Ok, so, DISCRIMINATION at its best people. My friends were in town, many of you might have noticed because my IG and FB posts were ON FIRE. As the GREAT tour guide I am, I wanted to ensure my friends had the best time and got to see the best things Chicago has to offer. So of course I suggested we go to Signature Lounge,96Th Floor John Hancock, which is on the 96th floor or the John Hancock building on Michigan Ave. offers the BEST views I’ve ever seen (because you know, I’m NOT blind, I’m visually impaired). As we went up the super-fast elevator I saw the excitement on my friends faces which was AWESOME. Uponentrance to the Signature Lounge, we barely waited in line, SCORE. Being visually impaired in busy places I use my mobility cane, even though my wonderful fiancée, Jessica was with me, I wanted to add an extra buffer of safety. We were seated and I quickly went to the manager and asked if we were free to roam about and take pictures. WELL, HERE’S WHERE IT GETS FUN! He told me “I COULD NOT GO ANYWHERE ALONE” and I looked at him confused and he proceeded to ask me, which was more of a statement “WELL YOU’RE DISABLED AREN’T YOU, YES?” I responded “Yes, but my cane is an indicator for others…”. I couldn’t get much out because he proceeded to yell to my table and say, “She goes nowhere alone, understood? There are servers and bus boys and people carrying drinks that YOU could run into”. I looked at my fiancée who was visibly upset, but decided to comply due to not wanting to cause a scene. We ordered drinks and mediocre at best appetizers. I literally was fearful or moving about because this man was hawking me, I even had to have my fiancée accompany me to the bathroom and waited for her to be done before I walked back to my seat. Please be advised that I am fully capable of doing all this alone and this manager made me feel completely dependent on others and I COMPLETELY PRIDE MYSELF ON MY INDEPENDENCE! So, now time to speak my mind to the signature lounge. I wrote a review that goes to management, I sent an e-mail to some mailbox and I also called and made a verbal complaint. I received a call from Jillian who is apparently a stand in manager. She expressed her disgust and assured me that this man was fired due to similar feedback from other customers. She was very nice and told me that The Signature Room at the 95th and The Signature Lounge at the 96th see people of all different colors, shapes and sizes and that’s not how they like to do business. I was happy with that but also felt like my time there was not enjoyed due to how it made me feel, not the mention my friends and I we spend over $200 on food and drinks. So Jillian stated they would send me gift cards for dinner or drinks etc., this made me feel better about where my money was spent. WELL, I revied TWO $15 gift cards which I believe is like a slap in the face due to the amount we spent and the discomfort and discrimination I had to endure during my time there. PLUS, ONE drink there is $15! So, am I wrong here guys?
When I was 17, I started boxing. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, I was told boxing wouldn’t be a good idea. When I asked why, there was no supporting medical reasoning. When I was 24, I was told I was legally blind, at 24 I competed for my chance to be part of the very first Women’s Olympic Boxing team for Puerto Rico which is where I was born. I fought against the Pan American Gold Medalist and fought a hell of a fight. I came in 2nd place. When I was 16 I dropped out of high school. Statistics say that high school drop outs are responsible for 75% of all crime in the U.S. My record is clean. Statistics also say that a high school drop outs make $200k less in their lifetime, I am a working professional and have held positions that generally require a bachelor’s degree . I completed my GED at 29 years old, I will be attending college for the first time at the age of 30.
My visual impairment makes me different, it doesn’t stop me. It makes me push harder. What I lost in physical vision I gained in how I viewed my goals, my dreams, my drive, aspirations, wants, desires. Don’t ever stop dreaming, no dream is too big or small. Don’t feel bad for yourself because no one but YOU can get you out of that hole. Keep fighting, don’t EVER take no for an answer, it’ll be worth it.
Sometimes I get this overwhelming feeling where all I can think of is changing the world. To really just have such an impact on todays generation, the next generation, my generation and past generations. To share a message, I’m not exactly sure what that message would be, but it would be so incredibly powerful that everyone would be inclined to tell someone else about it. The want, the feeling, is INSATIABLE. The only way to do that is by making myself the best version of myself I can be and let me tell you, I’m far away from that today. I have a desire to be greater, than I am today, not for myself but for you, for her, for him, for your kids and mine. I feel so committed to that and I challenge you to do the same. #evolvewithme
Some times I consider myself a writer but really it’s just my way of taking my feelings and expressing them into words that make sense. What better way than to turn pain into poetry? I have a hard time these days really saying what I feel. I guess I’m grieving about a loss. The loss of support, the loss of family and the loss of the memories I thought I would make. I recently got engaged to an amazing woman. Great news right!? Well, not to my immediate family. My extremely religious mother, father, brother, etc., etc., have made it very clear about their beliefs and I have to accept that. Seems simple enough till you realize it feels like a tremendous loss. I’ve turned to writing because I feel my physical voice won’t be heard. I wrote this poem because it serves as a reminder to myself that I knew this would happen, I watched it happen and the pain will never go away but when I look back I can see how far I’ve come.
All in all, I am who I am and I cannot be anyone else. Plus, I think I’m pretty awesome. What I’m learning is that acceptance comes in many forms, and sometimes not at all. I cannot stop myself from being myself because others don’t accept me.
Many of you may not be aware and even those of you who are, I’d like to share a piece of my reality with you. I have a retinal disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa or “RP” for short. RP is currently incurable. What ends up happening with RP is that it reduces the retina’s ability to respond to light and causes a slow loss of vision and eventually blindness. An average person has about 180° of visual field, I have 15°. Meaning I mostly have only my central vision but no peripheral vision. I am legally blind. For a long time, I went around pretending I was invincible and that the effects of this disorder did not affect my daily life. However, many bruises, stitches, black eyes, open cabinet doors that nearly knocked me out, etc., etc., etc., later, I decided it was time to do myself a favor and get myself a mobility cane aka white cane aka cane. It hasn’t been long since I made this decision and have had a hard time using it but been more open to using it recently. I still feel insecure about it, but the respect and courtesy given to me by complete strangers is one that warms my heart. I wanted to do something that would make me feel confident about using my cane more often and also hope to inspire those that have the same issue of feeling self conscience or insecure about it. To anyone who’s reading this and struggling to use it, I want you to know that, I KNOW. I know the struggle, I know how it affects you emotionally, mentally and psychologically. I also want you to know, that I think you look great, proud, strong and most of all, INDEPENDENT. These pictures mean MY independence and my desire to feel free from fear of a lot of things, not just the kitchen cabinet door, but of anyone who thinks that I’m faking it. A white cane doesn’t just mean “blind”, which is what most people assume. I’m visually impaired and this cane is my safety. In the spirit of #RPmonth, here’s one of my proudest moments. Here’s me, with my infamous bowtie in my best gentlewoman’s get up…with my cane in this amazing city that I love, Chicago. I could not be this brave without the support of those who love me most and those who stand behind me and help me feel more at ease with this decision. I am eternally grateful. Here’s to shedding a little light into the lives of some of us that don’t physically see the world as vibrant as others. I will say, my world is still made up of the most beautiful colors even with my eyes closed. Big thank you to Charlie Billups for the amazing photos#rpawareness #rpawarenessmonth#visuallyimpaired #whitecane #whitecanefashion#mobilitycane #chicago #bowtiesarecool #bowtie#dapper #dappergirls #blumaan #photoshoot#photoshootfresh
I didn’t decide what route to take. I thought I got to choose a path but the path was already set. We decide the minor details but we are all born with a purpose. Everything has its reason and the tiniest of details alter this path. I think back on all that I’ve decided, every single choice I’ve made, all the hard times and bad days and fights and arguments and tears of joy and pain and sleepless nights and mornings I overslept. Every time I made a good choice or a bad decision……… but look where I am right now. I’m here, I’ve made it to day and I’m kicking its ass.