• Category Archives Intersectional Issues
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  • An Artist’s Dreams Becoming A Reality

    Have you ever thought, “how cool it would be if I were a famous performing artist?” — I have!

    Image may contain: 1 person smiling, selfie and closeup.

    At a very young age I was introduced to short films, music, and movie classics. i remember the first action movie I watched the age of five was Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky”. I was intrigued by the boxing and who was the good guy or bad guy in the movie.

    The film “Rocky” had a very powerful message to me at the time. During that time I was five years old. I went to physical therapy and speech. I would dream that I was Rocky, conquering my own journey–not in a boxing ring, of course, but figuratively. My fight to get my legs stronger was not like the Rocky movie; it was my own.

    Music was a huge part of my childhood, too. I grew up listening to Phil Collins and many other famous artists. Listening to music at a very young age helped with my speech and communication.

    Ever since I was little, I had dreamt of being in the entertainment business. A lot of people criticized me saying that I would not be able to because of my disability, but I never let that stop me. I have performed in 35 different productions, counting theatre, films (and including a few short films I made myself!)

    Very recently I performed in a workshop reading at The Lenaea High School Theatre festival of the play, “Marvin’s Room”. I played Hank, who is a person with a mental health disability. He’s not that book smart; he doesn’t do well in school and did a very bad thing to his family’s home.

    I fell in love with the play for this specific role. I had to isolate myself for a while to get into the mind of the character– how Hank would be looking at his choices and what he wants in life.

    Each character I’ve played has taught me that every person has their own story to be told from the tough times and to success.

    5 people, 2 people facing each other, 3people facing the camera

    My dreams have changed a bit since my days of watching “Rocky”. I want to major in communications and continue to study acting after college. My visions for the future are taking big steps: (1) graduate high school, (2) college; (3) continue to follow my goal in entertainment. If you want to be those people you see on the big screen, don’t let people bring you down. Do not limit your options. Keep hustling and your grind to the max!

    Even though it may seem like you’re not getting anywhere taking small jobs or failing in school, just remember success is not given to the ones who are not hungry; success is fed to those who work hard for their dreams.

    Mike will soon be a high school graduate from Sheldon High School in Sacramento. He is currently working on a film project. He has written a movie script called “Ability” showcasing disability awareness regarding youth and students. He is also starring in an independent film called “War” that will began production In June! He is excited for the upcoming projects and can’t wait to get started.

  • Cross-Cultural Disability

    By: Kameron Bryn

    I grew up in the fourth biggest city in Norway, Stavanger, which has a population approximately twice that of Redlands, California. The entire country’s population is around the size of San Bernardino. Norway is associated with democratic socialism, free healthcare, winter sports, oil, and fish. This is where I spent the first decade and a half of my life. “Why would you move here?” is something I hear a lot. In theory, Norway is the better place for someone with my condition: free healthcare, excellent social security, liberal laws, etc. And, while that is all true, it’s only half of the picture.

    When I was 16, I moved to Redwood City, California—warm weather, excellent healthcare, diverse culture and population, friendly people, and a large LGBTQ+ population. The perfect escape from a cold and frigid Norway, and yet, it did little to ease my suffering.

    In May 2014, I started suffering from chronic headaches and fatigue and was diagnosed with anemia. However, being the smart cookie that I am, I decided to not take my iron supplements as they caused even worse headaches and nausea. This led to a complete iron depletion in October. My entire body stopped functioning, I was hot all the time, I couldn’t think, and I barely had enough energy to move. I was a mess. I started on the iron tablets again, and while it helped a lot with the fatigue, I started experiencing aches. First once or twice a day, then several times a day, and then non-stop. My sister recognized it as Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed in the spring of 2016. It was a long and harrowing journey.

    Black and white photo. Young, Caucasian male standing against a wall

    Fibromyalgia is an old person’s disease. I’m chock-full of those. I got diagnosed with arthritis this summer at 19, and low tear production at nine. I was always too young. I often wondered if there were ways it could’ve been prevented. At my eighth birthday party, I was playing in a play-house and I suddenly I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I was lying on my back, gasping for air. I had fits of nausea throughout my entire childhood. I got headaches frequently; it felt like tiny men doing construction inside my head. But these were things to ignore. That’s the Norwegian way—to ignore. Even when we went to the family physician, he seemed to have a hard time believing me. When my sister suspected fibromyalgia, it was dismissed. “I don’t want to diagnose you with that”. I was sent to psychiatry, and they confirmed it wasn’t psychosomatic, but he still refused to do more tests on me. There were reports of Norwegian teenagers who were put into induced comas due to paralyzing pain from over-exertion. Before my iron-depletion, I was in the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program , choir, Model United Nations and fencing twice a week. Pain is something to be ignored.

    My (undiagnosed) fibromyalgia made it so I only barely graduated from Middle Years Programme (MYP ), and my mother took me to see specialists. As specialists aren’t covered in free healthcare, it cost a couple hundred dollars for each test they did. The treatments were just as limited as their knowledge. They agreed that even though it’s likely that I have fibromyalgia, the diagnosis wouldn’t help much as the treatment would be the same, either with specialists or be put on a waitlist for one to three years for treatment by public healthcare. Stavanger is one of the best places to have a heart attack. Chronic illness? Not so much. Fall 2015 I started treatment at the Pain Clinic at Stanford Medical Center. They still refused to give me a proper diagnosis, but I was being seen by a psychologist, physical therapist, psychiatrist and acupuncturist. The treatment helped, but school… was a nightmare. I was doing the same IB program at the American public high school I went to, but IB at that school was IB on top of regular school. I left the IB program within the month. I was still very ill, and the concept of doing six hours of homework every night on top of eight hours of school didn’t agree with my fibromyalgia. I asked for accommodations, but the only thing they could grant me was homework extensions and a permanent hall pass.

    That didn’t make much difference when I could barely get out of bed. After three months of brick and mortar, I unofficially dropped out. I transferred to an online school, but there was still a requirement of nine hours of schoolwork per day. No one had told me the American Dream translated to ‘grind until you die’.

    I unofficially dropped out of online school in the spring and then studied hard and tested out of high school in the fall. Just in time to move to Southern California as there was nothing left for me in the Bay Area. My sister was attending the University of Redlands and was my greatest support system at the time, and it was great to be with her again. I spent the next year in limbo, trying to figure out what I could possibly do in my current state in a country that didn’t seem to want me, from a country that didn’t seem to want to help me.

    I have since paved my own path and worked with people who did want me and did want to help me. I think a lot about my two cultures and how they’re ingrained in my DNA and psyche, as much as I try to withdraw from them. I take no pride in them, but I have great interest in them—in how they shaped me, and how they treated me, and people like me. How they helped me and how they hurt me; how my experiences are unique and how they are universal.

  • California’s Black Disability History

    In honor of Black History Month, we at the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers felt that it was only fitting to highlight a few of the Black leaders with disabilities who pioneered the Independent Living Movement: Johnnie Lacy, Joyce Jackson, Donald Galloway, and Bradley Lomax.