An Author, Award Winning Educator and Professional Ghost Writer, Roosevelt Mitchell III has a rich background working with individuals and families of all ethnicities with disabilities. Roosevelt is the founder and CEO of the RMIII Foundation, a foundation created to normalize disability in mainstream society. We spoke with Mr. Mitchell about advocating for Disabled Black Men, the recent election and raising young boys.
Why is being advocate for children with disabilities so important to you?
It’s important to me because I was a child with a disability and I know firsthand how it feels to be bullied and teased because you are different. Children have no filter so they often say whatever comes to their mind and don’t think about the hurt or pain that it causes the other child that they are talking about. Through my advocacy and speaking about my life experiences, I hope to make disability normalized so children with disability will not have to experience some of the things that I did.
What inspired you to write a children’s book?
Actually, it began as a request from a Principal who was having problems with his staff teaching about disability to students. The Principal had read my first book titled “Diary of a Disability Scholar”, really loved it and told me about the issue that he was having in his building. He then ultimately asked me to think about writing a children’s book so his staff could have some material to address the subject of disability. So I wrote a children’s book and created the protagonist with the same disability that I have and then used the experiences that I went through as a kid to teach kids empathy, not to bully and to accept other kid’s differences.
How do you advocate for disabled black men?
One way that I advocate for disabled black men is through my book “Diary of a Disability Scholar” which speaks about what it means to be black and disabled in American culture. The other way is by being an example and speaking. Every October, Disability Awareness Month, I go on a Disability Awareness speaking tour and I speak at universities, grade schools and high schools about disability awareness.
What is the “Diary of a Disability Scholar”?
Diary of a Disability Scholar is my book that speaks about black male culture, disability and American society. Several universities use it as part of their curriculum to train future Special Education teachers. I was given the name “Disability Scholar” because I write and speak passionately about the subject of disability. I differ from other scholars because I actually live with a disability, so I am not merely engaged in the struggle but married to it.
What are some things that most people do not know about people with disabilities?
A lot of people with disabilities have a lower self-esteem than their non-disabled peers, largely due to mainstreams society. Meaning, how can children with disabilities or adults with disabilities develop a high self-esteem or a positive sense of self when every time they see themselves in mainstream media they are being talked about or ridiculed. No one rises to low expectations. When was the last time you saw a person with a disability as a lead actor in your favorite movie or television show?
Do you think there has been a lack of focus on people with disabilities?
Yes, because it’s out of sight, out of mind. As long as mainstream media denies people with disabilities the chance to appear on billboards, hit tv shows and movies then people with disabilities will always lack focus. That’s partly how homosexuality became normalized in our society; it became a recurring image on hit movies and shows like Power and Scandal just to name a few. Now it continues to become a norm as it is seen on major networks.
What are your thoughts on the recent result of the United States election?
Well, I was torn between the two candidates because Mrs. Clinton called young black men “super predators” and Mr. Trump mocked the New York Times disabled reporter. Now that Mr. Trump will soon be our next President, I’m actually concerned about his treatment toward the disabled community. I would love for him to step up to the plate and show his support for those with disabilities. As a scholar, I will certainly use my platform to hold him accountable on behalf of the disability community over the next four years.
What advice do you give parents who are raising young boys?
My advice is to instill high self-esteem, a sense of self and teach them to be allergic to mediocrity. In a society that constantly generalizes black boys as being super predators, hyper sexual and thugs, it’s very important that black boys know who they are and have enough confidence to be who they are. Back in the day, our ancestors used to say we had to be twice as better than everyone else and that still rings true because we now live in a global market.
What can we look forward to from Roosevelt Mitchell?
My next children’s book will be released soon titled “Kayden Learns About Money.” I am also co-executive producing an education documentary titled “Raising A Black Scholar In Today’s Crumbling Educational System” that will be released next year.