(Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels)
Mainstream talent shows are good for their occasional spotlight of artists from the differently abled community. The Special Olympics is a long-time platform dedicated to showcasing the athletic prowess of the disabled. But in our new age of all things virtual, there’s a new player on the field.
Believe You Can! Is a virtual talent show sponsored by the Keystone Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of PA. The show is made up entirely of artists who are blind or visually impaired.
“We needed to come up with a way to safely stay engaged with our community and also share with the sighted world the vast potential of blind people. As far as I know this is the first of its kind,” said Harriet Go, president of the Keystone Chapter.
The show airs virtually on Saturday, October 17 at 7 p.m. Twenty artists are scheduled to perform, with each performance given a 10-minute time limit. Acts run the gamut from singers, musicians, to spoken word and there is even a clogging tutorial. Since the event is virtual, artists are not only homegrown, but are from across the country and even Canada.
The event coincides with the NFB’s Meet the Blind Month, an annual celebration in October. Throughout the month, NFB chapters across the country host outreach events and fundraisers with the mission of breaking down misconceptions while also educating the general community about the resourcefulness and independence of the blind. Believe You Can! also falls on the heels of White Cane Awareness Day, October 15th. Like Meet the Blind Month, White Cane Awareness Day is an affirmation of sorts.
“People see us with the cane and there is often a stigma and we are considered less capable. With this awareness day, we are educating others on what it does. It is not a symbol of shame but rather a beacon of our independence, allowing us to accomplish daily travels and not always relying on others,” Harriet said.
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The artists featured are like most artists whose talent is an expression. Sometimes that expression is born out of pain.
Chrys is a spoken word artist from Portland, Oregon who will share pieces reflecting on the “blatant discrimination“ she experienced as a medical student pursuing clinical positions. She has also used her art as a teaching tool for fellow sighted classmates. “I hope to help them not repeat some of the things that happened to me.”
The Keystone Chapter is one of two local NFB chapters. The Federation, the first national organization of the blind, was founded in 1940 in Wilkes Barre PA. At that time there were a handful of blind activists from seven states. Today the NFB boasts over 50,000 members in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
Proceeds from ticket sales will help support just one of the Chapter’s projects — a longstanding partnership with St. Lucy’s Day School for Children with Visual Impairments, located in the city’s Kensington section. The school has faithfully served blind students and their families for over sixty years.
As a graduate of St. Lucy’s herself, Harriet knows first-hand that these students are a “pool of potential leaders in their communities.” And since most of the staff is sighted, the Chapter’s presence is an opportunity to be real life blind role models for students.
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