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Haben Girma Just Became The First Deafblind Graduate Of Harvard Law School But Doesn’t See Herself As ‘Inspiring’

Living with disabilities can be difficult but oftentimes the greatest difficulty comes from the limitations put on disabled people by their abled counterparts. Often, being disabled just means finding another way to do things; it doesn’t mean not being able to do these things at all. Disabled people don’t need to meet the abled world’s expectations because they are able to meet the world with their own.

This is something that disability lawyer Haben Girma wants everyone to understand about disability. Born deaf and blind, Girma has spent her life breaking boundaries, including becoming the first DeafBlind person to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Now, the advocate is sharing her amazing journey in the pages of a brand new book.

Twitter / @LenovoNews

Besides graduating from Harvard in 2013, the advocate has scaled glaciers, surfed the gnarliest of waves and met with president Barack Obama. All these accomplishments would be impressive for an abled bodied person but Girma’s disability adds an extra layer to this story. The expectation is that — because she is DeafBlind — these achievements should be impossible.

However, those limitations put on her because of her disability are not something she acknowledges. This is what she writes about in her newly released memoir, “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.” The book is now available in physical form and in an accessible audiobook.

“I hope people can move away from seeing people with disabilities as incompetent,” Haben shared in an interview with PEOPLE. “If we remove barriers, we can have great inclusion.”

It’s because of these imposed barriers and limitations that Girma dislikes the notion of being called “inspiring.”

Twitter / @HabenGirma

In “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law,” the lawyer writes about her grievances with this concept. Too often, she says, inspiration is mistaken for pity. What she means by this is that her accomplishments should be appreciated because they are great, not because of her disability. The same could be said for any disabled person.

“Some people use it as a disguise for pity,” she writes. “They’ll say, ‘You’re so inspiring,’ but in their mind, they’re thinking, ‘Thank God I don’t have your problems.’ ”

Often, “inspiration porn” is spread across social media and it helps to explain why Girma dislikes being labeled as inspirational.

Twitter / @BCHFacultyDev

In these posts, disabled people are usually shown doing average things. For example, when a child first walks with its prosthesis or a disabled person participates in a sport. What is supposed to make it remarkable is the person’s disability.

However, if you take the disability away and view the circumstance with an able-bodied person instead, there is no longer the element of “inspiration.” Disabled people like Girma don’t want to be seen as an inspiration solely because of their disability. They want to be acknowledged for their actual abilities, just like anyone else does.

It’s with this in mind that Girma travels the world speaking about disability rights.

Twitter / @NYAIL

Accessibility is the main focus that the advocate is working on right now. Girma herself uses a guide dog named Mylo to access the world around her. In order to communicate, the lawyer uses a dual keyboard system she devised to convert type to Braille text. Finding solutions for everyday accessibility is something that all disabled people have to do and that is what Girma wants to make easier and more understood.

Internet accessibility has especially gained Girma’s attention and advocacy. In 2014, the lawyer helped to win a landmark case against a site that failed to provide access to blind readers. It is through this lawsuit that other internet accessibility cases will be able to site precedent in the future, making the world more accessible to those with visual disabilities.

“People with disabilities already face so many barriers in the physical world,” she explained to PEOPLE. “There’s no reason to have barriers in the digital world when we have the power to convert those 1s and 0s into engaging applications that everyone can use.”

Ultimately, it’s Girma’s goal that disabled people are able to live their lives in ways that are as fulfilling and accessible as possible.

Twitter / @HabenGirma

“My dream world is a place where people with all types of disabilities are included,” Girma confessed to PEOPLE. “There is so much work to be done.”

With the help of advocates like Girma, disabled people will be able to live on their own terms in a world that is not limited by what others think they are able to do. That’s the kind of world we should all reach for.

FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing

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FIERCE Maestras Are Giving Newbie Teachers Career Advice And It’s Basically The Sweetest Thing

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No matter what experiences you’ve had as a student, hopefully you have had at least a handful of teachers who left good impressions on you. As a whole class of students from this year graduate and become teachers themselves, we wanted to ask veteran maestras for advice on how to continue the cycle of positivity.

In a recent post to our Instagram page we asked all our FIERCE maestras, what advice do they have for a new teacher and boy did they deliver!

Check out the replies below!

Stay nourished.

“Advice: eat during your break girl and practice self-care.” – la_misses_m

Take it easy.

“Take it one day at a time. At times you will doubt yourself but push through the all the challenges. Always remember why you are there, which is to teach your students. You got this!! Good luck!!” – erixcii

Make sure you’re feeding your relationships.

“Focus on relationships above everything. Relationships with your students and their families!”- allirousey

Don’t forget to build relationships with your students.

“Self-care and building relationships with your students and families!!” – jazzyfue

And definitely remember to trust yourself.

“I’m an SLP, but I would tell her to trust herself!! You got this! You know your kids and you talents!” – maryoso_moli

Self-care Sundays shall your temple.

“Practice Self-care and build relationships with students. Remember to always be kind to the janitors/grounds keepers/ clerical staff (they make our jobs easier). Consider keeping a scrap book or journal of sweet notes and emails that you can look through on the tough days. Always teach with your heart and with a growth mindset; never get complacent because our profession is ever changing and we will likely never have the exact same group of kiddos again. Keep learning from your coworkers (what to do and what not to do), from your students, insta teachers, workshops, and personal experience (make notes to yourself in your planner for next year). Being organized has saved me, even on the most hectic days. Always have a back up lesson available. Empathy is key! Take. Days. Off. I know lesson plans are time consuming, but your mental health is worth prioritizing.” – cmirene

Know it gets better over time.

“The first year may be hard, but it gets better and better every year.”- yulzzzz5

Don’t be a Yes Ma’am.

“Advice: learn to say no. You’ll be super compelled to go more than above and beyond because it’s all for the kids and as much as I ADORE AND LOVE my students just as I am sure you will you need some you time. I started being the only teacher at school functions and being stressed about helping my high schoolers have the best time that I was drowning. Love them but love yourself too! You deserve you time.” – del_ranita

Don’t be a shrinking violet.

“Don’t shrink yourself to make your whyte colleagues feel comfortable. Connect with other teachers of color and ask for/give support. Lead with love for your students. They should always come first.”- queenurbie

Be an authentic leader.

“My one piece of advice is to invest time in getting to know your students, their stories and be your authentic self with them. Kids love knowing that their teachers are people and are just like them.” – meerehyah@educatinglittleminds 

And finally, remember ya live and learn!

“I remember I used to always want to be “perfect” for them and would fear making mistakes or letting them see me when things wouldn’t go right. When a lesson didn’t work out as planned. I learned to let that go and to let them see me make mistakes. It is okay! And it is okay to admit it. They’ll appreciate it! Teaches them that we aren’t all perfect and we all make mistakes-it’s a part of life. Teach on and be You! They’ll love every piece of you.” – su_heeey

A High School Athlete Is Refusing To Wear Robert E. Lee’s Name On Her Track Uniform

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A High School Athlete Is Refusing To Wear Robert E. Lee’s Name On Her Track Uniform

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

For much too long, Black and POC students across the country have been forced to attend education systems with the names of people celebrated for their historical acts of oppression against them. According to Education Week, at least 185 schools in the United States are named for men with ties to the Confederacy,

Trude Lamb, a Black teen and incoming high school sophomore, is just one of those students being forced to attend a university with a racist leader.

Recently, she’s decided enough is enough.

Lamb has won countless medals for her school Robert E. Lee High School’s cross country team.

In a recent letter to the school board, Lamb wrote that she would no longer wear the school’s jersey, which features the name “Tyler Lee.” Tyler stands for the Tyler Independent School District which is located in the city of Tyler, Texas. Lee stands for the school’s name, Robert E. Lee High School. According to Lamb, each victory she takes a photo for acts as a painful reminder that she is being forced to inadvertently support Robert E. Lee.

Lamb points out that while Tyler Lee might not be Lee’s full name, it’s “still his name,” Lamb said. “It’s just a shorter version of Robert E. Lee. It still reminds me of who he was,” Lamb told CNN in a recent interview.

Lee was a Confederate general who owned slaves and John Tyler, who was the tenth president of the United States, actively pushed to create the Southern Confederacy.

Lamb added that her school glorifies, Lee in their alma mater as well. The alma mater says “Robert E. Lee we raise our voice in praise of your name. May honor and glory e’er guide you to fame.”

“What has he done for him to be praised like that?” Lamb said of Lee.

According to CNN, in 2018, community members attempted to urge the school board to change the name of the high school.

Unfortunately, after no one seconded the motion during the school board meeting, it failed to pass. Now Lamb and other students are pledging not to wear Lee’s name for school events. A petition is calling the school to change its name and has over 10,000 signatures. Some have also called for the name of another school in the district to also be changed.

On Monday evening, protesters gathered outside the school district’s administration office demanding that the name to be changed.

The issue of the schools’ names change was not on the agenda but Lamb signed up to read her letter for it.

“I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began,” Lamb’s letter reads. “I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three-foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food into the captured souls.”

Lamb’s adopted mother, Laura Owens told CNN that if the school’s name isn’t changed before the school year begins she and other parents will look into filing a lawsuit for violation of civil rights.

Check out Lamb’s letter in full below:

I am one of you(r) true African and 1st generation African American students at REL. I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began. I came to America in 2014. I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food in to the captured souls. I’ve walked through the “Gate of No Return” where over 12 million of my brothers and sisters were kidnapped never to return back to their home.

I have worked the very fields and fetched water for my family from the very places my people were kidnapped.I love and enjoy the sports I play at REL. I can’t be playing sports, supporting, and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States. He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey. I’m currently the fastest girl on your varsity cross country team. I held that place my 9th grade year and plan to do the same my 10th grade year.I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down.

As one of your black students, I’m respectfully asking you to take up the REL name change issue. Please vote to change the name, not to “Tyler LEE” but after someone who we can all be proud of. Using the excuse that it would be too expensive, is not okay. This town was built on the backs of my enslaved brothers and sisters. Do it in their memory and honor the future of their ancestors that are at REL.I hope you understand where I am coming from.

Sincerely

,Gertrude “Trude” A. Lamb