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Stephanie Bastos is my new hero. Like me, she has a physical disability, and I found myself drawn into her piece. Moreover, I felt as though Stephanie was talking to me. Her story is compelling, and she is as engaging onstage as she is in everyday life.

If pressed for an answer, most people would find it hard to define the culture of disability. Defining the disabled community, I think, would be much easier. The physically disabled community was a strong presence the night I saw Stephanie’s show. There were five audience in wheelchairs, and including myself, three people using canes. I haven’t been in a room with that many physically disabled, outside of a clinical setting. For me it was a great personal moment and it underscores Stephanie’s message of physically disabled persons being a visible presence, integrated and engaged with the greater meta-community.

The thing about shows at CounterPulse, don’t count on a happy ending, but do count on a hopeful ending. And Stephanie’s autobiography, not only delivers a hopeful ending, her story is hope personified.

Stephanie shared personal doubts, that most people can relate to, sense of inadequacy, shame, self blame, loss, fear, and fractured identity. Having someone share these experiences in the context of physical disability, customized the moment for me, and secured Stephanie’s hero status. When comparing notes with some of the wheelchair users after the show, the consensus was, “wow, she hit home with that part of the narrative” . At times, I still harbor some of those self doubts, and Stephanie’s performance was a tonic.

In a previous Wreck Room post, I mentioned how many people find the Tenderloin intimidating, in terms of personal safety. My new wheelchair buddies, weren’t the least bit concerned, they have a lot of heart. And of course, safety in numbers.

Lastly, I’m a sucker for scrapbooks. I love ephemera and how people incorporate ephemera, charting and language, when telling their stories. On display in the lobby was a really dear timeline Stephanie had made using photos, magic markers and so on. It was much admired by everyone. It was great, I’m just saying.

Stephanie Bastos' Timeline, Photos by Robbie Sweeney

 


 

Rick Darnell is the CounterPulse Community Engagement Fellow. He is a practicing artist, and long time Tenderloin resident. Rick is the Project Coordinator for TAll, the Tenderloin Art Lending Library.

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