Wheelchair Chronicles Update

Hey everyone!

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote on my blog or provided any news on the film. Well as I mentioned back in November of 2015, I completed the film and explained the wonderful journey I went through to finish the Wheelchair Chronicles. Fast forward to today, it’s still finished but life has gotten in the way recently and in a good way. I’ve taken on more responsibilities in my life but don’t think for one minute that I’m forgetting about my film. Once I figured out where I’m gonna debut it in Chicago, I’ll let you all know where and how you can see it. Sorry for the wait everyone but you’ll won’t be disappointed when I present The Wheelchair Chronicles.

Advertisements

The End of My Journey

I finally did it! Last month after nearly 4 years of hard work, after 4 years of blood, sweat , and tears, I announced to my friends and family that The Wheelchair Chronicles was finally completed. At the time of that announcement, I didn’t know how to feel about it being all over. I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words so you all could understand where I was coming from. Sure I was joyous about this huge accomplishment in my life, but that was pretty much it. Now that I’ve had time to take it all in, I can now share my feeling in deep context than I could when the film was finished.

Let me tell you, this has been a wonderful journey for me but when I started it was completely different. In February 2012, I had no clue what I was doing. I had decided a month earlier that I was gonna focus the direction of The Wheelchair Chronicles from telling stories of people with disabilities to telling my story. I was worried because one, I had never worked on a film, let alone a documentary in my life. Second, I wondered if my life was too boring and that no one would care if my story was told or hell, no one would watch me tell my story. I didn’t wanna go through the process of working on this and no one not giving a damn when it was all finished.

As I started my journey I was getting guidance from of one my professors at DePaul who had experience in filmmaking  and that helped this first timer out immensely. I got a lot of early support from my friends and family at DePaul, my professors, my family, and my mom. That gave me the motivation to keep going. People were actually excited when I would tell them of my progress, I couldn’t believe people wanted to hear my story and felt like telling my story would help a lot more people with disabilities. To be honest, that was a heavy burden for me at times because I felt I had a responsibility to share my life with the world, to change people’s perceptions of people with disabilities, and to be an ambassador/advocate in the disability community.

As time went on, I started to embrace how I was going to present this film. I wanted this film to aid in how able-bodied people viewed the disability community, and to change the beliefs that able-bodied people had of us through misrepresentations of disabled people in the media. I felt that I could help in contributing to that change and let my voice be heard. In the last two years of this film being completed I became more active in the disability community, and more people became interested in The Wheelchair Chronicles and the work I was doing.

During the last year or two, I joined Access Living, I joined the Young Professionals Council, got an article written in the Sun-Times, joined another wonderful organization in 3Arts, doing projects for UIC, and hell, even being the head marshal of a big time parade. As I was nearing the end of this project, not only did I want this film to change the beliefs of able-bodied people but I wanted this to film to be apart of my disability advocacy, and my continued role as a disability ambassador.

Now that it’s all over and I’ve had time to think about everything, I’m so glad that I’m done with this amazing journey. I didn’t know when I started where this film was gonna take me, but it has taken me places I’ve never thought possible and where it’s gonna continue to take me in the future. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this journey and that I’ve developed great relationships with. You all kept me going when I wanted to give up, when I was questioning myself and my abilities as a filmmaker. I’m grateful to everyone who supported me on this journey, and grateful to everyone who’ll support through my next project.

Major Announcement

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog, but it’s been for good reasons. Today however, I wanted to announce that The Wheelchair Chronicles will be done at the end of September. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten to this point. All the hard work, the blood, sweat, and many tears I put into this project and now it’s coming to an end. I will provide updates on all of my adventures very soon.

Thank you all for your support!

The Many Faces of Justin Cooper

WCIS (12)WCIS (6)

WCIS (18)WCIS (2)

Going through the editing process has been a grueling task, but as I’ve gone through hours of footage, I’m always amazed when I see myself on video. I go back to my interview session with Camillie DeBose in 2012, and it was the first time I was talking in-depth about my life. As I was editing, I can see all the different feelings and emotions I was going through at that time and it all came to a head in that session. I want everyone to see those feelings and emotions that I’m conveying, as I tell my story in this film.

Early Morning Thoughts

I’m up early on a Saturday morning. I should be sleeping because I have a long day ahead of me but I can’t. I’m dealing with pain in my legs that turns on and off like a light switch. When it’s off I can move normally (normal for me), but when that pain is turned on, then it’s hard for me to move around and that’s very important for me. I’m also feeling very lonely. It’s very hard for me to admit that because I tend not to express my feelings as much especially when it comes to being lonely. I try to keep myself occupied by working on various project (including my film), and hanging out and being around my friends but that doesn’t help. I just keep a smile on my face and pretend that everything is ok but it’s not. I’m at a point in my life where I want to come home to someone, be able to spend time with and have fun with. It’s rare that I even talk about feeling this way but I guess I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I’ve Been Away For Too Long

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually written a post. With exception of the teaser trailer I posted for the film last month, I haven’t written a post about what’s been on my mind since September and that fucking sucks! When I first started this blog I wanted to at least provide some sort of daily content and I’ve been slipping. Even though I’ve been spending the last few months working and editing my film, it’s no excuse for me not providing you all with content. While working on my film is nice and all, this blog is where I really express myself and to be honest, I’ve missed it so damn much.

During the last few months a lot has happened for good and for bad. Recently I became a contributor for a group called NerdyEdge that focuses on gaming and I’ve been writing a few throwback/retro articles for them and its going very well so far. I’m continuing my work as a member of the Young Professionals Council at Access Living and its helped me open up myself more than I’ve ever done. I’ve been making new friends while showing my support to friends that have been supportive of my project. On the other hand I’ve been dealing with some not so good things in my life. Recently, I’ve had some medical insurance issues that at the moment is preventing me from going to RIC (Rehab Institute of Chicago). That’s a story I’ll talk about at another time. Overall, things have been going well.

There’s so many things that I want to talk about at this moment but I think it’s best that I stretch out my thoughts for future posts. What I will tell you is that my film is close to completion and it feels good to be done with this now five year project.

A Dark Point In My Life

The last couple of days I’ve been thinking hard about the person that I’ve become and where my life is at today compared to person I was and where my life was 14 years ago. I look back at that point in my life because that was a time that my entire life was turned upside down. During that time I got my first wheelchair, I was bouncing around between high schools trying to find my identity and it was a time that I suffered from a deep depression that took me years to get out of and recover from.

It started all in 2000. I was a student at St. Benedict High School. I was finishing up my sophomore year and I miss a large amount of the school year due to St. Ben’s getting a grant to help renovate the school. At the time I was actually walking but with the new construction, I couldn’t walk from one building to the next. Long story short, I wouldn’t be able to return to St. Ben’s my junior year but could return for my senior year.

During my junior year in 2000, I was actually home schooled through Senn High School and I was to complete a year at Senn and be able to transfer back to St. Benedict the next school year. Well that never happened and I wound up being stuck in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system for the next three years. I was beyond devastated because that meant I would never see my friends at St. Ben’s again. My friends meant so much to me at that time because they accepted me as a person and understood about my disability.

Around 2001 that was the beginning of my downward spiral. I was stuck at Senn before being transferred to Mather and then back to Senn (by the way, without my knowledge). I did get my wheelchair and while that played an important part of my life, I didn’t feel that way at the time. I hated being in a wheelchair and add to that I couldn’t get out of my house as much because we lived in a basement apartment and it was difficult for me to get out of my house. The only time I ever got out was to go to a few events and to school and I fucking hated going to school.

I spent the rest of my high school years being home schooled and I just kept getting deeper and deeper into my depression. Yeah I had the support of my uncle and my mother. She’s a praying woman and I didn’t give a damn about her trying to encourage me and lift my spirits up. Nobody knew what was going on with me. I put on a fake smile and pretend everything was alright, when I was actually going through hell. I was even at a point where I had suicidal thoughts, something that I’ve never mentioned to anyone until today. At a certain point I thought about killing myself. I hated my life, I hated being in a wheelchair, I was so damn lonely and I couldn’t take it anymore and I had my thoughts on how I was gonna end it. Thank God I didn’t go through with it but still, I was in a dark place.

I got out of high school in 2003 and started going to Truman College part-time and spent four years there. I was still couldn’t get out the house as much as I wanted to, I was still lonely. Going to school everyday was keeping me from going back to that dark place and being in a deep depression but I still kept to myself. In the summer of 2006, things started looking up. I moved from my basement apartment to Old Town, I dropped out of Truman and transferred to DePaul.

I was still a loner during the first few months at DePaul but as the years went on I met and got to know some amazing people there. They were just like my friends at St. Ben’s. They accepted me as a person (I’m trying so hard not to tear up now). They have given me so much love and support and I’m so grateful to have them in my life. The main reason the Wheelchair Chronicles is being made, is because of their encouragement and the strong belief they have in me and I’m forever thankful to them for that.

I’m now at a point in my life where I’m happy with who I am as a person, I happy that my film is close to being completed and that it’s taking me to places that I never thought I’d be at this time. I’ve met some new friends that are now a part of my life and now I’m networking with some big-time people in Chicago. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and where my life is heading.

 

 

Starting To Figure It Out

Sign post multi direction

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 32nd birthday. Now for some it might be just another birthday, another year where you’re getting older but for me it’s a huge accomplishment. It’s a huge accomplishment as a black man because there are many young men who don’t get to reach my age so I’m thankful and blessed that I get to see another birthday. As a wheelchair user it’s an accomplishment because I’m at a point where I’m starting to figure out my life.

It’s funny to me that it’s taken this long to figure out my life. I remember as a teen planning what my future was gonna be like. I was gonna go to college, get a great job, be married, and have children but as I’m typing this, that hasn’t happened and I have no regrets about that. Now that I look back, having that plan is just plain boring to be honest. I never thought about what twist and turns that would come my way, the unexpected curveballs that would be thrown in my direction, and meeting people who would change my life.

The Wheelchair Chronicles has been the starting point for where I’m figuring out who I am as a person and has taken me to places I’ve never imagine. I never thought I’d be apart of an amazing group of people who want to be advocates and fight for and with people with disabilities. I never imagine that I would have an article in the Chicago Sun-Times telling my story and talking about my film and that same article would get me in touch with the Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet. Now I’m apart of another group of wonderful people who have a passion for sharing the artistic work of women, women of color and people of color with disabilities.

 At 32, I see myself as a wheelchair artist, activist, advocate, and an ambassador. I want to continue to share my story with the world but I also want to fight and stand with my fellow disabled brothers and sisters. As an ambassador, I want to be able to network and be apart of other groups and committees in the city and share my story with them as well. People with disabilities are gravely misrepresented in media and I’m out to change that. I might be a one man army but you know what, it only takes one to bring people together and turn that one into hundreds, hundreds into thousands and thousands into millions of people willing to fight to be represented. Now that I’m starting to figure out my life, I’m now a very dangerous man because now I know what I’m capable of.

 

 

The Portrayal of Disabled People

I saw this quote scrolling through tumblr and this made so much sense to me and also in regards to my film. I want to show the world through this film a more real representation of a disabled person and that I have my own identity as a person with a disability.

The history of the portrayal of disabled people is the history of oppressive and negative representation. This has meant that disabled people have been presented as socially flawed able bodied people, not as disabled people with their own identities.

– David Hevey, 25 March 1992