Updated: March 21, 2014
Gary Norris Gray- BASN Staff Reporter
NY Governor David PetersonThe African American Disabled community has come a long way be we (Disabled) have a long way to go in 2014. The Black Disabled community is still on the outside looking in.
Let’s take a look at history.
President Franklin D Roosevelt could have done so much for the American disabled community because he was the first disabled President, yet he chose to hide his disability.
The country was at war and he wanted the world to see a strong American leader. Also the stigma of disability was strong and the portrayal of weakness was prominent. Disabled folk were still not accepted in society and President Roosevelt knew this.
A few years ago in the state of New York there was a Disabled African American Governor, Mr. David Peterson. Governor Peterson is legally blind and it is very difficult to hide his disability. Peterson took over a state that was in financial difficulty.
Mr. Peterson memorizes his speeches which is very impressive because I can’t remember two lines of my Saturday afternoon GRAY LEOPARD COVE radio show!
The power of a disabled elected official is clearly marked by the case of Alabama Governor George C. Wallace. The state had a few curb cuts and a few accessible buildings before the 1972 assassination attempt on his life in a Maryland shopping center that left him paralyzed. The state of Alabama at that time ranked 46 in disabled access in the United States.
Governor Wallace stated he wanted his state to become wheelchair accessible and it happened in the last two years of his term. “MAKE IT SO”, as Jean-Luc Picard captain of the Starship USS Enterprise would
Governor Wallace proved that it can be done when an individual in power makes such decisions. Most Disabled African Americans do not have that kind of political, social, or economic power.
The same thing happened with the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Korea. The Koreans wanted to make disabled athletes feel at home, it was a success. The Korean Olympic Committee did an outstanding job with access to every sporting venue. The 1988 games have become the standard.
The Black disabled child was left out when it was time for education. Especially if the parents of that child did not know the various educational programs available for their child.
The disabled child would sit at home and watch TV. Wasting away his/her chance to improve. Parents and disabled young adults should contact the Social Security Office in your local town to get started.
There are (OJT’s) On The Job Training programs from the (DVR) Department of Vocational Rehabilitation There are tutors and assistance for the disabled student in high schools and colleges. Parent should always advocate for their children, gentle pushing is advantageous because some administrators may not know the programs that could help the disabled student.
In 2001 President George W Bush signed a bill for all schools in the United States called the No Child Left Behind Act. This act set standards the disabled could not reach.
·        Links state academic content standards with student outcomes
·        Measures student performance: a student’s progress in reading and math must be measured annually in grades 3 through 8 and at least once during high school via standardized tests
·        Provides information for parents by requiring states and school districts to give parents detailed report cards on schools and districts explaining the school’s AYP performance; schools must inform parents when their child is taught by a teacher or para-professional who does not meet “highly qualified” requirements
·        Establishes the foundation for schools and school districts to significantly enhance parental involvement and improved administration through the use of the assessment data to drive decisions on instruction, curriculum and business practices
President Bush wanted students to be at a certain level at the end of each school year. What The President and his administrators did not understand was to include the special needs of the disabled students that were being mainstreamed. These students were slower.
The schools decided to exclude the numbers of their disabled student’s scores to get the Federal Monies President Bush offered.
Thus leaving the Disabled Student far behind.
President Barack Obama has reformed this practice in 2010.
When a disabled child reaches the age of 18 the United States government issues a Federal assistance check for the rest of their lives. Most African American children and their parents do not know this because they are not in the disabled networking system.
In 2014 this situation has gotten better but there are very serious problems. If the disabled child is black, male, big, and loud he/she gets categorized as DD or AD Developmental Disabled or Attention Deficit. Once this child receives this label it stays with him/her for life.
Most Black Children with Cerebral Palsy were also labeled DD 80 % of the time. This is tragic and is very difficult to remove. Most of these children are not DD, but the teachers, doctors, and counselors cannot handle the cultural and physical issues.
Disabled African Americans were excluded from the disabled movement years ago when five white disabled males in Berkeley, California created The Center for Independent Living, the father of the disabled movement.
The Center gave young disabled adults their first chance at a job, the first chance to politically, socially, and economically join forces. However, this did not include African American Disabled males. This was an error of omission not commission, but it should not occur.
It was great to have created a disabled movement in American but just like the beginnings of the women’s movement it lacked the participation of people of color.
Again it has improved but the cultural and economic issues are still being ignored by the movement similar to the 1970′s women’s movement. That movement did not understand that African American females had been liberated 60 years earlier. Black Disabled youth know what time it is and make their own way not waiting for the disabled movement to help them.
– “Disabled African Americans are living on the outskirts of two worlds with neither world accepting them for who they are”. My disabled brother, author, writer and Krip Hop artist Leroy Moore Jr. from Buffalo New York also has Cerebral Palsy.
He coined this phrase “Living on the Outskirts”. This term defines African American disabled live on the outskirts of the black and white communities.
The White community does not accept the Black disabled because they are African American, The Black community does not accept them because they are disabled.
So the Black Disabled American gets bounced around like a ping pong ball from one group to another and never really feels at home in either culture. The Black Disabled love southern fried cooking, dancing, sports, music and a love life, just like everybody else.
Oscar Pistoris and Natalie Du Toit from South Africa both competed in the Beijing Summer Games, then two weeks later competed in the Beijing Paralympics Games.IMG_3360-nggid03319-ngg0dyn-320x240x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010
Pistoris rose above the controversy of his “Cheetah” carbon fiber legs. It was later known that able-bodied runners had the advantage at the starting blocks because Pistoris could not push off the blocks with his Cheetahs like able-bodied runners use the heels of their feet. It was shown to have almost a full second advantage. Will the Olympic Games equalize the starting blocks for disabled athletes when they compete against non-disabled athletes, NO.?
These athletes are on the outskirts of two worlds, disabled and non-disabled world with neither one accepting them either. These two individuals are so good that they beat disabled athletes with relative ease, but they struggle against able-bodied athletes because the rules restrict their abilities.
Disabled people also make bad decisions like Pistoris going to trial for the alleged death of his girlfriend in 2013.
This was a great victory for disabled Americans — the passing of the (ADA) Americans with Disabilities Act — but something was missing. Disabled Americans of color and disabled females were absent at the signing table.
The disabled finally got their civil rights but Disabled African Americans and disabled females were asking do we have the same rights because they were not representative.
President Bush’s set along side of the disabled and made many in the community happy. This was their first visual political act by Washington D.C. But there was still NO LOVE for the Asian, Latino, or Black Disabled communities.
The issue of non-disabled people making legal and medical decisions for the disabled and for the Disabled African American has additional cultural bias issues.
It is happening all over again in Washington D.C. with the current and pending 2011 Congressional legislation on Medical and Medical. The health of Black Disabled Americans will be in danger if the cuts are implemented.
Many years ago Terry Schiavo’s seven-year right to life battle between her husband and parents to extend Terri’s life or let her die without medical assistance. Ms Schiavo passed away after a long life in the hospital in 2005.
Little Ashley’s right to have children and grow into a woman was prevented by her parents. They made the decision to have doctors perform a hysterectomy and breast surgery to limit her growth

They also gave her at 10 years old hormones to limit her physical growth. Ashley is at her full height and weight. The parents did this for their convenience. Not asking Ashley what she wanted.
This is repeated in the Disabled African American community. Drugs are administered to the disabled child to “calm him/her down” or to relax his/her muscles. Valium is a favorite drug given to young people with Cerebral Palsy
This drug alters the disabled person personality forever yet not much protest.
So you think the N-word is bad? Can you imagine growing up with Cerebral Palsy? A disability that affects all of the muscular motor skills of the body?
Now think about this, other disabled children calling you the N-word. Cerebral Palsy was considered on the lowest rung of the disabled community hierarchy.
Children with (CP) talked funny and were difficult to understand, drooled on themselves, and were spastic and jumped at sudden loud noises. All of these issues were frowned upon by the greater disabled community.
For a white disabled child, it may or may not matter, but for a disabled African American Child this was a triple play, Black, male, and disabled.
In the 1960-70 political era America did not like Black disabled folk either because they were a new radical threat. The new group that wanted equal rights.
People who you thought were your allies and would support you because you had a common bond-disability were now calling you the N-word.
A white disabled child grew up with racist parents grew up more intense with the same attitude because they stayed at home, these kids did not socialize with other kids of a different cultural background to dispel their parent’s myths, religion, and cultural believes so they were intense with their feelings of race, sex, and social status.
The same event occurred with Black disabled children if his/her parents were prejudice. They mimicked their parent’s views politically, socially, economically and religion.
The late Christopher Reeve’s becoming the spokesmen for the disabled community when he was only disabled for two years was profound. He did not know many of the issues the confronted the disabled community. Why?
Because he never lived, talked, or worked with other Disabled Americans.
Many issues did not get addressed because of his star power. Yes, he did wonderful things for stem cell research but many other important issues were left unacknowledged.
While disabled singers like the late Curtis Mayfield and Philadelphia star Teddy Pendergrass, both quadriplegics, addressed inner city issues and health care issues for the African American with disabilities, something the White Disabled leadership still fails to address. They also address the issue of Black fathers leaving the family after finding out their child was disabled. Leaving leadership of the family to Black women, AGAIN.
Unfortunately, the issues of the disabled aren’t sexy enough for the American media or the White Disabled leadership.
Anyone having the grace to live into your eighties, nineties, or a century most likely a certain part of your body will fail. That is just human nature and then the body will force you to join the disabled community, whither you want to or not.
Please ask if the disabled person wants to be helped, it is a common courtesy to ask before assisting. Don’t be offended if he/she says no, it’s just part of being independent.
Remember we teach all of our children to be independent, the same can be said for disabled youth.
So when your Television turned in on the Paralympics Games do not forget the history, do not forget the hard work and pain these athletes had too endure to get that medal in Sochi Russia. It comes from the Motherland of Africa, it comes from the first disabled liberator Harriett Tubman, and it comes from the Disabled Civil Rights leaders of the 1970’s, it comes from the father of the disabled movement The Center for Independent. Without them there would not be the Sochi Winter Games.
Post Script: Check out these other movies about Disabled African Americans
The Caveman’s Valentine with Samuel L. Jackson The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington Article 99 with Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland and Forest Whitaker The Waterdance with Wesley Snipes, Eric Stoltz and Helen Hunt Ray with Jamie Foxx. Regina King, and Kerry Washington It’s Good to Be Alive: The Roy Campanella Story with Paul Winfield A Patch of Blue with Sidney Poiter Men of Honor with Cuba Gooding Jr. Radio with Cuba Gooding Jr.Genghis Blues with Paul Pena Porgy and Bess with Sidney Poiter, Dorothy Dandridge, and Sammy Davis Jr.
NOTE: Want to know more about the Black Disabled community? Log on, THE GRAYLINE at, or the Gray Leopard Cove
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Disabled Community Activist. Email at
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