February 1, 2021

Black People With Developmental Disabilities: Making History

Black People With Developmental Disabilities: Making History

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

February is Black History Month, and OPWDD is commemorating the month by celebrating “Black People With Developmental Disabilities: Making History."

As we reflect upon the OPWDD community, it’s clear that there are many black people with developmental disabilities among us whose accomplishments should be recognized and celebrated. As an agency we've always made it our mission to draw attention to the accomplishments of the people we support who in the past have been marginalized. In keeping with that mission and in the spirit of Black History Month, this month we shine the spotlight on some of the people with developmental disabilities in our community who are making history and, in doing so, are bettering our entire OPWDD community.

President Gerald Ford, who is credited with first officially recognizing Black History Month as a national holiday in 1976, is quoted as saying that we must "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." OPWDD has always endeavored to be inclusive and it’s our honor to recognize just a few of the many black people we support who've been leaders in the effort to ensure people with disabilities are included in all aspects of society and in community life.

On our website we will share the profiles of:

Chester Finn, Special Assistant at OPWDD and nationally recognized disability rights advocate who was recently appointed to the National Commission on Quality and Leadership (CQL) board of directors;

Michelle King, Lead vocalist and guitar player with the musical group Flame;

Shameka Andrews, Founder of Disability Empower Consulting and community outreach coordinator at the Self-Advocacy Association of NYS 

Shannell Davis, Disability advocate and founder of The Underground, a self-advocacy organization for people of color; and

Ketrina Hazell, Motivational speaker, self-advocate, and Ms. Wheelchair 2018

We hope you enjoy reading the profiles we are sharing this month and will share them on your social media channels to raise awareness about the important work being done not just during Black History Month, but all year long.


Theodore Kastner, M.D., M.S.