As you may have noticed, there was no new post on the blog last week – I took an impromptu trip to Maryland to attend a Black History Month White House event!
Last week was incredible, in more ways than I can accurately express in words. I still have to pinch myself because I cannot believe that it happened, and that I was at the White House surrounded by so many Black and proud advocates and allies.
Like all amazing stories, let’s start at the beginning…
For Black History Month, I decided to interview disabled Black author Sophia Chester. You may remember Sophia’s name from last week’s post about disabled Black authors in literature. Sophia is someone I met via Tumblr, and I stumbled upon her book, Cosmic Callisto Caprica & The Missing Rings Of Saturn, on my dashboard late last year. Sophia was so excited that I “fangirled” about her book that I knew that I had to interview her for the RYV! blog.
Sophia’s book is one of many I support because it has a strong Black female character lead, as well as disability representation within it. In my eyes, Sophia knocked it out of the ballpark with the level of diversity that is present in her book. I ardently believe in supporting disabled Black women who are trailblazing empowering paths, and Sophia fits that mold for me.
Sophia was gracious enough to take the time in allowing me to interview her for Black History Month, and to share HERstory with myself and my readers. Her voice and body of work are greatly appreciated and needed, especially for those of us who aspire to become authors and writers.
In continuing with the theme of Black History Month 2016 by shining a bright light on disabled Black authors, this week will focus on the literary works of disabled black trailblazers from the past and present, young and old.
Searching for literature written by and/or share the stories of disabled Black people can be a needle in a haystack situation: these bodies of work are not easily found, but when discovered, opens the door to voices and tales that may resonate deeply within the soul of the seeker. Disability in literature is gravely underrepresented in general; when you add race into the mix, it gets even dimmer regarding visibility. Spotlighting the diverse experiences within the disabled community is essential for us to fully understand various perspectives and ideas that broadens our view of the world and the people in it.
Compiling this list of disabled Black authors was an incredibly affirmative challenge because it displays the creativity and gumption these authors had in writing stories they felt were worthy of being written and read. Their works are as diverse as them: fiction, academia, memoirs, and self-help/advice. For each author (listed in no particular order), provided are their disabilities, book title, book summary, and links to where you can buy and/or learn more about them.
For Black History Month 2016, I will be featuring disabled Black authors who have written trailblazing and powerful pieces of literature about their plights that resonates with those of us who understand their stories and experiences. An author that came on my radar last month was Elizabeth “Eliza” Gertrude Suggs; Eliza’s life fascinated me on many levels, especially when I realized that she had the same disability as myself. Her story is one that I believe is worth spotlighting since the lives of disabled Black women from the late 19th, early 20th centuries are hardly covered in our history books.
This year, I have written about growing up disabled and being of color, and how those dual identities have affected the opportunities and experiences I have had in my 30 years of life. On social media, I have seen disabled people of color share their stories about embracing their identities, and overcoming the internalized self-hate for who and what they are.
Last week, I was afforded the opportunity to be interviewed by Leroy Moore, Jr., the founder of Krip-Hop Nation, for a special series he is doing surrounding the disabled Black experience, police brutality, and journalism.
I have gotten to know Leroy earlier this year, and am amazed at his legacy as a disabled Black advocate and the incredible work he has done. When he asked me to do this, I could not wait to see the questions he had for me. I have discussed my thoughts about police brutality and being a disabled Black woman late last year on the blog, and it is still a passionate topic for me. This is especially true when I learned about the incident in San Francisco where a Black amputee was detained by 14 police officers because he was believed to have had a weapon. The “weapons” were his crutches and prosthetic leg. The video footage of the exchange is very upsetting, and is a prime example of the kind of danger, harassment, and violation disabled Black people endure from the police. The realities, fears, and anger needs to be discussed, and this interview, and the many more Leroy plans to conduct with other disabled bloggers and advocates, will shatter the silence and ignorance, and declare that our lives matter, too.
Last month, I decided to create a hashtag for disabled women of color that would allow us to connect with each other, and build our sisterhood and empower one another. I wanted to share the hashtag officially on the RYV! blog so that my readers whom fall under the hashtag’s purpose would know about it, and hopefully start using it on social media.
Part 2 of the special series about the voices of ADA Generation will cover my story, and what it was like growing up under the new mandate as a disabled Black child who started Kindergarten in 1991. (If you missed Part 1, read here.)
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and I felt it to be imperative to spotlight the struggles Black women have when it comes to our mental health status, and gaining the support and help we need. This is the second time I have discussed this topic on the blog, and I aim to keep the dialogue going until stigma and shame are no longer forced upon those of us who live with mental illness.
Antionette is a dear friend of mine from college; we met when I took Model UN my last semester in undergrad, and she was one of the “higher ups” within Winthrop’s Model UN. She and I were mutual friends with one of my Sorority sisters, and we forged a quick friendship of our own. Antionette affectionately refers to me as “Mama V” since I’m a couple of years older than her, and our friendship has grown beyond our Model UN years.
Antionette graduated from Winthrop with her B.A. in Political Science in 2010, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in International Business. She is 27 years old, lives in Charleston, SC, and works for the Department of State. Antionette is the typical Millennial, in that she has many hobbies and interests that keeps her busy – she is a Mary Kay consultant, a martial artist (she has a Black belt in Karate and plans to her further her martial arts training), and likes to listen to as well as create music with her brother. As you can see, she is definitely a go-getter, and is one of the sweetest people you’d ever meet on this side of the Mississippi River.
Earlier this year, I learned that Antionette has been quietly fighting a battle of her own, one she decided to share on the one year anniversary of her diagnosis. Antionette has MS, or Multiple Sclerosis; when I read the testimony about her journey, I was truly amazed. I had been in light contact with Antionette over the past year, and I did not have a clue that anything was amiss with her or her health. Antionette shared that she had remained quiet about her journey as she was trying to understand this new normal in her life. I asked Antionette if I could interview her for the blog, and she graciously gave me the honor to share her story with my readers and supporters.
Important Disability-Related Videos You Should Watch
Here's the Out of Step's TOOST Radio interview I participated in as a panelist on Nov. 6th, 2013. During the interview, I discussed my personal & professional viewpoints about the choice of discussing disability status while seeking employment opportunities. The part that I'm featured begins 15:29 minutes into the interview.
In this video, Beyoncé helps Kid President with World Humanitarian Day 2013. The Kid President has OI like I do. I think that his messages are ones that all walks of life & ages can learn from. I'm so jealous that he met one of my idols & favorite music performers, Beyoncé! I wanted to share with you all the interview the Kid President did with Beyoncé for World Humanitarian Day, which was August 19th, 2013.