Differently Abled--A New Story Inspired by My Mom

Last Saturday evening my mom and I were coming back from Fashion Week in Milan. 

My mom and I with my friend and favorite designer Stella Jean.
If you're not familiar with her brand, get into it. I've been a fan for a long time.

If you know my mom, you're aware that in 2005 she suffered a brain aneurysm and a stroke and was left paralyzed in all of her extremities for quite some time. She was hospitalized for over two months and eventually regained her mobility after physical therapy, but she still walks with the assistance of a walker or cane. She gets to where she needs to go, slowly but surely. Anyway, on Sept. 25 we got to Termini train station, and there was an incredibly long line to wait for a taxi. We were told by a toothless and kind guy at the end of the line who seemed to be managing it to go to the front because my mother is visibly disabled (I prefer to the term 'differently abled" and she didn't have to wait in line. (This is pretty customary in Italy, where the majority of the population is of a certain age). So even though I had a bad feeling about it, I helped my exhausted mom walk to the front with just her cane--she'd left the walker at home because we weren't sure it'd be easy to move around with it.
Once we got to the front, we encountered a group of about six Americans. Before i could even ask or explain they just started shouting "NO!" at my mom and me, telling us we were rude for trying to skip the line...it was really incredible. Then they started insulting me and disregarding my mom as if she were invisible. One forty-plus woman said, "You're not getting in the next taxi. Your mom can just sit down and wait over there."
I think I was most stunned by the grace and dignity that my mother was able to muster up in this situation. I could see that she just didn't want to be a bother. She just kept saying, "We were told to come to the front of the line" with the most patient and serene tone.

My mom Katharyn at Stella's show earlier in the day

Now, if you know me, you can imagine that no one in that line went home unscathed. I shouted in English and Italian. I hurled insults back to those who were insulting me. I told the forty-plus woman she was angry because her husband wanted to be with me, really anyone, but her (he did not object)...the whole time I just kept thinking, "Damn, I'm really not in the mood for an argument. But no one is going to disrespect my mother..." One 70-plus year old white American man snarled, "You're just doing this because you're Black."
I guess this is what Trump is doing to the states right now...
My mom, who is very sensitive about her disability, just kept saying, "We were told to come to the front." After shouting explaining to everyone in line in Italian that my mother is differently abled and this is Italy so she has precedence in the line and asking if anyone wanted to object to us hopping in the next taxi, the 70-plus year old American guy's horrid wife said, "Just shut up and get in the car." I called her a lot of horrible names...then her husband, just loud enough for only me to hear, gritted his teeth and spat, "Get your Black ass in the car." I wonder how many times he's uttered that phrase in his decrepit life.
The hate and racism and intolerance of a differently abled person was palpable.
But it got me to thinking that this could be a really great children's book...not all of the horrible racist stuff, but just explaining to children through a story that you can't tell who is going through what by just looking at them... my sister Nefeterius was a transplant recipient and had cancer and looked like a professional model the whole time she was sick and even on her deathbed. I also want to communicate that if you see someone who is differently abled it's kind and considerate to give them grace and a hand, if possible.
These kinds of projects are sorely needed right now, and they always will be. Plus, there are very few differently abled characters on the front of children's books, just like there's a void in racially diverse characters in children's literature.
So I told Phil over at Howell Edwards the story, and asked him to make a promotional image. I've started writing a story about a differently abled Nana, who, like my mother, is a complete superhero. She takes her grandkids to school (even giving them a ride on her walker), travels the world, cooks, loves and lives beautifully and is an inspiration to so many.

Once we were home from Milan, my mom and I told Charles and the boys what happened. Noah and Milo were so flabbergasted. They just couldn't understand why anyone would ever have a problem letting someone who has mobility issues go ahead. "If I had been there," Milo said, "I woulda kicked those people for messing with Nana..."
It was very moving to hear some things that my mother had never shared with me, as she is an eternal optimist and a truly positive force. She recounted stories of times when people have let doors close in her face--or have run to get ahead of her in line because she's moving too slowly and they don't want to wait. "Yes," she mused while telling some of what she's been through, "people like me go through a lot." I admire my mother so; she has never complained once. And so, I had no idea...
Children's books are an incredible tool to model authentic stories and appropriate conflict resolution strategies. I'm excited to see where this story goes. I'd like you guys' help with publishing it quickly.
I self fund all of the books published via The English Schoolhouse. If you've ever wanted to be illustrated in a kids' book, here's your chance. For the end pages of this story, I'm going to have an illustration of people from all different backgrounds and abilities. The caption will say, "Differences are Beautiful." Once the book is published this image will be made into a poster and sold on my publishing house's website, theenglishschoolhouse.com.ALL proceeds from the poster will go to my sister's foundation, The Nefeterius Akeli McPherson foundation, which was set up by my mother Katharyn Mcpherson in her honor. Funds will assist in providing scholarships for college students as well as medicine for individuals suffering with illnesses who need some assistance.
So, if you'd like to help make this book a reality, here's how you chip in--
*Choose the picture you'd like your illustration to be based on and email it to [email protected].
*Donate $75 or more to [email protected] via PayPal. ($75 is the price for each person to be illustrated--so, for example, if you wanted to be illustrated with two children, the price would be $225 and I'd need a picture of all three).
*The deadline for this is Friday Oct. 6 as funds I collect will assist in paying for illustration work and book formatting. Each contributor will have their name listed in the book dedication.
I know this was a long post. Thank you guys for reading and supporting. It'd be great if you'd share as well.
And listen, if you're racist and on that bullsh**, KEEP YOUR MISERABLE A** IN THE STATES!
Rome doesn't need or want that kinda energy.

1 comment:

  1. I am literally shaking and my fingers are stuttering over the keyboard while I type as I imagine this traumatic scene and your beautiful mother attacked by the horrid species of human who allows him- and herself to behave this way towards anyone. Least of all towards your mother!!! Fellow Americans, at that! Way to turn this horrible negative into a positive, T.