We’re asking for mercy.
We are asking for grace.
We are asking for miracles.
Your Word soaks my soul and my spirit.
I am holding onto the cross which is solid.
I am never letting go.
Some people don’t see past my disability and see who I am.
I am a woman.
I am beautiful.
I am intelligent.
I long to be heard.
I long to respected.
I long to be romanced.
I long to be held in someone’s arms.
There are times when the kindness of people overwhelms me with emotion.
God has given a new amount of energy
God has rekindled the fire that burned within me
He has allowed people to come along my path to help me
God has given the ability to refocus on him when the circumstances become derailed around me
I will run after him with all of my heart mind soul and strengths
Expression is a dancer who dances with abandonment.
Expression is a writer who writes fully what is in his heart.
Expression is a painter who puts his paint brush to paper.
Expression is someone who expresses themselves in whatever they want.
Expression is a person who places a symbol upon themselves that expresses a special meaning.
This is an assignment that I did for one of my classes at university.
My Own Journey in Living with a Disability
What we can do as Social Workers
During this presentation I discovered that if you have a disability it does not matter if you are aboriginal or not, we all want the same things. When I think of people from different cultures and different minority groups I relate them to various types of butterflies. And how the creator created us in many different colours and shapes, when a butterfly comes out of it its cocoon it is like us overcoming many obstacles throughout our life and we have to come together as one. The transformation begins at this moment and carries on into our future! I believe what I am accomplishing right now is a form of decolonization. In my social work profession I hope to take what I have learned and my experiences and assist aboriginal people and others with disabilities.
Aboriginal People with Disabilities…an Introduction Part 2. Retrieved March 14, 2007, from http://www.schoolnet.ca/aboriginal/disable1/3rd-e.html
Aboriginal Women with Disabilities. Aboriginal Culture and Disability. Retrieved March 6, 2007, from http://www.schoolnet.ca/autochtone/disable6/cultur-e.html
For one of my classes, the assignment was to take an article and write something of my own using the same style as the article.
The following is an excerpt from All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Prose by Thomas King
In my family, my Aboriginal uncle Gord has a gift which allows him to stare at a canvas, hear whispers and paint away until the story from within is revealed and is displayed clearly. He visualizes a painting before he creates it, and with a rainbow of colors and soft strokes, makes a choreographed sequence upon the canvas. He loves to paint and share and tell. He decided that -no matter what - he would keep doing what he loved.
It may sound odd, but that summer after I met with my uncle; in that pivotal moment, I felt a revelation for the first time in a long time. I realized that the new-found inspiration led me to pursue an education.
When I arrived at University I was used to feeling isolation. Initially, I came into contact with classmates that were cold, shy and even distant. Among the students, Aboriginal classmates were warm and accepting and welcomed me with open arms and we came together in one united front, in equal standing. For the first time I was shown fascinating traditions, such as smudging and healing circles. The healing circles freed me. From barriers and fear, fear of not being heard for who I am. Hear me roar!!
There is such freedom in healing circles. They helped me forget the smothering stereotypes. I sat mesmerized in the circle and didn't hear the outside distractions. I soaked in the truth they were telling me to the beat of distant drums. Voices of my new found friends singing songs of reconciliation. I could feel the spectrum of colors so accepting, so genuine, so free. My new friends were open-the Aboriginal traditions accepted all human kind.
One day in my Aboriginal class, I had a chance to share a presentation about how the Aboriginal people and people with disabilities are connected. I gained a new voice I never knew I had. So much told. Several papers to hand in. Tired but energized by the concepts I was learning. I spoke. A few months into my semester a classmate had me over to his house, a feast of food and celebration, the echo of conversation surrounding me. At the end of the night he presented me with a gift. A beautiful handmade medicine bag, filled with sage and tobacco.
There was a choice I had to make whether or not to go to school. It didn't matter that I was apprehensive or afraid. I wanted to take that leap, no matter what, the decision had been made. There were signals surrounding me that bombarded me from every side.
There were a number of people encouraging me in my pursuit. Every once in awhile the voice of Uncle Gord spoke softly in my ear, perfectly heard and always understood. Reconciliation.
Open my eyes so I can see clearly. Open my ears so I can hear your voice. Open my mind so I can think freely. Open my heart to rid of any opposition and fear. Open my soul so I can be courageous and free. Remember to be grateful to the Father up above and all others that are to come. Plead for assistance in your decisions-not for yourself but for the many generations to follow. Reconciliation.
Over the years, my schooling has allowed me to gain a broader perspective on Residential Schools in Aboriginal culture. First, I had to see if I had pre-conceived ideas. Then, I had to prepare myself for learning about tragic circumstances that happened throughout Canadian history. Afterwards, I attempted to sort out the stories from history that took place in my mind. This subject was new to me because I was just a student and an uninformed Canadian, but I had become interested and very passionate and I had grown to love the Aboriginal Peoples and their culture. Understanding Aboriginal culture has been heart wrenching, powerful and difficult all at the same time. I am still trying to grasp what is at the core and what is the truth about the past. This was a very significant time in history, even shameful, because what we have done in the past can influence what we do presently at this very moment, and affects many generations to come.
The question is, "Who has the right to say how the Aboriginal Peoples should live? Who gets to rewrite details from the past and justify their previous acts?"
From the dominant culture's carefully planned assimilation, the dramatic, detrimental events that occurred were very horrendous experiences. Unspeakable tragedies transpired.
Take, for example the loss of Aboriginal languages. During my life, these unspeakable tragedies were taking place all around me, I was unaware of the discrimination that Aboriginal Peoples of my time faced, designed to assimilate Aboriginal children for years to come. These children were forced to speak English and were forbidden to use their own languages. They were punished with physical abuse such as nails through their tongues, a painful reminder that their language was "inferior."
In Canada, the effects that Residential Schools had on Aboriginal Peoples are still present today. In all generations these painful circumstances will be remembered for more generations to come. When the memories of the physical abuse of these children come back to haunt them, the effects are felt by their whole family.
There is much that is sacred in the ancient traditions: family relationships, connection to land and the maintaining of language. But our dominant culture has attempted to strip them away.
The thought of being taken from my family is unthinkable and unimaginable. My family had a very important decision to make when I was born, they could either place me in an institution or take me home and care for me themselves. They wanted to give me the best life possible, so they chose to take me home and love me for who I was. My Mom took some time to educate herself on cerebral palsy and what it entails, so that she could help me grow up and be a successful person in society. A challenging undertaking, maybe? It proved to be a difficult decision, but a triumphant one at the same time.
I am being taught about what happened to the Aboriginal children at the Residential Schools, I consider myself very blessed that my family had a choice.
You can only be an observer for so long. At one time or another, you have to decide whether or not to get involved.
This comes from what I remember:
In June 2006, the meeting room in Vancouver, BC was filled with brightness and anticipation. A small group of people - defense lawyers, a scribe, myself and my assistant - had gathered together. Samuel Davis, properly dressed in a three-piece suit sat directly next to me. The authoritative calmness of Davis' voice rang throughout the room as he guided the process. His genuine smile, which stretched from ear to ear, reassured me. The defense lawyers sat across from me and they began bombarding me with questions.
And beside me sat my support, Andrea, professionally dressed in her black pin striped attire, ready to interpret. For quite a few hours, I stared at everyone in the room, listened intently to their questions and, with Samuel's permission, answered them honestly. The intensity that filled the room weighed heavily upon me.
"Lisa, how much do you weigh?" one of the lawyers asked me. What kind of dumb question was that? It was so demeaning and irrelevant I might as well have told him every detail of my life!
Davis stopped me abruptly. "No, no you don't have to answer that" he said, "My client will not discuss this issue any further."
"Okay," he replied with a sarcastic tone.
I was a client. It was my fight. I'd lose.
"I have no problems with your disability," the defense rudely stated when my lawyer summoned me. "I understand that your family has struggled. I definitely get that. Just make one thing clear. How come you waited so long to seek retribution?.....Do you need money? What about the doctor? Don't you know his estate is tied up?"
But I was determined to continue. It seemed to me that I was heading nowhere, but I wanted to state my case, they could no longer silence me. What they had to understand was that it was the doctor's fault. With only an apology on the line what did he have to lose by admitting his mistake? What I really wanted was for him to recognize the effect on my life.
My first attempt at dabbling in the law was a foreign experience. My target was a doctor. His name was irrelevant. 28 years plus had passed since the day I was born in Elliot Lake, Ontario. I found my lawyer in a local newspaper article. Davis had won every case he had been involved in, so far, and that's why I chose him. Evidence proved that he was a successful lawyer. He was the one I wanted on my side to fight my battle with me, even though in the end I couldn't prove that it was the doctor's mistake, and I never did get that apology.
When I initially began the journalism program, I was uncertain of journalism's role and purpose. I wanted to expand my writing techniques and style and explore research methods and current news. My first year of journalism school has given me the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject of journalism. My perception has evolved throughout this past year.
Presently, I believe the role and purpose of journalism is to inform the public and help them to make their own decisions and judgments on past and present issues. I also believe that journalists can empower citizens to act on issues that are important to them. They can enable citizens to become involved in their communities.
Another purpose of journalism that is especially relevant to me, is to challenge and at times change perceptions. One of the many responsibilities of journalists is to use their power and resources in order to succeed in challenging common misconceptions.
One principle that is significant in my view of the role of journalism is verifying the facts. When writing a story, I first need to determine who I need to interview. Where will my information come from? How will I receive the information that I need? One of the first things I would have to figure out is what information is significant to the story? Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel state: "How do you sift through the rumors, the gossip, the failed memories, the manipulative agenda, and try to capture something as accurately as possible." (The Elements of Journalism, p.79) Kovach and Rosenstiel mention the "tools in the discipline of verification." (p.79)I believe these tools are essential to accurately capture and verify the facts. For me, these tools are: seeking out multiple sources, gaining a diverse representation, continually asking questions and being transparent to and about your sources. Using these tools helps to filter out the gossip and misconceptions, in order to find the true facts. I also agree with Kovach and Rosensteil that "the discipline of verification is what separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction or art." (p. 79) For me, journalism should be more educational, more focused on facts and less on opinion, creativity and self-expression. I do believe there is a time and place for "infotainment," fiction and art, but I believe that the lines between these subjects have become blurred. The concepts that Kovach and Rosensteil outlined in forming a foundation for verification make journalism more concrete and the line between "infotainment" and the journalism profession can become clearer, if these tools are implemented.
Another principle that supports my view is having a diverse representation of sources. By having a diverse group, it enables the journalist to connect a variety of people in the community and allows them to represent different angles to their audience. I believe that this is important in Civic journalism because it can make people feel interconnected as a whole. For example, I would like to see more people with disabilities covered in the media, as well as women's issues. I feel these issues are very limited or non-existent in the current field of journalism. As a journalist, I will strive to include these issues in the media. I desire to see people with disabilities represented in a variety of different professions and issues. I feel that the media tends to focus on disabilities rather than contributions to society. I would like to see more focus on abilities instead of inabilities. The media does not necessarily have to mention a person's disability, unless it is relevant to the story. As a journalist, I do not want to be categorized as solely being a representation for people with disabilities, simply because I have one. I want to cover a wider variety of topics.
Remaining objective is an important principle in my view of journalism's role and purpose. I realize that I have my own values and beliefs, but I want to present the facts and remain neutral. It is important because I may think I know how people feel, but I want to listen to them tell their own stories. I hope to exercise humility in my work by considering other points of view and recognizing that I will not always have all the answers.
Some of the challenges that I anticipate in my journalistic career are: finding opportunities for employment, not being taken seriously in the newsroom, as well as online, and overcoming physical barriers such as, not being able to get to sources directly or operate equipment in the newsroom or out in the field. In my pursuit to inform and educate the public, I may have difficulties communicating directly with my sources. Since I most often have an assistant with me, I am also apprehensive about interviews, since my assistants may occasionally take over my work in the interview process. In order to meet and overcome these challenges, I hope to have freelance opportunities. I plan to continually pursue job opportunities and search for them. I have yet to discover how I will overcome all of these challenges I will face, but there are always unique ways to accomplish goals.
Some of the stories and issues I hope to cover and have a passion for are : First Nations issues and culture, women's issues, eating disorders, homelessness and single parenting, to name a few. My philosophy of journalism will assist me in searching for information on these issues because I am driven to inform and want to affect my readers by giving them the tools they need to act on these issues.
I am somewhat unfamiliar with publications and organizations that I wish to pitch to, but I plan to devote some time over the summer to research options. A few publications I have already come across are: Psychology Today, Reader's Digest, Ability Magazine, People in Motion and The Tyee. Publications such as Ability Magazine and organizations such as People in Motion relate to my philosophy of journalism because they both concentrate on abilities rather than disabilities. They also educate people in society by showing them that people with disabilities can participate in everyday life. They help change perceptions by showing that there are many different ways of participating. Most of these magazines also have online publications and this will make it easier for me to access them. I also want to pitch to these publications because they deal with a variety of issues that relate to my interests. They are popular and my articles could be read by a diverse group.
As mentioned previously, freelancing would be a great opportunity for me because I could send in my query letters when pitching my work. Editors could focus on the quality of my work, rather than preconceived notions based on physical appearance. It would be similar when I send my work into online publications. With freelancing, I could eliminate the face-to-face interview process. My query letter would provide all the necessary details an editor would need to make their decision.
The method of incremental reporting, as used by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the infamous Watergate scandal, is a method that will be extremely useful to me in the journalism industry. When I find different information, I can publish right away and not wait until I have the entire story. This will be especially useful for me because I can get my work noticed. I will not have to always worry about time constraints and deadlines. I could publish my work in pieces. My readers would hopefully become intrigued by my articles and want to keep following along to find out more. This would allow my readers to feel closer to me because I would appear to be gaining the information at the same pace as they were. I would not appear to "know everything."Issues such as homelessness and the high needs of food banks would not be forgotten and would be on people's minds on a continual basis. Keeping stories such as these at the forefront would help keep people involved because these issues would not be brushed aside by our fast-paced society.
The method of investigative reporting is one that will be useful for me in my career. Kovach and Rosensteil state that the newly added Pulitzer for investigative reporting in 1964 "[put] new emphasis on the role of the press as activist, reformer, and exposer." (p.139) This is a significant method for me because presently I feel that the media does not have enough investigative journalists. I feel that people may not know enough about issues such as funding cut-backs, especially for seniors housing, single parents, public schools and the medical profession. It is important for me to discover these hidden issues and present them to the public. This principle was also discussed by Kovach and Rosensteil in that "the earliest journalists firmly established as a core principle their responsibility to examine the unseen corners of society." (p.143) This is one of the principles I hope to continue to develop over my career as a journalist. This principle also relates to the "watch dog principle" illustrated by Jan Schafer, executive director for the Pew Centre for Civic Journalism, in her speech "Attack Dog, Watch Dog, Guide Dog: The Role of the Media in Building Community," presented at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, October 21st, 1999. Schafer stated "the press is often doing more than simply covering stories -- they are often driving controversies, especially in looking at the personal and ethical behavior of public figures." Though this principle is valuable, it is not being practiced correctly at this time. The media often focuses on sensationalized public debate, causing both readers and public figures to mistrust the media. This principle will only work if journalists use it wisely and therefore change direction, gaining back the public's trust.
It is a common belief to many people that journalism is disappearing and does not have as much value as it once did. I do not believe this is the case. I believe that journalism is changing direction and needs various guidelines in order for it to become more efficient. Journalism is moving away from print newspapers to online news. Readers and journalists alike must be accountable in their representation of news online. In order for this to take place there must be some written guidelines. In my opinion, journalism should become professionalized. Those wishing to pursue a career in journalism should be required to follow a code of ethics, swear an oath stating that they must remain loyal to the citizens and maintain professional morals.
Though I do feel that a broad education and a journalism degree are both valuable to the profession of journalism, I do not believe that they are absolutely necessary. Those living in rural communities may be unable to attend university or college, but should still be able to submit their work and have it published, as long as it meets the editor's criteria. Editors could base their choices on the quality of a journalist's work rather than their qualifications.
Everyone must recognize that they have their own prejudices. This does not exclude journalism professionals. Journalists must be aware that prejudices are present in the newsroom. To counteract this, I believe we must be open-minded and discuss prejudices and learn from one another. This approach was demonstrated at the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1993, when they published a series of articles on race relations. The staff members explored their own values and beliefs about racism and attended various diversity workshops to address these issues in a professional manner. According to Jim Amos, the New Orleans Times-Picayune editor at this time, these diversity workshops "got us to talk about race relations and what our opinions were and helped us break down some barriers." (Nelson, Jack "New Orleans Times-Picayune Series on Racism." Thinking Clearly: Cases in Journalistic Decision Making.) I am hopeful to see this occur throughout my own journalism career. I believe more of these types of workshops should be mandatory when dealing with issues of prejudice and racism and hope to have the opportunity to present some of these workshops in the future.
Throughout my education in journalism so far, I believe I have begun to gain the tools I will need to be successful in the journalism field. Although I still have a vast number of things to learn, I believe that the foundation that I have already gained will remain the same. My philosophy on the role and purpose of journalism will still stay with me and I hope not to lose sight of the significant role that journalists play in society. One of the roles that I wish to play is to inform the public on critical issues and empower them so they feel as though they can make a difference on their own. During this process, I hope to continually change perceptions and educate the public on issues that affect them in their communities and the surrounding world.