A Conversation with Poet and Learning Disabilities Advocate LeDerick Horne

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I’m excited to welcome poet, learning disabilities activist, advocate, and motivational speaker LeDerick Horne to the podcast. As a child, LeDerick could not read or even recognize the alphabet. He was labeled “neurologically impaired” and placed in segregated special education classrooms. But somehow he refused to take this message to heart, and instead decided he had something important to offer the world.

As a learning disabilities activist and performance poet, LeDerick uses his gift for the spoken word, combined with his personal experiences, to advocate for people with hidden disabilities. He regularly addresses academic, government, social, and business groups across the US, and actively participates in several organizations and boards  in the education and advocacy space. He’s also the co-author of the book Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success.

In our conversation, LeDerick shares his journey from special education to college, the pivotal moment when he decided to become a poet and learning disabilities activist, and what his advocacy work means to him and the impact he hopes to have on the world. He also gives a powerful recitation of his poem “Until Every Barrier Falls,” written to celebrate the beauty, strength and diversity of the disability community and his place within that community.


About LeDerick Horne

Diagnosed with a learning disability in the third grade, LeDerick Horne defies any and all labels. He’s a dynamic spoken-word poet. A tireless advocate for all People with Disabilities. An inspiring motivational speaker. A bridge-builder between learners and leaders across the U.S.and around the world who serves as a role model for all races, genders, and generations. The grandson of one of New Jersey’s most prominent civil rights leaders, LeDerick uses his gift for spoken-word poetry as the gateway to larger discussions on equal opportunity, pride, self-determination and hope for People with Disabilities. His workshops, keynote speeches, and performances reach thousands of students, teachers, legislators, policy makers, business leaders, and service providers each year. 

LeDerick has served on the governing board of Eye to Eye and is on the advisory board for The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center. And he is a member of the governing board for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education. LeDerick has earned a BA in Mathematics with a Fine Arts minor from New Jersey City University and also studied Mathematics at Middlesex County College. His poetry is available on iTunes and YouTube. 


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • LeDerick’s journey from dyslexia to spoken-word poet
  • All about LeDerick’s work as a learning disabilities activist and the initiatives he has been a part of in the United States and Kenya
  • What LeDerick aims to do when he speaks to educators and students
  • How LeDerick came to be interested in poetry and the spoken-word artistry and what it has meant to him as an advocate
  • What LeDerick is working on next for parents, students, and educators


Resources mentioned for learning disabilities activist LeDerick Horne


Episode Transcript

LeDerick Horne  00:00

My counselor, within my first week of class told me to just stop worrying about spelling and write, just write and then we will deal with the spelling later. And I literally woke up in the middle of the night, you know, after that conversation and wrote my first poem, and you know, it’s it’s it’s something that I’ve been I’ve been really thinking through recently. It’s how I think so many of us are waiting for someone to sort of give us permission to be our whole selves.

Debbie Reber  00:33

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. My guest today is poet advocate and motivational speaker LeDerick Horne. As a child, LeDerick couldn’t read or even recognize the alphabet. He was labeled “neurologically impaired” and placed in segregated special education classrooms. But somehow he refused to take this message to heart and instead decided he had something important to offer the world. Now LeDerick is a performance poet and uses his gifts for the spoken word, combined with his personal experiences as an advocate for people with hidden disabilities. He regularly addresses academic government, social and business groups across the US and actively participates in several organizations and boards in the education and advocacy space. He’s also the co author of the book empowering students with hidden disabilities, a path to pride and success. In our conversation, LeDerick shares his journey from special education to college, the pivotal moment when he decided to become a poet and activist, and what his advocacy work means to him and the impact he hopes to have on the world. He also gives a powerful recitation of his poem until every barrier falls, written to celebrate the beauty, strength and diversity of the disability community and his place within that community. 

Debbie Reber  02:07

Before I get to my conversation with LeDerick, this is my last new episode for a few weeks. I will be back with new episodes the first week of October. But in the meantime, I am busy interviewing this month, some wonderful guests for the next season. And I just have to say we are going to be getting into some great topics like special considerations for differently wired students this fall, vision screenings and learning disabilities, nonbinary, trans and gender nonconforming kids legal rights, being black and gifted teaching to eat kids, the autism industrial complex, and much more. I can’t wait to share it all with you. In the meantime, if you are missing the show, I encourage you to take the next few weeks to catch up on episodes from our library that goes back five years more than five years. So the easiest way to find the topics you’re looking for is to go to tilde parenting comm slash podcasts and select a category such as ADHD or homeschooling or expert interviews. There are a number of categories on that page. You can also just fill in a search term in the search bar and see what comes up. And then of course, I will be back with new episodes starting Tuesday, October 5. Lastly, towards the end of September, I will be opening the doors to my differently wired club for the last time in 2021. So if joining my high touch membership community is something you’ve been thinking about. Sign up for the interest list and you will be the first to know when the door is open. And you’ll also be invited to a special live call with me to learn more. You can check it all out at tilde parenting comm slash club. And now I’m going to get to my conversation with LeDerick Horne. And again, be sure to listen all the way to the end for that powerful performance of his really incredible poem until every barrier falls. I absolutely loved having the opportunity to talk with LeDerick. I hope you enjoy listening in.

Debbie Reber  04:16

Hi LeDerick, welcome to the podcast. 

LeDerick Horne  04:18

Hey, Debbie, how are you? 

Debbie Reber  04:19

I’m doing well. I’m so excited to have you on the show. And to just really make sure that my listeners are aware of the work that you do in the world. Some of them may have heard you speak at a summit or maybe a conference. But I would love it if you could just start this episode by sharing a little bit about your story. Tell us a bit about how you came to be doing the advocacy work that you do and who you are in the world.

LeDerick Horne  04:45

Sure. So I’m an advocate for people with disabilities. My work primarily focuses on education reform. I am really well known as a performance poet and poetry has a key role in all the work that I do. I’m the co author of the book, empowering students with hidden disabilities a path to pride and success. And I come to this work because I’m also a person who is dyslexic and learns differently. And I was first diagnosed when I was nine years old. I’m from New Jersey. So my school district, when I was nine, recommended me being placed in a special education classroom. And it was a less than ideal setting. I know it was a very segregated setting, I spent three and a half years at a classroom at the end of the whole. One of my saving graces was that I had a remarkable teacher though, and her and, and our teacher’s aide really invested a lot in all the students who were in that classroom, got to the point where I was in high school, still on an IEP still in special ed terrified about what graduation was going to be and what was going to be available for me after that. And so I was about maybe 17 years old, my junior year, and fell into just a very, very deep depression. And I am fortunately, someone who’s very resilient. And so even in that dark space, I used it as an opportunity to rebuild and redefine who I was, and I came out of that just determined that I was going to have a great future. And so I started talking seriously about wanting to go to college, started out at a local county college was a part of a great support program for students with learning disabilities, taught me how my mind works started using accommodations, all the great things that we know work in order to empower people transfer with a 3.75 GPA, got a degree in mathematics from New Jersey City University. And my last semester there, I got sort of recruited by the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Special Education, and was asked to be in doing work with the state to empower young people who are in special education here. And so that was sort of one of the real core beginnings of my advocacy work, stayed here in the state of New Jersey for two years, and then began connecting with organizations and agencies all over the US. So one of the first groups that I started working with was NASA at the National Association of State directors of special education. And then I’ve formed relationships with the Department of Education all over the US and work locally, a lot of teacher trainings. And then I’ve been fortunate that the work has also taken me outside of the US.

Debbie Reber  07:29

Wow, what a story. And thank you for sharing that. I recently talked with Jonathan Mooney and who I you know, I know that you’ve been very involved with Eye to Eye. David Flink is a friend of the podcast. And what I hear in all of your stories is, first of all, as a teacher, there’s always a teacher who plays such a significant role in one’s life to help especially when a child is being given the message through society or the systems that they are not good enough, not smart enough, there’s something wrong with them. And I’m wondering, you said that you are a naturally resilient person. Do you know, do you feel that that’s kind of how you’re wired? I’d love to know a little bit more about that. Because I think that is something we as parents who have kids that we want to see be able to make that leap of self advocacy and just knowing that there’s so much more to who they are, that they’re labeled, doesn’t define them? Is there anything you can share more about that realization for you?

LeDerick Horne  08:30

Yeah, so I took that opportunity to sort of clear out my schedule, right, I was a captain of our cross country team, I quit the cross country team, I spent every moment I could in our school library. And in that library, I had these two great librarians and I sort of came to them in a moment of crisis, asking very, very large questions about, you know, like, sort of, who am I Where do I fit in the world. And I was fortunate that they were able to sort of steer me towards some, some pretty important ideas, right? I remember digging into Einstein really deep, just trying to figure out how the world worked. And I remember from Einstein getting this appreciation for the value of point of view for perspective, that if you could observe certain phenomena from different points of view, they would appear differently. And I remember thinking that well, maybe the reason why my future seem so bleak is because I’m looking at it from a negative perspective. During that time period, I also remember a lot of Nietzsche, you know, and reading the Buddha’s first sermon for the first time are reflections on, on suffering. And you know, how so many of our decisions sort of relate to how much pain we’re in. And there was also a lot of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the idea that society doesn’t always get it right as far as its ability to find people and their value and I was also very fortunate that, you know, I grew up in a family that had a strong connection in the civil rights movement. And so I think that all that gave me permission to be able to redefine who I was. So I think that there’s a there’s value in, in teaching our young people that they can define who they are, that whether it be your your doctor, or, you know, or if the educators around, you aren’t all that positive, right, you can take that upon yourself to be who you want to be. And so that’s a lot of the work that happened during that time for me.

Debbie Reber  10:35

I love all your different explorations. I have a 16 year old who went through a Nietzsche phase. Yeah, as the shirt. I am dynamite. I love it when he wears that, because I’m like you were showing up today. But I think this is so interesting to hear too, just as we are, at a time, where identity is something that we’re talking a lot about, and especially kids, I feel like more than ever before, kids are encouraged to explore their identity from all different angles. And they’re doing that in a really cool way. Like they’re more empowered than ever before. So it’s really interesting to hear your journey. 

LeDerick Horne  11:15

Yeah, and it’s, it’s an amazing time to be alive. You know, and I, if I’m honest, I think I’m still on that path of self exploration and self definition. And I really make a point to follow, you know, what, what all the young people they’re doing, right, and taking a lead from, from many of the young activists and advocates who are doing work now.

Debbie Reber  11:41

They move fast too, they do not wait for anybody. I’d love to hear more about your work as an advocate. And I feel like I understand your why for doing that work. But I’d love to know where what really drives you, and what you really love about working in that space.

LeDerick Horne  12:00

Well, I I love collaboration, both as an advocate and as an artist. And some of the more long standing work that I’ve done has been in collaboration with education leaders, you know, so the, one of the first things that comes to mind is that I want to say for maybe 13 years, I’ve been working with the state of Nevada’s Department of Education. They have an incredible, incredible initiative. They’re where they do a summit, the Nevada student leader transitions summit. And the initiative initially began from a director from their state department, their state director of special education, waiting to hear directly from young people who were in special ed, about the quality of the work that they were doing. And so I remember, you know, in our first first few years, just sort of sitting in a room with a whiteboard, and just talking to these young people, you know, and getting direction from them. And what was amazing is that the state really took their input seriously. And what it has developed into over the years is that, you know, we’ve been able to build a strong capacity for student leaders within the state. And so, more recently, the state has hired I think about 25 of those young people to now go back into their old high schools, and they are directing teams of young folks on IEP s, on how to run their own IEP meetings. And, you know, there’s really a lot of data out there around how giving someone that agency, while they’re still young, can really help lead to positive post secondary outcomes. So that’s, that’s one of the things that, that I’m really proud of, you know, through the book that I that I co authored, we’ve been able to influence again, a lot of educators, transition specialists, education leaders, on the importance of identity, right and, and making sure that we give our young people the experiences so that they develop a positive identity as students who might learn differently. And then, overseas. I’ve been honored to work with an amazing school leader, Nancy moon, yay, and Kenya. And Nancy has started a school, a rare gem talent School, which is a boarding school for students with learning challenges, and began in a home. And now she’s running an old motel. And the first floor is classrooms, and then there’s no places for the students to live on the second floor. And we’ve been working together to purchase a piece of land so that you can build a proper school with the capacity to serve about about 500 students. So that’s some of the work that I’ve been involved in.

Debbie Reber  14:45

That is so exciting. I have a friend who runs a program, I believe, also in Kenya called Kupenda and it is helping to educate kids, not just with learning disabilities, but with physical disabilities and know that there’s so much stigma and it’s and it’s harder to get these kids the education and the chance that they deserve to really realize their potential.

LeDerick Horne  15:08

Yeah, yeah, the, I think a lot of the work beyond direct education to students that the folks that are gym are doing is still just building awareness. You know, I think, I don’t know, if we realize the privilege that we have here in the US post, the disability rights movement, and all the legislation that was created coming out of that, and the degree of awareness that we have, there’s still a lot, a lot of work that still needs to be done. But in other places in the world that I’ve that I’ve worked, I mean, there’s still just a lot of awareness building around what ADHD is, what dyslexia is, I think that many folks have a sense when it comes to sort of lower incidence disabilities, about what those are and how to provide supports. But for folks like me, it’s just sort of, you know, work harder. And for many of us, we fall, we fall through the cracks.

Debbie Reber  16:00

Yeah, absolutely. And having lived in Europe for a number of years, you know, great education system in so many ways, and behind, in many ways from where we are in the USA,

LeDerick Horne  16:11

I spoke at a medical conference in France, that an association that does work around ADHD, and and just the sort of hoops that people had to jump through to get medication, you know, I was not aware of those degrees of challenges, you know, in Europe. So yeah, there’s, there’s still a lot of work to be done all over the world.

Debbie Reber  16:32

I think one of the most viral articles that had been posted on Psychology Today was entitled, Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD? Hmm. Though, of course, that was, you know, rebutted, disputed? Eventually, not as many people read the follow up article, of course, you know, that’s just how it goes. And I want to hear a little bit more about just the education reform work. And I’m just curious, when you work with educators and with teachers and try to make these changes, is there a lot of resistance? Do you find that systems are open to feedback and wanting to do the hard work to make deeper meaningful changes within the way that they run their schools?

LeDerick Horne  17:18

Yeah, I find that the people are very, very open. And particularly the here to information come from someone who’s, who has lived experience, you know, I oftentimes, you know, before I do a teacher in service, and I’m going to be sitting there with folks for for four hours, I have to let them know like, this will not be boring, like, I know that, that you may be have had the experience of coming to these sort of events, and you know, using it as a time to read the newspaper or check your email, but I promise you, we’re going to be very engaged. And sometimes I do the Babe Ruth, you know, like pointed to the fences and say, I can promise you that someone will walk out of here and say that this was one of the most profound trainings that you’ve ever been a part of in your career. And again, I think a lot of it comes from me approaching this work as someone who has the lived experience, I have tremendous value in research. And I think part of my role is being able to share all that really quality research that’s out there, and doesn’t make it to the practitioners who are actively in the field. But I’m also a storyteller, and I’m an artist. And I think all of that makes for a very engaging way to be able to present this information. The challenge, though, is that we still live in a very siloed education system. So if I’m asked to come by, say, a director of special education, oftentimes, they’re going to put me in a room with all special educators, right. And what I really get excited about are the opportunities where I get to talk to the entire school, all the students, you know, all the educators, because we still, you know, even in the 21st century, even at a time where we really push the creation of more inclusive schools, we still, you know, have teacher education programs where regular ed, you know, folks just don’t learn that much about being able to provide quality education for diverse learners. So what I wish there was more of an opportunity for would be to be able to talk to everyone, you know, and so that’s one of the things that I always push, like, Hey, you can get me get me just get me in front of everyone, you know, because you’re all a part of the same school.

Debbie Reber  19:40

Yes, as someone who speaks as well, I find that all the time. It’s hard to get in front of the entire school and it is the entire school’s responsibility, the entire parent student body. It’s everyone’s responsibility to shift these paradigms. But it is tricky, or it’s difficult to kind of advocate to get in front of those audiences. I want to talk about your work as a poet and your creative work when I just have one more question about the education reform work. And I’m, I’m wondering where you see the biggest sense of urgency right now? Or what is kind of the biggest thing that you’re pushing for, in terms of where we are on our journey? Where do you see the most energy? And does that make sense?

LeDerick Horne  20:31

Yeah, no, no, it does. So I’m the vice chair on the board of directors for the New Jersey Coalition for inclusive education. And we’ve just begun to start doing work outside of New Jersey. So I think being able to, one recognize what we were talking about earlier, that many of our educators still need support and being able to work with all students, and then not just sort of throwing our hands up and saying, Oh, well, but providing them sort of coaching that they need, so that we can have more inclusive, inclusive schools, you know, I have the, the experience of growing up and being mainstreamed. Right. So spending a lot of time in that self contained special ed classroom, and then someone saying, you know, why don’t you go out and try to, to perform in a regular ed, math class and just not even treading water, you know, just being there for a while, and not knowing what was going on, and not having a teacher that really knew what was going on. And you know, and it’s a no win situation for anyone, right, the teacher hadn’t been prepared, I hadn’t been prepared, it’s just sort of like, go in and try. So I’m working with the New Jersey Coalition for inclusive education, because they do that direct coaching that direct support for school leaders and in class educators to supplement and support their their education, their training, so that we can really build inclusive schools really build them out. So that’s one of the things that I’m really focused on, the other one is, outside of education, I think we still need to do much more work to make sure that our workplaces are inclusive of all people, I think sort of coming out of 2020. And the challenges that our nation began to wrestle with, reckon with around criminal justice reform, there was a push for diversity, equity and inclusion. And I think neurodiversity is a part of that conversation, that honestly is still not at the forefront, that it should be. You know, again, the intersectionality, I think, is really important. And so being able to work with, with employers, right, I just did a talk with a foundation that brought together a group of maybe 30, arts organizations, medical facilities, financial companies. And, you know, they billed me as a guy who was going to talk about disability. And I think everybody thought that it was just going to be a conversation about how to provide support for, you know, like folks with wheelchairs who were coming in the front door, and my conversation began around, you know, you are all employers, and part of the way in which we are inclusive is by making sure ensuring that we employ a diverse workforce. And part of that conversation is people who are neuro diverse, have other kinds of challenges.

Debbie Reber  23:36

Yeah, it’s interesting, I think about that a lot. And also coming out of COVID, where so many people have been working from home, there’s a lot of resistance to going back to the office. And I think people have really recognized maybe some of their own challenges with certain environments, and what actually works better for them. So maybe this is an opportunity for, for bigger conversation, you know, because of what we’ve been through when it comes to the workplace and neuro divergence.

LeDerick Horne  24:05

No, I think it absolutely, absolutely is an opportunity. And, you know, a lot of what we’ve been utilizing now, is what advocates have been fighting for for years, right. And it’s been very interesting to see with a true sense of urgency, how we’ve all been able to virtually stop on a dime and change the way in which we experience school and work and a host of other things. And in the best case, they’re accessible. And you know, as we enter this period, where we are rethinking and redefining a lot of the ways in which we interact in the world, I hope that inclusion remains at the forefront of how we design those spaces. 

Debbie Reber  24:43

Yeah, me too. Well, I want to hear more about your work now. As a poet, a spoken word performer, how do you describe yourself and can you tell us what that means and how you came to be showing up that way. 

LeDerick Horne  25:01

I’m a spoken word poet…

Debbie Reber  25:03

Spoken word poet, okay,

LeDerick Horne  25:04

Or performance poet. I think I know, I think that I have always been a poet. Even when I was very young and didn’t know the letters of the alphabet and couldn’t spell very well, I’ve always enjoyed language. Also, I was in special ed with, you know, a bunch of black boys. And everybody wanted to be a rapper and an emcee. And I was fortunate that a lot of my friends, I think, sort of recognized the latent ability to be a wordsmith that I didn’t even recognize. But it was once I got to college, my first semester, at Middlesex County College, I was a part of an excellent support program called Project connections. And my counselor, within my first week of class, told me to just stop worrying about spelling and write, just write, and then we will deal with the spelling later. And I literally woke up in the middle of the night, you know, after that conversation, and wrote my first poem, and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s something that I’ve been, I’ve been really thinking through recently, it’s how I think so many of us are waiting for someone to sort of give us permission to be our whole selves. And when we’re fortunate enough to be, you know, in a, in a, in a space where we are nurtured and supported, sometimes we can, we can find that permission, give that permission to ourselves, but I think it is the, the power that many of the adults have in the world is to be able to, to see something great within someone and say, go for it, you know, be who you want to be. And so I began waking up in the middle of the night writing my first poems, I remember going to Susan, Susan was my counselor, going to Susan with a stack of these poorly written poems and saying, I think I’m a poet, she said, I think you’re right. And I remember her playing for me, Allen Ginsburg’s Howl online, and I’ve been a fan of the beats ever since. And then she found a flyer and helped me to find my first open mic. And while I was a college student, I was able to just connect with an amazing community of artists here in Central New Jersey, and sort of throughout the tri state area. And that was me, that was amazing. You know, it was amazing to be well known as a writer, even though I struggled with reading and spelling. So that’s, that’s kind of how I got started on this. And then it was, you know, I was also a college student, so I was wrestling with the dual identities of being an African American man. And then a, you know, a person who, who had dyslexia, you know, and was also just starting to begin to connect with a community of people who learn differently, connect with them in a real meaningful way where we really had community. And, and so all of that came out in the art, you know, it all it all came out of my poetry. Now I was, when I was very, very young, I was a visual artist, so I could draw, and I have a BA in math and a minor in fine art with an emphasis in painting. So the visual arts have always been there. But the writing only really happened once I hit about 18 years old.

Debbie Reber  25:46

And I’d love to know just kind of what you love about it, like the actual, what does it feel like to perform something that you’ve written in that way?

LeDerick Horne  28:24

It’s, I mean, it’s, it’s, I have a really good friend, that was also someone that I collaborate with, named Justin Woo. And I remember Justin telling me that when you do a performance poem, you are the writer, director, actor, and choreographer of a very small play a very short play. So performance poetry pulls in just so many different forms of the arts, and then and then what it allows for, it’s just very, very brief, hopefully, very profound communication. And, yeah, I mean, even this, this workshop is training that I did for this foundation, you know, in dealing with, you know, these different industry leaders. That was one of their comments was just how impactful the poetry was, you know, and I think it sort of speaks to the natural way in which many of us learn, we learn through spoken word, you know, before Gutenberg breakthrough and his technology. If you wanted to learn something, you had to have a conversation with someone. And actually, even the roots of hip hop, your first MCs were griots, in, in West Africa, and the griots responsibility was to sort of be a walking library, where they would in a very rhythmic way, communicate the history of their people. And so I, I believe, and I aspire to live in that tradition, and it feels great, feels great. Plus, I’m also someone that really enjoys structure. So like, knowing exactly what you’re going to say, you know, it’s like, it’s very, it’s very ambitious.

Debbie Reber  30:01

Yes, I could see that. And you know, as you’re talking, I’m also thinking that a lot of people were exposed to the power, the profound impact of poetry of the spoken word, through Amanda Gorman’s speech at the inauguration day. So has that. I’m just wondering if people are more like, Oh, we have to get LeDerick now because you know, because they want more of that in their world.

LeDerick Horne  30:25

Well, my phone started blowing up. And actually I was sitting there, on the couch with my fiance watching Amanda Gorman do that incredible poem, I was so excited, because my favorite time during all of the inaugurations is being able to hear the poet. And so for them to select the young woman who’s African American, and who was a performance poet, and was also someone who, you know, has had challenges around speech and language. It was an amazing experience to sit and watch her, you know, have this platform and I’m chilling, just cheering along. And all the social media that and the other and I hadn’t, I wasn’t even aware, that understood, had I think, a year or two prior, written an article about her and then tagged an interview that they did with me at the bottom of that. So that started getting shared. I was blown away. And I you know, and it’s really, really honored. And and, and I’m glad to see that she was given that platform, and I hope people were listening, because her message was very, very powerful. Amazing, amazing.

Debbie Reber  31:38

So you wrote a poem in 2020, called Until Every Barrier falls? Can you tell us about that poem and why you wrote it.

LeDerick Horne  31:47

So that poem. You know, in 2020, we were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the Americans with Disability Act. And I knew the anniversary was coming up. And so I wanted to craft something that really paid homage to it. But it was also 2020. And so, you know, I had been actively out, protesting and, you know, trying to make the world a safer place for all of us. And so all of that energy sort of found its way into the poem. I also wanted to create something that I thought shared to convey the beauty of the disability rights movement and all the people who were involved in it. And just paid homage to the advocacy that has helped us to treat to have the world that we have now.

Debbie Reber  32:37

Well, so I am going to put you on the spot. And you can totally say no, but is there something that you’d like to share with us today? Before we wrap up our conversation, something you want to perform for us? Can I do that poll? I would love that?

LeDerick Horne  32:51

Yes. Totally. Okay. All right. Let’s see. This is for the ones who would not be trapped behind exclusions, shameful wall. And this is for the ones who will continue to push until every barrier falls. This is for every wounded warrior, who came home and challenged our grateful nation to elevate its expectations. This is for the ones who blocked the buses set in the Siddons and crawl to the Capitol. This is for the protesters, the marchers, those adapt angels with wheelchair wings who troubled the waters of their time so that this generation might live in a more inclusive now, as I write this, all over America, monuments are falling, and only questions stand atop each empty pedestal. As I recite this, I hope an artist is listening, and will respond with marble and bronze. But until then, Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann. This poem is for you. Let each line chase the light in your smiles and trace the contours of your commitment. Let these words salute those dedicated to the ideals that equality sprouts from the branch of equity. independence is the flower that grows from access and freedom is rooted in the soil of advocacy. This is for the ones who have embraced the reality that humanity is both fragile and mighty. And when we ask for help, it is not a sign of weakness, but instead is an indication of our determination however you navigate it is legit. This is for those who read with their eyes, ears and fingertips. This is for the minds that dance and details and the wide eyed ones who remake the world with every thought they think. We are the river of innovation from which the whole world drinks and Who am I? I am a lover of words, love heartbroken by every spelling test in school, my desk was in a classroom at the end of the hall. So this poem is for me to within me is the meeting of two movements, I am black and blue, my disability is hidden. And I am the descendant of those who could not hide, I am your neighbor, your countrymen, one of the poets that our nation has produced. And here is what I know to be true. This world is not enough. And if this here is what we call normal, I say, let’s be different. Let us on this day, celebrate every shape, every color, every way, let our actions commemorate the array of our being build a future in service of the multitude and let this century be the wilderness from which our better selves are born.

Debbie Reber  36:00

So good, thank you for that. I got chills, that’s beautiful. And what is it like to perform it? Do you kind of feel it every time you share that?

LeDerick Horne  36:11

I do? You know, I believe and I was once told that poetry is about showing and not saying. And so there are images that come up in my mind as I go through each one of those lines. And if I’m doing my job well as a writer then the audience’s experiencing some of those images as well. And there’s a lot in there, there are a lot of different layers. And then my buddy, Justin Woo, who had mentioned earlier, Justin, and I went to DC in October and recorded an amazing video that just has, I think, very powerful imagery to help tell that story as well.

Debbie Reber  36:55

Yeah. And listeners, I’m going to include a link to that on the show notes page. So you can watch that video. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing that. before we say goodbye. I know that you are working on a video course for parents. And I want to hear a little bit more about that. And also just how listeners can connect with you.

LeDerick Horne  37:15

Yeah, so within the book that I co authored Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities, we develop within there a framework for identity development. I think one of the big challenges that a lot of our young people have is that we’re wrestling with a lot of stigma, you know, a lot, a lot of shame. And so we identified some key stages that we think are necessary to help someone move away from that shame to a point where they can have pride. So it’s a six part series, and each one of the videos sort of provides supports, and also gives assignments to help build up that pride, that positive self image, as well as giving a strong foundation so that that young person can transition successfully into the adult world. So I’m still working on it. And what I would encourage everyone to do is just go to my website, lederick.com, sign up for my newsletter, you’ll see that right on the homepage. And I hope within the next month or two to have it out. And then you’ll see a link right there on the homepage with more details.

Debbie Reber  38:20

That’s super exciting. You’re such a good, positive, you know, presence in the world for our kids. You know, I think again, like you and Jonathan and you guys are really trailblazers in so many ways, and it’s so important for our young people to have you to look up to and to, to see what it can look like and how you can really create the life that you want.

LeDerick Horne  38:44

Yeah, you’re Well, I appreciate that. It’s a real compliment. And I’m hoping through your work and my work. We’re also creating that next generation of amazing role models who are going to continue pushing forward.

Debbie Reber  38:58

Yeah, I believe that child by child and family by family, and LeDerick, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. It’s just been a pleasure to talk with you today. 

LeDerick Horne  39:08

Thank you so much, Debbie. Thank you so much. 

Debbie Reber  39:13

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