Stories from the brainreels guest Rick Hammond

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I’m doing a special second Friday episode of Stories from the brainreels with guest Rick Hammond instead of my third Friday show. Well, it’s not really special; it’s just a week early. That’s pretty rare for me, especially since I had to postpone recording with Rick several times because I can’t read a calendar.

Rick Hammond is a local spoken word artist and musician with the Independent Living Resources Music Collective. Something extra fabulous about Rick–to me–is that his art rarely directly addresses his disability.

Now I’m guilty of making a few films about my brain injury. They’re pretty funny, and I’m very glad I made them. There’s a huge, vastly important place in Disability art for exploring the lived experience of your disability. Also, people without brain injury often tell me they learned something about brain injury experiences by watching. That’s very valuable. But when artists with disabilities do work that revolves around other parts of their lives and experiences, it takes it to a whole new level. Because we desperately need society to remember that we are more than our diagnostic labels.

Maysoon Zayid makes the odd cerebral palsy joke in her stand-up comedy. She focuses more of her comedy on being Arab and her life and family experiences. Rick does some of the same, focusing his spoken word material on discussions of stereotypes, stigma, power dynamics, psychological games we play, and other experiences and reflections. He’s open to talking about being blind. Yet he worries that’s what everyone in the audience will expect to hear about when they see him walk onstage with a white cane. So he gives them a nice wake-up call that blind people are people first. And as people, blind people have lots of experiences beyond their level of seeing or not seeing.

While making my short documentary on Lavaun Heaster, “Paper Visions,” I got some feedback that the film didn’t address her disabilities and her personal obstacles enough. Well, that’s ok because the film is supposed to address stigma and silencing, not low vision. Like the way that a disability service agency wanted to throw her into any job they could find rather than tap into her innate strengths and career interests. Or like how most art and media representations don’t show someone like her who uses a sensing cane and comes from a multi-tonal family. Or those representations are caricatures, jokes, or limiting representations of the disabled or non-white person as help object. (After the film is released, this Friday the 13th, I will post links to it on this blog.)

So please tune in this Friday, the 13th at 1:00 pm Pacific time or any time after that. Rick and I do talk about brain injury and blindness. But a warning: we don’t sit around discussing exactly how much a blind person can or can’t see. A second warning: the show is irreverent, especially when Rick and I trot off to the Disability Olympics. I won’t tell you who won, but it wasn’t me.

Click here for an accessible transcript of podcast episode #013.