Presidential Release 528, June 2023 Chapter Version (English)

MARK RICCOBONO: Okay. Greetings, fellow Federationists, today is Thursday, June 1, 2023, and this is Presidential Release 528, at least it's Thursday where I am. If you're tuned in live in the United States, it's still May 31st, but from the future, this is our first presidential release from the future, it's June 1 here, about noon in Wellington, New Zealand, where I am attending the executive committee meeting of the World Blind Union, so kia ora to all of you out there, the traditional New Zealand greeting.  

It's been a great meeting of the executive committee of the World Blind Union here.  I've had the pleasure to have many great conversations and also participate in a very interesting meeting kickoff and blessing in the Maori tradition here in New Zealand.  So lots of good things happening as we interact with other blind leaders from around the world and talk about how to advance the global blindness movement.  Also I want to kick off this release with a very happy Pride Month to everybody, and acknowledgment of our blind members who are also LGBT.  

I'm going to come back to that in a moment, but let me start off this release... there is so many great things to talk about, but I want to celebrate the fact that on Thursday, May 25th, the House companion bill for the Access Technology Affordability Act, the ATAA, was introduced in the 118th Congress. Very exciting news. The bill's sponsor is Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania. The bill is also    has a lead co sponsor of Mike Thompson from California. The introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act comes with 14 originating cosponsors, very bipartisan, eight Republicans, five Democrats.  So very happy to see our act launched in this Congress with bipartisan support.  I think we can get the bill done this year.  So I'm going to urge you to call, email, find your members of Congress on the street and get them to support this bill.  Let's see if we can get it passed before we get to the fall. That would be a great victory for us.  I should let you know that our bill number is 3702. 3702. HR3702 for the Access Technology Affordability Act.  

As you know, this will recreate a refundable tax credit for the purchase of technology.  And as long as we're talking about our advocacy work and looking to the future, just make sure to mark your calendar for our 2024 Washington Seminar, which will run from January 29th through Thursday February 1st of 2024. That means the Great Gathering in meeting will by tradition by at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 29th. We will, again, be gathering at the Holiday Inn Capital in Washington, D.C. Obviously plenty of time to plan for that.  We have a convention and other things in front of us first, but I wanted to make sure you could mark that on your calendar and hopefully we'll be celebrating getting some bills enacted before that, like the Access Technology Affordability Act. 

Now, to start off this release, I do want to talk about the fact that in June we are celebrating Pride Month, and I want to make sure that all of our members know that we have an LGBT+ group in the National Federation of the Blind.  This is one of our affinity groups that brings Federation members together. The purpose of this specific group is to increase NFB membership and involvement among blind LGBT+ community and to provide resources applicable to this group. The group provides mentorship and support to blind LGBT+ members in our community and serves to educate the general public regarding the myths and misconceptions about blindness, including the general LGBT+ community, which frequently discriminates against individuals on the basis of blindness. 

The group is chaired by Sanho Steele-Louchart out of Oklahoma. He also serves as our president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma.  Sanho advises that people can find the group through the very active LGBT+ listserv that can be found at NFB Net. You can also find the group on Facebook by searching for NFB LGBT group, and you can reach Sanho by calling the national office and dialing extension 2440. You can also find his information on our website where we have more information about the group, and I do encourage you to look up the NFB listserv, it's a great resource. The group has a weekly meeting on Zoom, which is open to LGBT individuals and allies.  Right now the meetings happen on Thursday evenings, and you can get the information where there is a weekly reminder sent out.  Again, the group is for LGBT individuals and applies, and Sanho emphasizes that everybody is welcome to participate in this group. 

Now, I want to just take a point of privilege on a more personal basis to call on all Federation members to recognize that our members who are also identify as LGBT face many intersecting points of discrimination.  And this has an impact on their full participation in society. I have felt that to some degree myself just in the way that people react to the fact that Melissa and I have a transgender daughter, and that's without even having the particular characteristics myself.  As excitement grows for our national convention in Houston in just a short month, I really want to urge Federation members to recognize that it is a painful experience for many of our members who are also LGBT.  The public laws and policies in a number of states, including Texas, where this year's convention will be, creates real fear and pain for our members who have these intersecting characteristics, and have the potential to limit their ability to feel comfortable traveling to participate in our national convention.  As leaders in the Federation, we're making the commitment to continue to seek ways to mitigate the harm that is done in communities that might create laws that make it difficult for our members to come to those locations and fully participate, and we're going to commit to figure out how to do that in our future activities, recognizing that there are many complications and we're going to continue to interface with the group about the things that we can do to make sure that our convention environment continues to be safe and welcoming. However, all Federation members can do something about this today and in the time leading up to and including our national convention. 

I want to urge all members to recognize that many of our blind Federation family members who are also LGBT are wrestling with a confluence of concerns and feelings as it relates to our national convention and whether they're sharing them with us or not, they exist, and that has an impact on their ability to participate fully in our convention.  This includes those who make the painful decision to stay home from our national convention because of their concerns about traveling to a place like Texas, and also includes those who decide to come to the convention but may have real fears about their own safety and ability to participate fully in the convention. For them that's a real perceived risk, and we should all be aware of that, and I encourage each and every one of us as members to rally around these members and let them know that for us, we want the Federation and our Federation family, the convention to be a welcoming and safe space for all of us.  And I think we all can do a little extra to make sure that our Texas convention this year expresses that in a very, very dope way. 
I do want to recognize in a very, very deep way. 

I do want to recognize that our leaders in our Texas affiliate and certainly the leaders in Houston who we have dealt with have all expressed their deep support for blind members of the LGBT community and we stand with them in that support.  They all have committed to make sure that our convention is a safe and welcoming space, and I urge all of us to be part of that.  You know, so often on the release we have talked about this, but as our society struggles with diversity, we have the real opportunity to make sure that the Federation stands as an example of how to create a welcoming and safe space, with understanding of family environment for all blind individuals.  And that can serve as a model for other parts of our society.  So I hope you will join me in acknowledging Pride Month by recommitting to make sure that our Federation spaces are inclusive and welcoming of all individuals and especially acknowledging our LGBT+ community this month.  I know that many of our chapters are undertaking efforts in that regard, and I think it's a great way to continue to reach out and build our organization.  So, thank you for the work that you are all doing in that regard. 

Now, I do want to talk to you about our national convention, which is coming up and is going to consume must of the next month and a half for us. The convention will happen from July 1 to July 6th, and hopefully you have registered and made your plans to participate in the convention.  If you did not register to be in person, you can still show up at the convention and register at that time.  If you happen to be watching this live, you still have a handful of hours to go to and register.  For those who just cannot make it to the in person convention this year, I want to call out that we do have the virtual convention experience, which is available to you.  Registration for the virtual convention experience will run up and through the convention itself, but you'll want to register as early as possible so you can get all the information emails leading up to it, the Zoom links, and remember that registration is free, but it does make you eligible for virtual door prizes, which you do have to be tuned in to hear your name and respond to that in email.  It's a great benefit.  If you cannot be at the convention, you can tune in free. 

The virtual convention experience includes three pre convention activities. These are all open, actually, to registered convention attendees, virtual or in person.  So those will be available.  During the convention there will be three daily designated virtual experience sessions from noon to 2:00 p.m. on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd. This will include a welcoming event from the presidential suite. I'm looking forward to that.  Also you will have access to the livestream of the meeting of the Resolutions Committee. In addition, the virtual convention experience will include streaming of the national Board of Directors meeting and all of our general sessions, concluding, of course, with the banquet.  And, again, if you register for the virtual convention experience, you will be eligible for our virtual door prize offerings.  Again, you can find this, /convention. You can even register during the convention, so if you forgot or didn't get to it or suddenly became available, make sure you go on and register. 

Now, for those who cannot be at the convention, I strongly encourage you to consider throwing a banquet party with other members from your chapter or just from the community, if you don't have a local chapter. This is a fun way to connect with the Federation family and to enjoy the festivities at the banquet.  The banquet, of course, will begin at 7:00 p.m. Central time on July 6th, and if your chapter or you will be holding a banquet party on July 6th, we urge you to register that party with us so we can acknowledge it, and if you are interested, you may get the opportunity to have us drop in live to your banquet party during the course of the in person banquet.  Pam Allen will be our master of ceremonies for the banquet, and I know she'll be glad to drop into as many of our banquet parties across the country as we can reasonably do.  You can fill out the form.  You need to fill out the form in order to be eligible to be considered for the drop in, and we want to know about your banquet party anyways, so you can fill out the form.  We need you to fill it out by June 21st in order to be considered for the drop in.  You can find the form, again, /convention. Everything convention happens on that page.  

Now, I do have a number of Federation Family notes for you here on this release. From Colorado, Gary Van Dorn tells us about the passing of Karen Samuelsen over the weekend of May 14.  He tells us that Darren joined the NFB many years, Karen joined the NFB many years ago when she moved to Colorado to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind.  Karen was a fixture in Federation chapter activities, especially when Denver chapters had a fundraiser wrapping gifts at the Barnes & Noble during the holidays. He tells us that many, many people would return each year specifically to have their gifts wrapped by Karen, who was engaging and friendly and helped to spread the word of the Federation simply by providing an important service of wrapping gifts during the holidays, a great demonstration of the capacity of blind people. Karen was a founding member of the Mile High chapter in Denver and served as treasurer, in addition to other leadership activities.  She cared deeply about the Federation. 

From Louisiana, Pam Allen shares that Eleanor Chapman, a dedicated and proud member of our Greater New Orleans chapter passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59 on May 3. She had recently attended her first state convention and was excited and enthusiastic and energized by the wonderful experience she had amongst her Federation family.  Eleanor will be remembered for her positive outlook on all aspects of life. From Nevada, we have learned of the passing of Herbert Francis Radcliffe, who passed away at age 83.  

He passed away on April 9, 2023 after a battle with cancer. He was a member of our newly formed Southern Nye County chapter in Nevada and he served as the first vice president and was very active in helping to draft the constitution for that chapter.  Interesting fact about Herb is that he never knew his father, who was killed in World War II.  Herb went on to serve in the United States Army and the United States Army Reserves from 1961 to 1967. He served for 30 years in the Reno Fire Department, and he always brought that commitment to service to the work that he did within the National Federation of the Blind. You should keep his family in your thoughts and prayers, including his wife, Carol, as well as his four children, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.  

I urge you to keep all of these individuals in your thoughts and prayers. Norma Crosby from Texas says that it is with a heavy heart that she sends the news of the passing of Laurie Zertuche, who passed away recently. Laurie has been a member of the Federation since the early 1980s.  And Norma tells us that she has supported all of the work of the Federation in a whole hearted way, and that she believed that a job wasn't worth doing unless it was absolutely done right, and that is the commitment she brought to everything she did within the National Federation of the Blind that she was a sweet soul for the Federation in Texas, and she will be deeply missed. Keep all of these individuals, as well as those that we may not have known about on this release in your thoughts and prayers. 

Now, I do have a number of joyous pieces of news on this release.  Kyle Kiper of Arkansas lets us know of the marriage of NFB of Arkansas second vice president, Donavon Cavender to Brittany Berry on April 22nd. So congratulations to the newest couple of the National Federation of the Blind.  

And from Ohio, I want to send a special congratulations to Jose Centeno hopefully I said that right.  José Centeno, who is a member of the Miami Valley chapter, and hope say completed the 2023 Cleveland half marathon during the month of May.  Jose is a blind person but also is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and congratulations to Jose not just on completing the half marathon, which I think is an accomplishment definitely, but he also did a great job in the process of promoting the fact that he is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, got some press coverage, and most importantly promoted the fact that when you want to get something done, the members of the National Federation of the Blind are the best support system available for blind people.  So thank you, Jose, for your accomplishments and using that to express the philosophy of the Federation and let people know that we are a resource for blind people. 

Finally, I want to let you know that Kaitlyn McEntire announces the arrival of her second child, which is Rigel Demetrius Seraphin, who was born on May 23rd, 2023 at 9:50 a.m.  Now, Rigel came in weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces and 17 inches long, and Kaitlyn reports that everybody is doing well, although obviously there are some work ahead to make sure that both mom and baby are healthy and well in launching into life here.  So we keep Kaitlyn and the family in our thoughts and prayers.  And I'm sure big brother Edmund is ready to start teaching all of the ways of the world.  So congratulations to the entire McEntire family. 

That's what I have for this very special presidential release, international presidential release.  Maybe the first release to be recorded international that I'm aware of.  So a very special one.  Number 528.  I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity to be with the Federation family in Houston in one short month. There’s a lot to do between now and then, and I know there is a lot of work happening in our chapters as well.  So I look forward to being with all of you at the national convention, and if you can't be in person, please participate in the virtual convention experience so that we can continue to build this important movement of ours.  If you are at the convention, take an opportunity to come by the presidential suite and say hello.  And thank you in advance for your part in making our convention a success.  With that, I'll leave you with the customary endings and say, let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!

We will look forward to seeing everyone soon.  Thank you again for being with us tonight.  You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314 or email at [email protected]. We will not be having a July presidential release since we will all be heading to Houston, Texas, for #NFB23.  You can learn more at /convention.  Our next presidential release live will be on August 1st.  Thank you so much for being with us.
 SPEAKER: Hey, did you hear about the fight at the chip shop?  No, what happened?  Two fish got battered.  
Hi, Elizabeth.  Hi.  Do you have a joke for me?  Yeah.  What is it? 
Why did the recorder go to the ice cream parlor?  I don't know.  Why?  Because he wanted to get the scoop. 
What did the cliché say to the annoying cookie?  Crumb on!
What is a sheep's favorite way to cook? 
I don't know. 
On the bah be cue.
 SPEAKER: The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, president of National Federation of the Blind, [email protected].  Follow President Riccobono on Mastodon.  Search for @President@NFB.  Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!