To know my journey as a Black disabled woman, you have to know my past.
I was born with OI (Osteogenesis Imperfecta), better known as brittle bones disease. My beloved Grandmother raised me in a loving home, & showed me what unconditional love was about. I have part of her name, & have always been proud of that name - Vilissa. Unbeknownst to me until I reached adulthood, Vilissa is French, & means, “to love & cherish life.” How fitting of a name for a young disabled Black girl who was smart, caring, loving, fun, kind-hearted, sassy, loved to learn, & knew how special she was by the praise she received at home, at school, and from those she met.
The young Vilissa would experience many successes as she went through school, which empowered her because she knew she was just as good, if not better, as anyone else. Her excelling in every subject motivated her to do well in the subjects she loved - reading & writing. She had no idea how powerful words would be to her as an adult, but at this time, she loved reading her Baby-Sitters Club books, & writing in countless journals, sometimes creating worlds & characters that didn’t exist, but her imagination & ability to tell a story grew profoundly.
As I grew into my teen & adult years, I changed in ways that I didn’t imagine, but the loving, supportive foundation I had in my younger years caused me to be steadfast as I grew & navigated an able-bodied society.
This is Part 1, showing my years from 1st birthday to 12 years old.