My name is Dr. Nelle Richardson. I am an African-American woman of Caribbean descent. I am a motivational speaker and an advocate for people with disabilities. I’m also CEO and founder of a nonprofit organization, “Will To Win Ministry,” where I empower women who have somehow lost their way. I assist them in the healing process — motivating them to get back on track and focus on well-being — their own well-being first, then moving on to helping and motivating others.
I am diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, cognitive difficulties and neck and back injuries resulting from a couple of accidents. I was born on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, and in my family, girls were marginalized and refused an education.
As a Black woman living in the United States, the intersectionality of race, gender, disability and immigration all pose such difficulties for me and so many other women like me with and without disabilities. I represent one-in-four adults who have a disability and acquiring health care is almost impossible. Too many doctors I’ve encountered see my color – or hear my accent – before my diagnosis and therefore the healing process often is delayed.
As a woman of color with a disability, ableism, sexism and racism are not new to my daily experience, however we have to close those gaps and break those barriers. As a result of being marginalized, we must rise up and do our best to be innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners, creating employment and financial empowerment for ourselves and others like us. As women of color, we cannot allow others to think that we are uneducated due to lack of access, whether that be access to health care or the workforce. We are great assets to our communities, our nation and the world at large. Think about Harriet Tubman and Maya Angelo and Amanda Gorman and the impact they have made on their communities and the world!
We have to defy statistics and become and remain successful even with our disabilities. There are 5.4 million African Americans with a disability living in the United States. More than 3.2 million are of working age, however only 29.7% are employed compared to 74.4% of African Americans without disabilities.
We can make a difference and we are making tremendous differences all over the world. We have to set high expectations and high goals, and our self-esteem must match the height of those goals that we set for ourselves. People with disabilities are from all backgrounds and can be among the highest achievers. We must use our voices and our stories to empower and encourage others. As women, we often don’t succeed because we are too attached to where we have been. We must be willing to give up our past so we can become all that we dream to be. When we hit rock bottom, we must let everything go so we can have everything that we want to achieve in life.
Forget about judgment and conviction. Pay attention to your intentions and your purpose even if you’re still striving to understand what you’re doing or what it is. We all have moments of uncertainty and doubt, but what women like my mother taught me is this — resilience is key when we are facing insurmountable obstacles and challenges. We must have the courage and fortitude to fight and to keep going in spite of life’s detours, and we will be destined for greatness. When we’re told “you’re not good enough,” we must profess — we are more than enough, and we are standing firmly in our truth!
Dr. Nelle L. Richardson (she, her) immigrated to the U.S. from the Caribbean. She is an ordained pastor, motivational speaker, counselor, life coach and self-advocate. Richardson lives with nonvisible disabilities due to two accidents: a traumatic brain injury and neck and back injuries. As a motivational speaker, she addresses disability and racial bias. Read her full bio here.