by Adrijana Prokopenko
From the Editor: The National Convention of the Federation is the largest annual gathering of blind people in the world, and participating in it is a major highlight for Federationists and others as we come together to discuss issues and shape the policy for the organization. Fortunately we broadcast much of our convention, and people from around the world join us in spirit. Adrijana Prokopenko is a teacher in Macedonia. English is not her native language, but she does a wonderful job of communicating her excitement and her suggestions for how she thinks things should be. Like her Federation brothers and sisters in the United States, she clearly has her own opinions and is anxious to express them. Here, with slight editing, are parts of the diary she kept describing her participation in our 2017 National Convention:
Excitement is in the air for many people going to convention and lots more that can’t go including me. Looking forward to finding out what is in store. Making a list to make sure I have everything at hand while convention is streaming so that I don’t have to go out of the room looking for things: water, ice coffee, snacks, mouthwash, cups, spoon, tissues and wet wipes on the shelf, Brailler and Braille paper for taking notes next to me, the phone near the computer on silent mode, doors closed to prevent outside noise, Skype and Facebook opened for immediate communication with members who are there on the spot.
Some great presentations regarding technology equipment like OrCam and Braille devices that have been improved over the years. The thought of being able to access information as do the sighted with not much hassle is great enough; just hope the price is right for everyone; otherwise, some people may miss out on it again.
Job fair seems to have brought some cool things, as someone recommended my Facebook group to people from employment divisions, like Lighthouse and different companies. I was even chatting live to someone like that getting contact info of one of them to be able to email her with more!
Also lots of work today; trying to hunt down exactly the names of companies that are out there so people can meet them live and get their job ads and include them into my job group. Also following the progress of convention from the stream and members who are already there posting on the groups and to me privately. Lesson number one: Learning starts way back from the past in the NFB history, and going deeper into this allows me to understand the organization's philosophy and ideas better. Then there is lesson number two: Real communication and connections with people can always help, no matter if the information comes from an email list, a magazine, or a conversation with an actual person. This would make the learning complete!
Everyone seems to be enjoying convention, including Ciera, the fearful high school girl who thought that the NFB wasn’t for her. NFB-related messages spread on the groups big time! It is great they are opening the stream thirty minutes early so we can feel the atmosphere and hear some informal chat there! As Oriana enjoys exploring her dad’s watch and feeling overjoyed that she will have to announce the National Federation of the Blind name to mark the start of the meeting, I could see how kids could grow into the Federation and have fond memories of it. Practice from the performing arts division in front of the veterans and more recognition for their work from others and probably way more that happened during other events that aren’t streamed. And me being the student that I am, I keep learning the NFB lessons as before, so lesson number three goes: stick to being a Federationist in the true sense of the word, no matter how close or far you live. And lesson number four goes: the NFB site always has surprises, so keep checking and scrolling to find them.
Even though advertisements about the Nation’s Blind podcast didn’t appear anywhere before, I could find it from the audio link and start listening to it to keep up with what is going on! Dick Davis had an interview on 1520wbzw, so I had to spread the info far and wide beforehand so people could listen in. Seems like the KNFB Reader is also expanding its features to become even more accurate, and the brother of Victor Stream was just born to help those who want to get it with mobility at the same time. Feels very rewarding to be able to do all this work even from afar!
Already getting replies from companies that they are joining my group and supporting the idea, praying this would bring some cool things for many. Lots of money talk at convention today, which made me feel inadequate for not being able to provide any, but promising I will fix this next year. If nothing else, I can send a door prize and surprise someone! As board members got reelected and kept sharing their enthusiasm, others shared experiences of growing up with blindness and lack of opportunities and how they became the way they are to help others, which shows that if you really want to do something, you can probably find a way to do it! Hopefully all of this talk about discrimination will lead to less of it as we fight to show we will stand up for ourselves and people come to understand that we can do the things they do—especially being parents, students, and workers.
So many wrong email addresses people gave at convention: glad I wrote to them first to test before I spread the info out about the NFB-NEWSLINE Echo testing, radio station interview, and job-related email address information. So lesson number five may be: When people get excited, some addresses can go wrong! Smile. Also glad that I subscribed to the press release email list and presidential reports link; wish someone had told me about these things way back when I became a member! Don’t think any of this was mentioned in the new member packet, and I think it would be useful for any new member and anyone else who is truly interested in helping the NFB.
An exciting day today—don’t want to miss the banquet or anything else by falling asleep, so dividing my sleep hours so I can stay up and listen. What a great thing to hear that companies and organizations can work together to achieve things, even if change is slower than we want and things take time. Was impressed: no one said no at convention so far to the president’s words, which made me gain whole new respect for conventions like this one because of this. If it was a roundtable in Macedonia, the discussions would have probably gone nowhere, and everyone would have blamed the other for all our problems.
Prizes and awards going to deserving professionals once more, which will probably bring many great things for them and the rest they are connected to, to keep achieving greater things together and stay together in the fight! What can be better than that?
As the banquet gets going and prizes get drawn, finding out who gets recognized for drawing in the largest number of people and raising the most money, people cheering for certain individuals in their own state, loud enough to hear even with the sound trouble! As Dr. Maurer gives little NFB facts and stories from the past and lets people get ready for the main thing, excitement builds about what is to follow. As singers start introducing each other and invite everyone to join in, I can’t help but sing with them and pull the headset out of the computer for the whole house to hear, not minding that it is 1 AM where I am! As songs go in a faster mood, people get to clap and dance around in their limited space in the crowd. As the video for the students’ scholarship and sponsors starts, we have a chance to learn more about everyone who is involved in the deal, hoping that they will continue to support the organization as greatly in the future. As students recite their little songs especially created for the occasion and prizes get drawn, I can’t help but suggest that it may serve a great purpose if some of the money prizes are given in products and not money, because this would benefit both the organization selling them and the people who receive and need the products.
With the banquet address starting and the room getting quieter, the serious business starts that will hopefully give us the great address for a greater tomorrow. As science and technology advance and take a great part in blind peoples’ lives if they are able to afford it, our power to change things for a better tomorrow for us and our children is even greater than ever if we possess all the skills and knowledge to be able to do this nonvisually. As we stick together and share what we have and can do, it is the only way that will bring us and many others forward.As this year’s scholarship students come to shake hands with the former and current president and the owner of Kurzweil and are further greeted by all, let's hope that they will be the ones who will be the great movers and shakers of the organization in the future.