It seems like we say this every December, but we can’t believe it’s almost a new year! 2017 was full of lessons—some hard, but all important—and we are beginning 2018 with a renewed sense of optimism about the future of our agency.
Like so many others, we are hoping 2018 will initiate a wave of justice in the world. Much has changed in the past twelve months, not just for our nation and our communities, but across the globe. More than ever, we are witnessing opportunities to be bold in our faith and in our optimism; not because our lives are without struggle or because the systems we live by are working perfectly, but because with hardship and change come growth and perseverance. We are a part of that work, a very crucial part, and so are you. Each of us has a very important role to play, and while it can be easy—particularly in this part of the world—to be convinced that we live in a vacuum, our ideas and choices impact the people around us.
Our greatest hope for this next year is that we will all learn to embrace that reality and put our influence to the best use for the most amount of good.
We hope you enjoy these last two days of 2017 and we wish you a beautiful—and impactful—2018!
On November 1st, I traveled from my home in Atlanta to the University of Georgia campus in Athens, where the Georgia Disability History Alliance was hosting their annual disability symposium. As the Social Media + PR Specialist for GCRC, I have the privilege of attending events like this and taking note of what I learn there so I can bring that knowledge back here and share it with you. If you’ve never been to a conference or day-long symposium, then you might not be aware that all too often they are little more than opportunities for people in positions of power to pat themselves on the back for what they see as a job well done, while those in more administrative or service roles wait and hope to gain something more than just a stomach full of tasteless, hotel chicken.
In my four years of working in human services, it has long since become clear that when people with disabilities are given the opportunity to speak for themselves and lead the way, we are all the better for it. And that is what I saw and experienced in Athens. As Dr. Beth Mount, one of the keynote speakers at the symposium, stated in her message, “Person-centered planning, which was once so pure, has become so clinical. These days, it is more about filling out paperwork than it is about working with the person to discover what drives them.”
In other words, when we lose the person, we lose everything.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to engage with and hear from a lively and passionate group of guests. The panel who sat for the Q+A session was intersectional at its best: a combination of various genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and abilities. Men and women from truly diverse backgrounds with widely varying perspectives who all stood for the most important things: representation, opportunity, and equality.
It is wonderful to hear from those who have worked so tirelessly in this field for decades, regardless of ability. But when I heard from the marginalized people who are most affected by our willingness (or lack thereof) to stand for and with them, it really struck hard at the deepest privilege within me, the place I sometimes still avoid because even though I work on staff with one of the most person-centered organizations in the state, some ableistic demons remain. It can be so easy to ignore those demons. But here is the crux of that truth: If it is easy for me, it is because I don’t have to confront them. I am not forced, day in and day out, to do battle with a society that still doesn’t see my true value. As an able-bodied, neurotypical person, I have a choice to not confront my privilege, a privilege that, by definition, is denied to many.
Parker Glick, the social media guru for Georgia’s Statewide Independent Living Council told symposium attendees that he is constantly asking the question, “Are you seeing this? If you are, how does it not matter to you?” This is the question we must be willing to ask—and answer honestly—for ourselves. Because when people with disabilities are spurned from employment opportunities, housing, intimate relationships, autonomy, and equality, it DOES matter. It DOES affect us, even if we don’t realize it.
A few weeks ago, I heard a woman I know only in passing declare that the Pride Parade in Atlanta was “taking equal rights too far.” Such a declaration is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as taking equal rights too far. If every person’s rights have gone as far as they can, that is simply equality. Anything more, and one person has privilege while another doesn’t. That is the position we find ourselves in now. And that is the position that must change.
I am looking forward to continuing my work and partnering alongside people with disabilities. I am looking forward to being a part of the day equality has been taken as far as it can possibly go.
It has been a hard few weeks, hasn’t it? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma inflicting catastrophic damage across Texas and the Caribbean, earthquakes devastating Mexico, and the horrific attack on Las Vegas which resulted in the loss of 59 lives. Sometimes it can feel like the world is too wrong and we are too weak to do anything about it.
But that is not true.
We are powerful beyond belief. We can do hard things and we can do good things. In fact, it’s when the darkness falls that the light shines brighter. So to end this sad, troublesome week, we are sharing some of the best news we found from across the web: stories of hope, stories of generosity, stories of humor and joy. Stories of humanity at its best, at its truest.
Supported employment is one of the most important supports that we offer at George Chambers. For those of you who don’t know what supported employment is, we created an award-winning video a few years ago about that very subject, which you can watch here. (There’s also an episode about it on our podcast!)
Supported employment helps give individuals with disabilities access to greater independence. One way this is achieved? A paycheck. And, today, we want to tell you about someone very special to us at George Chambers, a young woman with a very specific dream for her future…a dream that has now become a reality.
Her name is Chelsea Harris.
Thank you so much to everyone who came out to our first (hopefully annual) health fair last Thursday! It was a great success and we couldn’t have done it without the hard work of everyone on our staff, especially Robin Williams, as well as the following vendors who took valuable time out of their day to participate:
After God’s Heart Ministry
Calhoun CNA School
Calhoun Fire Department
Floyd Medicine Center
Mother Nature’s Eden
We spent the morning giving tours of our facility and training center, connecting with students from Calhoun CNA school, enjoying conversation with all our vendors, doing giveaways, and maybe even getting a massage (or two) from Healing Hands Massage Therapy. We also received an incredibly generous donation from KVW Services, Inc. which will go towards the Bailey Building grocery store in our new training facility.
It was truly a wonderful event and we hope to see everyone (and more!) back in 2018!
A few photos:
Happy Friday! It’s our favorite time of the week again, and we’re back today to share some of the best links from around the web. These articles had us laughing, cheering, and nodding our heads like, “Yes, AMEN.” Grab yourself a coffee, sit back, and enjoy.
Yes, we already shared this on our Facebook page, but we’re sharing it again because it’s JUST. THAT. GOOD.
Because this will never NOT be awesome.
Don’t mind us. We’re just happy dancing over here.
For every parent who has had to endure yet ANOTHER Chuck E. Cheese party, this just bumped them up a few cool points.