The Audacity of Belief

In A Sedentary View, Columns, Features by Gregory Banks

Seeing people like the Reverend Jessie Jackson weep proves that all the dedication, faith, and struggles that Reverend Jackson and others, including the “Dreamer” himself, Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., and the ultimate sacrifice that Dr. King made for the Civil Rights Movement, has finally paid off.

While person after person, especially those old enough to remember the days when blacks were regarded as second class citizens, lamented on how they never thought they would see the day when a black man would become President, I found myself unable to share in that feeling. I understood the sentiment, of course, but to never think it would happen just did not register with me.

Although I grew up as a black man on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, and am certainly aware of the hard times and the still ongoing battles with prejudice and racism that we continue to fight today, my own battles were never so much about race as disability.

I grew up in a time when people were less accepting of those who were different, and while skin color often separates us based on culture, disability can be a means to separate us from the vast majority of mainstream society.

Being unusually short with crooked arms often felt like being a green-fleshed, 11-tentacled alien from Alpha Centauri whose head constantly spun around while pea soup spewed from its lips.

Add to that the very real distance that my physical disabilities placed between myself and other “normal” children, and you have the makings of one miserable, lonely, bitter man to be.

And yet I never became that man. I was raised by parents who never told me that I couldn’t be whatever I wanted to be. The friends I did have growing up appreciated me for who I was, and I rarely took time away from counting my blessings to fret over the things that I lacked.

Even when, in the 80s, I had trouble deciding what I wanted to do with my life, I never let the prospects of never having my dreams come true deter me from enjoying the life that I did have.

I think that’s why, when Barack Obama took the podium to accept the nomination as the next President of United States, I wasn’t overcome by the emotion of the achievement.

Whereas the President-Elect had “The Audacity of Hope,” I have “The Audacity of Belief.” I believe that anything and everything is possible. I believe that dreams are not unobtainable fantasies, but visualized goals that only we ourselves can prevent ourselves from achieving.

Sometimes it takes all of us, and not just each of us as individuals, to reach such heights, but nevertheless, the only thing we can’t accomplish are the things we fail to pursue with conviction.

The fact that disability remains a barrier today is more a matter of our societal failings to make way for every person to have a fair chance at the life they want, than any limitations our own disabilities place upon us.

As a person who has always loved to draw and create, who is now an author, a publisher, and a graphic designer, I’m proof positive that anything you conceive can be achieved, even if it takes the patience of Job to wait for it to happen.

November 4th, 2008 is a monumental day for all of us, especially those of us who fight for an equal and fair right to live a life free of restrictions. It’s a day when hope, faith, and perseverance triumphed.

And I hope it’s the start of new phase in the evolution in our world when people of any race, sex, national origin, sexual preference, or physical limitation can and will be accepted as worthwhile human beings given equal rights under the law, and I hope and pray that if our newest President accomplishes anything in the next four years, it’s to inspire and lead us into a new era of acceptance and understanding.

As bad as things are in these hard economic times, I think it’s perhaps the greatest time in human history to be alive, because it’s the first time where the prospect of freedom of choice and opportunity for everyone seems to be just over the horizon.

And hopefully we’ll all run together toward that future hand in hand.

I have the audacity to believe that such a future is only a matter of time, and even from the confines of my wheelchair, I intend to run toward it as fast as I can.

How about you?

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