Barbara Jordan, Not Silenced by MS

I was born with cerebral palsy, but I have not let it stop me from achieving my dreams. I wanted  my book, Ungolden Silence, to not only draw attention to sexual violence, but also to persons with disabilities. There are many famous people who have persevered in spite of their disabilities. I will highlight a few on my blog in the next few weeks.

With it being Women’s History Month, I want to highlight a shero of mine. Barbara Jordan was a prominent politician and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. In 1972, Jordan was elected to Congress and became first woman to represent Texas in the House.

It was during 1973 that Jordan began to suffer from multiple sclerosis. Webmd.com describes, “Multiple sclerosis or MS as a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Early MS symptoms can include weakness, tingling, numbness, and blurred vision.”

Her diagnosis was certainly not a setback for her career nor was she silenced.  In 1976, Jordan became the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

In 1979, Jordan took a break from politics. She became an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin where she taught ethics. She came back on the political scene in 1992 as a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Until her death on January 17, 1996 due to complications from pneumonia, Jordan had chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.

Jordan accomplished quite a bit in her time in office despite her long battle with MS. She is an inspiration to me and I hope you too.

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You Must Go See The Movie – Selma

Seeing the movie Selma made me realize that racism is something that all people have to deal with in one form of another. A few weeks ago, we talked about the Racial Lens. The racial problem is a human condition and it affects everybody in a different way.

I have Cerebral Palsy. I can walk and talk, but people have a hard time understanding me. There are others who have cerebral palsy and are affected differently.

When Selma made the national news, Dr. King saw the nation needed to be involved in movement. Now movies like Selma tend to make-up minor details, but I know the story of Viola Liuzzo from Detroit who came to help and never went  home.

I found  this video about Viola Liuzzo (Facebook Video) which this tells who she was and why she went to Selma.

The worst injured from the movement in Selma was James Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston. Selma’s public hospital refused to treat Rev. Reeb, who had to be taken to Birmingham’s University Hospital which was two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University Hospital, with his wife by his side.

It is extremely important to realize that racism is a human problem.

African Americans need to see this movie.

An Excerpt from Ungolden Silence, Part 4

Here is the last part from Chapter 1 from my novel, Ungolden Silence.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. Please leave comments! I would love to hear from you.

—–

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpg

When she was twenty-two, Elaine enrolled at Texas Southern University, one of the major universities in the city. Willie and Helen were both graduates of TSU and had affection for the school. While there, Elaine majored in advertising with a minor in journalism. One of the things about her speech is that it is unique and unforgettable. In one of her classes, Beatrice James was a guest speaker. Elaine remembered Beatrice from the time that she had worked with Josephine. Beatrice was now working in another advertising firm, which published a small bi-weekly community newspaper.

After Beatrice talked to the class, Elaine spoke with her. Although Beatrice did not remember how she knew Elaine, Beatrice knew that she had heard Elaine’s voice before. Elaine did her report on Beatrice and in the process, discovered many different things. One of these was the fact that every year the firm where Beatrice worked sponsored an activity, “Be Thankful for Thanksgiving.” This was a campaign where people donated food for the hungry on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The drop-off points were post offices all around town, with the primary collection facility being the main post office downtown. Elaine didn’t know how the food drive got started but was pleased that Beatrice was just practicing her Christian faith. The food drive was meant to be something done in the company, however, it became a city-wide annual event. After working with Beatrice, she grew to love Beatrice and to respect her work in advertising as well as the community.

During her research, Elaine found that Beatrice was raised by her mother. Beatrice never mentioned her father, and Elaine never asked. Beatrice had a younger sister, Judy. They grew up in Houston’s Fourth Ward. A neighborhood started in the 1800s by newly freed slaves. While Beatrice had grown up in extreme poverty, she was not ashamed of her situation. She was rich when it came to self-esteem. Beatrice attended Prairie View University on a scholarship, and she majored in journalism.

Beatrice said that she had an uncle that she loved as a child; however, for some strange reason he disappeared from her life when she was sixteen. Elaine noticed an uneasiness as Beatrice spoke about her uncle. Beatrice said that she had not thought of him since his disappearance. However, when Elaine asked her about her childhood, her uncle ran across her mind. She remembered

that when she was about five her uncle made her feel special because he filled the void caused by not having a father. He was her mother’s youngest brother and was Beatrice’s favorite uncle.

They spent many hours together. However, when he disappeared from her life, strangely, she did not miss him. Beatrice confessed to Elaine that she could not understand why she never missed him.

“How strange it is that we never talk about him,” she said sadly.

Josephine came to another class of Elaine’s and spoke: “Elaine will worry you to death. She will call at the wrong time, but she gets things done, and I admire her for that.”

There were not many things that Elaine did not like about herself. However, because of her disability, she felt that she had to prove herself.

Elaine’s family on both sides, supported her all of the way and she was always grateful for that. It was to people that did not know her that she wanted to prove she could do whatever she wanted or needed to do.

For her internship, Elaine worked in Josephine’s office. She had to produce three commercials for cerebral palsy. It was fun and rewarding.

After she graduated from college, Elaine began to look for a job. The first place she looked was at a new firm in town, one of only a few that were owned totally by African-Americans. Daniel and Naomi Calloway former New Yorkers, were just setting up the firm. Elaine had an interview with Naomi. She had her resume and three letters of recommendation. Two were from her professors and one was from Josephine. All three of the letters stated that she could handle anything that was put to her mentally when it came to advertising. However, due to her physical disability, she did need a little help in putting the idea on paper. Elaine did her best work on the computer.

Naomi had Elaine’s materials before the interview, and she was not sure about hiring someone that could not physically do the work. After all, this was a new business in a new town. Would it be fair to the other employees? However, the campaigns that Elaine did in college had been impressive. Beatrice James had resigned from the firm where she was working to come to work for Naomi and Daniel. Beatrice wanted to see this firm work because African-Americans owned it. Just before her interview with Elaine, Naomi met with Beatrice.

“I am impressed with her work, but there are things she cannot do like talk on the phone.”

“Yes, she can. If people are patient, they can understand her. Look, when she called Josephine she got her message across. I thought about her being a part of this firm last night. I can see God’s work in her and I would trust her with my life. She has the zest, zeal, and the self-esteem to do what she wants.”

“Yeah, but what about the work?”

“Look, you said that we are going to be working as a team. There are some things that I cannot do.”

“I don’t know, but I will keep an open mind,” Naomi said reluctantly. Elaine’s appointment was for eleven o’clock. She was there at ten-thirty and was dressed in a business suit. Elaine was so nervous that she stumbled and fell. Daniel was watching Elaine from his office and went to help her up. He also was not sure about hiring a disabled person. Would she be falling all the time?

“Nope, this is not going to work,” Daniel seemed to say to himself as he walked to help Elaine.

“Are you okay? Let me get your purse for you.”

“Yes, I fall all the time. When I was little, they taught me how to fall without hurting myself.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Come on in, I want you to meet Mrs. Calloway.”

“Hello, Mrs. Calloway. I am sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“No, don’t worry about that. Are you sure you are okay?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know that this is my husband and that we own the firm?”

“Yes, I do. I read the write-up that Beatrice James did on you a couple of months ago.”

“She is a lovely person,” Naomi replied.

“She also has a great big, beautiful smile,” Elaine responded.

“I love that smile also,” Daniel agreed.

After Daniel closed the door Naomi sat behind her desk and began to ask Elaine about herself. Naomi decided to ask: “Do you ever ask why me?”

“Yes, when I am frustrated.”

“I am sorry but I need you to repeat that last word,” Naomi said calmly.

After the second time, Elaine spelled it for Naomi.

“F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-E-D.”

“Frustrated, I am sorry.”

“I am used to this. I only get mad when people lie to me and respond in the wrong way. When my grandmother died and I went back to school, a girl asked me if I had a good weekend. When I told her that I went to my grandmother’s funeral and she responded that that was nice, I repeated it and she felt bad.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

“My favorite scripture is John 9:1-4. As Jesus walked along he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him: “Teacher, whose sin was it that caused him to be born blind? His own or his parents’ sin?” Jesus answered: “His blindness had nothing to do with his sins or his parents sin. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.” I was a teenager when I first heard that. When I get frustrated, I remember that scripture.”

Daniel and Beatrice were in the next office and could hear the conversation. Daniel’s doubts were slowly becoming questions. How could he make this work? One thing was Elaine needed a handrail so that she could come in and out of the office. Daniel and Naomi were Christians, and though they brought that to their firm every other word was not God or Lord. Daniel and Naomi, like Beatrice, practiced their faith by doing for others. As Daniel listened to Elaine’s strained voice, he found he could follow her speech pattern.

“She will need a computer to work on,” Daniel said slowly and in a low voice.

“We can make this work; she has the mind,” Beatrice responded in the same low voice. “We are going to be working in teams so no one person will be working on an account alone.”

“Right,” quipped Daniel.

Naomi was thinking as she talked with Elaine. Each word was clearer than the word before. Beatrice’s words kept dancing around in her head. “I can see the Lord’s work in her.” Naomi, like Josephine did years before, could see the spunk in Elaine. She asked Elaine: “As you know, we are new and we don’t even have a slogan yet. Off the top of your head what theme or slogan would you suggest?”

“Calloway ads are so good that they are music to your ears. I would use
the fact that Calloway is a famous name in the music world.”

“I like that idea. Will you please excuse me?”

Naomi stepped next door to where Daniel and Beatrice were. Beatrice started to walk out, but Naomi said: “No, this is a big decision, we are the only staff and this will not be easy. I have a good feeling about her and those letters support her.”

“I am willing. Anybody will be a risk,” Beatrice said softly.

“I think that we now have four on staff,” Daniel said with a laugh. Naomi
smiled, agreeing with her husband and without saying a word; she went back to where Elaine was waiting in her office.

“Welcome aboard. You are the second person to join the staff.”

“I got the job! I got the job, Mrs. Calloway?” Elaine could not believe her ears.

“Yes, and I want you to call me Naomi. Please come with me.” Elaine got up from the chair and followed her new boss. “You already know my husband, and you know Beatrice James.”

“Beatrice, I’m working here now!” Elaine said in an excited voice. Elaine could not believe her luck.

“Yes I know,” Beatrice said as she went to hug Elaine.

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgCopyright ©2008 Lydia E. Brew. All Rights Reserved.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. 

 

 

 

An Excerpt from Ungolden Silence, Part 3

Here is more from Chapter 1 from my novel, Ungolden Silence.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. Please leave comments! I would love to hear from you.

—–

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgChapter 1 

The New Firm

(continued …. Part 1 , Part 2)

During the next couple of weeks Elaine and Josephine talked to each other on the phone many times. Catherine worked with the people at City Hall, which was a battle to say the least. There were stories in the newspapers and on the radio about people with different disabilities. Josephine arranged for Catherine, Helen, and Elaine to go on a local TV show. For the first time,

Elaine saw how distorted her face was and she realized how she looked to other people. She did not feel the way that she looked. She looked like a freak to herself, however, she did not allow her looks to stop her—she had things she wanted to accomplish.

Another member of the club did the public service announcement, and Helen and Elaine took it to the offi ce. Josephine was not there. However, Beatrice greeted them and explained to them that there was a special way that the television station had to do the spot and that she would make sure that it was done correctly. The ramp was unveiled on July 3 with media coverage. A plaque was placed over the ramp. Catherine and Elaine took a picture with the mayor.

Elaine and Josephine stayed in touch after that summer.

Elaine had many adjustments to make over the next few years. Setbacks reared their ugly head, but they did not stop her.

She was now in junior high school, and her homeroom teacher had just told her that she would go out to regular classes the next school year. Mrs. Jackson was a very strict African-American teacher. She yelled at a drop of a hat it seemed to her. She told her that the typewriter would be her writing tool. When she later looked back on her years with the lady, she had mixed

feelings about Mrs. Jackson. However, for that summer she was going to have fun working with Josephine Harper.

Once she was thrown out of a typing class and Mrs. Jackson, her homeroom teacher was not too nice about how she told her. There poor Elaine was crying, and Mrs. Jackson was not helpful or reassuring at all. Elaine wanted more than anything to go to college. She could just see herself in a broom factory, not doing what she felt that she could. Elaine knew that she was different, but somehow she felt that she could do what she wanted. Helen and Willie would mention the crying incident from time to time. This made Elaine very uncomfortable. Mrs. Jackson was very strict when it came to Elaine and her using the typewriter.

When Elaine attended Ross High School, Mrs. Nelson was her homeroom teacher. By this time, Elaine had discovered that in some cases the typewriter slowed her down. Mrs. Nelson decided to invite different people to the school to show them how the new special education program was working.

One of the people she invited was Mrs. Jackson, Elaine’s teacher from junior high. Elaine had an English test during fifth period. Elaine, Mrs. Jackson, and Mrs. Nelson had a few minutes to talk before the bell rang. As the three were talking, Mrs. Nelson asked Elaine whether she needed the typewriter. Elaine panicked. She knew that she did not need the typewriter; however, she felt that Mrs. Jackson would yell, so she told Mrs. Nelson yes, she did need the typewriter. When she was taking the test, her English teacher saw that the typewriter was slowing her down and told her to write by hand. She was relieved and glad to do so.

As she grew older, Elaine began to resent people, except her parents, telling her what she could or could not do. After graduation, she went away to a special junior college. It was the first time that she was away from home. The one classroom college was made especially for the disabled. There were people there to help the students bathe, dress, and eat. Elaine took pride in the fact that she was the only person that could bathe, dress, and feed herself.

Elaine could do anything that she needed to do. There were certain tasks, however, that required fine motor movement which proved to be very difficult for her. Cutting her food was one of those things. Her family and friends did that small task for her automatically, but the attendant assigned to her angered Elaine by not wanting to cut her pancakes or put cream and sugar in her coffee. True, she could do these things, but more often than not, when she did them alone, she made a mess. Therefore, Elaine did not care to be told by strangers what she could do or could not do. She knew that better than they did.

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgTo be continued tomorrow…

Copyright ©2008 Lydia E. Brew. All Rights Reserved.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. 

 

An Excerpt from Ungolden Silence, Part 2

I hope you’re enjoying the readings. Here is more from  Chapter 1 from my novel, Ungolden Silence.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. Please leave comments! I would love to hear from you.

—–

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgChapter 1 

The New Firm

(continued …. See Part 1 here )

Elaine could hardly wait for Thursday morning to arrive. She had seen Josephine’s photo in the newspaper but only once on television. Yet she felt she would be able to recognize her anywhere. Catherine Peterson, the club’s director, met Elaine and her mother Helen at Josephine’s office.

They sat in the lobby waiting for Josephine to arrive.

When she walked through the door, Elaine recognized her immediately—tall and slender with a beautiful Afro. She saw the three and walked over to where they were sitting and offered her hand. “Good morning, I’m Josephine Harper.”

“Hello, Miss Harper, I’m Catherine Peterson, director of the Disabled Club. This is Mrs. Wilson and I think you’ve already met her daughter Elaine by phone.”

“Good morning, Miss Harper,” Helen said pleasantly.

“Good morning, Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Wilson.” Josephine then placed her hand on Elaine, who was shaking, and said in a warm voice: “Good morning, Elaine.”

Elaine knew that before people got to know her, they usually assumed she was retarded. She could tell this by the way people talked down to her.

“Hel . . . Hel . . . Hello, Miss . . . Miss Ha . . . Harper.” Elaine could not get the words to come out. She did have a speech impediment; but this stuttering was something new. Elaine was not a shy person, but found herself little embarrassed.

“It is nice to meet you. Now let me go, get settled, and see what we can do.”

A few minutes later Elaine, Helen, and Catherine were shown to Josephine’s office, which was in a suite of offices. Kathy got them some coffee. Elaine noticed another African-American woman at a desk. She had an Afro somewhat like Josephine’s; however, this lady was lighter in complexion. She also had a big smile, which Elaine loved.

“Good morning. I’m Beatrice James,” she said.

“Good morning,” the three ladies said together.

Once the door was closed Josephine said, “Okay, tell me what you want.”

“Well—” Catherine began.

Josephine interrupted “No, I want to hear what Elaine has in mind.”

Elaine took a deep breath and she became aware that a bit of drool was about to form. She quickly dried it with a napkin.

“Handicapped people are just people with special problems or needs. Sometimes the problem happens during birth or it may develop later in life.”

“Okay,” Josephine said carefully.

“There are many different kinds of handicaps. I gave you an example of your glasses.”

“Yes, you did and that has been on my mind since you said that.”

“Some handicaps are not as noticeable, such as people with a heart condition or a bad knee,” Catherine added.

“Right, I see,” Josephine said in agreement.

“So what we want to do is make people think about this.”

“I didn’t understand; I am sorry, Elaine.”

“We want people to become aware of the different kinds of disabilities.”

“Not only that, we want the city government to become more aggressive in enforcing public places to be more accessible for disabled people,” Catherine added.

“Such as providing ramps for wheelchairs and lowering the public phones to a height that will allow people to reach them from wheelchairs,” Helen interjected.

“Handrails, don’t forget about those,” Elaine said quickly.

“All right, I heard that Elaine!” Josephine laughed.

Once Josephine got the idea of what Elaine wanted, she could put together ideas quickly in her mind as they talked. Josephine said that first,the local paper would need to do a story, and so they would have to create one. Catherine toyed with the idea of a public campaign to put a ramp in at City Hall. Elaine wanted to see more exposure on the local talk shows.

“I agree.” Josephine said. “The three of you need to go on and talk.”

“Me?” Elaine exclaimed.

“Yes.” Josephine responded.

“Okay, but I don’t know if they will understand me.”

“Don’t worry about that, people need to see your courage, high self-esteem, and most of all, that spunk you have.”

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgTo be continued tomorrow…

Copyright ©2008 Lydia E. Brew. All Rights Reserved.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. 

 

An Excerpt from Ungolden Silence, Part 1

I have a special treat for you this weekend, from Friday until Monday, I’m sharing Chapter 1 from my novel, Ungolden Silence. If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book. Enjoy!

—–

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgChapter 1

The New Firm

Erna Elaine Wilson is a thirty-seven year-old African-American woman who was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. This caused her to have cerebral palsy. She grew up and graduated from college with a degree in advertising. Like her mother, Helen, Elaine is a member of the Beta Lambda Beta Sorority. Elaine is especially proud of this, since her parents, Helen and Willie, were once told to put their daughter in the state hospital for the mentally retarded. Her disability was obvious from the time she could say hello. However, once a person got accustomed to her speech, he would soon find that her mental capacities were all there, and she could do many things. The only thing she could not do was drive. This would cause her to get depressed at times when she needed to go somewhere, but it proved to be more a nuisance than anything else.

During the 1960s Elaine attended special education classes at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School. While all of her classmates were physically disabled, she was the only African-American in the class.

When she was sixteen years old, Elaine joined a club of young disabled people. This was very exciting for her because the director, Catherine Peterson, asked her to think of ways to make people more aware of the disabled in Houston. She watched the different public service announcements on television and was aware of Josephine Harper, who in the nineteen seventies was one of the first African-Americans to work in a major advertising firm. Miss Harper had her own office with two assistants, Kathy Miller and Beatrice James.

Elaine was nervous as she dialed the number.

“Robertson Advertising firm,” a voice said.

“May I speak with Miss Josephine Harper?”

“Ma’am, I am sorry. I can’t understand you.”

Although she was used to this, Elaine got mad when people did not even try to understand her. She took a deep breath and repeated her request.

“Josephine Harper’s office, may I help you?” the lady said in a pleasant voice.

“Yes, may I speak with Josephine Harper?” Elaine said as plainly as she could. A few seconds later she heard:

“This is Josephine, may I help you?”

“My name is Elaine Wilson,” Elaine said as slowly and plainly as she could. She was nervous, her stomach was full of butterflies, but she was on the phone now and could not turn back even if she wanted to. “I am with the Disabled Club of Houston.” Elaine paused to get her breath. “Can you understand me?”

“Yes, I can understand you. How can I help?”

Elaine continued, “We need a campaign to make people aware of the needs of the disabled and of the different kinds of disabilities. Do you wear glasses, Miss Harper?”

“Yeah, I do,” Josephine responded. “What is this? That is an odd question.”

“Well, this means your eyes need extra help for them to function correctly. Billions upon billions of people wear glasses, and we don’t consider them disabled,” Elaine responded.

“Mmmm . . . I never thought of it that way. I can’t do anything without these things.”

“This is what we need to make people aware of.”

“So what the Disabled Club of Houston wants to do is launch a public awareness campaign to raise awareness that the disabled are people like everyone else—we just have special needs. We have funding and a budget and I would love to meet with you to discuss this with you.”

“Well,” Elaine could hear the sound of nails on a keyboard. “Miss Wilson, let’s see—can you come in next week? It looks like I have one or two mornings available.”

“Yeah, I can.”

“Listen, do you want to provide the information we will need—or would you like to actually work on the project with me?”

“Oh I would be more than honored to work with you!” Elaine said enthusiastically. I’ve read lots of articles about you, and I love all the ads that you do and everything.”

“Well, thank you for that. Listen, what about next Thursday at ten o’clock?”

“Just a minute I have to check with my mom.” After a few seconds, Elaine was back on the phone and their first meeting was set up.

As she put the phone down, Elaine could not contain her excitement.

She went to share the conversation with her parents. Willie and Helen were understandably impressed.

“Did Miss Harper understand what you were saying?” Her dad asked halfway joking, as they were in the family room.

Elaine responded that Josephine appeared to have no problem understanding her. She was excited.

Lydia-Ebook-Cover.jpgTo be continued tomorrow…

Copyright ©2008 Lydia E. Brew. All Rights Reserved.

If you like what you have read, please click the cover to purchase your copy of the book.