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  1. 4 Years Going Strong:  RYV! Anniversary Reflection

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    Image description: Top of a chocolate cake with candles lit. Candles are curved and multi-colored.

    Image description: Top of a chocolate cake with candles lit. Candles are curved and multi-colored.

    Today marks the fourth anniversary of Ramp Your Voice!  The past year has been filled with so many opportunities, connections, partnerships, and articles that has resonated with individuals within and outside of the disabled community.  

    As Ramp Your Voice! matures, I also mature, particularly for my vision and the impact I want to make with my work.  What I started out wanting to do 4 years ago has vastly changed, and I am working diligently to bring these new ideas to life.  

    Some of the changes that has occurred in the last year has been the services I offer.  I am pushing forward the skills I realized I enjoy doing:  presenting, public speaking, consulting, and writing.  My focus has also become more centered on the experiences of Black disabled women and discussing intersectionality.  These two areas are ones that has been attached to my work and voice, and I enjoy finding new ways and audiences to bring these issues to the forefront.  

    What is next for RYV! as it enters into its fourth year?  Here are a few things I’ll be working on:  

    • Creating a series that gives Black women the space to discuss their lives and the systemic barriers they endure.  As I connect with Black women, those who identify as disabled, those who are not disabled, or do not self-identify, I realize that we encounter barriers that impedes us and our ability to thrive and prosper.  The purpose of this series will allow Black women who identify as disabled and those who do not to discuss the unique challenges of being Black women across the diaspora.  I am currently working hard to schedule these interviews and I have a modestly growing list of women who has either agreed to be a part of this and/or I plan to approach over the next few months.  I am hoping to launch this series early Fall, so be on the watch for that.  
    • I am still working on the #DisabilityTooWhite project, and hope to launch that by the end of the year.  
    • I plan to create a Patreon page that will support the aforementioned series and project, as well as create original content for Patrons.  
    • Upcoming new website design.  I love the current layout, but with there being over 200 articles on the blog, it is time for an upgrade.  I want my writings to be easier to find and spotlight some of the most read resources and posts over the years.
    • I will be a co-host for a podcast that is currently in the works.  I cannot say much now, but this is a great way to get my voice to a new audience and a new opportunity for RYV! to be visible.  The launch is coming up soon, and I will write a post about the podcast to celebrate this new adventure for me.  
    • Budding partnerships with advocates and organizations.  Again, I am very fortunate to have upcoming projects and interactions that I will share about when they come to life.  Some of the people and entities I will be working with are those I greatly respect and am eager about the work we will be creating.  
    • More marketing of RYV! services. I really am looking to provide the services I have to interested individuals and organizations who can benefit the most.  
    • Lastly, I plan to move to Charlotte, NC in 2018.  This is a change from my original desire to move to Washington, D.C., but I feel that the budding advocacy scene in Charlotte will afford me the community outreach work I want to do with my brand and with my education.  

    Sometimes I sit back and am amazed at the reach and reaction to RYV!, and all that I have done thus far.  I look forward to seeing how this platform grows, and the new experiences I have yet to embark on.  Every day, I am fortunate to do what I love, and to have found my passion as a young adult.  And most importantly, I appreciate the support bestowed upon me each and every day from those of you who have been there for me along the journey.  

    I am truly excited for what is in store during the fourth year of RYV!’s existence.  I hope you are too.  

    (Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

  1. Why “Claws” Autistic Character Dean Should Be Played By An Autistic Actor

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    Harold Perrineau as Dean. (Turner Press / CLAWS)

    Harold Perrineau as Dean. (Turner Press / CLAWS)

    A new summer show favorite has been CLAWS, which features the incredible Niecy Nash as Desna, a woman who has big dreams of owning a high-end salon and caring for those she loves.  A surprise in the series is the character Dean, who is autistic and Desna’s brother.  Dean is a complex character, mainly due to the fact that the portrayal is a cripping up one; Dean is played by Harold Perrineau.

    I had hoped that someone would write about this conflict, and Monique Jones gave her perspective earlier this week.  I wanted to boost the thoughts of someone who’s Black and autistic on the blog, and am gracious Monique gave me permission to cross-post her article on RYV!  

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  1. BuzzFeed, Dating In A Wheelchair, & Representation:  Interview with Lolo

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    Screenshot of the title of the video:  “Thoughts You Have While Dating In A Wheelchair” (Buzzfeed)

    Screenshot of the title of the video:  “Thoughts You Have While Dating In A Wheelchair” (BuzzFeed)

    Buzzfeed is known for creating videos about diverse life experiences, and it has recently produced one that I can wholeheartedly relate to.  The video is “Thoughts You Have While Dating In A Wheelchair” that features vlogger Lolo.  Lolo’s performance spoke deeply to my spirit.  It was the first time I saw a Black disabled woman talk about dating in such a way that resonated with my own experiences.  In her role, Lolo brought the funny with her “heels or boots?” question and gushing about how her date was so strong when helping her in the Uber.  The thoughts and concerns Lolo portrayed are ones that were too realistic – I could not stop laughing at the truth gems dropped in the video.  

    I reached out to Lolo because I had to know who she was, and I am grateful that she afforded me the pleasure of interviewing her for the blog.  In the following interview, Lolo shared with me about how she got the role, why doing this video was important to her, and her ambitions as a disabled vlogger.  

    Without further ado, here is Lolo, in all of her Black disabled girl magic glory:

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  1. Disability, Slavery, & The Call to #PickUpUnderground

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    Aisha Hinds as Harriet Tubman (WGN America)

    Aisha Hinds as Harriet Tubman (WGN America)

    Social media was abuzz with shock earlier this week when we learned that the critically acclaimed show Underground was canceled on WGN America after two seasons.  I was incredibly upset that this dynamic show and its compelling depiction of slavery would no longer be returning for a rightfully earned third season.

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  1. The Hashtagversary of #DisabilityTooWhite

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    Image of a drawn character in a wheelchair wearing a cone party hat against a solid black background. To the right of the character reads the words: "It's a hashtagversary!" Underneath the character reads the words: "#DisabilityTooWhite"

    Today is the hashtagversary (hashtag anniversary) of #DisabilityTooWhite.  I cannot believe it has been a year since the hashtag went viral, and how it changed my life and the dialogue in the community.  

    It still astounds me that something I created from an impassioned reaction to an article stirred up so much conversation and controversy.  The hashtag forced me, and others, to discuss the elephant in the room – the racism, invisibility, erasure, lack of representation, and othering of disabled people of color.  Our community can no longer feign that we do not recognize the inequality that exists within; the hashtag has the “receipts” of the injustices enacted on those of us multiple-marginalized.  The hashtag allowed people to understand that they are not alone in how they have been mistreated, abused, and ostracized in the community.  That realization validated their feelings and experiences, which was a powerful confirmation so many received.  

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  1. #IAmAPreExistingCondition: Medicaid is the Lifeline that Saved Me

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    Image of a stethoscope and pen lying on top of a medical chart.

    I owe my health and ability to live in this disabled body to Medicaid.  It is the social program that is will be under attack if the Senate accumulates enough votes for the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  The AHCA is the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.  There are provisions within the AHCA that will impact those of us with pre-existing conditions and/or utilize Medicaid.  

    The disabled community, including myself, have been very vocal as to the harm the AHCA could cause for us.  I’ve taken part in discussing my own story & urging our Senators to vote “no” by using the #IAmAPreexistingCondition hashtag, and being interviewed by Al-Jazeera along with other advocates about the bill (click to view Part I and Part II).  

    I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Center for Disability Rights this month that outlines why Medicaid matters so much to me, and why the AHCA would be dangerous for my people.  We need more disabled voices proclaiming that healthcare is a human right that should not be deemed as an optional circumstance to acquire.  

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  1. Flexin’ My Melanin & Talking About #DisabilityTooWhite at the NABSW Conference

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    White background with drawings of 4 Black women from the shoulders up of various skin tones and hairstyles. Each woman is wearing an alternating pink or purple top.

    I took a hiatus this month from blogging to prepare and attend the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) conference in National Harbor, Maryland.  It was the first time I attended the conference, as well as presented about #DisabilityTooWhite to my social work colleagues.  I was ecstatic to attend a conference where I would be surrounded by melanin, and it was the spiritual and emotional rejuvenation I needed.  

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  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Keah Brown, Entertainment Journalist Using Her Words to Empower

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    Photo of Keah Brown, a brown skinned young Black woman. Keah is looking directly into the camera and smiling. She has her hair straighten and parted to the side, and wearing a white, red, and denim colored sweater.

    One of the reasons I wanted to do this series was to capture the diverse lives of Black disabled women. Very few spaces have given us the opportunity to discuss what it is like to be a triple minority, much less by someone who possess those same identities. Providing an environment where people can be candid about the obstacles they face while navigating the world and embracing who they are is an important part of my advocacy work.

    Keah Brown is a 25-years old entertainment journalist, writer, and essayist from Western New York. She recently created the #disabledandcute hashtag that went viral in February. This hashtag allowed disabled people to proclaim and display the diverse beauty that exists in our community. Keah is a dynamic writer and friend, and her presence in the community cannot be ignored.

    Here is Keah in her own words about learning to accept herself and using her work to empower other Black disabled women:

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  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Kerima Cevik, Disabled Writer, Activist, & Redefining the Rules

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    Photo of Kerima Cevik, a brown-skinned Black woman. Kerima is facing away from the camera, with her beautiful gray hair covering her face. She is leaning against window blinds, with the light from the window softly hitting her face.

    It is so important for Black disabled women to have a village – a group of individuals who understand her fully. A group of uplifters, motivators, and truth sayers who will give you gems of knowledge and love when times go dark. These women will understand your frustrations in ways that many do not and cannot You will never have to “prove” why something hurts because they will automatically know why – they have been through it too. Becoming an advocate has allowed me to build a dynamic village of disabled women, particularly Black disabled women, who hold me down and will empower me when my spirit is running on E.

    One of those women is Kerima Cevik, a disabled mother, writer and blogger that resides in Washington, D.C.  Kerima was one of the first Black women I found who has written about historical Black disabled people.  She has inspired me to do the same, as seen when I feature disabled Black people whose stories are left out of the history books.  Kerima’s interview is a powerful read, so much so that my heart was overwhelmed at the truth gems she dropped for this series.

    Without further ado, here is Kerima, in all her unapologetic and fierceness being:

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  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Heather Watkins, Disabled Writer, Mom, & Community Leader

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    Image of Heather Watkins, light-skinned Black woman who is standing in front of a off-white colored door. Heather is smiling directly to the camera, and is wearing a black-and-white multi-striped top with black pants. Heather has her hands placed on her hips, which are in a relaxed pose.

    As we continue with the #BlackDisabledGirlMagic series, we have seen the various perspectives about the lives Black disabled women live and our worth shared in our own words. If you have noticed, I have asked each woman the same questions; this was purposeful. Though we all share the same identities of being Black, disabled, and women, we exist and interact in this world from different lens. Those differences are influenced by our upbringings, disabilities, ages, geographical location, educational and professional backgrounds, and so forth. Black disabled women are not a monolith, and that is what I wanted to highlight during Women’s History Month. We may encounter similar battles, but our views on life, our bodies, and survival are greatly individualized, as it is for everyone else.

    Heather Watkins is a blogger, disabled mother, community leader, and dear friend that reside in Boston, Massachusetts. Heather has become an older sister to me and was one of the first Black disabled advocates I befriended. Heather’s voice in the community is important because of her life experiences and ability to see people beyond the surface.

    I am honored to share Heather’s words and life outlooks with you all:

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