People squished on the stairs in the aisles and in the doorways with only standing room available as hip-hop artist Keith Jones prepared to speak to the audience.
Jones, who’s currently working on his third album, spoke in Haggard Hall on Friday, May 18, and spoke again on Saturday, May 19.
Whenever he made a joke, the entire room filled with laughter that made it impossible to hear Jones speak.
Jones spoke on Friday to a room of educators, future educators, high school students, and many more about his life, his schooling experience, and how we should proceed in today’s society.
He ran for the senate in 2008, won numerous awards such as the New Leadership Development Award From The President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and has appeared in two documentaries spotlighting disability, according to his website.
“There’s one of two things when I go out. People are either suprised or they are sorry,” Jones said during his talk. “It’s a diagnosis. It’s not a description of my humanity.”
Jones is an advocate for people who have disabilities because he, himself, has cerebral palsy.
“It’s 2018 and we are still asking for students with disabilities to be included in classrooms,” Jones said. “It’s not a kid with Down Syndrome, it’s someone’s son or daughter. It’s not just a kid with cerebral palsy, it’s a person.”
Jones reiterated how no one expects anything from a student with disabilities during his talk.
Jones said students with disabilities have little to no expectations when it comes to school work, they are expected to stay in high school for more than the normal four years and it’s a shock when they go to college.
Jones said his high school teachers asked if he wanted to stay another year after his graduation and were surprised to learn he was accepted into a college.
“They had no expectations of us doing anything besides collecting a check every month,” Jones said.
While society continues to view disability as a negative, they fail to recognize that it is a natural part of life, said Keith Hyatt, a special education professor at Western and one of the event organizers.
“If we don’t have a disability now, or don’t have a family member with one, if we live long enough we will have a disability,” Hyatt said. “It crosses ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and all the different areas of society.”
Jones talked a lot about the fact that he was not only disabled, but that he was a “disabled black man in today’s society.”
If he wasn’t discriminated against for one thing, it was another, Jones said.
Special education students Felicity Shomer and Abigail Rosencrans attended the lecture after watching a documentary Jones appeared in for a class in fall 2017.
“I didn’t realize he was going to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement,” Rosencrans said. “I never considered how those overlap, being a person of color and disabled.”
Shomer said she was considering bringing her friend to the second talk tomorrow.
“He was everything I expected and more,” Rosecrans said, adding that she wished she could go a second time.