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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Nickel

Reflections of an Intern: Why Self-Advocacy Makes Me Think of American Idol and Justin Bieber!

Part 1

I spent some hours this week perusing the web for the best Self-Advocacy videos available online to the public. This survey revealed that about 80% of these videos are made at conferences with poor quality cameras and a lack of direction. While all the videos succeed in conveying the fact that people with developmental disabilities have profound ideas and noteworthy stories about challenges conquered to share with all of us, only about 20% convey thought provoking images that I can digest within my realm of experience.

So what does this have to do with popular media?

Justin Bieber’s 2011 documentary Never Say Never is a film that captures the grandiose fame of this teenage pop star at a Madison Square Garden performance while simultaneously telling the story of his humble upbringing. While I would not consider myself a big fan of the singer, I watched this film and enjoyed getting acquainted with Bieber’s history. Even though I’m not a full force “belieber”, I appreciate his hard work and persistence toward pursuing his dream. Self-Advocacy videos elicit a similar feeling in me. I understood prior to watching the videos what this skill set and movement means to our society, especially those with disabilities. I understand that self-advocacy means feeling empowered, to speak from the heart, and to make sure one’s wants and needs are met, regardless of what others say. What made these videos so interesting was getting to hear how self-advocates achieved the confidence and bravery to stand up for themselves in our dog-eat-dog society. I presume that a great sense of self-awareness comes from telling the world your story, and that this, in turn, is what seems to help develop the skill set necessary for being the best self-advocate one can be.  As we can see in Never Say Never, one’s story is so important to his or her personal and professional life because it helps others understand why you dream what you dream. This leads us to understand why the often criminalized-as-silly resume is so important to employers. Cliches such as “we are what we eat,” and even “never say never,” are all part of the overarching philosophy that our pasts give meaning to our present.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 next week!

-Hallie Abelman, Intern for Arts In Action

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