Disabled Black Individuals You Should Know About
Black history Month and every month we pay tribute to the history of African American people and the adversity, struggle, and triumphs that have been made throughout U.S. history. For black and disabled people it posed new and difficult hurdles that they would have to fight for to be heard and treated with respect and equity in society. For both Black American and Black Americans with disabilities there is still progress to be made to reach these goals. However when we take the time to learn from the past and hear their voices we can make progress to a future of equality and fairness.
It is also important to take notice of the accomplishments that Black people with disabilities have reached. In this blog we want to highlight some such as Stephen Wiltshire who uses his disability as a career by drawing detailed cities from memory, Breanna Clark who is a paralympic athlete, and Burnett Grant who sees his disability as an asset to his career.
Dr. Sarai Pahla
Dr. Sarai Pahla is a medical translator and doctor who was diagnosed with Autism in adulthood. She took her diagnosis and became an advocate for Autism awareness after she decided to be public about her diagnosis. She has spoken about how her disability does not have to be a disability, but actually helps her be better at what she does like being able to focus for long periods of time with difficult tasks. She is passionate about what she does and spoke on it in her ted talk in 2011 (click video to view).
Lois Curtis was an activist for people with disabilities that changed the way that people with disabilities are treated by society. Thanks to her the supreme court ruled that keeping people with disabilities in places like mental institutions when they are able to become productive members of society is discrimination under the ADA act. Curtis was born and grew up with cognitive and developmental disabilities.
Her family found it difficult to raise her, by the time she was 12 she was a patient part time at a mental health unit in Georgia Regional Hospital. While there they would often keep her sedated and confined for almost 2 decades in different institutions. Due to the discrimination she had gone through during such a long time, she became the lead plaintiff in Olmstead vs. L.C.
John (Doomsday) Howard-American Professional Mixed Martial Artist
John Howard born on March 1st, 1983 was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder late in life at the age of 33 while going through multiple neurological tests. From this diagnosis Howard stated “Now a lot of stuff in my life makes sense. Now I’m thinking about my life, it makes sense why I do certain things to this day.” Howard has a record of 27 wins and 14 losses over his 14 year career. Howard came forward to the public about his diagnosis to help the awareness to the IDD community and end the stigma that surrounds Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Stephen Wiltshire, born in 1974 in London was diagnosed with Autism at the young age of 3 years old. Growing up Wiltshire was mute up until he learned to talk at age 9. When he was 5 it was noticed that Wiltshire enjoyed drawing and that it was the way that he communicated through. His art was quickly masterful due to how exact and precise he was able to draw the illustrations he created from memory. Today he is a famous illustrator and using his skill as his career.
Armani Williams is a NASCAR driver and Autism activist for awareness and inclusivity. Williams was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two and was non-verbal for the first few years in his life. Along with being non-verbal he was very focused on details. As he got older he was signed up for a two-week bike riding class to learn and by the end of his first day he was able to ride the bike without any support. Williams turned his sensory hypersensitivity to sound and touch into an asset for his racing.
He’s able to use laser focus while driving and make him keen to notice if there are issues with the car that others may never be able to notice. Williams was put into a position to be able to use his platform for awareness as he states “I wanted to take the role in providing a lot of hope and inspiration for people in the Autism community-to inspire people to keep pushing forward and understand that you can do anything in this world that you set your mind to.”
Breanna Clark was born on November 4th, 1994 in Los Angeles California. She is a 2 time Paralympic Runner and the first female athlete to win a Paralympic medal. She took gold in Rio for the Women’s 400m in 2016. Clark was diagnosed with Autism when she was 4 years old. She got into running because it gave her freedom, she is good at it, and she has the opportunity to travel. Growing up her mother said that she had played many sports, but in the end caused too much sensory stimulation. She worked extremely hard to get to where she is as an athlete and this led to her breaking her own world record in 2018.
Keah Brown-Cerebral Palsy
Keah Brown, born in 1991 with Cerebral Palsy grew up to be an activist, journalist, author, actress, and screenwriter. Her work has been in multiple large publications like The New York Times and Teen Vogue. She released her book in 2019 titles “The Pretty One” about her life, and her twin. She often talks about pop culture and her disappointment for how the media displays disabilities as a negative thing.
Leroy F. Moore
Leroy Moore was born on November 2, 1967 in NYC. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Moore found a love of music and grew up to be a writer, poet, community activist, and feminist. He helped to start the movement called Kri Hop to use hip-hop music to help people with disabilities express themselves.
John Tucker was born with Down Syndrome due to a abnormal chromosomal cell divisions causing there to be extra genetic material. Tucker never let that slow down his dream of being in cinematography. Tucker is known for the TV show “Born This Way” which won awards and Tucker won an emmy as well. While young he became very interested in music and began making music when he was 16 years old. Tucker started a program when he turned 18 for hands on training, career management, and support for performers, he has been apart of it for 10 years now. He believes that no one should let their disabilities get in the way of their dreams!
Angela Weddle is an artist and advocate with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Congenital Right Hemisphere Brain Damage. She has mentored for young adults with IDD, lectured about autism awareness, and interviewed by art magazines for her work.
Burnett Grant works in creative chemistry while also advocating the advantages to his disability. He now believes that having Autism can be an evolutionary advantage for him and others. He went to school first for film studies and then again for his second degree in molecular biology. This degree in turn brought his interest to the flavor industry where he could combine his interest of art and science. In Grants career his heightened sensory processing allows him to be better at his job than without. He shows that something that is considered negative or a deficit is actually an asset when looked at differently.