Just a forewarning, this post is not a review of either movie; except to say that I thought both of them were fantastic and both of them stirred my spirit; to sadness and hope. I know that some people may not like the equation of the Civil rights movement for African Americans in this country to the Civil rights movement of people with disabilities in this country. You may not feel our battles are the same, but I mean no disrespect to the Civil Rights movement for African Americans. People with disabilities owe you respect and gratitude for paving the way and showing us the many facets necessary in which change can occur.
When I was in Boston I watched “Salema” with my friend who is a fearless, powerful self-advocate and advocate for other people with disabilities. As I watched him throughout the week I became jealous of the way in which he conducted himself. He was fearless in getting people to move so that he could have access to the places he needed. Me, on the other hand, I will push through crowds, but I will try to find an open seat and get in as quickly as possible. Fearful of frustrating or angering people. I watched him powerfully speak before a transportation Board that was considering cutting all paratransit services for people with disabilities. I may be able to speak but not in situations like that. It was annoying me that the people on the Board seemed not to care about the words that were being spoken to them by the many they would be hurting. He simply said, “they have to be that way. They can’t show that any of this is affecting them.” I was amazed and held him in greater esteem even then. He is also part of a disability advocacy group that is not afraid to rock the boat and rock it heavily. while I respect what they do and what they have accomplished on our behalf; I couldn’t do it. After we watched Selma my heart and emotions were twisted inside of me. He then asked me if I would be willing and able to stand by someone willing to go to those kinds of extremes to bring change. It took a bit for me to compose myself, I told him I would want to. I suppose the better answer would have been: “With God’s strength, I could.”
This weekend, I watched “Hidden Figures.” Throughout the whole movie, I was thinking that’s just wrong or yelling “You go!!” I realized that the disability community is at the place these women were. We are highly educated and being completely underused. I look at myself, I have two Master’s degrees, internship and work experience and here I am working as a receptionist. I am working hard to change these circumstances and I have faith that God is at work I just need to trust Him and have patience. One of my Master’s Degrees is in Human Resource Management. My entire reasoning for getting this degree was so that I could either work for the Federal Government or a top-notch corporation and change hiring policies and treatment of employees with disabilites. First, by proving my invaluable worth and work ethic then bringing more qualified individuals with disabilities on board. Being a “hidden figure” of my own so to speak.
Although our ways of wanting to bring about chang for people with disabilities differ tremendously we have a common vision of change. I only hope he is able to stand by someone who would prefer to bring “hidden change.”