At 18-years-old , in 1969, Hilary Rodham Clinton gave her college’s commencement speech, the period of time she was in college was characterized by a generation rising up, amplifying their voice, speaking out against injustice and finding liberation. Hilary said, “Every protest, every dissent…. is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age.”
51-years-later we all stand on the shoulders of generations before us, because of their work we can see further. They have forged a path for us, but we are still called to protest and dissent significant global issues. Just as it was in 1969, this protest and dissent is an attempt to forge our identity for this particular age – 2020.
Many disabled people in New Zealand have taken up this mantle, dissenting the flawed notions of disability we’ve come to believe as truths, they’re protesting; demanding space, to be heard, seen and valued. These protests take many shapes, recently, Mamie-Rose Macdonald, assisted by All is for All, Karen Inderbitzen-Waller & Delphine Avril Planqueel, used the influence of media to reframe disability. Whereas Downlights a local New Zealand Candle Company empowers people with learning disabilities to forge their identities through commerce
The collective efforts of many buck the low expectations society has placed on disabled people and replace them with ambition and forward motion, qualities all people deserve to have as part of their identities. I believe, if we want to forge ahead in this particular age, we need to start helping disabled people be proud to be disabled. As the remarkable advocate, Red Nicholson, once said; “we have the power to bring real pride to our communities.”
Mamie Rose, who lives with Williams Syndrome; undoubtedly brought pride to our community when an image of her by Karen Inderbitzen-Waller & Delphine Avril Planqueel got the official stamp of approval from Vogue Italy and was featured on the publication’s photography platform: PhotoVogue. Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic impairment that often results in a learning disability; people with Williams may struggle with some topics, but excel in others; a woman with Williams who is an opera singer can perform in 30 languages. Each person with Williams is different, In Mamie’s case, Williams has given her beautiful ‘Pixie-like’ features and contributed to her distinctively outgoing personality and extraordinary view on the world, everyone who meets Mamie is enamored with her, but Williams has also presented challenges.
Her mother, Glenda, says; “I have always felt Mamie-Rose is a gift to this world, and to me, as she brings a unique and extraordinary perspective and is incredibly intuitive of people and situations. She is street wise and determined but without doubt learning and establishing friendships with peers has been harder and bullying has sadly reared its ugly head. Mamie remains staunch in the face of bullying and works so hard on learning and building a social network. She never gives up!”
The age-old understanding of “if you can see it, you can be it” here rings true, seeing the image of Mamie on one of the world’s most influential fashion sites will help chip away at the ceiling people with disabilities live with, the notion they can only reach so high, will slowly fade away and become the distant untruth that it should have always been.
Also reaching further, is Downlights, in fact, they exist because they refused to allow Emma, a young woman with Down Syndrome to be pigeon-holed because of her learning disability. For most school-leavers the world is their oyster, but not everyone is afforded this, when Emma left school nobody would give her a job; so her father, with the help of candle-maker extraordinaire, Jenifer Del Bel, started Downlights where Emma works. The company now has a team of people with learning disabilities, who have become impeccable, dedicated employees, who create a world class product, the quality of which often surprises people, says Jenifer a company Director, leading Downlight’s crowdfunding raise. Showing the potential, commitment and expertise of people with learning disabilities, Downlights is ensuring that our marketplace is one of equal opportunity and they invest in the art of making possible, instead of accepting what is possible, arguably there is nothing more important than this; in contemporary times.
The work that both Mamie and Downlights are doing joins a chorus of others, whose efforts are adding to the path set by others. There are so many falsehoods in the world, that we’ve been taught to believe are truths; may our identity be forged, by dissenting these mistruths and being able to shape our own lives.