Claudia Gordon: Disability Rights in Black 2020
Articles,  Blog

Claudia Gordon: Disability Rights in Black 2020

– Hi, I’m Claudia Gordon, and my profession is that
I’m a lawyer by training, and I’m really humbled to have been asked to be part of the National
Disability Rights Network Black History Month series called “Disability Rights in Black.” I was asked to contribute
my wisdom, my perspective as an individual who
immigrated to this country from the islands, and to talk a little bit
about capacity building and dream building for Caribbean
people with disabilities. Really, I am a native of Jamaica, and I’m very fortunate to
have been able to immigrate to this country and to
really grow my own skills and to develop my self-worth, and that’s something that
may not have been possible had I remained in Jamaica. Now, my journey to where I
am, to have the privilege, the right, and the career and
experience and opportunities that I’ve had have been
very blessed for me, but I cannot rest on my
laurels, and none of us can. We must remember our brothers
and sisters back home, who are still remain shunned from society and are seen as second-class citizens. Many countries of the
islands still struggle with recognizing disability
rights as a civil right, so for me, it’s very
important that those of us who are from the diaspora and
the Caribbean go back home, and interact with the government
officials, educate them, and show them what people
with disabilities can achieve when the playing fields are level. Where they belong, we
should not have to immigrate to this country or Canada or other places to be able to succeed. We want people to be able to
foster and grow where they are, and to interact and educate, and also empower members of
the disability communities in the islands to see, and to give them hope and belief that they, too, can achieve the things that we’ve been able to. That hope, that belief will
trigger their own desires to become self-advocates and demand more from their governments
and from organizations that claim to represent
them and their needs. I think that’s our responsibility. I was also asked to share a message for young girls who are Deaf, or who have other disabilities. From my personal experience
and my own journey, I think my first message is that you are enough. Society often wants to label you and put you in a box and tell you where you fit
and what kind of career that you can or cannot choose from. They have lowered
expectations for who you are, but you have to have the
intrinsic wisdom and belief that that belief in yourself
is going to drive you, regardless of what other
people’s perspectives are and their perceptions are of you. Allowing people to apply their
lowered expectations on you is not acceptable. It took me a long time for me to realize I could achieve whatever I’d like to, and it didn’t matter what
people thought of me. Own your identity, your intersectional identity as a woman, as a person of color,
being Black, disabled, with multiple marginalized communities that you are a part of, it’s okay. We are often made to feel like the other. Use that to inspire you to greatness, to show the world, and stand
proud in your otherness, because that’s what
makes each of us unique, and we bring unique perspectives
and visions to every table, so go ahead and keep showing up. In closing, I wanna go back to the theme, a simple but powerful theme, “Disability Rights in
Black,” really speaks volumes to us, not necessarily being prominently visible as a part of the
Disability Rights Movement of what’s been recorded, so now, I see more and more, we’re owning our place at the table, and being a part of that
conversation going forward, it’s really exciting. #DisabilityRightsInBlack Happy Black History Month

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