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Perseverance

Life Story Club Contributor

July 8, 2020

This is another story about the radio station because it really did and has had a lot of influence on my life since, like, 1967 all the way up till the present.

One of the things I decided to do with the radio station when we won a battle to have a democratic governance of the station. That mean that people could run for positions of listener, listener-members of the station, or staff members of the station. I decided that I was going to run to be a listener-member of the board. I was pretty afraid of this, something I never did but the thing I was most afraid of was having to make a card where I would have to speak. They would play this card on the radio during the campaign. And this, a lot of people would hear. That would be their first information about me.

We had to write a written statement and we had to come up with this shorter oral statement that we were gonna make. And so I was afraid of the oral statement. I was really afraid to do this. Thank goodness we didn’t have to do it live. We got to record it and they were editing it to make it sound as good as possible and then they played it on the radio. Well, I practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced so that I had written it out and got a lot of helpful criticisms from other people. And then I practiced and practiced speaking it well.

When I made the card, when I actually made it, it came out very well and it was one of the best ones. It might have been a couple of seconds too long so they speeded it up a tiny little bit so it would sync into the time. It was supposed to be two minutes at the time. So they speeded it up a little bit and they played this card on the station.

The first time I ran for the board, I did not win. But the second time I ran, I did. I did win and I did other… The second time I ran, I also had to go around and recruit. We had to get a lot of people to sign a petition that they wanted us to run. We had to have a certain amount of people sign in order to become a successful candidate. It was like 20 people and I was very scared of going up to people that I didn’t know that well and asking them to sign for me. But I did it. I did it. People were so friendly and nice about it when I explained what it was about and some of the people I knew well but some I didn’t. And they signed for me and I did get to be on the station board.

So it was a win, and it wasn’t a complete win because at one point, they asked me to be the chair of the board. That did not work out successfully but it was not all my fault that it did not work successfully. It was an extremely contentious board and with two factions that were very at odds. And I told them that if I was gonna be chair, they would have to say their names because for most chairs, the people raise their hands. I said, “Well, you need to state your name and I’ll write down the names in the order I hear them and call on you. That’s how we do it in the National Federation of the Blind.” But they didn’t believe that that would be successful so they wanted somebody else to write down the names and then tell me who to call on. And I said, “Well, then, I’m not really doing the job as chair and I don’t feel comfortable doing half a job and being called the chair.”

It didn’t work out very well so I, at some point, I resigned from being the chair but I did not resign from the board. I feel that I did my full term and since then, I haven’t run again. But it’s not because I didn’t think I could do it because they really want people who can do fundraising, and that’s not my thing. To recruit members for the station, I would be good at recruiting members but I wouldn’t necessarily be good at fundraising and I said I don’t wanna do that stuff. Since that’s now becoming a core criteria, I don’t wanna do it.

Change in mindset

Life Story Club Contributor

June 17, 2020

When you are a minority person, you could be subject to a lot of prejudice. And sometimes the prejudice, just people’s misconceptions and whatever, sometimes it’s the other people are not mature, or there can be millions of different reasons, but it’s very difficult for a child to have to go through this. So, as a blind child, I went through periods when I experienced a lot of rejection by the kids around me, when I was little, I did. And then I had a pretty good experience when I was in high school because I was in a resource room and we had aides to help us, and the aides were sighted, and they got to know us very well, and we got to be very good friends, and it was like a family almost in that room. And we would go to classes from there, but we would do our tests and we would do our homework and everything in the resource room. So that was great.

But then when I went to college, I had a lot of loneliness and rejection, and it didn’t help me that I was kind of shy. And so, when somebody would reject me, I would just give up on that person. I wouldn’t try to change them or convince them or whatever, because I figured it wasn’t going to do any good. And, I got to the point where I said to myself, when I was like 18, 19. I said to myself, “I am going to, if I get into these situations, I’m going to reject sighted people around me before they reject me, so I won’t have to get hurt all the time.” Because I had some very bad experiences where I would meet somebody and I really, really, really liked the person. And I thought the person liked me, and we were going to be friends and everything. And then, there was always some reason it seemed like they changed their mind. In one case, the person changed her mind because I was going out with a black person, and she was prejudiced, so she rejected me because of that. So it really wasn’t even something that she didn’t like about me, but she didn’t like my choice.

And, many things like that happened and I went through my 20’s basically feeling like this and I guess I’m sort of a separatist, and it’s okay. I mean, I’m not going to be mean to anyone, but I’m not going to have a great yearning to get close to people if they’re sighted, because I’m going to get hurt.

Well, I got involved with the radio station WBAI, and at that point in 1977, the station was off the air, and there was a whole group of people working with the staff to try and get the station back on the air, and to protect the staff. Sitting in, in the building, trying to protect them from getting evicted from the building. And, we were a whole group of people living outside this church (that used to be a church, it was a radio station at that present time). And we were living outside on the steps. And, for weeks, for five or six weeks, we were living out there most of the time we were there. And, we had these long nights of talking to each other, and getting to know each other. And, there was a whole group of really wonderful, wonderful people. And they were very nice to me, and I loved them.

And I realized, absolutely this was a profoundly changing experience to me, and I realized that all sighted people weren’t going to be good or bad. Just the same as all blind people, or all women, or all people of color, or any group. There’s going to be good and bad in any group, and that to reject the good people because you’re afraid of getting hurt, is such a great loss and a foolish way to behave. And, it can really make one’s life much less fulfilling.

So I learned this fantastic thing from that group of people that I was living with on those church steps for those six weeks. And ever since then, it’s been a fantastic experience to make friends. And, I have many sighted friends, I have more sighted friends than most of my blind friends do. And, I feel that I’m so lucky. And I try to persuade other people who are separatists in whatever group they’re with. I know people that, for one reason or another, reject some groups of people, and I try to use my experience to show that it doesn’t have to be that way. Include the most people in your life is by far the smarter path.

The nicest gesture

Life Story Club Contributor

June 10, 2020

I couldn’t think of one nicest thing that was done for me by somebody close to me, but this is the nicest things that were ever done for me by perfect stranger. And they both involve a computer. They both involve periods during which I had a computer.

I got my first computer through an organization that they used to have in Queens and it was mostly dedicated to helping youth get into computers during the 1990s. The early 90s, late 90s. But they did help a couple of disabled people, as well, get into computers. And when it was no longer … I don’t know if you guys remember when they had DOS. The first operating system for the computer that most people ever knew about was … And I was using DOS for a long time after everybody else was because they let me use it at work.

And then I needed something else and I still wanted a text-based operating system. The people at this organization that had helped me with my DOS computers got me someone to give me Linux. Linux is a free operating system that you don’t have to pay for. It’s very safe. It doesn’t usually get viruses or anything. And this fellow who came and installed Linux on my computer was a very interesting person. He had lived in Germany for a while, was Israeli originally. And he came and he installed Linux on the computer and started to teach me a little bit about how to use the speech and told me enough to get me started.

And then I had this computer for a few years. I was enjoying myself very much because … I couldn’t do everything on it but I learned how to do quite a few things. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn how to do podcasts but I used to do email and the web and everything and playing music and making CDs and sharing music with people and all that. It was great. That was during the time when everybody was putting illegal files up and everybody was sharing with everybody else. It was just a wonderful time when everybody learned so much about music because you could share. And then my computer went on fire and I lost my computer. It burned.

And I was very sad for a long time. I didn’t have a computer for like six months. And I was going around to every person I met and every organization that I belonged to, which was quite a few. And going around asking if anybody knew somebody who knew how to use Linux and could help me get it on another computer so I could get back to where I had been. And I was asking people and asking, and nobody, nobody, nobody. Finally, I was telling somebody about my predicament in the street and he said, “My friend knows how to use it. And he’s a very nice person. He does volunteer work. And he might be willing to help you.”

I gave this person my number and his friend called me up and he was going to move out of New York. He was going to leave, so he didn’t want to take both his computers with him. So, he donated his second computer to me and put Linux on it, came over and set me up again. And so, for seven more years I had a working computer that I could do things with and have fun. And I told him how much I appreciated it and I was hoping maybe I would hear from him after he left the city but I never did. He was gone. And he had said to me, “If you get a chance, since I did something nice for you, do something nice for someone else. Pass it along.”

And then he went out of my life. But he had given me this wonderful gift. So, I had two strangers help me have a computer for a long time.

I do not have one now. I hope … My second, strongest wish, if I find one more Linux strange that can set me up one more time.

Speaking Up

Life Story Club Contributor

June 3, 2020

I think this is probably the first time that I ever really spoke up about anything of any importance to adults. From fifth through eighth grade … and actually it was four and a half years because I had to repeat fifth grade when I transferred over from public school. I transferred over to this school called Lavelle school, which was in the Bronx and it was run by nuns and it was historically a Catholic school, but because it was getting state funding and possibly federal funding, they weren’t allowed to force people to take religion. People of all religions started to go to the school and we didn’t have to take religion if we didn’t want to or our parents didn’t want us to take it. However, my mother let me take it because it was important to my grandmother, and my parents were not religious at all, but my grandmother was Catholic.

So I took religion and we had nuns. I had two nuns and a male teacher during the time when I was there, and one of the nuns was a very nasty person. She had been abused as a child by her parents, and even though you would think she would know better because she was going to graduate school at Fordham and she was taking psychology and you think she would have learned something, she was abusive towards many of her students, and especially people of color, which I didn’t know a lot about that at that time. I didn’t know. I had seen one other situation in public school where a black student was abused, but in the case that I’m going to tell you about, it was a white student, but she was in foster care and her name was Patsy. So she sort of had the same name as I do, and the nuns told her … she was accusing her of being boy crazy, because she was a little bit more mature and more interested in things like dancing and boys and things like that than some of us were, and so she told her, “You’re going to grow up to be a bum, just like your mother was.”

And her parents and her social worker came up to the school and they were looking for anybody who would testify as to the fact that this had really happened, and my best friend at the time, Eileen and I, we did. We volunteered to talk about it and we told the social worker that we had heard this, we both heard it, and that it was true and that she was abusive in a lot of cases to other students. She was never really that abusive to me because she knew my mother would have come up right away, but apparently she did get in some sort of trouble for it. So we did a good deed and the school never retaliated against us. So they must have known that it was true and it really happened, but that was the first time that I spoke up, and it was very scary because she was a nasty person and she could have found plenty of ways to retaliate. She remained at the school. She was still there, but the fact that we didn’t get in any trouble, I think meant that they must have known that it was true, the principal and so forth. And unfortunately they didn’t take Patsy out of the school either. She was still there. We graduated from eighth grade together, and when we were in the eighth grade, I did visit her at her foster parents’ house. So I don’t know why that they didn’t take her out of school, but they did not.

Historical Event

Life Story Club Contributor

June 3, 2020

I would have to say that the world event that really upset me and got me much more politicized even than Vietnam did… And Vietnam certainly did get me politicized to some extent, because I heard about Napalm and I heard about a lot of the things that were going on with the soldiers, and how they were refusing to fight, and so forth. The most, the one that really got to me was when Allende was murdered in Chile, that was 1973. I was hearing about it a lot. I think the day after it happened, I was scheduled to have an abortion, and I went to have the abortion. The same afternoon, I went to a meeting that was held about the situation in Chile.

I went and I said to the people, “I usually wouldn’t ask you this, but can I please have a chair to stay in this meeting because I’ve just had a medical procedure?” They let me sit down. Obviously, it meant a lot to me if I was willing to go out that soon, and then I started to go to meetings and became involved with the Central America issues, starting with Chile and going up.

I would go to meetings where there were people who had survived being tortured in Chile, and then later, Salvador, and Guatemala, and so forth. I would hear the stories firsthand, maybe secondhand because maybe there would be a translator, so I would not really be hearing it firsthand, but I would be hearing it live as the person was talking. That is what got me most involved – the personal human communication.

Taking a Risk

Life Story Club Contributor

May 27, 2020

I belong to the National Federation of the Blind, and one of the things that we have… Our philosophy is that we can do everything that anyone else can do, maybe in a slightly different way, and that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be babied, or treated differently if it doesn’t have to be done.

At this time, we were having a lot of discussions about problems that we were having with flying on planes, and they wanted us to go on the planes. They wanted us to get onto the plane before everyone else, along with the parents with small children and other people like that. We were saying that we really didn’t need to do that because getting onto the plane, there’s only one way that you can go. Once you get onto that long passageway, there’s only one way you can go, and then you keep going and eventually you get onto the plane, and then you’ll have to find your seat, which, they’re in rows, so you could just count to get to the row that you want to get, the row that you’re supposed to sit in, and you can find it, and everything’s going to work out.

I wasn’t going on a plane this time, but I was going on a cross country bus trip. I did a lot of going to the West Coast, to Seattle many times, and to one time to San Francisco, and one time I think to Texas, I went on bus trips. At one time, I took a special price, which meant that you had to get onto the bus that you signed up for. You couldn’t get onto a later bus, you couldn’t change your ticket or anything. So, you had to go on that bus.

Well, when I was coming back, I assume it was from Seattle because most of my trips were like that, the driver demanded that I get onto the bus before everybody else. And I said, “No, why do I have to do that? I mean, it’s going to be fine, I’ll go on with the rest of the people.” And he said, “If you don’t go on before everyone else, I’m not going to let you go on my bus.”

And I said, “You have to let me go on your bus because I have a ticket that won’t allow me to go on a later bus. And so I must go on your bus.” And he said, “Well, it’s up to you. If you’re not going to fulfill my requirements, then I’m not going to take you on my bus.” It was a very terrifying thing because I was in a strange city, I didn’t have enough cash on me to buy another ticket. I, obviously, if I could’ve gotten to the bank, I would have been able to do that, but it was late. It was getting towards the middle of the night, and I was very terrified to see what would happen if I didn’t get on this bus. And I did not get on it.

I thought it was so important to live up to not only my principle, but the principle of my organization, that we’ve been fighting so long and so hard for. I went and talked to the most senior person at that bus terminal, and he allowed me to get onto the next bus because he said what was done to me was wrong. The driver hadn’t had the right to make that stipulation, it’s not a law. It’s recommendation that we should go on early, it’s not a law, it’s not a rule. We haven’t signed anything that we must do it. Therefore, he said he was fine with me going on the next bus. So, it ended well, but it might not have. That’s why it was a risk.

I was traveling alone and I didn’t know anyone. No one came to back me up because I don’t know that people really knew what was going on, because there have been other incidents, similar kind of incidents where people did back me up. We have, many times, there’s always many instances of this kind of thing. The banks used to try to make us go before everyone else on the bank, on the line, and I would say, “I’m not doing that.” There was so many things, I tell people, “There’s no such thing as separate but equal.” We found that out 1954, and it’s still true.

If somebody grabs you and starts dragging you, then it’s insulting and you have to hit them somewhere, whatever. If somebody asks you, “Would you like assistance or are you okay?” That’s perfectly fine, and if a person gets angry about that, they’re in the wrong, because it’s respecting you to give you a choice to say would you like help or not.

Performing in Public

Life Story Club Contributor

May 27, 2020

I’m in the New York City Labor Chorus. I’ve been in it for about 20 years. So, it’s a wonderful experience. It’s a large chorus and we certainly make a wall of sound. And we’re four parts and we do concerts. Every year or so, we have a concert at a church. It’s where they have the one of the community church on 35th Street. And then every couple of years, we have an even larger concert and a bigger venue like the, what is that called on 95th Street?

Yes, that’s right. We sang there once. We sing at ethical culture once and a few other different places. So I have certainly sung a lot, but the story I wanted to tell is when I sang, I really made an impression on someone and it was very important to me because I was kind of shy. And it was this summer that I finished ninth grade and my mother and I went to visit our family friends in the country. And they got us invited to this party at these people’s house. And I was getting a little bored with just sitting around and listening to all the adults talk. So they said I could go out into the garage and play the piano and sing.

So one of the people was also interested in music and he was in his 20s and he came out to listen to me sing, and he loved my singing and he loved folk music as well as country music. And we talked a whole lot and then eventually, he wanted to sing for me. So he went and got his guitar and he was singing really old country music like Hank Williams and stuff for me. And we enjoyed each other so thoroughly.

And it was a very important thing to have happened to me that somebody appreciated me and talked to me as an adult and shared our interests. And I have never forgotten and I’ve never forgotten him. And his name was Ed. And the fact that he appreciated me and my music was very important to me. But I have to say that his wife was not very happy because he was spending a couple of hours, at least with this very young teenager. And I think she thought it was a little strange, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves and I have never forgotten him. He was from New Hampshire, the only person I’ve ever known from New Hampshire.

I had a little bit of piano lessons when I was a child. I never got really great at piano, but I just sort of used it enough to accompany myself. And so it wasn’t a big thing to me. I really can’t play the piano anymore. But obviously I still sing and I’m still a second soprano.

I’ve been with the chorus for just about 20 years. I came into it and they in the, maybe the mid 90s, maybe something like ’96, ’97. I missed the year, but I was brought in by my boss. At NYU, I used to work for the labor archives at the time I’m in library at NYU. And she was in the chorus and she heard me sing it at couple of her parties at her house. And she brought me in and she was the one that originally was encouraging me and helping me to learn the songs at the beginning, because it was quite… Coming in as a new person and most people had been in the chorus for several years, it was daunting at the beginning to try to learn everything. So she helped me a lot.

We sing union songs and civil rights songs. Charity Forever and We Shall Overcome. We do a wonderful version of We Shall Overcome. And we do a few pieces that were originally classical, and we have rewritten words to talk about the environment issue or other similar issues like that. Last year when we had our concert, I announced it at my class, at the rote and someone came. Someone actually wanted to come. And so hopefully next year I’ll be able to do that again. The chorus has several CDs and the last one came out just before all this epidemic started. And so I don’t have a copy of it yet. But I’m sure we have a lot more copies. I’m sure we’ll be able to be selling them at our next concerts next year.

Hearing Cats Purr

Life Story Club Contributor

Hearing cats purr. I’ve had two cats. My first cat, he was almost all black and he had a very quiet purr. He knew I loved to listen to his purr, so he would come over to me and purr in my ear. He would put his face right into my ear so he’d be sure I could hear it. He knew!

My second cat, who is still alive but I don’t have him right now because I can’t do the litter box because I have back fractures. He’s an almost all-white cat. His name is Elton, and he has a very loud purr. I certainly loved hearing him purr. My friend has him right now, and I talk to him on the phone! He recognizes my voice and looks all around, and he purrs. I can hear him purr over the phone, he’s so loud!

We had a cat when I was a teenager, but I was not enamored with that cat because that cat was very, very, very overweight. He wouldn’t play, he would just lay there. I was too inexperienced to understand that if he had been put on a diet, and gotten to eat properly, that cat would’ve been healthier and more playful. A more playful friend to have! But he was just this lazy old, huge, sedentary creature that wasn’t very exciting.

Nature

Life Story Club Contributor

The most wondrous thing in nature was visiting Niagara Falls. I visited Niagara Falls twice. Niagara Falls is the most amazing…it’s louder than you can imagine water could ever be. It sounds like several, very loud freight trains going by you, and continuing to go by you. It’s so mighty, it’s so might that it tells you in a non-verbal way that nature is powerful, more powerful than we are.

The first time I was there, it was very cold, and I walked across the Peace Bridge with my boyfriend at the time. It was wonderful even though it was very cold.

The second time I went it was in the fall, and I got to ride on the boat that goes under the Falls. So the Falls actually drips a little water on us, so we’re actually being touched by it as well as hearing it. And it’s beautiful, it’s just…a wonderful thing the Falls. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been, to go there, and feel the mightiness of nature.

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