“but remember, it’s a sin to a kill a mockingbird.”

October 9, 2014 § 3 Comments

On 3 June 2014, I walked into the conference room of the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley in Troy to teach a ‘personal photojournalism course’ — written essays with related photographs. The focus: write about how your disability affects your life.

I readied the conference room-cum-classroom for the next six weeks: cameras, notebooks, and pens were set at each seat. The participants — Barbara, Shameka, Robbie, Carolyn, Walter, Kimberly, Denise, and Janet, ranging in age from eighteen to sixty-five, arrived with a variety of disabilities: speech and learning, spina bifida, polio, scoliosis, epilepsy, mild retardation, severe ADD, and muscular dystrophy. Some never held a camera or spent time writing; others did a lot of one or the other.

I thought the process I developed to achieve our goal was easy. I was wrong. It is neither simple, nor painless, to walk into past and present wounds, and then tell the world. An action with potential to re-shape minds and hearts? That is heroic.

For six weeks we talked, took pictures, and wrote themes inching towards the final essay. We laughed and we cried: probably an equal amount of both, though the need for Kleenex tissue boxes increased as the weeks rolled on. I could write a thousand words, and more, about injustice, humiliation, biases, disregard, ignorance, and impoverished awareness concerning consumers with disabilities.

I fell in love with eight people. Normally I would use an adjective and describe them as “exceptional.” I dare not! They would wag their fingers at me, saying, “We are normal: not anything more; certainly not anything less.” Yet, I saw and felt their wounds and witnessed bravery. These are my heroes.  I asked them to reach for the stars. And they did.

Robbie, full of desire to free himself from harsh labels,
writes an indictment of the system that creates them.

"Robbie" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Robbie”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Denise, ever the activist, speaks 
out
for justice while decrying injustice.

"Denise" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Denise”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Carolyn, filled with beauty and magnanimity,
writes through constant pain for the love of writing.

"Carolyn" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Carolyn”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Walter, brilliant with a camera, shows us beauty-in-precision
with a touch of whimsy
.

"Walter" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Walter”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Janet, with a wink-and-a-smile,
demonstrates what perseverance accomplishes.

"Janet" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Janet”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Shameka, stoic yet strong for everyone,
tells us why love is important.

"Shameka" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Shameka”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Kimberly exemplifies truth-well-told,
and what ‘walking-the-walk’ means.

"Kimberly" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Kimberly”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

Barbara, filled with equanimity and compassion,
writes her story with warmth and humor
peppered with stark realities.

"Barbara" Copyright 2014 Lee Anne Morgan

“Barbara”
Copyright 2014
Lee Anne Morgan

The Mockingbird Quote

Why is it a sin to kill a Mockingbird? In Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, we learn that the Mockingbird lives solely to sing, never harming a crop, flower, or tree. It symbolizes two vital characters, both disabled: Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Each gentle, neither caused harm, both were unfairly and unmercifully discriminated against. Ignorance and resistance to understanding the unfamiliar prevailed.

SEE THROUGH OUR EYES. HEAR OUR HEARTS.

On 21 October 2014, from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., The Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley will host the Opening Exhibition of the photographs and writings of the participants in this groundbreaking program. Come and meet the artists … and truly see through their eyes and hear their hearts. I guarantee it will be a life-changing experience.

Your Invitation  October 21st Exhibit "See Through Our Eyes. Hear Our Hearts."

Your Invitation
October 21st Exhibit
“See Through Our Eyes.
Hear Our Hearts.”

This past July, “independent living” for consumers with disabilities
moved from being a mere program into an “administration.”
THE INDEPENDENT LIVING ADMINISTRATION was
established on 22 July 2014 when President Barack Obama
signed the Workforce Innovation
and Opportunity Act into law. 

It is time for me to stop and for you to read Our Stories. 

booklet-image

§ 3 Responses to “but remember, it’s a sin to a kill a mockingbird.”

  • DeeScribes says:

    Thank you for helping us share our stories!

  • DeeScribes says:

    Reblogged this on DeeScribes and commented:
    Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in a photojournalism course with the amazingly talented Lee Anne Morgan. On Tuesday, October 21, our work will be displayed at the Opening Exhibition. This course was an amazing experience, one I will write about in greater detail soon. Today, Lee Anne shared this sneak peak on her blog. You should check it out.

  • Arthur Anderson says:

    Absolutely beautiful and compelling thanks for all you have put into this project. It was so good to see the pictures of your students and your descriptions.

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