Monday, April 14, 2008

Debbie Wooten: Living a Life with No Limits…

Pretend you are 7 years old, then imagine you have Spina Bifida. Then let’s pretend you contracted polio at 5 months of age. Then let’s pretend you are black and live in Chicago in the late fifties and sixties, then add having an alcohol-abusing mother and being a victim of abuse. Then let’s add one more thing - you won’t accept the word “can’t”. You are getting an idea of the amazing personal strength of spirit that bubbles forth from the monologue of comedian Debbie Wooten.
Sitting in the theatre of Blue Mountain Community College tonight for the 10th Annual Spring Arts and Culture Festival keynote lecture, Debbie Wooten wowed the crowd. She shared her experiences as a young girl growing up in the ghetto of Chicago, wanting to be normal and attending a school for crippled children. Segregation came in more than color for Debbie as she grew through high school in a system that segregated all disabilities to their own school. “When the polio shots stopped the polio kids,” shared Debbie, “ we got a new group, the gang-bangers that got shot and didn’t die. Their attitude was so bad - they would say, “What are ya gonna do to me - shoot me?” They had attitude just moving in their wheelchairs!”
Debbie’s monologue took us from laughter to serious thought as she shared her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a child. She shook his hand and he spoke to her, giving her his undivided attention for a moment. After sharing that rare moment with us, she shook hands of some members of the audience and asked them to pass on the dream she had been carrying on from Dr. King. One by one, everyone passed the handshake on until the entire room had been touched.
The phrase that left with me from the evening was her mandate to be a “box cutter.” Debbie shared, “People will want to put you in their idea of a little box to live in based on their statistics about who you are, what color of skin, what disability, what gender, what amount of education you have, and so on. Be a box cutter and cut yourself out of the boxes -don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t be”
Popular with the college lecture circuit, Debbie’s profile can be found on her link from her booking company’s website, “Portland Day and Night“. She combines humor with a serious message of not accepting defeat and living a positive lifestyle. Debbie informed us of her pending appearance this summer on a CBS reality show as well as her work with many great stand-up comedians.It is rare to find a speaker and a comedian that can make us laugh at our adversity and feel encouraged. If you ever get a chance to hear Debbie, go and you won’t be disappointed. I put this post on No Limits to Life first tonight and thought I would include it here also for those of you that don't check out both. This was too good for you to miss!
I have invited Debbie to be a guest on "No Limits to Learning Live" on Blog Talk Radio. I am hoping she can share some wonderful insights with you - we'll see how it works out - I'll let you know if we get something together.

All the best to you!


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