Author: Annie Lauren Harris
Title: It’s Easier to Dance
Website and Blog: http://www.annielaurieharris.com
Annie Laurie Harris, the oldest one of her ethnicity who lives independently, was born with cerebral palsy. She has defied the odds and challenged the medical prognosis since early childhood. She continues to live a full and active life in her 6th decade. After achieving her Master’s Degree at Penn State University in 1985 she worked as a counselor and advocate for those with a history of chemical dependency. In 1990, she was recruited by the prestigious World Institute of Disability to be the Assistant Director of the first HIV/Disability Project. Her grant writing expertise is second to none as private foundations funded her innovative research projects again and again. Since returning to her home state of PA where she lives near her beloved alma mater, Ms. Harris continues to be involved in her community and avidly supports the Penn State athletic program. Once again,her love of writing helps to supplement her income. Her groundbreaking memoirs, It’s Easier to Dance, is provocative and thought provoking.
It’s Easier to Dance, a memoir, by Annie Laurie Harris, a woman of African American Heritage, born with cerebral palsy, depicts the highlights, turning points and crossroads of her life while living with a complex, disability. Cerebral palsy is a neurologicalbirth defect that can impair the function of any part of the brain. In her case, her brilliant intellect exists concurrently with lack of muscle coordination and significant speech impairment as well as difficulty in swallowing and performing everyday tasks. Ms. Harris tells in detail of the struggle to learn to take care of herself, earn professional credentials, work in profit and non-profit organizations, and becoming a contributing member of her community.
Her vast experience and engaging personality jump off the pages as you read the compelling account of the highlights of her interesting life. Having studied dance while in graduate school and preformed with a group with varying abilities, the author uses the title to suggest…
Here is the code for two videos, one is Ammie enjoying golfing and the other is a video book review. Very soon, she will have a video interview available and I will send the hosts the embed code as soon as it is completed.
Annie will soon have a new and improved Facebook Page.
She has a website and blog: http://www.annielaurieharris.com.
Ticket to Freedom
My mother always stressed great importance in having an education. From early in my childhood, she insisted that I go to school like any other child. She became my first teacher. But never was college considered a possibility. After getting my high school diploma, I went to a rehabilitation center where I entered a typing program. No one bothered to tell me that in order to be a clerk typist, you needed to be able to type at least 40 wpm with a maximum of 5 errors. When I learned this, I felt betrayed, and I quit the program, returned home depressed. There was another reason I wouldn’t see my vocational rehabilitation counselor. He wanted me to go to a sheltered workshop which was for those whose diagnosis was primarily “mental retardation”. I didn’t get dressed; I don’t even remember eating regularly. I wondered what would happen to me. Finally, my brother, who was a graduate student at PSU, asked one of his professors if there was some way that his younger sister could go to college. The professor had influence, and recommended to the appropriate people (I assume was Admissions) that I would be able to attend the branch campus for 2 terms and then my acceptance would be based on my GPA.
In Sept. 1972, the year congress passed the Right to Education Law which allowed children with significant disabilities to attend public schools; I became an adjunct student at Penn State University’s Shenango Valley campus. I excelled academically, making the Dean’s List and that next fall, I began my undergraduate degree at Shenango Valley. Being older than the typical undergraduate, I made friends among the young instructors, who loved having me in their classes. My academic advisor recommended that I be exempt from taking a language (something I later regretted), and she also thought I should not take the undergraduate speech requirement, which included giving public speeches. I went to talk to the instructor, James Elder, who said “Annie, you have important things to say to the world so you might as well start in my class.” Except for statistics, college, was easy for me… not particularly intellectually challenging.
As the group was saying their good-byes, Robert invited me to visit him at his community. As he walked me to the door, he slid his hand along my arm in a gentle caress. That summer was the end of my graduate school course work. I was taking 6 credits, one 3 credit course and one independent study. I hardly went to that class; it was on death and dying. Instead I spent the summer days sitting in the sun at the nearby community watching Robert go about his daily life. He worked on cars and cut wood in the sawmill. Every now and then he would come and see if I needed any water, I always took my lunch and we would chat.
Robert found it difficult to articulate ideas and feelings, as I found it difficult to walk. We came to know each other through touch, dance, smell, and the sound of each other’s laughter, and the countless expressions that cross the human face. There was a new baby in the community – Rose and her two year old brother Joshua. Robert would carry me piggyback up the hill to their house where we would eat a meal with that family. Like me, Robert loved small children and babies. So we frequently took care of little Rose, who was 3 months old at the time.
Although there was a strong physical attraction growing between us, it was real slow. It wasn’t “I’ve got to have you or I’ll die.” It wasn’t like that. Since we were older, there seemed to be some physical intelligence that said it just wasn’t time to act on that attraction. Not yet, it just wasn’t time. Dusk would come and I would say that it was time to go home. And he would drive me into town. At some point during that summer we took a trip to Maine. Robert drove a truck. He invited me to go with him when I told him my plans to vacation with a friend who lived on a nearby island. We left late in the day and drove all night. Being around him was interesting, it was different. My slowness didn’t seem to bother him. He could slow down to my pace as if it were his own. So I never felt rushed with him and he never got in my way with quick movements. He was the first man I knew where my disability wasn’t a significant barrier to being with me for long periods of time.