Acknowledging the Least Of These
I was 18 years old, graduating from a segregated inaccessible high school, Booker T. Washington, in Atlanta. As soon as I graduated, I felt compelled to show my mom appreciation for her consistency in providing me with the basic necessities of life. I felt a grave, in-depth obligation to show my gratitude for her consistent sacrifices that she made for me. This gesture of giving back fueled me with a remarkable surge of energy to get a job. With a high school diploma, I thought employers would welcome me.
Unfortunately, I was confronted with the most devastating experiences of my life. Why? Because I was outright rejected by every business owner that I approached for employment. This unabashed rejection was my first real exposure to and from an exclusionary society. My thoughts immediately evolved from that moment. If this rejection is happening to me, how many more people of African descendants with disabilities are dealing with the same kind of rejection? That is how the first nonprofit organization began, the Advanced Association for the Physically Handicapped (AAPH), Inc. in 1970. Before forming our organization, however, we took our complaint to the NAACP. We thought the NAACP would deal with the discriminatory practices that employers imposed on and against people with disabilities, especially those of African descendants. The apathy I got from the organization that I thought was an advocate for all people was surprising. What I experienced from the NAACP was more harmful emotionally than the rejection I got from the employers.
This experience sparked an inner determination within me to form a non- profit organization, reflecting the NAACP's name, not their policies. Yet our mission established in 1970, that of advocating for persons with disabilities remained the same. The organization I formed in 1970, The Advanced Association for the Physically Handicapped, was later changed and charted in 1986 in the name of Disabled In Action Inc. (DIA). The rationale for the name change of the different organization is a long story and is narrated in my autobiography 'Nothing is Impossible'.
We continue to be the voice of people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. We continue to empower and provide hope to poverty-stricken communities. We understand that poverty breeds congenital disabilities (birth defects), and we seek to bring attention to this reality. The evolution of DIA has and continues to be miraculous. We consistently provide the community with perspectives other than the norm about people born with disabilities, and their parents and caregivers. We provide information to change the traditional narrative and mindset about African descendants with disabilities. We recently wrote a stage play based on the founder's life story, as written in' Nothing is Impossible.' This stage play allowed us to provide an opportunity for children born with a disability and their parents, to see and experience their children's gifts and talents. We were able to compensate each child, from the ticket sales as a token of our appreciation. Each child was empowered! Amazingly it enhanced their self-esteem in ways that you would not believe.
We intend to take the play across the country and hire people with severe birth defects as actors. We will appeal to churches to fund this Project.. The bottom of the page. We have outlined a possible remedy to rid the devastating impact of the economic disparities that parents face daily.
We are seeking funding for our mentoring program for young people born with a disability. We are currently engaged in implementing a Self Esteem and Entrepreneurship program for children forced to live in poverty with disabilities. Shortly, our Parents Support Group will be hosting a Zoom Round Table Discussion entitled "Empowering Parents with children with disabilities." The Rev. Calvin Peterson can be reached at www.disabledinationatlanta.org, or by email at Disabledinaction09@yyahoo.or by phone at Ph. 678/358/1180.