Congratulations to Tashiana Scott-Cochran, Winner of the ABC Law Centers 2020 Disability Advocacy Scholarship!
You can view her winning essay below. Congratulations, Tashiana!
“Quit walking like that!” “Did you get shot?” I often think that people believe that I got shot as it is easier, more palatable to accept that I was a victim of violence rather than the truth, re: I was born this way. Recently during an episode HBO’s fictional “The Chi,” a young couple two adolescents from inner-city Chicago, Illinois Myeisha and Big Papa are having a conversation and she is explaining that she favorite cousin got shot. “Big Papa,” her young suitor asks, “Did she survive?” Myeisha replies, “Barely, the doctors say she is going to walk with a limp the rest of her life.” Papa then responds, “Why God would let her be born like that…she just seems like someone God would look out for.”
I believe that I am someone God continues to look out for. Also, I have never wished that I did not have cerebral palsy. I am one of the lucky ones! I am reminded of my roommate in the summer of 1996 who said that she did not know that they let people like me out and that if she and her friends saw me they would make ignorant comments.
I have been treated as defective, as impaired, called cripple, referred to as lame. Being blessed with cerebral palsy is largely the reason why I fell in love with knowledge and information. The ability to learn, gave me license to dream beyond my gait, with legs go inward like scissors, reminiscent of a less than sign. I can laugh at my lot now; but then, I felt defenseless to vultures, disguised as children yet, my will, became as hard as crucible steel. I was a third grader at Lafayette Elementary School. I was eight years old. I was horribly bullied it is no coincidence that it was this year, this age, that I made it up in my mind that I would become a librarian. This bullying took several forms: physical violence, intimidation, sexual harassment, ect. I begged, pleaded with my mother to not make me go back to that school, EVER! My mother, the dictator, is an army veteran. My saving grace came in the form of our school’s librarian, Mrs. Dorothy L. Hall, who coincidently lived in the same apartment complex as my mother and I. She made me feel safe, secure, appreciated and accepted. I would see her walking home from school: beautiful, poised, with soft black wavy hair that she kept bulled back into a bun. In her, I saw what I could become.
The library became my refuge, a safe space, representing freedom without wheelchairs, braces, and forearm crutches. I was not The Crippled Girl who had been bullied, tormented and victimized, whose clothes were urinated upon or who experienced multiple forms of harassment. Being diagnosed with (CP) has served to make me keenly aware of the infinite possibilities present as long as I approached every opportunity with openness, dedication, persistence, passion, and perseverance. It is not easy having to explain, defending yourself, literally your human body against people who believe God did create you as God would not have created you to walk like that. I have been told that I have demons in my legs and if I just went to church and professed my faith that I would be healed. I have been accosted in public places when people felt it pertinent to publicly pray for because they feel sorry for me. I have great joy, humor, sarcasm, and wit in my life. I played double-dutch, tether ball, baseball, and I would hit the ball and the other kids would run the bases; I jumped rope and spent countless hours on the uneven bars on the side of the same school where I was bullied.
I applied to Valdosta State University in 2009 and 2019. I was rejected each time. It was the residual sting of the second rejection that took the wind out of me. I truly believed that I had done the work to make myself into a candidate that was worthy of being accepted into an MLIS program in my home state of Georgia. The wait, nine weeks of agonizing anxiety-ridden, sleepless nights, praying for acceptance, and still crickets. The answer came in the form of a pithy, one-paragraph thin, parchment-like note which only needed to say: undesirable. Mark said, “”Don’t give up mommy!” “Don’t cry; keep trying like you tell me!” He was now bearing witness to the diminishing light in my face. The notification paper was greasy, leaving a nasty residual feeling in the pit of my stomach: their response, rerse. I opened the letter as I sat on the couch; the tears began to flow without regard for my little person watching the drops come out of my eyes. In that moment, lying to my son, choking on guttural emotions birthed from yet another failed attempt. I did not give up. I redoubled my efforts and applied to the program with rolling admissions, and in July 2019, I was accepted to North Carolina Central University!
My career goal is to work in an academic library as a subject librarian in liberal arts, history, and Africana studies and gender studies. I have several goals within my short and long-range career goals. I also intend to work as a liaison with the Student Accessibility Services or the Office of Disability Services to ensure that students with disabilities, whether the disabilities are visible or not, are valued as much as any other student. I want to work to safeguard their collegiate experience, make it more inclusive, rich in support via accessible materials coupled with the necessity of staff members who successfully negotiate and provide instruction on the proper use of the required hardware or software e.g. JAWS screen reader, Ghotit, Ginger, Dragon, among others. Moreover, I want to teach and offer authentic sensitivity training to faculty to they know how to fully engage and meet the needs of students with disabilities and being mindful of all students’ needs. I do not want their experiences to be full of microaggressive incidents, intolerance, ignorance, impatience, and dismissiveness. My professional goals stem from my own personal experience of being told: “I should kill myself,” “I did not belong here (in college),” and “I should be put away.” The insensitivity of these sentiments made more than twenty years ago are still close to me. I allow them to act as reminders that I must be part of the impetus for change for students with disabilities. I hope to assist the department of diversity, equity, and inclusion to facilitate and effectuate change from the most organic place of first-hand knowledge and experience of being a frustrated, voiceless, dispirited, overwhelmed, and misjudged college student. It is with great earnestness that I intend to make their experiences better than mine ever were within the framework of my chosen career goals. ⬛