Reflections of Launching a Disability Rights & Advocacy Organization: RYV's Turning 1

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On Saturday, July 19th, Ramp Your Voice! will be turning 1!  Launching a disability rights and advocacy organization has brought me incredible new connections, lessons, and new insight on how I view myself as a disabled woman of color.  I wanted to use this post as a “Year of Reflections” of my journey in creating RYV!, and highlight what you all can expect to come in the second year.

Why I Started Ramp Your Voice! in the First Place
I started Ramp Your Voice! because I grew tired of not seeing more women of color with disabilities discussing topics that mattered to the community.  Being a triple minority meant that I had experiences that others may not understand, or may not have had someone to voice the same thoughts/feelings they live with each day.  I wanted to fill that void that existed within the disability community for minorities and women, and I knew that I could do that with my writing, and brainstorming unique services to offer to those within and outside the disability community.
Establishing RYV! also meant that I could launch myself as a macro social worker, which correlates with the worldly desire I have to impact the lives of those in America and abroad by discussing topics that affect us.  Using my educational background in this manner was empowering, especially since I tried unsuccessfully to go the “traditional” social work route (micro/direct practice) instead of staying true to what made my heart sing.  I could have done one of two things:  continue to fit my “macro” puzzle piece in the micro jigsaw puzzle, or step out on faith and do something that is unique in my profession.  As you can see, I decided to do the latter, and that has been the best first step in my young professional career.  Though I still have a lot of work to do with RYV!, the beginnings of it all has made the hard work worthy.
The Reactions from Those within the Disability, and Social Work Communities
When I started RYV!, I was not sure what would be the reaction of those within both communities – disability and social work.  Within the first six months of RYV!, I have received warm welcomes from my disability comrades and social work colleagues.  To have the respect and support from those within both communities made this journey worthwhile, especially during those times when I had no idea what I was doing in trying to broaden RYV!’s online reach, and tightening its focus.  Without the numerous likes/follows, resharing/reblogging, interviews, discussions, etc., my confidence in starting something from scratch that has the potential to be pivotal would not have been as steadfast.  You all “rolled” and walked with me from day one, and I pray that you will still be beside me in year two, and beyond.
My Favorite Thing About Starting RYV!
My absolute favorite thing is receiving emails/messages from those of you who have been impacted by RYV!’s presence.  I have chatted with/emailed/messaged a good number of you who were so elated to find that an organization like RYV! existed, especially my sistas of color with disabilities.  To know that RYV! is making a difference in its infancy stage illuminated my spirit when I felt overwhelmed in being an “one-woman machine.”  Knowing that RYV! is touching lives showed me that there is a reason why this vision was placed in my heart, and that there was indeed a need for this specific focus.  This work has never been about me – it has ALWAYS about you, and joining the fight to make the world more inclusive, equal, and accepting of our perfectly imperfect selves.
What I’ve Learned From You All – My Supporters
Being on social media and reading the emails/messages I received, I now know that there are a great many of us who are using our talents, skills, and abilities to change the way the world views those with disabilities.  Every time I read a blog post, tweet, or status about the struggles that we as a community endures, it reignites the advocate fire that burns within me.  The passages of policies/laws are not enough; we still have a LONG ways to go before we can truly say that our society is accepting of those who are disabled.  The beauty of the internet is our ability to connect with one another, and support each other’s foci in the disability movement.
Being uplifted by you all is what brings me great joy in this work.  As we like to say:  nothing about us, without us.  I cannot do this work alone – I must have you all in my corner because we are battling huge hurdles, but we can overcome them when we are united as one.
What’s Next for RYV! in Year 2
This year, I have been working on taking RYV! to the next level, as far as services, communications, and the organization’s public outreach.  Going into year 2, I aim to accomplish the following:

  • Offer revamped and brand new RYV! services that will create understanding and empowerment for disabled individuals, families, professionals, and community organizations.  These services will be available for viewing & requesting on the RYV! Services page before the end of the month.
  • Incorporate RYV! as an LLC in the state of South Carolina.  (Making it an officially, official organization!)
  • Jumpstart a calls for submissions campaign for an anthology series.  This campaign will begin late summer of this year.
  • Create a vlog series where I get to discuss important issues with you, my supporters.  You will finally get the opportunity to hear my voice, see my face and my passion, about this work!
  • Feature more interviews and guest bloggers on the website’s blog.
  • Feature more individuals, products, and services that exist to enhance our quality of life on the website.
  • Create an online store selling specific products to you all.  All earnings will be used to support RYV!, and disability-related organizations that empower us.  This online store will be available in Winter 2015.

How You Can Support RYV!’s Efforts
In order to bring RYV! further, and become the game-changer it was created to be, monetary donations, of any kind, is desperately needed.  Being on a fixed income means that I do not have the resources readily available to do everything I need for RYV!’s success.  There are equipment and business-related requirements I need to acquire in order to make RYV! a legally-responsible organization.
If you are willing to give a donation to assist in these efforts, please make your checks or money orders out to me, Vilissa Thompson, and send your donations to the following address:
Ramp Your Voice!
Vilissa Thompson
P.O. Box 1286
Winnsboro, SC 29180
Your contributions, whether small or large, will be greatly appreciated.  It is not the amount that matters to me; it is the fact that you believe in this organization, and wants to see it thrive and reach newer heights.
(Featured headlining image:  Some rights reserved by Ted Sakshaug.)

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