Denise Sullivan

Author, Journalist, Culture Worker

Make Way For the Handicapped

There is a section in Keep on Pushing which addresses how the songs of black power made way for the songs of liberation of other oppressed groups: women, homosexuals, brown, yellow, and red folks, as well as the disabled. At our Keep on Pushing events over the last 12 months, Cindy Lee Berryhill has been among the musicians accompanying me at readings, singing the songs of freedom and pitching in with anti-war and other anthems. Her song, “Make Way For the Handicapped,” is meant to empower those with missing  parts—or anyone who feels unaligned and out of sorts, I suppose. Personally, I have a new appreciation for the song by Berryhill and her old bandmate Max W. Temporarily impaired due to injury, I am relying heavily on the three limbs that are still able, and the kindness of new friends and neighbors as I hobble down the street. New to a culturally diverse neighborhood, it’s a bit of a sociological experiment to observe how people are taking to me, the gimpy new gal. There are those who avert their eyes, while others will nod or say hello as they pass by, leaving me in the dust.  And then there are those who’ve got California soul; they see beyond skin color and age and physical disability; they see a member of the human race who’s falling behind. “That looks like hard work on a hill. If you’re going a short distance I could give you a ride—I have a dog,” said the young man apologetically. He was wearing a wool cap, likely on his way to work—general contracting by the looks of his truck. “I’d take you up on it,” I told him, “But I need to learn how to use these things,” motioning with my crutch. And that was how it went, in a matter of about 30 seconds. But that simple gesture made by a stranger turned my day around. Later in the afternoon, a bank teller intercepted me as I walked toward the line, offered me a seat, and suggested I take one of the candies from a dish on his desk.  “Sometimes a sweet makes the day a little nicer” he said. I couldn’t disagree and grabbed a lemon Dum Dum.  So thank you, wool hat guy, and thank you bank teller. I am grateful to you for your kindnesses. Now here’s that song by Cindy Lee Berryhill (with Lenny Kaye on guitar) I was talking about:

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Filed under: Civil Rights, Keep On Pushing, , , , , , , ,

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