I recently completed an internship at Georgia State Capitol, and I want to share some of my observations and insights, and we the disabled community can mobilize on the state level.
I'm an avid believer that Representation matters. That a person from every minority group should be present. How else can we effectively communicate the problems that every American faces? Representation means that no matter who is in the room, I have a voice. As long as someone from my community is in the room, I will always have a voice. Without someone from our community there to stand in the gap to fight on our behalf, our community will continue to be silenced.
Visibility is important. I learned so much during my time at the Georgia State Capitol, although it was brief. I felt like a sponge absorbing information daily. Not only was I more keen and knowledgeable about the legislative process, but I got to see all the groups that come in to lobby in our state capitol. With that being said, the best way to get disability rights addressed is to be present. In our country we are in tumultuous times. Many groups and organizations are demanding the attention of those in our government. And don’t get me wrong, their needs deserve and need to be addressed. However, the disabled community cannot afford for our agendas to be pushed to the back. We have to become more aggressive in every state, making sure we are equally visible and pushing our causes on every level.
We need more Disabled persons in Government Leadership - This is a major UNDERSTATEMENT, because I could not identify a single person in my state legislator that was disabled. Which lets me know the expression of diversity is limited within my state. We need disabled legislators, congressmen, Representatives and Senators. Why? Because we have a unique perspective that can benefit our states, towns, and cities.
Our State Legislators are public servants. They are here to serve and adhere to our needs. Our culture, in a way, has gotten into the bad habit of not holding our governmental officials accountable. However, our state legislators are here to fight on behalf of our needs. With that being said, they don’t know issues to address if we are not communicating with them. They are here to serve us! Let’s take advantage of that and tell them what the disabled community needs.
Getting involved in your local government is so effective in bringing about change! Toward the end of the session -- when all the bills had been passed etc. -- I witnessed many organizations celebrating their successful outcome. Throughout the year, many of these groups work so strategically within their local government system, that by the time the legislative session starts, many of them are able to get laws and bills passed to benefit their specific community needs.
Sometimes we have to change our world (local community) before we can address things on a larger scale. I encourage every advocate to get to work in their local government. Know the ins and outs of different policies getting passed and then take that same initiative and apply it to your cause and see the end result of success.
Rasheera Dopson is the founder of Beauty with a Twist organization. Our mission is to provide a community that Esteem, Empowers and Educates individuals and their families who are affected by facial differences and disabilities. As the founder, I believe it my purpose to share my experiences in living with a craniofacial condition. I aspire to motivate and encourage persons of the disabled and non-disabled community to use their differences to change the world. You can read more from Rasheera on her blog.