Tag Archives: #disability

Faltering Speech to Youth Poet Laureate: Words Carried Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s journey is stellar! Her ability to overcome her slippery speech serves as an excellent example to the multicultural children of America. Bilingual kids often have difficulty enunciating words because they hear their parents, who were brought up in India, pronounce words differently. The pressure to code-switch in order to be understood at home and in school may be challenging. Gorman is an excellent role model for all of us because she makes her words matter and her voice heard. 

Now a beautiful 22-year-old ambassador of poetry, Amanda Gorman, raised in West L.A. by a school teacher, struggled with a speech disability. She had difficulty enunciating her “Rrrrrrs”! She faced her challenges head-on. She used the power of the written word to formulate and strengthen her thoughts. She rehearsed with full vigor and powerful poetry gushed out like a wild cataract! She became the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at 16. At 19, while at Harvard college, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate.

FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden suggested her name after hearing Amanda Gorman’s spoken word poetry at the Library of  Congress. In late December she was shortlisted to perform at the 2021 Presidential inauguration. “America United” was the theme offered by the then-incoming POTUS, Joseph R. Biden. Our nation was reeling under the COVID pandemic, economic disparity, systemic racism, and misinformation.

This call to action resonated with the heart of the young activist poet. She set to work! Gorman crafted inspirational words not to nullify or erase the harsh truths of our nation’s memory but to encourage the country to come together.  

“When the day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

On the day that Senator Kamala Harris became the first Bi-racial woman to become the Vice President of America, Gorman’s words rang true!

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.” 

On this historic day of January 20th, 2021, her words echoed in the hearts of millions of Americans.

“We will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country. Our diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.“

Gorman  gleaned the spoken and written words that tattooed the news, after the horrendous insurrection of 1/6/21 and edited her poem to cry out immortal words:

“When the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” How can we forget this day? How can we forget these words? “But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman’s first poetry collection including the inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb”, will be published by Viking Books. She has talent. She has fortitude. She has a personality. She may not be Robert Frost or Maya Angelou but she is just 22! 

Her beautiful words brought a surge of patriotic emotion to my heart, just like when I hear poems like Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. I hope she can inspire young writers to walk in her words. It would be an honor to breathe the air she is breathing.


Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, and the other in her birth home India. Writing is a contemplative practice for her. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books: My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

Rural Tales of India With a Purpose

Award-winning independent publishing house, Karadi Tales, launched a new series of chapter books under its new chapter book imprint, Minmini Reads, that targets readers from ages 10 to 15, at the Delhi Book Fair on October 31st, 2020. This series is done in collaboration with People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI): an ambitious, acclaimed living archive of reporting about rural India, founded and led by Magsaysay Award-winner and veteran journalist P. Sainath.

The PARI series uses real stories of rural India, disenfranchised people and communities, and the unique challenges that they overcome every day. These are tales of courage, adversity, success, and hope.

They feature children who participate cheerfully in civic issues, athletes who power past their disabilities, citizens who demand their right to be heard. The series attempts to give these voices a platform, as well as address the serious dearth of children’s books that are set in non-urban locations.

All the books are based on articles written by top journalists, and originally published by PARI.  The set features five tales from different parts of rural India.

No Nonsense Nandhini by Aparna Karthikeyan is based on the life of Chandra Subramanian, a Sivagangai district farmer, retailer, and mother, who received a ‘homepreneur’ award.

No Ticket, Will Travel by Subuhi Jiwani is a series of short stories on migrant labourers who travel in search of work, determined to make a living although their lives are rife with uncertainty.

Coming Home by Priti David is about a group of children from Sittilingi Valley who, at one point, are forced to drop out of school and find work in far-flung factories and mills. Until one day, they decide to start their own school, and help create jobs in their own valley in the process.

A Big Splash by Nivedha Ganesh follows Dhivya, a young farmer and an ace swimmer who had previously only swum in the tank and lake in her village. From her cotton fields to the Paralympics, Dhivya manages to brave all odds.

House of Uncommons by Vishaka George takes a peek into the lives of the students at Snehagram, an institute for HIV positive children, and their struggles, triumphs, and achievements.

With 65% of India’s population living in rural areas, Karadi Tales brings these stories to the urban demographic who remain oblivious to the issues faced by their rural counterparts. Urban children grow up exposed to stories that mirror their own struggles and are unaware of the cultures, lifestyles, and problems of other children, who are of their own age group, living further away from them.

Sainath says, “[The series] is a very important addition, not only to the reading diet of children, which is completely bereft of knowledge about rural India , but adds to the spectrum of imagination of young children.”

These stories are based on true events and everyday people. Their struggles and success prove to be a source of inspiration for readers. They help children reconnect to their ancestral roots, to nature, and to understand the realities faced by many others in our vast country. Karadi Tales and PARI have taken up this mission to unearth the treasure trove of stories that rural India has to offer, while spreading awareness among the masses.

About the Authors

Aparna Karthikeyan is a storyteller, independent journalist, and volunteers for PARI. Her articles have been published in The Hindu, PARI, The Caravan, Wire, Scroll.in and other publications on culture, books, and livelihoods.

Subuhi Jiwani has worked as a journalist and editor in Mumbai, most recently with PARI. She has also edited Day’s End Stories: Life After Sundown in Small-Town India (Westland Books, 2014), an anthology of travel essays, and directed a short documentary on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus titled Terminus: Stories of CST (Sahapedia, 2017).

Priti David is the Education Editor and a rural reporter at PARI. She interacts with school and college students to encourage them to explore, engage and write on rural issues. She has been a business journalist, a book editor, and a high school teacher.

Nivedha Ganesh graduated with a degree in English literature and has been dreaming up stories since she was nine. She likes writing about monsters, magic, and characters with hearts of gold.

Vishaka George is a journalist who reports on agrarian distress and labour exploitation for PARI. She is PARI’s social media editor, working with a team of journalists who make stories from rural India more accessible to audiences across the world. She is a part of a two-member team that teaches media ethics and rural journalism to school and college students.


 

Global Art Contest Highlights Specifically Abled People

The initiative launched by the US-based NGO, “VOSAP Art From Heart Contest”, aims at coloring the world with the Inclusion of Specially-Abled People through the creative expression of artwork.

Launched in June 2020, the International Art Contest “VOSAP Art From Heart” is an effort to stir up action, social transformation to build a global, inclusive society. The objective is to engage and create a mass movement of people for a better understanding of Specially Abled People.

This global art contest is the first of its kind in many ways – a virtual, global contest on the unique theme of DISABILITY. It inspired 2,200+ artists from 45 countries to come up with creative artwork on the thought-provoking theme, portraying the emotions, abilities, aspirations of Specially Abled individuals. The efforts of the volunteers were largely amplified with social media that helped reach out to 2+ million people.

VOSAP Founder, Pranav Desai says, “Inclusion of Specially Abled People is a 21st-century opportunity in front of all of us and such initiatives are aimed to touch the hearts of millions of people so that there is “True Access” in the society, beyond physical accessibility”.

The contest is set to conclude on 5th December 2020 with a Global online Award Ceremony, where 50 winners from 24 countries will be recognized and “VOSAP Virtual Art Gallery” will be launched for people to view selected artwork and get inspired for the inclusion of Specially Abled People with VOSAP.

VOSAP Annual Gala and Award Ceremony will be a live event on Voice of SAP’s handles on Facebook, Youtube, and www.voiceofsap.org website at 8:30 am PST, 10 pm IST on Dec 5, Saturday. 

This live event will be hosted by motivational speaker, multi-talented youth Sparsh Shah, and Jessica Cox, the first licensed pilot with no arms and has inspired millions, will be a guest speaker.

In a letter to founder Pranav Desai, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi congratulated 50 winners and has given a very inspiring message to VOSAP for this commendable initiative.


About VOSAP: Voice of Specially Abled People is a US-based non-profit organization in Special Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC, working to achieve UN SDGs.

Veiled and Shut: A Response to Navigating Autism

This poem was written as a response to the piece Navigating Autism. I was moved by what Swathi Chettipally had written and I thought, “life goes on with all its ebbs and flows, perhaps accentuated at this challenging time, for children with disabilities/differently-abled and those with chronic illness.”
Veiled and Shut

 

The sing-song of your, ‘mama’ rings in my head

 

The blithe spirit numbed

Now so lonely in a crowd

 

No joy gladdens

No fears felt?

 

These distant eyes

That once spoke

Mystic, shut, veiled

In self-enchanted?

 

What thoughts repressed

And brilliance locked

What love burned

And pain muted

 

Oh, lament unsaid…

 

No tears shed,

No laughter spread…

 

The sing-song of your, ‘mama’ rings in my head

******

Madhu Raghavan is a pediatrician who enjoys writing, exploring our great outdoors, gardening, and art as a pastime. She is also the artist of the featured image.

Navigating Autism – A Mother Without Help During a Pandemic

As a mother of three beautiful children, Siri, Vamsi, and Kiran, shelter-in-place has been a time to find positivity in the difficult moments. While Vamsi and Kiran are in college, my eldest daughter Siri never left home. 

This past April 2, 2020 was Autism Awareness Day and a few weeks into the ongoing pandemic frenzy. Initially, I couldn’t help but think that this shelter-in-place should come with more help for moms – especially for those that have children with disabilities.

Siri in a dress she made herself.

Siri was diagnosed with Autism when she was 3 years old.

Before shelter-in-place, Siri was involved in several activities: ice-skating, exercising, boxing, fitness dancing, ABA therapy, working at Goodwill, and attending a day program. For the past six months, I have accompanied Siri to all her activities except her day program. Since most of them are fitness-oriented, she was showing considerable improvement in handling her emotions, and so we gradually tapered her medications for anxiety.  

Around the time when shelter-in-place was declared, Siri was at the peak of her fitness regime, and we were approaching zero medications. But, now, since all her outdoor activities are inaccessible, I feared we might have to start her medications again.

To my surprise, there was no necessity to bring her medications back. Furthermore, she got adjusted to the new schedule within a couple of days. She noticed that her brothers were at home and she adapted to the new lifestyle of no outdoor activities.

On the Autism spectrum, my daughter’s main challenge is understanding language; Siri cannot communicate much. For example, if we tell her why she cannot go out, she may not understand or might misunderstand, and her anxiety will increase since she cannot ask clarifying questions. My husband and I have decided to let her learn by herself, letting her observe her environment.

Siri’s jewelry.

Siri keeps herself busy by working on her online jewelry making business, which she started 5 years ago. What she lacks in her ability to communicate, she more than surpasses in her fine motor skills.

Currently, in this period of shelter-in-place, I am teaching Siri to stitch masks for the COVID-19 workers and once the SIP is lifted, I have plans to teach her horse riding, weaving, soap, and candle making. Autism doesn’t have to be a barrier. It requires creative ways of teaching. Siri can learn any new skill if taught the way she understands. Small and simple steps. 

Considering that I regularly make decisions for her and motivate her as well, it often worries me, will she be able to manage without me? Nevertheless, during this shelter-in-place, the silver lining is that Siri is gradually becoming independent and is without her medications. These are the small assurances that remind me that, even without me, Siri will emerge much stronger, confident, and better than what she is today.

My family wants to share our story as a South Asian, immigrant family confronting Autism. It has been a unique and challenging journey.

If you’re interested in helping us fund the documentary, you can donate to our kickstarter campaign.

You can find the amazing work Siri is doing on her website.

Swathi Chettipally is a devoted mother and an Autism advocate. Find more about her work with Siri on pinterest, instagram, and youtube.