An amazing June 2018 – #Livingmybestlife Blessed – Volume 5; Issue #18 – Part I

WOW! June 2018 was one of the most amazing months in my life and my favorite month of 2018! I constantly pinch myself and say “This is happening to you! ENJOY!”  My life has been blessed and my faith has never been swayed for I believe.

The first day of June I headed up to NJ to start a week of family quality and fun time mixed in with supporting dear friends/sisters in their work and as usual being a career woman and attending meetings of importance for the movement.

All my life I have been social and easily made friends. I was the child who pushed my crying mother out of my nursery classroom and said “Mommy I’m fine!” ran off and had four friends by the time she came back to pick me up at the end of the day.  In high school I used to hang out with my friends and every football, basketball game, party, local concert event held at Martin Stadium or School Stadium that we entered was like going to a family reunion for me. But no matter how many friends I have and I am blessed to have many there is one who is my (BFF). We have known each other since we were about 8yrs old lived around the corner from each other, played jump rope and road bikes together until we started hoping on public transportation to hang out in other cities near and far (Brooklyn, Manhattan etc.).

If you saw her you saw me. We attended separate schools (Elementary, High School, College, Graduate) but remain steadfast Besties. We have attended each others graduations, celebrated new jobs, career changes, successes and failures and we have held each other in times of tragedy and despair. I was there when she met the man she would marry (I knew who he was and helped to make sure he was in the right place at the right times – for another post). It was a blessing and one of the best things I have done when I stood next to her as her Maid of Honor for her marriage. The importance of that position is never discussed these days but for me a person of deep faith it was saying to God and all present that I would be there for she and her husband as a support system, friend and loved one as they created their family and life of love. I take that responsibility to heart and seriously.

In June of 2002 she gave birth to a beautiful little girl, her second child. It was a few days later that she asked me to be this child’s Godmother. This was again a position of honor for her family and of seriousness for me. I took my classes at the Church and signed the certificate that said I would be there for this child not only for her spiritual life but for her physical and mental life as well. It was another time in my life where I pinched myself and said someone loves me this much to give me this huge responsibility. Well that little girl turned sweet 16 on June 3, 2018 and I made sure that I was in NJ to celebrate with the family. She is a smart, loving and amazing teenage girl whom I am blessed to know and be an auntie and godmother.  She will forever be one of my Sheros. My BFF says to me all the time “I gave birth to her but she is your child” for my goddaughter is a soldier of justice in the making and nothing could make me happier! Look out world she is on the way!

That is how I started my June with a celebration of the 16thyear of life of my godchild! Of course the month was going to be amazing.

Then I went back into work mode for I had some things to accomplish and celebrate.  There have been multiple conversations and outreach on a particular subject area within the disability rights and justice community (if you don’t know these are two very different movements) that finally were about to come together in NYC. I had the honor to be a part of the planning and attend this gathering. Thank you to all who sponsored, planned, implemented, attended and will participate on future work. (More on this soon).I will say this it has been refreshing to see some of the changes happening in the social justice/equity work around the country. These times have pushed us into genuine and active solidarity. (Stay tuned for so many things I am working on in this area and please join us)

 That evening I ran from the Lower East Side to uptown Harlem for a celebration. I believe that all things happen for a reason. On May 29thI had the honor to meet and talk in depth with Donna Hyltona women’s rights activist, criminal justice reform advocate and now author. She came to DC for some meetings and we were introduced. Now I have been in many rooms with her at events but never had the opportunity to sit with her and have some quality conversations. We  ended up having dinner and I waited with her for her train back to NY. In that time we bonded and became sisters for a number of reasons but also because we both have the same core. The release of Donna’s book was going to be a few days later in NYC and she invited me to her launch party. Fate – I was in NYC for the meetings so I headed to Harlem to support my sister and have a little fun!

The party was jamming and was full of love! Donna’s family of friends did her right! The venue was amazing, food and drinks were great and there was a genuine spirit of support and love surrounding her and the launch of this fabulous book.  Donna’s book is her memoir  – from her website: A Little Piece of Light,’tells the story of the childhood abuse she endured, the spiral of events that lead to her incarceration and how she learned to live, love and trust all over again.

I picked up my copy of the book, got my autograph and a few great pictures with Donna. It was a beautiful way to end my evening. Now Donna and I have something else in common a deep and loving relationship with the phenomenal feminist activist Eve Ensler. Eve wrote the introduction for Donna’s book and their relationship goes back to Donna’s time while she was incarcerated. Back in Union Station on the 29thwhile waiting for her train it was like a coming home celebration when I curiously inquired if Donna knew Eve – I knew the answer but did not know how to approach it with her. We both just smiled and the love was overwhelming and it instantly bonded us.

When I hoped on my bus to Penn Station NYC I met a lovely young lady who has been inspired by Donna’s story and had only known her through social media. She decided to come out and meet Donna. Isn’t that amazing to have that effective on someone’s life. WOW! As soon as I got on my NJ Transit train back to my BFF’s house, I immediately cracked that book open and started reading. The week was busy with events and other things but I finished that book on my train ride back to DC. This book is a must read. Donna my sister your story is insightful, astonishing, sad, happy, empowering and your prose is genuinely written. The book now sits on my bookshelf that holds my favorite memoirs.

Donna’s party was not only a celebration and an opportunity to support my sister. It was also an opportunity to enjoy in another’s success, something I love to do. But it also proves to me that what they have done is possible. Donna thank you for sharing your story for which I am sure was a difficult process for you. We are grateful for your life and for your strength to not only to empower yourself but thousands of others whose lives you touch each day.  Keep Doin’ It Up! #Changemaker

 

To learn more about Donna Hylton and to get her book: https://www.donnahylton.com/

You can also purchase at Amazon – and post a comment!

From Eve Ensler:

“I have known Donna for 20yrs and in that time I have watched Donna become a model of transformation. A true leader; an example of someone who has not only turned their life around but who has but has made it her mission to make her own transformation a collective transformation.”  – Eve Ensler – Playwright/Activist – Founder of V-Day

 Pictures from the launch party for A Little Piece of Light by Donna Hylton:

Also follow my social media I post regularly!

End of Part I – see Part II – the rest of my week was just as amazing! See what happened next in June 2018!

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Employment – People with Physical Disabilities NOT wanted as employees in Starbucks stores (barely welcomed as customers) Volume #5; Issue #17

What does it take to employ people with disabilities? A choice! Industries, organizations, businesses and all others must make a deliberate decision to do more than make an effort and go out and employ people with disabilities. Starbucks is not known for doing this in their stores. Now they have been awarded by a number of disability organizations for employing people with disabilities, but it should be noted that those same organizations receive large donations for funding (what that is used for remains a mystery).

What those awards and accolades fail to address is that Starbucks may have a few people with disabilities working in their corporate offices and in their factory located in Nevada (for another post – can you say segregated employment?). But it is a rare occasion that you the customer will go into a store and find a person with a visible disability working behind that counter. In fact most of the counters you find in a Starbucks store are inaccessible as is most of the store. Those counters are set way too high for someone with a mobility disability to navigate without harm (hot products burn).

There is no clear pathway of travel for persons with mobility disabilities to walk or roll around and function effectively in their stores. From the point of ordering to the point of pick up of the product there are sets of selling carrousels, small aisles and a number of other barriers in their way. Starbucks is trying to use every square foot of their store with tables and chairs for people to sit in (without getting arrested) and fellowship in their shops. There are usually no tables that are set low for people with mobility disabilities and no spacing in the aisle for the same community to move around in the store. The cash registers and credit/debit cards machines are inaccessible for people with disabilities to swipe on their own (they are set too high or the buttons on the machines are not accessible). *Note this is a problem in most retail settings.

Many Starbucks are set up in buildings that are inaccessible or they have a set of stairs as an entrance or part of the set up in the shop. A number of the bathrooms in Starbucks are also not accessible because of their set up inside another entity such as a bookstore, an office building etc. They blame the entity for not being accessible not the fact that they decided purposefully to open a store in this inaccessible space.

All of these obstacles make Starbucks stores not only inaccessible to customers with disabilities but one can deduct that if you can’t be a consumer in the business you surely can’t work in that entity. That’s just common sense. This is something that has been discussed with Starbucks by a number of disability rights organizations. This has also been Tweeted about on a few Twitter chats about employing people with disabilities. Larger companies like Starbucks have declared a serious commitment to the employment of all people with disabilities. As with all other plans it is one thing to have proposals written into a statement or a policy manual for all to review and it is an entirely different thing to establish a substantive genuine strategy plan to accomplish any set goal.

Now no one can ever know if a person behind the counter has a non-visible disability, like mental health diagnosis or Autism etc. What we want to see are people with physical disabilities behind the counter and in positions of leadership in the stores. Customers will rarely see a Starbucks Barrister who is an amputee, a wheelchair user, using a walker or cane, a person with Developmental Disability (like Down Syndrome) or a Little Person just a few visible disabilities. And yes they can and are doing this type of work at other coffee shops, restaurants and guess what there are people with physical disabilities who are entrepreneurs and actually own their coffee shops.

Starbucks has a claim to be an inclusive and human rights conscientious organization. I challenge all of you to take a long hard look at their operations and how they truly function to implement these claims. It has been interesting to watch disability rights organizations take funding from them yet not hold them accountable to one of the fundamental basics of not only our work but the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) – community integration.

 *Challenge:If you go into a Starbucks and see a worker behind the counter with a physical/visible disability (get their permission)– please take a picture of them or take a picture of the location and tag me on the post @NJDC07 for both Twitter and IG!

This boycott #StarbucksArrest is icing on the cake for many of us who have been boycotting Starbucks for years!  DO BETTER!

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