Last Saturday, Art Spark Texas supporters, friends and family members gathered for our Speaking Advocates 2021 Showcase. The graduates, along with some Speaking Advocate alumni, made a variety of presentations. The speakers had written and developed their speeches over the past several months with the help of instructor and professional coach, Ms. Boye Nagle. We hope you will enjoy reading about what the graduates had to say as they covered topics from how they spent the past year during the pandemic to their personal journeys, self-advocacy and more.
- Jennifer M. opened the event with her story about learning to recognize bullies. She reminded us we are all worthy of meaningful, life-affirming friendships.
- Kristen, an actor, spoke about her experiences with auditioning for parts, and of the ableism and lack of representation in theatre, while recognizing recent changes that offer hope for the future.
- Kamand spoke about the importance of volunteering. To her, the more we volunteer, the more we love, and the less we notice each other’s differences.
- Jennifer H spoke of her journey, since childhood, from helper to self-advocate. She recognized the assumptions and judgments of others as she grows into her own disabilities and learning to be her own advocate.
- Alisha spoke of her excitement at the beginning of 2020, when she was looking forward to her annual camp experience. The pandemic happened, and she tried to be patient, focusing on being grateful for good things in her life and happy camp memories.
- Laura spent this past year trying new things after finally getting a definite diagnosis and treatment. She talked about how surprised she was that acting, for her, is like therapy.
- Jourdan spoke about her life before her diagnosis, and how with this diagnosis she has become her own advocate, researching a healthier lifestyle to provide stress relief, teaching yoga class, and working as a social media influencer and advocate.
- Joey talked about what it’s like to live with phobias. They discussed how difficult it is to have an eating phobia, and that “mind over matter” isn’t so easy when your mind feels like your enemy. They reminded us that just because people can’t see others’ disabilities doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
- Sheena recognized one is “only as sick as their secrets.” She spoke about the principles of advocacy, courage, and compassion, which guide her every day as she finds her place in the world and challenges the sneaky power of internalized ableism.
Kyle spoke about how education helps people to understand that disability is part of diversity and intersectionality, and reminded us to advocate relentlessly. Their college friendships gave them an experience of true inclusion and hope for the possibility of a change in the future.*
- Anne Marie has lots of feelings and thoughts about how she feels. She is proud of her ability to solve her own problems and her self-regulating by being mindful of the surrounding sounds at night. They remind her of the healing power of nature and her rescue dog, Lily.
- Kaye asked, “What happens when you are no longer part of a beloved community?” For Kaye, her disabilities interfered with her ability to take part in her church that had been a very important part of her life. She challenged congregations to recognize, “It is not required by law, it is required by love.”
- John wrapped up the showcase with a tale about navigating the dangers of a trip to the grocery store for an emergency Dr. Pepper run. We went along for the ride, inside his head, with the bumps of potholes and railroad tracks, family reunions in the aisles, and encountering the great unmasked shoppers. WacaWacaWaca.
For information about how you can become involved with the Art Spark Texas Speaking Advocates program, sign up for our newsletter and click OMOD/Speaking Advocates.
* We are especially proud of Kyle in 2021. Not only is Kyle a new Speaking Advocates graduate, they are also a very recent graduate of Texas A&M with a Master’s in Public Policy. Double milestones!