Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The year of incredulity -2016, best summed up by the following reactions…wow, whoa, and wtf. But it wasn’t all calamitous; it ushered in some cool initiatives and projects. And I wrote a whole lot more including this article, was interviewed here and here, participated in talks as a panelist on accessible voting, and others on intersectionality, first-time keynote speaker for Disability Intersectionality Summit, wrapped up year by writing and reciting a poem for MA Electoral College proceedings, and met some really fab folks in-person and online.
Some of the fab folks and projects that I want to shine the light on…
Malia Lazu, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Epicenter Community. I’d known about Malia for some time as she has been part of many projects that marry culture, community, arts, entrepreneurship throughout Boston. So I was thrilled to get connected through mutual acquaintance, chat via phone, and meet up at a local coffee shop. What a beautiful, lovely effervescent spirit she is! We chatted for about 2 hours straight about a host of things instantly hitting it off and wondered why we’d not met sooner. But as the saying goes all things in due time right? An emphatic “yes” was my answer for an invite to our next meeting, a charrette for the Fashion Accessibility Project that she is spearheading.
This project brings together disability community, fashion, creativity, design in dialogue from planning stage to runway with disabled models set to sashay accessible design concepts in late June. Quite sure it’s the start of Malia and I embarking on some epic adventures.
Vilissa Thompson, Founder and Creator of Ramp Your Voice..I’d been chatting online for sometime with my fellow disabled sis so it was such a pleasure to finally meet in-person at the inaugural Disability Intersectionality Summit. As mentioned earlier, I was keynote speaker and share my experience here and Vilissa was also a presenter and spoke about lack of media representation of disabled POC, taking folks to task and shift in their seats with her viral sensation of #DisabilityTooWhite. What a blast we had and hugged, and we’ve been stoking the flames of friendship ever since.
I’m also excited to share space and talent alongside sis being part of Harriet Tubman Collective of Black disabled and deaf advocates working toward inclusion and liberation. We released this statement in response to policy platform that did not include Black disability community in any meaningful way. I look forward to continued collaboration with this dynamic group of community-builders who volunteer their time and skill doing this work.
The year also came with some great revelations in self-awareness… realized as I age I have less patience and that my “nice” meter has been re-calibrated. Nice was a get-by , an easy route and the path of least resistance. Nice doesn’t hurt feelings but it may hurt your own if you’re swallowing what you really want to say for the sake of keeping peace. Speak your truth, be your authentic self, and let the chips fall wear they may.
I learned that when I’m a bit incensed about something I seem to somehow mess around and tap out an assemblage of thought that resonates well. Whether it’s annoyance or righteous anger I’ve been able to channel energy into some well-articulated posts that stretched beyond an individual rant but actually had a radius of impact that surprised me.
Vulnerability feels like a tightrope walk naked; I was reminded of this every time I was front and center sharing thoughts on panels and prepping for keynote speech. You feel out there alone and up for display..feels raw; it’s humbling. So you might get nervous, your voice might shake and you’ll survive and go home and have a snack maybe two… with chocolate. Beyond the theatrics, the lights, stage, heart palpitations..there’s an audience that needs your message and you are the expert on your own lived experience. That’s just pretty damn cool and gave me some peace of mind.
And so here we are about halfway into January, and many of us have stomachs in knots about the upcoming inauguration and incoming administration and hoping that the sense of impending doom dissipates. Just tryna keep the light on and should its flicker and momentary loss leave us groping the walls to navigate our way, let’s all try to bear in mind…..
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” -Martin Luther King Jr.