Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Lost In A Desert World

Creator: Roland Johnson (author)
Date: 1994
Source: Available at selected libraries

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 12:


I went to the night school; I was in a CLA program. They had mental retardation night, Wednesday night school at Girl's High: how to read, how to write, say your letters, ABC's, and stuff like that. And Nancy Nowell -advisor to the Philadelphia Chapter -- K.W.- came to Girl's High. Nancy explained that Speaking For Ourselves was for people with disabilities -- to get their rights, be heard, and speak up with whatever is on their mind. Well, they couldn't find a room to hold their meetings, so they had it at Girls' High, Broad and Olney, downstairs in the classroom, a kitchen like. So I went down.


It was a lot of people; it was very lot of people. I don't know how many that came. And Eleanor Elkins, -an internationally recognized parent advocate -- K.W.- she was there. And Nancy Nowell. I thought for a while that they was running the organization, be-cause Eleanor Elkins has a son that's retarded and I think that she wanted more things better for her son and better for the organization. But I don't think that they was running it; they would want the members to run the organization.


I went for a while. And then I stopped going for a while.


And then they switched it over to Osteopathic Hospital out on City Line Avenue.


And it struck me that these people was saying things for themselves, speaking up for themselves. I knew that they was going to nominate me as president -- I thought of that myself -- because I was the person that was on the ball, had the skills, had the know-how.


And the group voted me as the president of the chapter.


Domenic was the president of the Board of Directors for the whole organization. I would talk to him on the phone. We would talk about how would I get my chapter more involved, to make the things happen in the chapter. We talked over hours on the phone; he helped me, I helped him. So that's how I got involved in Speaking for Ourselves.


We had to talk to people at Osteopathic -- could we use their space. Nancy and Mark and me went. We didn't have to ax them for chairs. They said, "You can use whatever's in there. You take the chairs and use them." We put the chairs back like they had them after we left. It was the president's job to appoint somebody to do that; sometimes I would help to do it. It was very pleasant to have us come there. Sometime twenty or thirty people would show.


My job was to make sure cards, notices about the next meeting, got out. Me and Nancy wrote out letters to get people to come. Mark had a computer; we could get the names off the computer, but we had got some more, new people. We had to go out and make ourselves known, that there is an organization that exists, that there is a Speaking For Ourselves. We send members to go out and speak to the county office and the state officials to talk about whatever was on their mind to talk about. And that's how I got to go to these places.


Speaking For Ourselves helped me to be more talkable, more open, and more understanding. At the time I was afraid of people. I was scared of people. I didn't like to share things with people and I didn't think that they would listen to me, whatever I said. I thought that the organization was a very good organization. Speaking For Ourselves was like a friendly organization -- more home-like; it was an organization to come to to express yourself. Speaking For Ourselves had open my eyes to be a better person and try to help other people. There is joy for something for everybody to do, that everybody want to do -- always something involved, that I'm involved with something, constantly something to do, like going to meetings, setting up meetings, going out and talking to people. I like to give more into people, more express to people that Speaking For Ourself is very good and people need to be involved. I just try to help people and give back into the community. It just came naturally.


It wasn't hard for me. They listened pretty good. I knew how to kept order 'cause I'm always pleasant. I was pleasant with them and I said that, "If you want Speaking For Ourselves, you have to do the things that members do: this is Speaking For Ourselves and you have to talk up." And so the people was quiet. I got them talking, got them to talk for themselves, to speak for themselves. I made people get a chance to talk and say whatever they got on their mind. I said, "Would you like to talk -- whatever is on your mind: what happened in your group homes or what happened in your CLA programs. You're here; what you say here stays here -- it'll never go out." That was our policy.


The chapter meetings are just very informal. They talked about jobs: they wanted jobs; they didn't want be in workshops, they wanted to get out on their own, 'cause they don't make too much in workshops. They talked about transportation; transportation was the big issue. Every time we have our chapter meeting, it was "How will we get to our chapter -- we don't have transportation." We had a young girl come in from SEPTA Para-transit and talk about how can we make Para-transit better for people with disability; how could we make transportation better for them. And we talked on and on about different things.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22    All Pages