fruitvale stationI just finished watching Fruitvale Station the movie and I still have jitters up and down my spine. Seeing the events of New Years Eve before the start of 2009 that ultimately ended the life of Oscar Grant III on the screen was a very emotionally intense experience. The film did an amazing job of portraying Oscar Grant as a regular person growing up in Oakland dealing with trials that young African Americans encounter in this society such as being incarcerated because of a drug possession and having a challenge to find stable work. The film showed many of the facets that was the man Oscar Grant, the loving father, son, and boyfriend who wanted to do right by his family and who was struggling to find a way to survive in this capitalist system we call America.

In watching this movie I realize that the director did an excellent job in showing a complex character in the representation of Oscar confronting the mainstream media’s portrayal of black male victims of police killings of being all harden criminals who do not contribute to society. Many young men Oscar’s age are struggling to find their way in this economy and might possess and sell marijuana to get by. The difference is if this young man is white he might escape being under the radar of law enforcements for doing the exact same thing in the suburbs that Oscar was doing in Oakland. The problem is the criminal system is designed to put more young black and brown men in prison than their white counterparts. Police are also more likely to use deadly force on black and brown youth that our society has deemed more violent in an attempt to control those populations. Being also a person with a disability I also have to recognize the police violence that is still being committed against people of color with disabilities that can lead to serious injury, unjust imprisonment, or death. In viewing the policing people with disabilities we can see plainly the police’s directive in controlling populations that are disadvantaged so they won’t challenge the power structure that is in place.

When you bring the Trayvon Martin case in this discussion on policing vulnerable populations bring it to a more ominous tone. George Zimmerman was not part of any police force, however he was deemed innocent of murdering a unarmed seventeen-year-old boy that was coming home from the store. The stand your ground law that made George think he was justified in confronting Trayvon and ending up killing him has a purpose of unofficially deputizing white citizens so they can police black and bodies that come into their community. These laws that were written with the help of the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are trying to bring America back to a time where a white person could kill a person of color who came into their community without having any repercussions. I think this is just a blatant attempt by a segment of society to have a monopoly on violence to protect their power and privilege within that society. I think with the world’s resources dwindling and the gap between the rich and poor growing nationally and I suspect internationally the ruling class will have more pressure if they try to keep their power and privilege and will use violence to make sure their status stays in place.

What this means for the Trayvon and Oscar’s of the world is very troubling. With this sudden emphasis on security and self-defense being promoted  the target will definitely will be on black and brown men. To counteract this our whole community needs to stand up to protest this increased murder of black and brown men in this country. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement did a study and found in 2012 a black person was murdered by law enforcement every twenty-eight hours. That one statistic proves that this situation is a crisis. Fruitvale Station is  an beautiful artistic rendering reminding us who we are fighting for and what we are up against.

As background I have been playing power soccer for more than two decades and was the team representative for my team, the BORP Bay Earthquakes for a number of years. I am very familiar with how to play the sport and I know the politics behind being in the sport I am in.

At the start of this season I was very excited about our chances to have a good standing at this year’s national cup. However as soon as we started playing the games at the tournament I new we were in trouble. Last year the team Minnesota Magic came with their Strike Force Power Wheelchairs from Power Soccer Shop and blew everyone away winning every game easily. This year when we went to the Premier Cup this year almost every team in the tournament had those chairs. Our confidence soon evaporated as soon we got on court with our game. On a first game CNY United from New York we got decimated. This trend kept repeating for the next for games. The performance of the whole team was a debacle, we were totally embarrassed. Although my teammates and I were going through our separate issues I place  most of our blame not being able to play against the Strike Force Power Wheelchairs.

Adjusting playing to these Strike Force Power Wheelchairs was not as easy as we originally planned. These chairs were built to have an unnecessary long frame with casters extended in front of the wheels. This allows the designers of the chairs to build an extended foot guard in front of the chair.  The end result being that the Strike Force Chair has a stronger kick on the ball and better maneuverability then any other chair on the market. What ends up happening is the team with the Strike Force Power Wheelchairs and relatively good power soccer skills will beat a team with any other power wheelchair. Also since the Strike Force Wheelchairs are sold at for over $7000 means that only those that can afford this chair will be able to compete in this sport at a high level. Since the Strike Force Power Wheelchair is constructed as an expensive “go kart” only for use on the court and not for daily use means that unfortunately not many medical insurance companies will approve co-payment for these extra chairs. Since until now people were using their daily chairs to pay power soccer it will cause another burden to purchase the Strike Force Power Wheelchair just to play the sport of power soccer. Many people with disabilities have limited incomes and the chair that the medical insurance company purchase for them is the only one that they will have. This will exclude many people from playing the sport as a high level because of affordability, which goes against the spirit of the sport that was suppose to be for people with severe disabilities to have a sport that they excel in using their own power wheelchairs.

As I leave the sport that I truly love and spent two decades playing I hope power soccer will not turn into a sport that excludes people on physical ability and income. I hope the sport still attract people that take a chance on trying out a new sport that they might excel in irregardless of their disability or the wheelchair he or she is in. That is the power soccer I fell in love with.

After much consideration on my current path and the state of my future, I decided to resign my position at United Cerebral Palsy of the Golden Gate. Although I enjoyed working there for the last three years, I felt it was time to focus on what I really want to accomplish in my life. One of my current goals is to contribute more to this blog and build its readership. Look for more entries from a radical disability justice prospective. I feel that I have a platform that few people in my situation is fortunate to have and I attend to use this opportunity with the best of my ability.

Now for the next couple of days I am traveling to Minnesota because my power soccer team, the Borp Bay Earthquakes, is participating in the USPSA Premier Cup hopefully to win the championship. So send good thoughts our way and you will hear from me soon.

This is a short story I recently wrote. Please read and tell me what you think:

The First Date

I looked at the time on my phone impatient waiting for her arrival. She was late for fifteen minutes to my chagrin. I always had a problem with waiting, which will be surprising to most people given my situation. She said she would arrive promptly at six p.m. to this Peets coffee in downtown Oakland and now I was getting whiplash turning my head to see if she entered the shop. 
    My personal care assistant, Roger, was having a grand old time watching my nervous anticipation for my date’s arrival. “Breaking your neck to look at everyone that comes in here will not make her come any faster buddy,” he said laughing giving his rotund belly a shake. His round head and beady eyes darted this way and that imitating the erratic movements that I engaged in for the last twenty minutes. “Sadiq, you just need to calm down.”
He was right though I needed to calm down, nervousness just makes my limbs fly around all jittery. Just a side affect of having severe cerebral palsy I guess. It is not the fact that I cannot walk independently that bothers me, but because my oral speech is often unintelligible I communicate with an speech generative device to most people. This mode of communication tended to be a little bit of a challenge when it came time to meeting new people.  I don’t know what happens, but some people get twisted in the head whenever I go to speak to them. At least because I now that I use an app on my iPad the coolness buffers some of their apprehension.
Some reactions a kind of humorous when I think about it. I went to this one store to buy some batteries for my TV remote and soon as I got to the cash register the store clerk started to talk to me all loud. “Sir, how can I help you? Do you want to buy those batteries?” This is where my smart mouth gets me in trouble because I then said, ”You are observant. I wasn’t deaf before, but I soon will be with you shouting at me.” I don’t know but something about speech generative devices that really puts people off. This old cash register guy just stared at me when he handed me back the change. I tried to not fall out laughing when I rolled out the store.
When I am with my personal care assistant it is worse because the store clerks pays attention to my guy and not me. This is why I got the phrase programmed in my iPad, “I do not know who you are talking to, but I am the one who is paying you.” I always smile at the end for comedic effect. Most people don’t get the joke, however. I think the folks in retail need to lighten up or something.
Anyway dating while in a wheelchair and talking with an iPad can be kind of like you on an episode of Mission Impossible with half the technological gadgets that Tom Cruise has in the movies. Women are definitely hard on a brother in this second decade of the twenty-first century. I had one girl arrive on a date with me, took one look at me in my wheelchair and said, “I do not know what you think this is, but I am nobody’s nurse,” and promptly walked out. Sufficed to say I did not want to get out of bed for a week after that incident. But if I want to find the woman of my dreams I guess it is a pitfall of the terrain. 
    I guess that is why I am so fidgety anticipating the arrival of this particular date. We have been talking on for over a month now and even though we haven’t officially met, I kind of like her already.  She just has a wittiness about her and a free spirit that I really found refreshing. Plus from what I gathered from her photos she had dimples when she smiled and a nice rack. What can I say, I am still a guy and looks count!
Her name was Melissa and she was a bank teller from Wells Fargo, a good job in this recession. She was also in the process of getting her MBA at Cal State East Bay so I knew she was on her business. So she sexy, intelligent, and can manage money, sounds like a winning combination so far.
When she finally came in the shop and saw where I was sitting a big Kool-Aide smile came over my face because her photos did not do her justice. Her dark maroon skin glowed from being kissed by the sun. Her long lashes accented her hazel-colored eyes and her curly locks hanging down her face added to her enchantment. When he saw me she smiled and came over.
“Hi Sadiq, I’m Melissa. So good to finally meet you,” she said while giving me a hug. Definitely a good start to the date and her perfume did smell nice.
“Hi Melissa, it is good to see you in person. I hope you didn’t get lost finding the place,” I said through my iPad.
“No Sadiq, I didn’t get lost,” Melissa said shaking her head. “I got caught up at work for a bit. My colleague miscounted the money at the end of her shift and we had to make sure it was all there.”
“So was it all there?” I said with a smile.
“Yes it was,” she said returning my smile. “A new guy miscounted the money. It happens sometimes. We got it all straighten out though.”
“That is good. So this is my attendant, Roger. He will set me up with my drink and then go sit at that table on the far end of the room so we can talk.”
“See how he do me,” Roger says with a half smirk on his face as he reached over the table to shake her hand. “Hi Melissa, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise, I am sure we will get a chance to talk with each other at another time.”
“Drinks will be on me,” I proclaimed with my iPad. “What will m’lady be having?”
“A latte cappuccino my kind sir.” Melissa said with a chuckle. A woman who laugh at my jokes, a very good sign.
When we got back to the table with are drinks, her with her latte cappuccino and me with my carmel mocha with a full head of whipped cream on top, I was surprisingly comfortable around her. I felt that I could ask her anything so I came out and asked exactly what was on my mind.
“So, now that you met me in person does the wheelchair or the iPad scare you.”
“Why would they scare me? You are cute as all hell with that award winning smile.”
I of course was beaming after that remark. “You are not too bad looking yourself. You know your pictures that you put on your website does not do you justice. You are simply radiant in person.”
“Thank you,” Melissa said her face visible blushing.
“Now that we got that out of the way, what do you like to do? I mean besides hanging around a bank all day.”
“I mean banks can be fun too. Once in awhile it really gets on and popping let me tell you. No, but actually I really like outdoor activities like bike riding, swimming, playing soccer. Things of that nature. And of course I like shopping.”
“Every woman I know likes shopping. Really I don’t get it.”
“It is a girl thing. You men just don’t understand. Shopping is relaxing.”
“Yeah I still don’t get it. I guess I do not have the required estrogen level.
“Your funny Mr. Sadiq. I like that. But, you sure you don’t want to go to the store with me. Even to Victoria Secret when they have a sale?
“Ha! I might have to take you up on that offer.”
“Maybe you should.” Melissa said leaning in close.
Since the opportunity prevented itself so perfectly I had to go ahead and kiss her. I wasn’t too surprised when she kissed back.
“That was nice,” Melissa said licking her lips.
“We should definitely do that again and often,” I said with a smile.
“So what you do for fun mister, I mean when you are not busy with law school?’
“I mean I do not have much time because of my studies. But when I do have spare time I like to go bike writing. There is an adaptive bike shop near by here when I can rent adaptive bikes and ride around the park in. I also like to walk around the track at the gym in my walker and I just joined a power soccer team a few month ago.
“Look at you. Staying active getting your swole on. Ok, I see you. Power soccer sounds interesting. I will like to see how it is played.”
“It it similar to regular foot soccer. I will invite you the next time we have a home game so you can see how we play.”
“I would really like that.”
“You know the hobby I really like the most?”
“Which one is that?”
“The art of kissing.”
That answer gave the desired reaction of us participating in my favorite hobby for a good ten minutes. We talked for a good hour after that about our lives and plans for the future. When she had to go I of course offered to walk her back to her car. I of course could not talk on the way there because my hands were preoccupied with driving my wheelchair and holding Melissa’s hand. This took expertise because I had to watch out for other people and objects on the sidewalk and also try not to drive over Melissa’s toes. We almost made it to the car when Melissa tripped and fell. I knew that I must have tripped her in someway and I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. She probably won’t ever want to see me again after this and I really was starting to like the girl. I was so preoccupied with worrying about my failure that her bottom half of her left leg was sprawled out nearly five feet from the rest of her body. I thought I had killed this woman for sure, then I realized that there was no blood. While I sat there dumbfounded by the spectacle, Melissa retrieved her leg off the ground, rolled up her jean pants leg, and slide the prothetic leg unto the bottom part of her knee that had a sock around it.
“So sorry Jamil, I just got this new prothetic leg a few weeks ago and I am just now getting used to it.”
Ok, I know how that feels. I wear leg braces too for when I walk in my walker and it takes awhile for me to break them in. You do not have to feel sorry, I just was worried that I made you fall somehow.”
“No, you did not make me fall. I just was being clumsy and lost my balance. I just am a little embarrassed tripping and falling on the first date.”
“You do not have to worry about that. Things sometimes happens like that. I am just glad that I did not choke on my mocha. It would be a spray session when that happens.”
“I am glad that did not happen,” she said with a nervous chuckle. “Could you lend me your arm and help pull me up”
When I pulled her up in one swift motion I pulled her close and gave her a strong kiss dead on her lips.
“When do you want to see me again.” I managed to type rather quickly on my iPad.
“Soon, my dear Sadiq. Very, very soon.” Melissa said before giving me a long kiss before getting in her Honda Civic and driving away.
As I drove back in my power wheelchair to the coffee shop to meet Roger, I couldn’t really manage driving in a straight line or keep the ear to ear smile from shining on my face.

This is a new poem that I read at the Air Lounge this past Wednesday the 20th at the Air Lounge. Enjoy reading.

When death comes.

Hold me in the gaps between your ribs,
tie me like sinew to your bone.
Keep me clenched in your palms,
and squeeze before I drain from you
like granules of sand between your fingers.
It is you that is the cushion
between the gears that grind me.
See I spend most of my days
With people who are paid to be with me,
usually locked away in my house.
I watch the sands of time
slide from my window pane
leaving the remnant of dull brown smudges
that raindrops will not wash off.

You are the sweet speck of gum drop
on the tip of my tongue
that I suck every drop of flavor out of.
I count the days,
when my cheeks
can be cupped by your hands
as you pull me in
to brush your lips against mine.

When my name is ceased to be uttered,
By my mother,
By my father,
My two sisters,
My three attendants,
My many fraternity brothers,
Still keep my name
Seared on your tongue
Sweet as a peppermint lifesaver
That you still suck after it dissolves.

When I feel my spirit fading,
and my whole foundation
shaking under my feet.
Sweep me off the ground
and hold me to your bosom
until my breath subsides.

The purpose of this blog is simple to give a complete rendering of my perspective as an young African American man with a severe physical and speech disability. Most literature that is written about us and not by us and this blog tries to counteract it.  In writing this blog I hope to reveal the pervasive ablism people in my demographic face in everyday interactions in society. I hope with this   project I can raise awareness about the systematic prejudices people in my situation face.