As students at Berklee, we often take for granted the ability to play our instrument. We gripe and groan about practicing, and beat ourselves up over a sub-par performance for weeks afterwards. How often do we sit down and think about how incredibly lucky we are to be able to use our hands (or our voices) in conjunction with our brain facilities, and create beautiful sounds?
Jason Crigler – a guitar player, songwriter and Berklee alumni – likely does not take this skill for granted anymore. In 2004, as Jason was performing in New York City, his life changed in an instant when he suddenly suffered a brain hemorrhage, causing him to lose his ability to speak, walk, and of course, play the guitar. The doctors assured him and his family that he would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.
A healthy and chipper Jason, along with his sister, Marjorie, came to Berklee this week to speak about Jason’s miraculous recovery; a recovery that never could have happened without the love, support and extraordinary faith of his family. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the two of them share the intense and intimate journey of rehabilitation that in the end forced Jason’s doctors to reconsider the factors that instigate recovery. It was a wonderful lesson on choices – we cannot choose what happens to us in life, but we certainly can choose how we deal with the events that are thrown at us.*
On Thursday, Jason and Marjorie were joined by Kevin Johnson and Josh Crary of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, to give a presentation on Disability and Physical Difference. For Josh, this is an issue very close to home – at the age of 14, he was diagnosed with a degenerative condition known as Choroideremia, causing retinal deterioration and blindness. Like Jason, he has chosen to take what life handed him and run with it – literally. Josh will be running the Boston Marathon this Monday, April 16th, dubbing himself the “Boston Blind Runner”.**
It was incredibly enlightening to listen to Kevin and Josh talk about the relationship of Disability and Physical Difference to diversity, the proper etiquette and guidelines for appropriate interactions with those who have disability or physical differences, and especially the unconscious projection of exclusion that tends to be placed upon the disabled community. It definitely gave me a ton to think about.
And now, for a shameless plug – for those interested in learning more about disability and physical difference, there will be a workshop next week touching on some of these topics and more. The Workshop for Social Change, sponsored by the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, will help to strengthen skills for becoming an agent of change, and help you to learn to become a better ally by supporting those at risk and taking a stand against social injustice. Though the workshop will be about social change in general, it will be focusing on social change through the lens of “Lives Worth Living” – a documentary tracing the development of consciousness of pioneers who realized that in order to change the world for people with disabilities, they needed to work together. Through demonstrations and inside legislative battles, the disability rights community secured equal civil rights for all people with disabilities.
*To learn more about Jason Crigler’s miraculous story, check out the documentary “Life. Support. Music.”
** To read more about Josh Crary’s marathon training journey and support/donate to the cause, go check out his blog at www.bostonblindrunner.com