I was born Deafblind, but I wasn’t born an advocate. Resisting ableism, racism and other forms of oppression is exhausting, ongoing work. We all face the choice to accept oppression or advocate for justice.
Video created and directed by Oge Egbuonu. Music by Phantogram. Portrait photography by Shaniqwa Jarvis. Campaign by Levi’s. #LevisBecoming
I’m wearing a denim blue jacket over a soft black tee. My straightened & styled dark hair flows past my shoulders. As I speak, the video alternates between scenes of me sitting in front of a brown background with green leaves and pink floral arrangements, sitting within a gold picture frame with pastel colored florals, walking with my guide dog through a labyrinth of hedges with colorful flowers, and typing on a Perkins Brailler stationed on a wooden desk in the center of the sweet-smelling labyrinth. A photo of my book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law appears, along with an image of President Barack Obama and me at the White House.
My name is Haben Girma. I’m a Black woman. I’m also disabled. So I experience both racism and ableism in a society that struggles with those two. Disability is an opportunity for innovation. If you face a challenge, that’s an opportunity to come up with a brand new solution, and that solution could end up helping not only you, but the entire community. The disability community is full of these examples. Yes, there’s a challenge. The challenge is to come up with new ways to connect with people, to access information. This is a challenge, both for the disabled person and for the entire community ’cause ultimately, it’s the community’s responsibility to remove the barriers so everyone can be included. We need everyone to be working on inclusion for the entire community, women, people of color, disabled people. It benefits all of us. It behooves all of us to remove the barriers.