"I'm thankful for another year and for the chance to make a living. I ride my bike back and forth to work every day, from Binghamton to Fed Ex . It's good exercise."
"I'm thankful for my family. They're nice. We play board games together, like 'Bingo' and 'Sorry.'"
"I want to be a teacher when I grow up."
"What do you think will be the best part?"
"Teaching the kids."
"What will be the worst part?"
"Going to meetings."
"When the beating occurred in the Kroger parking lot at Poplar and Highland a few months ago, I just wanted to do something to say 'Hey, we're all neighbors on this planet, we share it, and we need to treat people the way we want to be treated.' So I made a sign that said 'Free Hugs' and stood outside the grocery store. Reaction was positive, and I got a lot of hugs. People seemed to need that, but we have to do more. We live in a violent city, and the only way we're going to stop the violence is to stand together. There are so many small things we can do to make Memphis better. When something needs to be done, we can volunteer, but that doesn't have to mean doing something we hate. We can use our hobbies and have fun with it. One of the things some friends and I do is to build BMX ramps and teach neighborhood kids to ride. It gives them something positive to do with their time. We've all ridden bikes for years, and this is a way we can help out. This is my city. I've been here all my life, every single day. I want to do my part to make it a better place."
"I was an interior / exterior painter and a chef at La Tourelle, but in 2010 I was diagnosed with gout. It's in my feet, arms, hands, everywhere. Since then, I haven't been able to do much of nothing. I never thought I'd be sick. I'm trying to do some walking to get my life back together. Put this down: My handle is '$billiwanttogotoworkbutineverwill.'"
"Everybody calls me the 'Orange Mound Unc' cause I'm everybody's uncle. I find things, save them, and share them with the kids, but I don't give kids things just because they ask. They got to work for 'em. I give them little jobs to do like raking leaves or picking up trash. That teaches them they got to earn what they have."
"I was participating in an ADAPT Youth Training direct action protest in Chicago, with the aim of getting an inaccessible restaurant to install a ramp. I had made it clear to the organizers that I wasn't interested in the 'action' part of it. That is, I was going to be there, but I wasn't going to be holding a sign or chanting or yelling. I thought the restaurant manager might just give us a letter outlining their intent to install the ramp, and that would be that. But when the manager didn't even acknowledge us, I felt a knot of anger in my chest. I went from not wanting to be involved at all to being one of the first to block the restaurant door. That experience was a turning point in my involvement in activism for the rights of people with disabilities. I ended up getting a job as a Community Organizer with the Memphis Center for Independent Living. My job entails ensuring the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. In helping other people with disabilities become proud of who they are, I've been able to become proud of who I am in all aspects of my life, including my ethnicity and sexuality. As an Hispanic person with a disability, I have the opportunity of connecting other Hispanic people with disabilities to support and services that help them maintain their independence.
"This isn't going to be some kind of inspirational story, is it? Because I'm not interested in being anybody's inspiration. I was born with cerebral palsy and I'm in a wheelchair, but I'm comfortable with that. It's just part of who I am."
"I'm a CNC machinist, but I do graphic design too: T-shirts, mugs, stickers, logos, other stuff. My artistic side comes from my mom. She was an artist, a painter. She did canvas work but also hand-painted little girls' hair bows and was involved in a lot of craft fairs. She had that free, creative spirit. We spent a lot of time together because she worked from home, and she always encouraged and supported my efforts. She was always there for me. But then she got sick. She didn't want to go to the doctor because she didn't have good insurance, so by the time they found her cancer, it was already too advanced. She passed away four years ago. It was definitely the toughest time of my life. I didn't think I'd ever want to do art again. I gave it up for a long time, but I'm finally rediscovering it. When I draw now, when I design things, I feel connected to my mom, like she's still with me, even though she isn't."
Dylan Kail Art: Original Local Art, T-shirts, Logo Design, Commissions
(Photos from Dylan's Etsy store used by permission)
"When I was in Kindergarten, I lived with my grandmother and attended the elementary school where she was a custodial worker. Every day she packed my lunch, did my hair, and made sure it looked pretty. I still have a picture of me when I was 5 years old, wearing bangs and two pigtails with little smiley faces on them. We used to argue every Sunday when we were getting ready for church, because I didn't want to wear a dress. I always lost the argument though. According to her, little girls looked pretty in dresses, and I was going to wear one. My granddaddy was still living then, and I remember sitting on his lap watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I still love that story. I watch it every year because it reminds me of him."