Welcome back go-getters, do-gooders and pod-listeners! We have another fantastic episode of The Call to serve up to your ear-buds right this very moment! This week, host Erica Williams Simon chats with Rebecca Cokley, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. In addition to her former role as executive director of the National Council on Disability, Cokley previously worked for the Obama Administration, where she directed diversity and inclusion efforts for the White House.
In this episode, Erica and Rebecca talk about disability policy, balancing motherhood and career, and how working at Victoria’s Secret helped Cokley “prepare for a job in the White House.” Seriously.
Erica met Rebecca when she was doing civil and human rights work in D.C., and she says that Rebecca expanded her view of activism to include disability activism in a way Erica hadn’t thought to before.
“There’s a couple of reasons why we don’t traditionally include the disability community with the broader civil rights folks,” Rebecca tells Erica. “I think one of [them] is, traditionally we always just think about it as, frankly, white dudes in wheelchairs. We’re not talking about disabilities and diseases that are specific to communities, things like sickle cell anemia. We’re not talking often about people with postpartum depression. We don’t often talk about people with chronic illness, things like lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue. We don’t often talk about mental illnesses. We don’t talk about eating disorders. We don’t talk about people who are cancer survivors often. And all of these communities are actually part of the 57 million people with disabilities.”
Rebecca is working on changing that. As a little person, and as a mother of three kids, two of whom are also little people, she has spoken and written about parenting while disabled and finding balance between work, activism, and family.
Rebecca and Erica talk about staying fired up and committed to activism in today’s political climate, showing up every day to do the work and doing it “with joy.” Rebecca also dispenses great career advice: “Do something where you’re expected to bring your whole self to the table, and where that’s celebrated. And I think so many of us have parts of our lives that we feel like, we have let society convince us that they were deficits. And they really were strengths. There is nothing about your path that you should be ashamed of, and there really isn’t one path. But to be successful, I really think it’s about embracing all those pieces of yourself. And not holding it back. And working in a space that allows you to celebrate all those different parts of yourself.”
I have no doubt this interview will leave you fired up, ready to serve others and totally inspired to go after what you want.
Illustration by Anne Bentley.