Brooks

@brooks2197 | contributor
Follower of Jesus. Tar Heel. Believer in the God of the Bible and His love for each and every one of us. Your story matters and isn't finished. 1 Corinthians 13.
Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

UNC Chapel Hill Is Still Not Accessible to People With Disabilities

“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” These words, uttered by President George H.W. Bush nearly 31 years ago when he signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, ushered in what promised to be a new era of opportunity and inclusion for those with disabilities. Yet, as most of us are aware, the work is far from over and the shameful walls of exclusion still exist. This could not be any more apparent than on my campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The nation’s oldest public university, UNC was founded on a simple premise: to provide affordable public education to all. Yet, for students with disabilities, the university still lags on that promise. The campus is old, and many of its buildings are hard to access and need improvement. One building in particular, Caldwell Hall, is completely inaccessible. This means that students who use wheelchairs or other assistive devices cannot access the building at all. In addition, our campus’s most enduring symbol, the Old Well, only has a wheelchair ramp during graduation and the first day of classes so that people can take photos. This is unacceptable. The Old Well needs a permanent wheelchair ramp so that everyone can access it. The administration likes to tout UNC as being “the most public of the publics,” yet it can not be truly public until it is accessible to all. The administration hears our concerns and is sympathetic towards them, yet says the issue is lack of funding. If that is indeed the case, I’m ready to go to the General Assembly and lobby for more funding for our treasured institution. In the year 2021, the fact that individuals with disabilities still face a plethora of issues accessing our facilities is shameful. This is a human rights issue, not a political one. Let’s work together to make UNC a more accessible and welcoming place for everyone.

Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

Marjorie Taylor Greene Uses 'R-Word' in Video About Border Wall

“But we have retards… I’m sorry I know that’s an offensive term, and I’m not trying to talk down on people with Down syndrome, but that’s what these people are.” These words were uttered by sitting Congressional representative Marjorie Taylor Greene in a recently-discovered video discussing funds for former President Trump’s border wall. Representative Greene, it’s too late. You’ve already talked down to me and the thousands of others in this country with learning differences. I was born with cerebral palsy and know what it’s like to be cast aside and called names like the one you used. I’m fortunate enough to be able to pursue an education at UNC-Chapel Hill, and when I am finished I will have two college degrees to my name. The fact that an elected representative uses such an offensive term freely and without regard for the thoughts and feelings of others with disabilities and differences is shameful. It is past time you either apologize, resign, or open your eyes and see the countless contributions those with disabilities make to this country. I want you to spend a day with someone with a disability or learning difference. I want you to see that they are children of God, deserving of love and appreciation. You represent constituents with disabilities in Georgia. They deserve a Congresswoman who doesn’t use such offensive language. You should be a role model to our children, yet your words only deepen the divide in this country and cause pain to millions. I’m imploring you, Representative Greene. Be better.

Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

To President Biden, From an American With a Disability

Dear Joe Biden, I’ve heard you struggled immensely with stuttering in the past. Sometimes you still stutter or struggle pronouncing something, but I know what you mean. An estimated one in four Americans have a disability, and I am one of them. I was born with cerebral palsy. I don’t stutter, but I do have a slight limp when I walk and my hamstrings are tight. President Biden, I know you know what it feels like to be different. I know you know what it feels like to lose someone you love. Your stuttering isn’t a liability, but an asset. It proves you’re human and imperfect. I hope you place Americans with disabilities at the forefront of your administration and policy agenda, and I hope the Biden presidency will be one of inclusion and tremendous gains for those in the disability community. Thank you for inspiring those of us with disabilities to continue to reach for new heights. When you succeed, America succeeds. I will be praying for you.

Community Voices

“What is and What should be.” #Grief

There’s a battle in my head between what is and what should be
And if I listen closely
I can hear the struggle amidst me
My dad says not to wonder
That he is alright
But my head says
“What if”
And I turn the hour glass
Back
And hear childhood laughter
And a family at ease
I turn the clock forward
I’m 22 now
Dad, can’t you see?
When you left me at fifteen- I didn’t know what to believe
Can you really be gone?
Away?
Absent from this world?
You always told me I was your Superman- but lately I don’t know what to believe.
If you can hear me I hope you’re free
Free from the pain of life
And all it’s suffering
In a land where sorrows are no more
And sunshine reigns supreme
That’s where I’ll find you
Somewhere
Some day
Waiting for me.

Community Voices

The Depravity of Grief

My dad died when I was fifteen. I heard the voicemails he left me a few weeks ago. I’ve written about grief extensively. This time, however, I will be preparing to actively grieve and come to a place of resolution and peace as it relates to my dad’s death. I won’t ever get over the fact that he died when I was fifteen. I just want to get over the feelings of anger, sadness, and the acute awareness  that I am absent of something a man at my age shouldn’t be absent of- an earthly father.

I used to think that grief was merely something done in stages and once you’re done with the stages- grief is done with you.

I was wrong.

Hearing my dad say “I love you.” Was heart wrenching and comforting at the same time.

I guess I just want to say,”I love you too, Dad.”

And if grief is the price one pays for having loved someone- I’ll choose to love every time.

Mental Health

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Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

Disability Rights and the 2020 Presidential Candidates

Dear 2020 candidates for President of the United States, The 2020 Presidential election is still a ways away, yet a plethora of you are hoping to take on President Donald Trump and are currently vying for airtime and a seat at the table. There has been much made about policy ideas and political stances you all hold on specific issues; however, one major issue has been primarily left untouched: disability rights and what the next potential Democratic administration’s policies would look like for individuals with disabilities. The latest figures show that 61 million Americans have a disability, and only 19.1 percent are employed, compared with 65.9 percent of the general population. Disabled people are people too. They have the same hopes, fears, dreams and desires as anyone else. It may be a little harder for us to take a seat at the table, yet I can assure every one of you running for President that we want to have a seat at the table. You are running to be our President too. Presidential candidates should actively talk about and raise awareness of the plethora of issues those in the disability community face. You all should speak to us, get to know our stories, our hopes, our fears and our struggles. I believe America is at its best when everyone has a chance to contribute to his or her God-given potential. So this election, please don’t use us as mere photo props or as another talking point. I challenge you to see us. I challenge each of you to look past our disability and see us for the human beings we are. And as you do so, you will start to realize that we aren’t much different from you. We may have individual struggles that you will never entirely be able to comprehend, and that’s OK. All we ask is that you make a full-hearted effort to both hear us and know us. You’ll be glad you did, and I can promise you’ll learn something new too.

Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

Betsy DeVos, Don't Cut Funding for the Special Olympics

Dear Betsy DeVos, My name is Brooks Fitts, and I am a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am not a politician or someone with interest in being elected to public office. I am merely interested in and concerned in particular with those in the disability community. I have seen your recent budget that proposes eliminating support for the Special Olympics. Although I have never participated in the Special Olympics, many kids with the disability I have, cerebral palsy, do on a regular basis. I want you to go to them, look them in the eye and tell them that a program that means so much to them will no longer be supported by the United States government. I want you to go to hospitals and clinics with children, and tell them their government has effectively turned their back on one of the most meaningful organizations they might ever have the chance to be a part of. I want you to go to a Special Olympics event and look at the smiling faces of every child and parent. I want you to imagine a world without Special Olympics. I want you to recognize that just because some kids who participate in Special Olympics cannot fully speak for themselves, it does not mean you can effectively shut down government funding for this program without a fight. I am proud to have cerebral palsy. I am proud to be able to live, go to school and enjoy many things in my community that others with my condition simply cannot. Please, do not cease funding one of the few joys many kids with disabilities have in their lives. We are better than this. Sincerely,Brooks Fitts

Community Voices

What Grief Does #Grief

It’s a little after 1AM here on the east coast. I am tired, but not overtly so. As I write this, tears flow down the side of my face and land softly on my pillow. I’ve been to this place before, or at least I feel like I have. This place of sadness, longing, and a desire for something that was once mine. I’m 21 now. I lost my dad when I was 16. I never really knew my dad all that well, so truthfully I can’t really say I miss him as a person as much as a I miss him as a figurehead of sorts in my life. I miss what he represents. I miss the feeling of comfort and steadiness he provided. I realize there are plenty of bad fathers out there, but I know my dad was trying the best he could to be the best father he could be. Grief does a lot of things to the mind and body, and it remains a permanent fixture and touches one down to the deepest parts of the soul. I’ve done better over time when it comes to feeling sad about my dad. I know he would want me to live my best life. However, sometimes I just have to pause and let out the building mix of emotions that have slowly built up inside of me. Grief makes one realize the power of love and the intensity of emotion. It also reveals the fact that none of us are as “tough” as we thought we were. Grief seems to me to be merely another type of love, one that endures even in the shadows of death.

Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

When You're Dealing With Depression and Grief During the Holidays

Christmas is quickly approaching and as someone dealing with depression and the grief from the loss of a father I barely knew, the holidays are tough. It’s easy to see all of the holiday advertisements filled with happy, complete families and think that the holidays are a time of cheer and jubilation for all, but that just isn’t the case. For many, the holidays are met with dread and compounded by grief. We may try to put on happy faces and spread holiday cheer, but find ourselves deeply troubled and saddened that our loved ones are no longer with us, so our depression might flare. Frankly, I’m tired of society pushing the notion that everything must be OK, even when it’s not. Sometimes it takes the most courage to admit that everything isn’t OK. Sometimes it’s the smallest actions that mean the most. Sometimes even getting out of bed can be a burden, but it must be done. The great poet Robert Frost once said that “In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on.” It goes on through the wintertime and holidays. It goes on when you seemingly don’t want to anymore — living with the effects of loss and depression. Life doesn’t stop. The world keeps spinning and somehow we must summon the courage to go on. To wake up and convince ourselves that today will be better than yesterday, and that the future is still alive. The holidays can be a time of great cheer and joy, but also of great sadness and reflection. For those of us who find the holidays a little harder to bear, please go easy on us. While we might not show it, we do often find ourselves hurting. But while we are hurting, we also recognize the importance of the season and the fact that the most significant presents are not found beneath a Christmas tree, but in the little things. The smile of a newborn, the family gathering. It is the little things that are the most significant. So this holiday season, I’m choosing to be grateful for the little things and the people that I do have in my life. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 , the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via Ponomarencko

Brooks
Brooks @brooks2197
contributor

The Emotions of My Grief Are Valid

Anger, resentment, sadness. These are just a few of the emotions I still deal with from the loss of my dad five years ago, and I’m tired of having to act as if they’re somehow less legitimate because I lost him five years ago. They say time heals everything, but I’d like to respectfully disagree with that notion. Time makes things a little more blurry around the edges. Time serves as a constant reminder that my dad is no longer with me. There are days when the emotions I feel from losing my dad nearly consume me, and I am hard-pressed to be able to focus on anything else. On these days, I try to remind myself I should be grateful to feel the emotions I am feeling, as they simply mean I had someone in my life who meant more to me than I could have ever possibly imagined. Some people say that only weak men cry and show emotion, but I’d also like to call bullsh*t on that one as well. As far as I’m concerned, I can cry until I can cry no longer. Crying helps me heal, and as I slowly feel the tears brush down my cheeks, I am reminded that there will be a day with joy. So the next time I’m feeling down and someone asks me how long it’s been since I’ve lost my dad, I’ll just say an eternity. They might be confused by that answer, but it’s honestly what it feels like on some days. Five years ago, I lost a piece of me, so don’t tell me what emotions I can or cannot show. I’m stronger because I cry. I’m stronger because I show emotion. It’s OK to show emotions, guys. After all, we have hearts, too. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image by m-imagephotography