Why I Write Vol. 13: Simply the Vessel to Speak the Truth
In this series, "Why I Write," members of the Grub community share what compels them to put words onto paper day after day. In this edition, Vilissa Thompson talks about writing as advocacy work.
I write for the Black disabled girls and women who wished that someone would be their voice. That is what drove me into disability advocacy.
Being Black, disabled, and female has shaped every aspect of my life from the moment I came out of the womb. When people see me, they see Black, then notice my candy blue wheelchair, and then my womanness. They misperceive my existence as weak and vulnerable, and fail to recognize the strength and resilience I fervently possess that are both innate and learned through my upbringing. I had to teach myself to love this Black skin, this disabled body, this feminine figure, because I did not have disabled Black women in my life as role models to tell me that I possessed beauty too. Society does not deem it a priority to equip disabled Black girls with the self-esteem and self-worth needed to combat the three “-isms” they face: racism, sexism, and ableism. We are forced to learn self-love, self-acceptance, and validation on our own; some of us struggle throughout our lives to accept the beautiful, perfectly imperfect reflection that stares back at us as we grow from girlhood to womanhood.
I write so that disabled Black girls and women can see themselves when they see my image and read my words. When I discuss controversial subjects like sex and sexuality, they will see someone who looks like them proclaiming that they have agency into this aspect of being human; an aspect society erroneously believes is a luxury and not a right for us. When I speak on racism, white privilege, and lack of diverse representation within the disabled community, I write what they may be fearful to say aloud. I know these things to be true because I receive emails and messages from them; they tell me that my voice gives them a voice, my words are their words. They view my fearless, unapologetic Blackness, my disability pride, and my womanness as theirs to hold dear and precious as a rare gem. My words, voice, advocacy work, and presence are theirs—I am simply the vessel in speaking the truth we all share as individuals with triple jeopardy status.
Most importantly, I write for the younger me; the womanchild who needs the reminder that she is perfectly imperfect when -isms, discrimination, and the ugliness of society tries to tell her different. It is my charge to not allow any young disabled Black girl to not see herself in this community, stymying her ability to develop her voice, self-image, esteem, and worth as she grows from girl to woman. I write so that the next generation can recognize and hold steadfast to their capabilities and gifts, and to continue the fight for acceptance and validation long after my final words have been written.
Vilissa Thompson is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) from Winnsboro, SC. Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization focused on promoting self-advocacy and strengthening empowerment among people with disabilities. Being a Disability Rights Consultant, Writer, & Advocate affords Vilissa the opportunity to become a prominent leader and expert in addressing and educating the public and political figures about the plight of people with disabilities, especially women of color with disabilities. Being a disabled woman of color herself, sharing her life experiences, and tales from the women she has encountered during her advocacy work, has empowered her immensely because it validated the struggles and successes she endured in her young life.
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