voices matter!
Secondly, , please go back to an earlier episode in this series featuring Lateef McCleod for a much more detailed explanation.

Simply put, voices matter, representation matters.
If it doesn’t to you perhaps you’ve always been represented.

If this is your first time here and you’re not familiar with my voice, I’m Thomas Reid, producer and host of this podcast.

You’re just in time for the final episode in the YGBD series or
Young Gifted Black & Disabled.
This all began with an episode I co-produced last year with
Mr. Ajani Jerod AKA AJ! ;
— Sample AJ from “AJ Scratch” Kurtis Blow

A Reid My Mind Radio family member and alumni.

And it seemed right to team up again to close the series.

Since that last production in 2020, AJ caught me up on some of his personal and career highlights in 2021.

Among several positive highlights in his acting career, AJ has a role in a film released this year, Best Summer ever, which garnered a fair amount of attention.

He’s working in a new position that gives him a chance to really flex his creative muscles and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.
And join me in congratulating AJ as a new homeowner!


Having a job or even better, a career,
providing shelter and safety for one’s family;
in the minds of men, these are a few things impacting how we define masculinity.

Before we get into it, I need to let you know,
we talk about some things that may not be appropriate for young listeners and possibly triggering for others including sexual content and trauma.
The conversation covers a range of emotions. Yeh, real men have those!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07
So let’s jump into it then, man. So you good AJ?


Yeah, I’m good.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07

We’ve all been here before. So we just gonna kind of keep it pushing. So brief intro. name, image description, D’arcee, do you wanna kick it off?


Sure. So, my name is DRC Cherington Neil, I am a dark skin black man with purple dreads and a shaved head in various shades of purple. And I am currently sitting at my desk in my apartment, and I’m wearing a gray t shirt that says love is equal.

TR in conversation with AJ and D’arcee:

Professor Purple!

He’s an ABD Doctoral student, meaning all but dissertation or he’s almost done!

We could have went with a royal theme for this episode as AJ wore a purple shirt.

I figured it made sense to go with Black. Nahmean!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

so DRC, how do you sort of qualify masculinity?

There you go starting with the life altering. I mean, if you had asked me that, like 10 years ago, I think my answer would be wildly different. Because I think, people, the answer to that question is literally dependent upon their own experiences. And I think so much of that experience is tied to age.

If you ask a 16 year old what’s masculinity, they gonna get you this bullshit answer about cars and sports and girls.

all sports ball is the same to me. I will say I don’t care about no cars, but my electric BMW begs to differ..

I honestly believe that being a queer person informs this more than being a straight person, y’all can tell me I’m wrong. But as a man who loves other men, it radically redefines your understanding of what it is to be masculine.


Woh! I can just imagine the reaction of some people to that statement. But I think if you’re going to explore the definition of masculinity then you have to be open minded and hear people out. No matter where it comes from.

it’s like that whole phrase, we say, in the community, masc for masc, it’s the word masculine, M A S C.

It’s a toxic ass phrase, that basically means traditional masculinity need only apply.

People, expertly weaponize this phrase of masculinity, to mean “traditional” six pack, square jaw, scruff, kind of masculinity.
What you’re talking about is the flavor of masculinity. All forms of masculinity are value. And that includes trans masculinity too!
Folks want to try to come for me on my DMs I said what I said.

D’arcee can handle himself. But this is my house and I feel accountable and protective of my family. So be advised, you come for him you coming for me.

Too much? I’m trying to be a better man, my daughters help point out my toxic masculinity.

I hope that didn’t come across violent, but if you have issues that’s your problem. No need to share them.


I guess when I think about masculinity, I think of strength in terms of not only physically or spiritually, being able to hold it down and always be accountable and always there to always ever serve.

If I can get into some stereotypes, when I think of masculinity, of course, I think of ego, being braggadocious. Being athletic, not having a job.


Well, AJ raised the issue of stereotypes, let’s just put them on the table.


The negative stereotypes of black man is lazy. Good for nothing.
You get into the historical stereotypes like studs, Black man is in jail, or black men aren’t gonna take care of the kids.


I think that people associate Black men with rage, gangs and violence.

A lot of people think of black men as being ultra conservative.
I don’t mean politically. Behaviorally, very inflexible. This is where black homophobia comes from.

A lot of it comes from black men. And the stereotype of inflexibility which, in turn gets translated into strength. In this weird, warped way.

There are some positive ones too. People think of black men as being stylish. They think of them as being very well dressed. But that comes with the side effect of they think of Black men as flashy.


When you say that I think of that episode of Living Single, when Kyle, I think he was a mutual funds manager. This other brother really had issues with the twist of his hair. I thought that was a very good episode, because it shows the internal struggle
[between us and other black people.
Because it wasn’t the white bosses, it was the other brother on the team that told him to cut his hair.

D’arcee: 55:57

I’ve been in that situation. And it was extremely uncomfortable.

When I worked at the University of Maryland, I worked the front desk in the English department and the chair, this white woman she walked in. There were two black faculty standing in the doorway when she walked in.

It was the last day of school and I had just cut my hair.

I’ve had dreads for most of my adult life in various ways. And they had never really seen me without dreds , because that’s a years long process.
Oh, she said, you got your haircut? And I said, Yep, I did. And then she said, you look like a grown up now.

The black faculty in the door, were like, Oh, it’s a third rounder, she was like, what? Oh, come on, like, you guys know what I mean?

AJ: 57:07
Back in the day. I had longer hair. So I had braids, because I was trying to get my swag on and that way.

This one lady, she was a black woman. And she wasn’t necessarily talking to me, but I had heard the conversation and she was saying that her son also want to braid his hair. But she was like, I’m not gonna let him do that. She was talking about the gang Association and how, having hair like that was bad. And I don’t know if she didn’t notice, but I was like, I’m right in here. And I felt so sad. Because just because I have long hair, and I had these braids, but I’m a student. I’m respectful to you. I’m on the honor roll and I have braids, but you associated braids or longer hair with thuggery.

D’arcee: 58:24
You can’t be surprised you know, you invisible


That’s the thing, Black can make you invisible in many ways.

For example, shows like Friends or Seinfeld. They took place in New York City and there’s no interaction with Black people?

The way white store workers ignore Black people. I’m telling you, we even here, oh I didn’t see you.

If they do land eyes on you, sometimes it’s the stereotypes that are seen. So you’re followed in that store because they see a criminal.

Add disability and that introduces a new layer of stereotypes and invisibility that occurs within our own community as well.

When I think of masculinity from societal speaking, maybe some stereotypes, I think, definitely non vulnerability, he can’t be vulnerable at all. You definitely can’t cry at all.

How many songs I heard…

— Audio quick mix of;
“- I Heard it through the grapevine”, Marvin Gaye;
“I know a man ain’t supposed to cry…”

“Tears of a Clown”, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles;
“Now if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public…”

“Ain’t to Proud to Beg”, Temptations;
“Now I heard a crying man, is half a man, with no sense of pride, If I have to cry…”


I missed that meeting, because the brother cries all the time.

No sensitivity, you keep very serious things to yourself. He can’t show any weakness at all.

You kind of have to know everything and be the jack of all trades.

Yeah, because Dude, don’t ask for help.


If you have children, the males are definitely the disciplinarians.

Is that true and black households? Because I would definitely not agree.


Yeah, yeah. It was my mom, because my mother was the primary razor.

I just mean how many of y’all have heard? wait until your daddy gets home?


I think that what you’re talking about is physical discipline because like my mother was not the person, my daddy did that


My mother occasionally used that line on me, but she was the physical disciplinarian while my Dad never raised a finger.

The threat meant I’d have to sit through a 45 minute lecture from my Dad. My sister and I would often debate whether we’d just prefer a beating.
And just in case you’re curious, when it comes to discipline, I ended up just like my Dad! And my girls not only appreciate it but I think they turned out great! Hash tag stop corporal punishment.


So far, we’ve been talking stereotypes about Black men.
But what does that look like in the real world when we add disability?


This is exactly what my research is. I study like black culture, but what happens when you add disability to it?

When you talk about blackness disability together the association is so terrible. And it’s, it’s this right here. It’s the core of this right here, because people already associate negative things with blackness. And when you add disability on top of it, that just amplifies the feeling.

I remember one time me and a partner who’s also disabled. We’re sitting outside because we got dropped off for the bus. So we were just hanging out, and it was on the sidewalk. This older lady is riding in her car. And she just gets out of her car and gives us hot wings. Hot wings and a Pepsi.

AJ I completely understand what you’re talking about.
All of the work that I’m doing now it’s an amalgamation of all the experiences that I’ve had that are like this, because it just kept happening.
And I literally was like, why does this keep happening to me?

Obama was coming to our building. And I got really dressed up because they told us we had to. I was in the three piece suit.
[Says emphatically, while clapping his hand to stress the point.)


You know one of those days when you just sort of feel like, why did I even leave my house? For D’arcee, it began with the access bus driver’s back handed compliment, “You’re looking too sharp to be in that wheel chair. Really?


I left work that day, went home, and went to the 7 Eleven. I wanted a gallon of milk and some honey nut cheerios, because that is the best cereal on planet Earth.


If you’re interested in sponsorship here on the podcast, please contact


And grabbed a thing of White Castle burgers because they was calling my name.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
We gonna have to work on your diet, bro.

this woman in front of me, she paid for her stuff. But she didn’t leave the store.

And she kept eyeballing me. And I was looking at her and she was looking at me and I was looking at her and she was looking at me.

I was like, right, so she didn’t want to get out the way.

I was trying to swipe my card and she moved my card out the way and just literally handed me a fistful of cash.

I didn’t know what to do. I’m in a three piece suit. Wearing my Fedora. My Houndstooth jacket, looking very DC policy.

I was like, Oh, thank you very much. But I’m good.

Then the door opens and this random man comes in. He’s like, Yo, did you pay for the man’s groceries?

So they had concocted this plan while I was going around the 7 Eleven picking up food. And I had been oblivious to all of it.

I swiped my card, got my groceries and left and didn’t say anything to her. And so she literally, she followed me outside. And then she was like, why don’t you take my money?


Charity, it’s often not for the so called recipient.
Once, someone accuse me of “blocking their blessing” because I refused their help.

I guess the real issue is often, how we’re perceived is ultimately out of our control.


that was the reason I was talking about my suit. Because people literally don’t know how to conflate these two things together and everything to do with being a man.


My mom actually knew an able bodied man, I think he was a comedian.
He got himself a wheelchair, and he would just sit downtown in the chair. His side hustle was he pretended to be disabled to earn cash. Chair

Ah yes, I’m reminded of the ol’ you’re faking your disability trope.

Another way we’re perceived by the public.

— Music begins, a thumping upbeat dance track.


I will never forget. Oh, God, I was at a club.
I was there with my friend because she wanted to go.

I’m not big on clubs, but she dragged me there. It’s a dance club. fuck am I gonna do?

The club feels like it’s one of the worst places in the world. It’s a microcosm of every ableist fantasy on display at all times. If you not a ten, you’re not supposed to be in there. But like, people will bring you in there anyway, because they need entertainment.


Left alone while his friend goes off to dance with some guy,
D’arcee is approached by a woman.


She was like, hey, and I was like, Yo, what’s up? And then she was like, she was like, Come on, let’s go to the dance floor.


D’arcee offers his hand, which she takes and pulls him in his wheelchair to the dance floor.

As they’re passing the bar, the bartender calls out to D’arcee.


Yo! Somebody paid for you to have this drink.


Oh, wow, thanks. And I took the drink and got ready to drink it. And the girl was like, no. And she slapped a cup out my hand, knock the whole drink on the floor. And I was like, what.

She was like, I saw dudes put X in that. They just wanted to see how you would react.

That was issue number one, that people already knew that I was out of place in this location.


When they finally reach the dance floor, the woman is grabbing’ on D’arcee. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear.


I want to make my boyfriend jealous.

Oh, wait, what? Wait.

her boyfriend was on the steps like mean muggin’ as fuck. And I was like nah, nah, nah, I’m not feeling this. And so I left her.

One time I was at this club and I wasn’t exactly in the exit but I was in that direction. So this lady it was a beautiful lady but this lady she’s headed out the club but she looks at me and stops before she leaves So she turns around, bends over and shakes it for me. I’m like, okay, which I’m not gonna lie. You know, I don’t know if this is wrong, but I appreciate it.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Ain’t nothing wrong with appreciating that.


I mean, but also why though?

I think she assumed, this is something he doesn’t get,.

I was at this other club. It was this man and his girlfriend or his wife and we were dancing.

He turns her around. and he’s slapping her butt, for me.

TR & D’arcee together in a questioning voice….
“Thank you?”

— Slow Transition moving to a more serious vibe

you can bleep all of this out to remove it all. I don’t want to be rude. But I also want to be real on this because people deserve it.

In the queer community, people associate masculinity in sexuality, and it causes real problems for me, because I have been in a number of situations where I’ll be hooking up with a dude. And then he will assume, because it’s like, you know, I’m a man, and you’re a man that we came here to fuck. So like, that’s what we’re doing
. So the thing is you don’t even ask my permission.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to call it assault, because I don’t know where it falls on the gradient.

We haven’t had any kind of discussions about what we were gonna do. I had at least five dudes do this to me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 1:34:58



If you decided to keep all that I know people gonna be listening, they’re gonna be like, wait like, is he talking about rape?

I’m talking about consent, consensual, you know, hookup, or, you know, relationships we met to get it in and half the time.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
I feel like sisters would be like, bro, we this is what we experience. And so is that I don’t want to do like a disservice. You understand? I’m saying, and I’m not trying to tell you what your experiences at all. But man if we flipped it…

— Reverse slow Transition.

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

“Forgive me Sir, but there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
“Well, I don’t know how to say this so I’d better say it in the shortest way.”


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

Now back to the episode. ———-

I’m not trying to say because of my disability and your disability is different. But sometimes, I wonder, do you think, the things that you explore and are open about, do you think you would have those same opportunities, if your disability was more significant?

I’m a person that wants to be very sexual. I wonder, like, if I were a little more mobile, like you are, like a transformer, what I have an easier time getting down?
Do you think people perceive you as sexier versus more of a person with a more significant disability?

Sure. I will say, first of all, that I recognize this is a question of privilege. And I most certainly do have that privilege.

The fact that you and I both have cerebral palsy, we both know that it manifests so differently in every person’s body.


We could replace CP in this part of the conversation with vision loss, hearing loss or just Go ahead and insert your favorite disability.

There are restrictions and privileges that come with any degree of disability
no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

But that’s not necessarily how it’s always viewed.


They say wheelchair users sit on the top of the hierarchy of pretty. And by wheelchair users, they really mean like paraplegics and you know, people who look otherwise quote, unquote, normal, but in a wheelchair,. For all intents and purposes, you basically are normal, which is that it’s such a horrible, insidious way of talking about somebody’s body, but people are doing this.


It starts early.


in middle school, we talked about sex constantly. Just being disabled didn’t preclude me from that conversation. But it did put it in a different light, because they were all like I’m doing X and X. And X was such girl, even if they weren’t just complete full of shit.

But at the same time, there’s this extra added layer of like, but at least they could. Whereas you know, you can’t.


In school, a lot of people thought I was down and cool,
But when it came to the discussion of sex,
anytime I wanted to be included in the conversation, they were shocked, like, AJ?

Like, what am I a patron saint?

I’m a teenager just like you guys, right? I want to just like yell, but people were shocked is if it’s something I’m not supposed to do.


I remember one of the worst days ever.
This dude Mike. He was Like, why do you have Aliyah on the front of your binder?

To the whole class he was like, huh, we all know that if you do jerk off it ain’t nothing but air. And everybody was laughing.

AJ, to your point, people think that it’s fine to do it at your expense because you’re disabled. And they literally are like, Well, you’re not going to have sex anyway. Who cares if you’re a man who wants to, you’re not going to do it. So you know, it really doesn’t matter. This is why they exclude you from conversations.


Occasionally, you get a sense of what the conversations are like when you’re not there.


I was playing Xbox Live with a bunch of gay men. It was like 12 of us in this group.
We were talking about the club. I was like how difficult it is to be in the gay club.

This dude named Ben, who is in Portland, Oregon , said, I’m gonna say what nobody else wants to say.
Nobody wants you in there. You’re not welcome in there.
Honestly, I would throw myself off a bridge. Living your life is terrible. If I saw you in the club I might give you my number, but if I did, he said it would be with it when the lights are out where no one can see it.
I was so mortified. And I literally, and there was 12 people on this call, and nobody stood up for me. Nobody.

AJ: 1:52:38

I’m sorry that’s really upsetting to me. And I’m stopping myself from crying because they’re just disgusting.

But that’s what a lot of people think about disability. Disability is tragic, disability is ugly. Disability is seen as unmasculine.

There’s a lot of physical things that I can’t do. For instance, I’m an older sibling. But in a lot of ways, because I need so much help. I feel like my sisters are older than me.

I can’t be the big brother than I want to be.

my mom was a single mom, so sometimes I felt like I couldn’t necessarily help cleaning up. I mean, I certainly know now that you know, I have to change things and the way I look at work is different from when I was little, but it was hard.


Those adjusting to blindness or disability in general can truly benefit from reexamining things in our lives that affect how we view ourselves. Our career, family roles and responsibilities, the formidable loss of a driver’s license for example.

Reinventing ourselves isn’t exclusively a masculine trait, This conversation has me wondering, what is?


I have male friends but my closest friends that I have are female, my strongest connections.
I noticed, I’ll be a church and like men would be talking and joking. And so when I would come around, for some reason, conversations would stop


Disability is for many people the personification of a nightmare.

If I’m just gonna be 100 honest about it, I think that the bottom line is that most men feel uncomfortable. Because, men are not socialized to be caregivers. Men are not socialized to be emotional. Dealing with a person with a disability, you have to embody a level of empathy.

Men are socialized differently than women. Women are socialized to not seek their own pleasure. Men are.

We’re in a very new time today, men are encouraged to seek therapy. Expressing emotions and discussing feelings isn’t as frowned upon today. Yes, there are still a bunch of proud cavemen out there, but there’s been some real progress compared generations like my own, Generation X and those before me like Boomers.


I’ve heard so many stories about men from that generation. I just feel bad. Yes, they were mean and harsh. But then also, could you imagine, like, the weight and the unpeacefulness, , the chaos that’s in your heart and brain because you have to carry this anger. If you are a black man, you had to deal with being belittled and berated as a black man being called boy.

it’s so it’s like, not you can express that anger, though. But the only way you’re going to is because of the mask would be we thought, you know, be either put my hands on my wife, or beat my children.


look at these white people trying to tell me that like critical race theory, and like horrible and terrible, and
every single time like somebody tries to tell me that like slavery was a million years ago. It’s not that big a deal. I literally turn around and say my grandfather, my dad’s dad saw men hanging in trees in Alabama when he was six years old on his way to school. That is not the Civil War.


That socialization starts as a child.
How we as a society raise our children.


I saw a tweet where somebody wrote, his four year old son came to him and said Daddy, I told the girl in elementary school that I liked her. And she said, she didn’t like me back. And he was like, What do I do? And he was crying. And the dad said, well, I think you know what to do.

The sun responded and said, Yeah, I know, try and try again. The dad said, No, that is not what you do. He said, she told you what the answer is, so you respect her wishes.


Wait, what?
Isn’t that what we’ve been taught?


I think with men and I know myself sometimes there’s been a little bit confusion, because no doubt if a woman says no, that is true.

I hear stories all the time, even in terms of the Obamas, if you listen to their story, Mrs. Obama was like the boss, over a team or whatever. But remember that she did say, she didn’t say no. But then he was like, he was so doggone persistent.

When I say that, I’m not saying you just get a free pass, just to like, be aggressive. And don’t listen to the woman.

Persistence has shown, you do land a woman if you’re persistent.


Women aren’t to be landed.


I didn’t mean it like that.


And I’m not talking about you specifically, in general men typically believe that it’s a conquest. If you want to talk about the route of masculinity it’s a conquest.


That sort of takes the whole idea and the premise of the chase.

I even heard women say, it is the man’s job to chase. I don’t want to chase the man.

They want aggressive men. I’m not talking about rape or violation, but I’m just talking about the nuance.


all of this comes down to the idea of what people think of as natural, which is, men pay for dates. Women get dressed up, women look good for the man. That’s your natural. And people are starting to undo all of that.

I honestly believe that if the internet was around in our parents, most of them would not be together.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

When I say natural, though, I’m going back even further. Go back to Hunter Gatherer.


Yes, it’s primal.

Every time I hear that argument, I think, but that’s American. The argument behind that comes from Adam and Eve. And the question of subservience and the idea that man said in the beginning, that he was going to lord over Eve and that she is one of his ribs.


Perhaps the behaviors are learned.


we have to teach boys about the patriarchy, we have to teach boys that the entire history of the world. And the way that it runs now is built upon the desires and the whims of men.


I would just say we can open up masculinity, to include being vulnerable, we can open up masculinity, to include expressing your feelings.


So we really do need to undo this whole argument from the beginning. And I’m not saying that like, that means that oh my god, gender norms fall by the wayside. But the whole points are bullshit to begin with.


Thinking about gender norms brings me back to some of the stereotypes we discussed earlier.

In fact, we get back to the issue raised by AJ.


I have a lot of friends ,when it comes to like dating or actually, you know, getting down with somebody. It’s a no, and I’m wondering if now it could just be my fault. It had nothing to do with disability.

For instance, I really liked this person. I would call her because I know that she was getting off work, and on her way to the train.

One time when I called her I was like,

I’m calling you, because I know you just got off work. I just wanted to talk to you while you waiting on the train? She goes, Oh, isn’t that precious? And I’m like, precious.


I saw Tiffany Haddish in a stand up.

She was like, I started sleeping with this dude, he had a disability. She said, Don’t sleep on disability because he was really working it. Something I just appreciate it so much, because there was nothing timid about them screwing. It was like we’re having sex and I’m slapping your booty. And I’m a disabled man. And at the end, she was like, disabled people want sex too.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
So here’s what we got to start. You said slapping your booty change that shit to slap in that ass and let’s see what happens bro. We gonna start there.


I happen to be friends and very close with women.

A lot of women, including my friends, had been violated. And so that’s always been in the back of my mind.

I think I’m so concerned that maybe I go to the extreme, because I’m always worried about being a gentleman and making sure that women are comfortable around me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 2:39:04
that starting point for you is just like whoa.

That doesn’t even need to be in your mind in terms of being someone that’s gonna assault.

You have so much room to play with because you’re nowhere near that. but it has nothing to do with in terms of your level of confidence and what you put out.


AJ, people don’t call me adorable. I don’t present myself that way.

If she said oh, how precious is because she misunderstood your intent. As a person who literally studies rhetoric, that’s the work of art. rhetoric. It’s intent.

Attractiveness, they say is only half about looks. The other half of it is actually psychological. Because I know that I have been very attracted to people that are not pretty. And what makes me attracted to them? Oh my god, I love their personality.


one time, I met this girl and let’s just say she was very energetic towards men.

She was in my drama class. It came up in conversation that I never been kissed. Okay, so she said that she would do it.

And so weeks go by and my friend just checked in and like, you haven’t kissed AJ. And she was like, oh, I don’t want to corrupt him.

And I was like, I can be corrupted!
Somebody was saying people look at me as someone that’s very gentlemanly, very nice. But I’m not typically the person they want to get down with.


Even if she did, that’s not the vibe that you want to begin with.

if you want people to take you more seriously, then you kind of have to present yourself in a space.
It’s not aggression, it’s assertiveness. And there’s a difference. I think men actually find that that line is very difficult. Because people assume that they’re being assertive when they’re actually being aggressive.
It’s a hard line to learn to know.

But I would say that when it works, it works really well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show Sex Education. AJ?


yeah, I need to get caught up …


You need to get to Season Two. Because Season Two and season three. There’s a character in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy that they introduce, and he’s fantastic. And yeah, he talks about this.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

D’arcee, real quick, though, because you mentioned that character. Does he come to an understanding whatever it is?


He does.

— Clip from “In Living Color” “The Adventures of Handi Man”

Boy in wheel chair:
“You saved the day. The physically challenged have been needing a hero and you’re it. Thank you Handi Man”

Handi Man:

“That’s ok son. And remember , never under estimate the powers of the handicapped”

TR in conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Has there ever been anyone or are there people out there who have sort of defined disabled masculinity or be a role model of sorts for that, coming up in life?


Up until Game of Thrones, the answer to this would have been no.
Peter Dinklage changed that.

prior to Game of Thrones, he said, he told his agent don’t even bring me roles that feature little people. I’m not interested.

People frequently forget that he was a love interest in the show, Nip Tuck for a season and a half. He was a series regular. He was romancing the main character’s wife. And they were having a whole ass affair on the show. And it was juicy and scandalous.

I remember the husband and it was like, You’re cheating with him.

You want to talk about masculinity and the idea of like men, being in charge and taking charge. It’s Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones.

He wields power and influence, in a way that most people in the show do not.


But Peter Dinklage isn’t Black

In a perfect world, that shouldn’t matter. And sorry to break this to you, we’re in a far from perfect world where race and the color of your skin matters in every aspect of life. Education, the justice system, health care and more. I didn’t create the system, I’m just seeing it for what it is.


When I was younger and coming up, no, the only influences that I had in, in real life were able bodied men.

In terms of acting and my trajectory, I look at people like Darryl Chill. Darryl chills been holding it down. For a while. he was a stage regular, I think, for seven seasons on NCIS New Orleans. He also had his own sitcom. Here’s a brother, who’s doing his thing. And so I look up to him in terms of my career, but in my real life, to be honest, the examples of disability that I can honestly look to, in my real life that are disabled, are you Tom and D’arcee, because you’re holding it down and doing your thing.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Okay. And you know, I never know what’s gonna make the show but that part right there is definitely gonna make the show.

TR & D’arcee share a laugh.


Seriously, brothers don’t get enough props.

Tom has been just like a brother to me. A mentor. He’s opened up a world to me. A world that I can have access to. I’m encountering things for the first time. His doors always open and in terms of you D’arcee, I mean, look at what you’re doing, like the jobs you have. You are disabled brother, getting your PhD.

Professor Purple.

I look up to the other influences like Leroy.


Once again, Leroy Moore.

That could be the drinking game of YGBD. Take a shot when you hear his name.

What are the implications of not seeing yourself represented in the media?

It can start with one’s own imagination.


When I was a child I’ve always had like, way too much of an overactive imagination, if that’s not evident to people.

My brother and I, we used to do it as children, we called the Dreamland, we would just stare at the ceiling and makeup random movies

I used to have this persona in my head. When it was a man, it was always like this person who was non disabled.

I don’t do that anymore. Something clicked in my head when I was like, 27 or 28. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t right.


even when I would imagine being an actor, it’s like, it was somebody else though. Like it was a different person.

I just recently made a conscious effort anytime that I imagine. No, it’s actually me. And if I’m gonna imagine being in roles I actually put myself into. So even though it was my dream, it was always somebody else.

I never discussed this with anybody else. I was doing the same thing. But I felt weird to admit that.


Thomas, do you think this is weird?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:03:58
I don’t think this is weird. In fact, I think there’s a lot of stuff in terms of the idea of visualization. And these are the books that talk about this idea that the idea of moving yourself into someone else right that Kobe Bryant used to envision himself as the snake, the mambo.

A lot of athletes do this, like become that person. I kind of see that in what you’re talking about, I think is dope.

That’s a perfect way to sort of bring this to an end.

That’s what we need, you mentioned all this stuff in terms of the media and all of that, but like, you know, we do have some control. Making content, where we’re in those roles. Maybe at first it’s on a smaller level, but showing that, that this is wanted, that people would check this out. And people are interested in this.


this making me feel like I need to make an Instagram just be like, Oh, not enough black wheelchair users.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:05:21
Do it! Professor purple, B!


I just want something to exist in the world. I just keep envisioning, because I remember what it felt like. I’m trying really hard not to cry, because I remember what it felt like, when I was 12. And how horrible. It just felt like you’re just totally by yourself all the time. You just feel so isolated. And I’m like, Oh my God, if somebody could get up on Instagram, and see a black wheelchair user, with some dope ass clothes, like, Oh my God, my life would change. My life would change because little kids can see it and be like, Oh my God, that’s me. I want that haircut. I want that sweater, with that haircut and those jeans. So I can go to school next week. And look, fly, and people can stop talking shit about me to some girl and be like, You know what, actually, though? He is cute.

if you don’t see yourself in any other ways, besides the people that love you, you feel like you do not matter. And you don’t count. You feel invisible. You feel like you don’t count. Yeh!


Not only do you count and matter, but you’re beautiful, you’re Young, Gifted, Black & Disabled!

— Airhorn

Yeah. So that’s a good place to stop. I appreciate y’all so much.


A big shout out to my O G YGBD brothers, Co-Producer, AJ Murray;


I’m on Twitter @GotNextAJ and Facebook and Instagram it’s AJ Murray.

Professor Purple himself, D’arcee Charington Neal;


I’m on Twitter @DrChairington. Dr. And then Chair, C H A I R I N G T O N

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Instagram coming soon.


I mean I’m on Instagram I just never use it.

Bigup The 2021 YGBD crew, Blind Girl Magic herself, Jeanetta Price, brother Lateef McCleod, sister Alika, AKA the real Toni Hickman. Special shout out to Leroy Moore (drink!). It’s not a coincidence that your name comes up so often in these discussions. Salutes to you and all those who have and continue to let it be known, Black disabled people have been and continue to be out here doing our thing!

That’s it for 2021 y’all.
Let me know how you felt about the podcast this year. Do you like the format, did you notice anything you like or don’t. I’d love to know.
We will return in the first quarter of 2022. But make sure you’re subscribed because you never know, I may drop something in the feed.

Allow me to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace & Love Fam!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

A white background with black silhouettes.  The text: Young Gifted Black descends while the font is increasing in size. the words are colored Red Black &Green respectively.  Centered on the next line reads & On the left is a man in a wheelchair, next is a blind man holding a white cane, in the middle is a woman with two crutches, next is a woman in a wheelchair, and last is a woman missing a leg with crutches. Below are the shadows of the silhouettes with "disabled" in bright golden letters hovering over it.

People with disabilities make up 20 to 25 percent of the population. It’s considered the largest minority. No so called race, ethnic group or age is excluded. Even within the extremely low representation in the media, Black people with disabilities are seldom seen.

This episode, a co-production with Ajani AJ Murray is our attempt to open this conversation.

Earlier this summer, AJ and I invited Author, Blogger Rasheera Dopson and Doctoral Student D’Arcee Charington to join us on a Zoom call to discuss the Black Disabled experience from their individual perspectives. The result, a non-apologetic discussion about representation in the media, acceptance in the Black community and Black Disabled pride… – “Young Gifted Black & Disabled”

For me personally, 2 out of 4 ain’t bad!

Shout out to AJ who’s also co-hosting this episode – a first for this podcast.

Salutes Chadwick Bozeman!




Show the transcript

Audio: Scene from “Black Panther” “In Salute to Chadwick Bozeman

Black Panther:

I am not ready to be without you.

Black Panther’s Father:

A man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father. Have I ever failed you?

Black Panther:



What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family. Greetings to anyone joining for the first time. My name is Thomas Reid your host & producer. Welcome to the podcast!

Well, when it comes to this particular episode, I’m only one half of the host and production team. You heard my co-host when he was here on the podcast earlier this year. In fact, I liked his opening so much, let’s run it back!

Audio: AJ Episode intro

Ajani AJ Murray:

Our friend that we have in common, Cheryl green, told me about you …

Music begins “Nautilus”

and I’ve been listening to your podcast and I love it! It’s so dope and fresh. I’m kind of a Geek so I watch like a lot of PBS and I listen to NPR and so it reminds me of like radio documentaries. I particularly enjoyed when you were talking to Leroy about the Black History especially from the disabled perspective. I did something like that on my Insta Gram and some of my friends were like keep it coming AJ. So now you’re a resource.

Ajani Jerard Murray, a lot of people call me AJ.


But first, uh, hit me with the intro!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music


AJ, welcome back my brother!


Thanks for inviting me to be on the other side of the mic.

Why don’t we get right to it and I’ll introduce our guests.

Ladies first of course!

Audio: Ladies First, Queen Latifah


My friend also living here in Atlanta Rasheera Dopson.


Hi everyone! I’m really excited to be on this podcast with you guys today.


And then we have another friend of mine from Washington DC, his name is D’Arcee.


D’Arcee Charington Neal. I currently live in Columbus Ohio. I am a second year Doctoral Student at the Ohio State University.

Music begins… “Young Gifted & Black” Donny Hathaway


What exactly do our guests have in common?


They’re all Young Gifted, Black and Disabled!

Music Stops

Music Begins… Hip Hop Beat


I am an author, Blogger, Disability Advocate. Owner of a nonprofit organization, The Dopson Foundation and the Beauty with a Twist Brand. two organizations dedicated to creating spaces of inclusion for women with disabilities. Being the founder of those two organizations that gives me a lot of space to be able to reach other minority women with disabilities.


And D’Arcee


I am a second year Doctoral student at the Ohio State University and I do a lot of work at the intersection of Black identity and Disability specifically focusing through the lens of popular culture. A lot of my work has taken me working with major corporations, a bunch of nonprofits, some government agencies. Now I’m doing it for academia.


So I was born with two rare diseases called Goldenhar Syndrome and the other one is called VADER Syndrome. Both of my syndromes have similar types of birth defects. One is considered a facial difference so when most people see me you notice that my face is asymmetrical. I was born without a right ear or right jaw bone. So I kind of fall in between the rare disease chronic illness and a disability intersectionality. .

I’m always real specific when I say that because you have a lot of people who have rare diseases who may not have a disability or you may have people with disabilities who don’t have chronic illness. So to say the least my childhood experience with disability was very complicated


That really is a good point. SO many people think disability and therefore unhealthy, sick. The two don’t necessarily always go hand in hand.


I’m very grateful. I grew up in a single parent household with my mom. She was my fighter and advocate. The reason that I’m able to speak, to walk, to is because I had a lot of work done.

One out of twenty five thousand people have my condition. So really I didn’t meet another individual like myself until I was 25 years old.

A lot of moments of isolation and just kind of living on survival mode.


I just wanted to add, so I mean I saw you on video before all of this and I just think you’re absolutely gorgeous and never would have even thought about any of that.


Ah,thank you! (Giggles)


I was like wait? What? I didn’t see none of that on camera, wait, … huh?



D’Arcee has CP or Cerebral Palsy.


My parents are together They’ve been married for 35 years this year. Neither one of them really knew anything about disability or the idea of what to do with a disabled child. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 2 because at 18 months I hadn’t gotten up off the floor yet and they were really concerned about it. When they took me to the doctor he diagnosed me with CP. My mother said she left the doctor’s office went outside sat on the curb and cried.

She was upset because she thought all her hopes and dreams of a child doing stuff was gone. (pause) Clearly she was wrong!

Music Ends…

Audio: “Message” … From Don’t Be A Menace While Drinking Juice in Da Hood


The message is about false expectations inaccurate beliefs or misperceptions.


Most parent’s do the best they can with what they have. Older now, D’Arcee has taken the time to have conversations with his parents.


And one of the things we talked about was Ableism. My parents were not familiar with the terminology. They were doing things that were progressive that they didn’t even know. I cooked, I cleaned. It wasn’t a question of like if you cooked but it was a question of like when are you going to. My bedroom was always on the second floor and we always lived in a house with steps and I never had one of them little contraptions that people be putting on the banister where you just sit in and it takes you up the step. Look that was a genie wish machine that I saw in movies and TV because if I wanted to get to my bedroom I had to crawl up the steps.


I’m sure that can be an uncomfortable image for some. What we see is so highly based on what we believe to be true. It reminds me of when people see me or another Blind person walking with our cane. For the unaware, it appears that the cane and therefore the person is crashing into things. What they don’t realize is that we’re independently accessing information in a way that works for us.

Disability is complex.
For example, I need help with just about everything except, using a remote control.
Some people have more mobility than others. And that’s ok.


Inside the house there was no expectation for me to have to be anything other than who I was. When you leave the door, the bar of expectation just goes so low.

My parents never talked about the difference. They didn’t prepare me for the Ableism that was going to come in middle school, in high school in college and looking for a job. I had to find all of that out by hand.


Rasheera also shared some reflections on how she too wasn’t prepared for what was to come in the real world.


I felt like I wasn’t properly prepared to be a disabled woman. In my household I was just Sheera and we goin’ treat Sheera like everybody else. Then when I got to school I’m thinking I’m a Black woman and people are looking at me like, hmm you’re a Disabled Black woman and there’s a difference. I felt like I had to learn the hard way. I’m 29 and I’m finally starting to get this thing. And it has nothing to do with you it has really everything to do with the system that was created not for people like you.


People just assume that if you say the word disability it immediately translates to less than, without them knowing anything about symptoms or anything. People are just immediately like ok, well clearly you’re special needs, clearly you belong in the class with other people with intellectual disabilities. Not to say that’s any better or worse, but it’s a different type of class and it’s a complete segregation from regular education.


Societies low expectations come in different forms.


I lived in an all-white neighborhood in North Carolina so people would just come up to you and be like “oh, oh my God, where were you shot?” … was the number one question I would get from like the age of 9 through like 17 because people just equate and this is a really specific experience for wheel chair users only because the narrative that people have of chair users and Black people is criminality.


D’Arcee went on to site shows like Oz & Cops which help spread that narrative.


I feel like if we took a few more minutes we’d come up with some other examples from film and television.


We began the conversation by asking each of our guests to share the specific type of media they consumed growing up.


First up, Rasheera.


I’m a writer! So when I was in elementary school I thought I was going to be the next Toni Morrison. You could not tell me that…

The rest of the panel jumps in with positive encouragement. “You still can be” You’re still young” “Hold up”


Black love is not just about romantic love, it’s also lifting one another in support.




She didn’t publish her first book until she was 40 and I’m 29 and I just published my first so it’s still Goal!

I grew up in a predominantly white school. My sister and I were really the only two Black kids in the entire school so it wasn’t until 11th grade in high school that I actually got exposed to African American literature. The Toni Morrison’s, Alice Walker’s , The Zora Neal Hurston. I’m just like oh, these people sound just like me!


That’s connecting with the voices of Black women authors.


The full story of the black experience hasn’t been written yet.
There are plenty more chapters yet to be explored.


As I’ve gotten older, even though I look to those mediums and those platforms such as the books and even Essence magazine being a girl and looking through all the pages and the different fashion things, I get a little sad. I never saw anyone like me. I never saw a girl with disabilities in Essence magazine. Struggling with low self-esteem growing up I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I was reading Essence magazine, Ebony magazine Jet magazine reading the stories of Toni Morrison and hearing the Black struggle but I never read about the disability struggle.

It Matters, it really does.


My family is a movie family. We have been addicted to films. I can vividly recall as an 8, 9 year old spending many an hour re-alphabetizing my mom’s thousand VHS tape collection. No lie and each tape had like five movies on it. We loved movies growing up . My mom was really into horror films which is hilarious because she’s super religious. She’s an Evangelist now.

Music… church organ


It’s one thing to not see yourself. It’s another thing to not be thought of.

These days when I watch TV and Netflix and stuff I see disability. I see it quite a lot, but I feel like there are disabilities that are sexy. I don’t even mean attractive, I mean that there hot in the media because people find it to be easy to access and it works really good for a story plot. So if I had to pick one that would be Autism.


Let’s be very clear, because you know how things get misconstrued, in no way is D’Arcee or your hosts in support of pitting disabilities against one another. This isn’t about any sort of perceived hierarchy within the disability community.

This is about disability representation in the media. And it really is true, representation matters!
Right now Autism has the spotlight in the media.


It’s super popular right now. You see white Autistics everywhere. When I was growing up we were watching movies it was so funny because anytime you would see a Black person like and I mean any time you would see Black people that were like off to the side or just like a spec person we would get so excited.

Blade, was my shit!


Another question for the panel was to recall their first time seeing disability represented in the media.


Says below with live version…

TR in conversation with panelists:

And specifically Black disability.
Panelists: long pause… Delay… breaths…


Man, … (laughs)


I gotta think about it! Um!




I think when I read about Haben Girma. The Deaf Blind lawyer.


Haben (correcting pronunciation), that’s my friend Haben. Haben Girma, yeh!


That says a lot because it’s present day.


Yeh, right, that’s like last year.

Group: Wow… laughs


Um, so no!


I could count on my hand and I even use my whole hand for how many Black disable people I’ve met.


I mean I know quite a few, like in real life.

[TR in conversation with D’Arcee:]

As a child did you know them?


As a … no, no!

My friend Angel was the first Black Disabled person, this is going to sound terrible but, the first Black Disabled person that was actually doing shit!


Does that sound terrible to you?


I think it’s about people who have aspirations and goals. Many people I’ve spoken to for the podcast have said to me, I was looking for or I found, you know, the cool Blind people. I don’t think it’s specific to the goal or level of education, , but rather it’s about someone striving to accomplish something.


I had gotten an internship at NASA.

NASA forgot that they hired disabled folk, three of us. They forgot that we needed housing and they put everybody else in an apartment complex that was like 20 miles away and it didn’t have any accessible rooms so the University of Maryland had to come through at the last minute and give us some dorm rooms to live in and Angel just happened to be my next door neighbor. I saw her and I was like wait a minute, Black Disabled woman and then she was like yeh, I’m a Doctoral student and I’m finishing my PhD in Gender and Women Studies.
Wow! It was so beyond what I even thought was possible. And that sounds so terrible.


What’s terrible is that even in 2020 we’re struggling to think of Black Disabled people in the media.


I know lots of Black folk but I can’t think of any with an actual disability that’s been … I’m sorry Denzel Washington, The Bone Collector. Which is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

AJ in Conversation with Panel:

I don’t know if anyone would remember the show “Malcolm in the Middle”. He had a friend, I don’t remember what his disability was but he was in a chair and he was kind of an A-hole. That was the first person that I can remember that was Black and Disabled.


You know, now that you mention that AJ, I thought about Jimmy from Degrassi. And I guess he didn’t really come to mind because the first two seasons Jimmy wasn’t in a wheelchair, but I guess the third season didn’t he get shot or something.


Yeh, he got shot!


I knew someone would come up with an example of this trope.


And that’s a Canadian show isn’t it?

These tropes aren’t limited to the US.


Also, I’m pretty certain in all of the examples mentioned, they weren’t played by a person with an actual disability.

AJ in conversation with panel:

It seems like we can’t get any real stories about real people with disabilities in movies, but if you’re an able body actor and you play somebody with a disability you may get an Oscar.


I would be remised if I didn’t at least bring up the fact that Netflix does seem to be trying to do it. I’m trying to be generous.
So I love the show Sex Education. I think it is one of the best shows to come out in a long time. It’s a comedy, a British comedy. In season two they introduce a character with a disability. So the actor himself is actually disabled which I thought was great.
TR :



Wait for it!


Unfortunately he wasn’t Black so I can’t get everything that I want.


D’Arcee mentioned Blade earlier. Not a movie that I think most people associate with disability.


I know I didn’t but, when he broke it down!

First, the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.


He’s a half vampire half human being. He basically has some weird combination of Sickle Cell and an auto immune disorder. I see it as a rare disease. He was working with huh, wait for it, a Black woman who was also a Phlebotomist. She develops an immuno therapy that he inhales via an inhaler that allows him to function.


I told you, when he breaks it down for you!


It affected me so deeply. I saw that movie and I was just like this is a disabled Black dude who is a super hero who is saving people and he’s Black A F with his Barber who makes his weapons with his Camaro car with the high rims. It was a marriage of like blackness and disability unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Black Disabled people have already been there but they’re not being discussed that way. Storm is a Black Disabled woman. If she were a real person she has the same chromosomal disorder as a person with Down Syndrome. She just shoots lightning bolts out her eyes. She would be covered under the ADA. Technically.


Do you think Wesley ever thought about the character in that way?


I doubt it, but I’m going to re-examine Nino Brown.


Shout out New Jack City!

What up Pookie!


I thought it was brilliant but people don’t give Wesley Snipes props. People keep thinking that Dead Pool was the first rated R comic book movie, it’s not! That belongs to Blade.

Audio From Blade:
Blade: You people better wake up!


Even the new Harriet Tubman movie, come on people didn’t give credence to the fact that she was a Disabled woman. Okay, she was spiritual and she had visions, but she had probably a form of Epilepsy…


She definitely did.


that caused her to have seizures. That is a disability and the fact that she freed thousands of slaves, I was like give that woman her props as a Disabled Black woman.

Audio: Martin Lawrence in standup performance.

“Handicapped people have good parking spaces… (fades)


It was some time last year , Martin Lawrence, he had put an old clip of him doing standup comedy. Of course he was playing somebody who had some developmental delays. He had the arm twisted and was doing the things like he was making fun of a person. He had thousands of comments on there. This is the issue I have with the Black community, we still endorse people who have created content that sheds a negative light on people with disabilities.


Rasheera gave an example of how there seems to be more push back from the white community towards those felt to be disrespectful…


It’s one thing to have a comedian, for example, perform and perpetuate a negative image. It’s another level of pain or hurt that comes from the general public who argues for that sort of content.


When I point it out… This lady she commented, she was like you guys are too sensitive. I was like you know, no we’re not too sensitive we understand that was like the early 90’s so you know people just didn’t know or did they care? We really have to go back and say you know that wasn’t okay that you made a whole stand up production making fun of a person with a developmental disability and we still laugh at that. It’s not cool!


Too sensitive?

Not really when you consider history and experience.


Whenever we have a person in our family who’s “Disabled” you know, we’ll call him slow or special. That’s Uncle Ray Ray we keep him in the back corner and we won’t tell the family that he exists.

Historically when we’re dealing with certain levels of pain and trauma we do use things such as comedy and music to provide relief to that. I don’t know if it’s justifiable but I do think it needs to be brought to the surface like okay maybe we do need to peel back why is it that we still think it’s okay to hide our relatives with disabilities. Why is it still like such a level of shame in our community when it comes to disability?


This is what my work centers on in academia – what I am trying to coin Afro Fantasm. This idea that Black Disabled people within the Black community exists as living ghosts. We exist and folks know we exist, they do not acknowledge the disabled part of the identity as opposed to the Black part. I had someone recently tell me, one of my friends recently tell me; well disability isn’t race. He said I just think you’re making something out of nothing and you’re creating something that does not exist. I said it most certainly is.


How do you think that would make you feel?

If necessary, make the larger identity relevant to you.


Why do you seem to think that just because Black people are disabled we don’t need to do things culturally that still read as Black? All my disabled female friends they constantly complain about how nail salons are not accessible. As a wheelchair user I still need to go to the Locktician to do my Dred’s. Me being in a wheelchair does not stop me from having to do that because as a Black person I don’t want to look busted! Or ashy or like any ‘ol kind of way because that’s already assumed that’s how we’re going to look anyway when we come out of the house.

Music… Let the Church Say Amen


Church is the center piece of African American identity and yet I don’t know of most Black churches that will use interpreters. They don’t bring cart services, they don’t provide hymns in Braille. It is not a conception that even crosses into people’s minds and so therefore I call it Afro Fantasm. You exist but only in the barest spectral sense to other Black people

Audio: Scene from “Blackish”
Takes place in a Black Church. The pastor speaking from the pulpit.

We will now offer prayers for our community. Everybody knows somebody broke into Shante’s car and stole her last good hearing aid. Shante we’re all praying for you. Pause, Pause… Shante, (spoken slowly and deliberately) we are all praying for you. Ahuh, ahuh! Church agrees!


CART services is an acronym for Computer Assisted Real Time Translation.


Real time captioning.


if we actually were to go beyond that and to start looking at the actual physical embodiment of disability, folks shut down.

Rasheera you were saying why does the Black community continue to laugh at Martin Lawrence’s jokes? So the answer as horrible as it is but it’s the truth, people can come on my Twitter and check me if they want to, you don’t see us as people. Bottom line point blank period with a t, we are not people in your minds. We are uh huh, interestingly enough, three fifths of a person.

Music Ends with a low base and then bass fades out


When you call them on that point it’s just like oh well you’re taking away from the Black cause.

How am I taking away from the Black cause when really all I’m trying to show you is the full spectrum of the Black narrative.

AJ in conversation with panel:

This is a part of my Black experience. I wonder and I’m just putting this out there, I’m not saying this is concrete, but I wonder if it has a lot to do with the fact that disability is something that needs to be healed.


Absolutely. You don’t want to say its physical I will.

In case anyone is getting this twisted and thinks a pass is being given to others and saying Black people are more Ablest?


That is not what we’re doing.

What I need to specify is that while it is true that the Black community often does not do things to support people with disabilities. The flip side of that coin is that it’s because of systemic racism that we can’t. Most of the time. I will say yes it happens sometimes, yeh there are assholes everywhere, but the reality is I firmly believe that Black people are not out here (laughs) being villains to Disabled people on purpose.


Systemic racism in the form of redlining for example.


Too often small business owners of color are unable to access capital to afford retrofitting existing buildings to make them accessible.


I will say that yes, while I go to Barber Shops and you see steps and I’ll be like Lord Jesus, the flip side of that is the people in there have always helped me. They will stop cutting hair to come outside to do what they have to do so I can get into the shop.


Black Love?


Black Love!

But we definitely shouldn’t have to do all that!


We just haven’t had the bandwidth within our community without the barriers of systemic oppression to allow us to have acceptance for everybody.
So if you guys make stuff more accessible, and wealth is equally distributed in our community, half these conversations we wouldn’t even be having.


I had to ask our panelists how do they see Black Disability moving into the mainstream?


Somebody needs to sit Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris down and say you’ve done a lot for Black people but now you need to purposely put Disabled folks in big ways. And that’s only part of the issue because quite frankly the other part of the issue is that there aren’t enough actors. If Kenya Barris and Shonda Rhimes create a show and they want to put a Black Disabled person front and center, if they want them to be the next Olivia Pope they have to be ready to take it.


Is the question about the number or the level of experience?


I love Peter Dinklage, oh my God he’s fabulous. But he is the only one. These acting studios need to stop trippin’ and they need to let people with disabilities straight up in because that’s the only way. I want a wheelchair using peter Dinklage. I want a person in a wheelchair who is respected.


That’s one of the reasons why I decided I want to go into Public Health. At the end of the day we can talk about how the spaces are needed, but actually we need more people with disabilities to occupy those spaces.

Music begins, Young Gifted & Black, Donny Hathaway

When you get to the very core of it, we have to begin to empower the disability community. Letting them know, you can go to college. You can get a Master’s degree. You can go into any career field that you want and maybe we have to find ways to strategize so you can get the type of accommodation.

Music morphs into a Remix of Young Gifted & Black… Young Gifted Black & Disabled!


We need more opportunities. The wealth of talent is there. You just have to want to see it.


Empower disable people, especially disabled Black people.

Before I ever knew I was disabled I knew I was Black first. I was very fortunate that my family raised me to know everything about my people. We weren’t just descendants from slaves.

I identify as a Disabled person, a woman and a Black woman at that. I take a lot of pride in that. Even somedays when its hard and I’m just like man, I’m the only one in the room.

It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also a place of fulfillment and joy where you’re able to pull from those different life experiences.


I was just thinking of the Morpheus quote from The Matrix Reloaded, which I recently saw. When he was in Zion, when he was talking to everyone trying to calm them down and what he said is; what I remember most is after a century of struggle I remember that which matters most.

Audio from Matrix Reloaded: “We are still here!” Crowd roars in applause!

That resonates so deeply with who I am as a person.

The more I learn about Disabled History and the more I learn about Black history and how they intersect, it just makes me even prouder to be the type of person that I am and to be able to do what I do.

I am the only wheelchair user in the graduate department of several hundred students. I’m in the number one school for English in the United States. I have a complete full ride for this degree, they paid me to come there.


He’s not flexin’ on y’all!


It’s a question of knowing your worth. When it comes to Black Disabled people, we exist in this space that people think of as double deficit. You start off from a negative place. As a Black Disabled person you are the bottom of the bottom, if you believe that you are.

I think the only way that people don’t fall into the trap is by having a support system of people who are constantly telling you that this is not true.


That support system can be your family, friends but I think what I heard here today is the overall community can step it up.


Shout out to Rasheera who you can find on …


Insta Gram, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In – just type in Rasheera Dopson. R A S H E E R A Or Beauty with a twist.


And D’Arcee!


My Twitter handle is DRChairington. Charington but spelled like a chair, as I’m a wheelchair user. Oh, it’s Dr. Chairington, I’ll take that too!


It’s official, you both are part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Brother AJ, you already know, you ‘ve been down with the Rmm family for a minute.

Thanks for co-hosting & producing this episode with me.


Thanks Tom, let’s do it again!


I’m not sure what I can let out but AJ’s always doing something, you know Acting up somewhere! He’s @GotNextAJ on Twitter and Ajani AJ Murray everywhere else.

What do you think about the format, the topic anything?
Let me know at or on Twitter @tsreid.

When it comes to the Black Disability experience, there’s so much more to talk about. I think you can expect more right here on Reid My Mind Radio. Sounds like something you don’t want to miss out on?
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Remember transcripts & more are over at And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro


AJ: Laughs!

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