Hi everyone, I’m Wally Tablit and I’m the Director of State Policy with RespectAbility and I’m a gay Asian man with a disability. Today, I want to share with you some reflections on power, practice, and pride. Now, when I think of myself and all of those intersecting identities, we have to remember that those are all pieces of me and you can’t intersect and break those up in any shape or form.
But with each of those, it took me a moment and it took time to be proud, to be able to say that. And I say that really clearly and loudly, because there is power when you name it, there’s power to say, “I am Wally Tablit and I’m a gay Asian man with a disability”, but sometimes it’s hard for people to do that.
And sometimes we challenge ourselves, as an Asian man and growing up around certain cultural expectations, and especially when we are asked to step up and show up and speak up more, so that we’re noticed in a structure and system, that’s harder for us to be noticed and to have a seat at the table. But power can manifest itself in a lot of different ways.
Sometimes when I’m challenged and feeling at a space that I don’t know what to do next, I’ll ask myself, “what is your next bold move?” But remember that bold does it have to be all uppercase? Both can be lowercase and being bold can just say to them, “I’m going to step back and really think about what I need to do next. Today, I’m going to step back and have a whispering moment of power to reflect on what and where I am.” Because sometimes when we are challenged to be who we need to be or what we expect it to be, especially in the disability advocacy world, we always have to say, what space are we in? And you can either be a part of something or apart from something.
And the only difference between the two is a space. And so ask yourself, what space are you in? I’m going to share with you a poem by a great disability advocate named Laura Hershey, who is out of Colorado. She wrote a poem that I’m going to share some bits with you with about you get proud by practicing.
“If you are not proud for who you are, for what you say, for how you look; if every time you stop to think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing with golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself. You can get proud. You do not need to be able to walk, or see, or hear, or use big, complicated words or any of those things that you just can’t do.
You get proud by practicing. You can add your voice all night to the voices in a circle, and you can speak your love to a friend without fear. You can find someone who will listen to you without judging you or doubting you or being afraid of you. Power makes you proud and power comes in many fine forms.
Supple and rich as butterfly wings. It is music when you practice opening your mouth and liking what you hear. Because it is the sound of your own true voice. Remember, you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud. Just practice, practice, and practice until you get proud.
And once you are proud, keep practicing so you don’t forget.”