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Recognizing Notable African Americans Who Triumphed Over Challenges to Make A Powerful Impact On The World

Feb 2, 2023

February is Black History Month. We can think of no better time to highlight inspiring Black and African Americans who did not let disabilities and other health challenges stand in their way on their path towards success. Whether their contributions and achievements were large or small, each of these extraordinary people brought awareness to the need for diversity and inclusion – for their unique communities, as well as for people with disabilities.

1. Muhammad Ali

Even if you’ve never seen footage of any of his boxing matches, chances are that you’ve heard of Muhammad Ali. He is often referred to as the greatest boxer of all time, and his self-proclaimed epithet was fittingly known as “the Greatest.” He was also a prominent figure during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

While Ali was practically unmatched in the ring, growing up he struggled with   reading and writing. Unknown to many at the time, Ali had dyslexia. Few people were aware that such a disability existed during that time. As a result, he was often made fun of in school.

However, Ali stood tall. Having dyslexia did not affect his skills as a boxer. He went on to have a remarkable boxing career while displaying incredible athleticism and activism.

2. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a prolific writer for some 50 years. After her death in 2014, she has remained one of the best-known poets, essayists, and civil rights activists.   

As a child, Angelou  was nonverbal for five years following a series of traumatic events and abuse. While she did not speak for five years, she became more observant of her surroundings, and came to love reading more than ever – and ultimately, writing.

3. Diana Elizabeth Jordan

Diana Elizabeth Jordan may not be a household name to some theater, television, and movie fans, but she truly should be.

Growing up with cerebral palsy, Jordan dreamed of becoming an actress. When she was old enough, she pursued that dream. In 2001, she became the first actor with a disability to graduate from California State University in Long Beach with a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting. Since then, she has established a successful career   acting, writing, directing, and producing. She also launched her own production company.

In her roles, Jordan strives for more visibility and inclusivity for intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is clear that she doesn’t let her disability define her as an actress. We can’t wait to see where this talented artist will shine next!

At Independent Living Association, we are constantly inspired by our own shining stars at our residences and day programs. Learn more about our essential services that are helping our Individuals to thrive. Reach out today.

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