The Future of Storytelling, as Charted by Disabled Artists

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Headshot of Antoine Hunter on the left. He's wearing a light brown shirt has a long dark brown beard and dark brown dreadlocks and is smiling. A headshot of Alison O'Daniel in the middle. Her hair is long and brown, she's not smiling and is against a pink backdrop. A headshot of Nasreen Alkhateeb on the left. long tightly wound dark brown curly hair, wearing red lipstick and a high neck black shirt. Background is darkly lit with one purple light illuminating her left side onto her hair.
Antoine Hunter, Alison O'Daniel, Nasreen Alkhateeb (Mark Kitaoka, Carlo & Elise Pizarro & Betsy Seder)

Even as we’re seeing more on-screen depictions of disability in films like “CODA” and “Sound of Metal,” the number of disabled people behind the camera remains low. That affects what stories are told — and their accuracy. As disabled artists push for more opportunities to tell their stories — on film, in visual art and through dance — we’ll talk with some in California who are advancing the cultural landscape of disability storytelling. We want to hear from you: What stories would you like to see told?

Our thanks to Cathleen Riddley for ASL interpretation and Sherri Patti for live transcription during this hour.





Nasreen Alkhateeb, filmmaker based in Los Angeles

Alison O'Daniel, visual artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Antoine Hunter (AKA Purple Fire Crow), director, producer and choreographer based in Oakland; founder, Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival





Mina Kim: Even as we’re seeing more on-screen depictions of disability… in films like “Coda” and “Sound of Metal”... the number of disabled people behind the camera remains low…. And that affects what stories, and the accuracy of stories that are told… Twenty artists were recently awarded grants of 50 thousand dollars each from the Ford and Mellon foundations… for their work advancing the cultural landscape of disability storytelling … in film, and also dance, theater, writing and more. We’ll meet three of the recipients, after this news.

Mina Kim: This is Forum, I’m Mina Kim… Antoine Hunter, also known as Purple Fire Crow… is an Oakland-based choreographer and founder of Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival. Los Angeles-based filmmaker Nasreen Alkhateeb was lead cinematographer for Kamala Harris’ vice presidential campaign… They’re part of the Ford and Mellon Foundations' 2022 class of Disability Futures Fellows … who in the foundations' words “are shaping perspectives through their work, using the different lenses they carry, including their disability.” And joining me first is another California Disability Futures Fellowship recipient, Alison O'Daniel, a visual artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and San Francisco…welcome to Forum…


Alison O'Daniel: Thank you so much for having me.
Mina Kim: Really glad to have you and congratulations.
Alison O'Daniel: Thank you I'm excited about it.
Mina Kim: Tell us about you and your art practice.
Alison O'Daniel: Sure, I am a filmmaker and a sculptor across a lot of mediums as a visual artist and filmmaker. And I draw a lot upon my relationships with people in the deaf spectrum. And I have been working on a film for ten years about the sounds of Los Angeles and there's so much I could say —
Mina Kim: Yeah. Well tell us a little bit about that film.
Alison O'Daniel: Yeah. It's — the film is called "The Tuba Thieves." Between 2011 and 2013 , there were tubas stolen from twelve different high schools across Southern California. And when I first heard about this the stories were always reported really focused on the thieves. But I was curious about the sound in the marching band rooms and how it changed after the tubas were stolen. The facts that the tuba is the time keeper and also, you know, the socioeconomic impacts on different schools. And who could replace tubas and who couldn't and I was interested in this because of my hearing. I have a binaural hearing loss. I lip-read. I was raised in hearing culture and in a hearing school. And I started to make a previous film in 2008 where I felt I was missing my other half. And really wanted to find and, like insert myself into the Deaf community and find d/Deaf friends and d/Deaf chosen family basically and so this film has been a way for me to address sound. And experience of sound and not just from d/Deaf and hard of hearing, but also from animals impacted by the sounds of fires and the sound of the city kind of encroaching upon their environment. Perspective on sound that I feel is really — offers a lot as I think many of my disabled cohort offers and how I look at the world. And how I hear the world and how I try to think about hearing but maybe not tethered to the ears.
Mina Kim: Wow, I am so intrigued by this film and also your description of how your own personal experiences really inform the stories that you're drawn to. I was struck by you mentioning something along the lines of, you know, almost a limited access to the Deaf world growing up. Is that right?
Alison O'Daniel: Yeah. This is really common for a lot of people who are hard of hearing. And, you know, I was born in 1979. And I received hearing aids in 1983 and I think audiology. I am saying this — audiology has come a long way but still the goal is to put any child into the hearing world to like "normalize them." And that really does mean that you are missing half of yourself. You're missing half of your opportunity. It's -- I don't even like this term "hearing loss." I really appreciate the term that the d/Deaf community celebrates which is "Deaf Gain." And in my life that's been true. Like once I shifted away from even like using or acknowledging the term hearing loss, my life has just become much brighter and better.
Mina Kim: "Deaf Gain" — I love that. Alison O'Daniel. I'm excited to bring into the conversation now Antoine Hunter, Purple Fire Crow. Based in Oakland, founder of Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival. Antoine Hunter, welcome to forum.
Antoine Hunter: Thank you. Thank you so much. It's a blessing to be here.
Mina Kim: Well, it's a blessing to have you because I understand you are deep in the throes of getting ready for the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival in two weeks. Is there something about that that you are excited to share?
Antoine Hunter: Oh, well this is the ten year anniversary so I'm glad we still surviving, you know, we have not stopped. We want to be visual in the community. And especially in the Bay Area. You know. In our home, we want to feel welcome in our home and this year when I had my international Deaf, I wanted to be all over the Bay Area. And it's nice to be like one day on Friday we'll have the workshop at the YMCA and then we'll be at the theater, Dance Mission Theater. More high culture, more Latino, I really feel it's a blessing to spread out. Sometimes when you're d/Deaf you feel isolated to be in one space. Because it's one place that's accessible. So spread out all over in the Bay Area for people who want to feel welcome. And it's beautiful. Just a lot. Like I say, all day.
Mina Kim: Yeah, it's the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival. Much of your work works with deaf artists. Why is collaboration such an important part of your practice?
Antoine Hunter: When I first started to ask people to help me set up Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival or even to have Deaf performance in theater, many people would say, oh, I don't know any other Deaf people. Can they dance too? I know you can dance. But they can dance and it was like, wow, people still today don't believe that Deaf people can drive a car. They can dance and everything. So it was really important for me to bring these artists from different parts of the world. From New York, California, Australia, Canada, and people don't realize there is Deaf culture, yes, but there is also culture in Deaf culture. I mean, there's other cultures in Deaf culture that are very different that we need to learn from each other. So you're going to be seeing a lot of culture.
Mina Kim: I was really moved by a memory you have shared of being in a high school dance class. And really no one feeling comfortable working with you. Could you share that story and how you realized what dance did for you?
Antoine Hunter: Yeah. I mean, when people didn't understand me I felt I had no place in the world. And I wanted to take myself out from this world. Yeah. So — but then, wow, dance was another way to communicate. And people connected with me. It saved my life and I want to use that power, that gift to save other people. Let them use their own powers and their own gifts. We just need opportunity to learn how to use our "X-Men" powers. You know? Because if we don't have that opportunity we won't know how strong we are.
Mina Kim: Yes, you say "it's saved my life," could you say a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Antoine Hunter: Well, thank you. It was that when people didn't understand me or accept me and I wanted to take myself away from the world I felt like I was suicidal but it wasn't too — I was at Skyline High School, the same one Tom Hanks went to, and my dance teacher told me to create a dance. It was supposed to be with the group but no one would dance with me. I did a solo by Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You." And I was just dancing and I will say that I remember that it was like lightening. The water was moving. And everything was black in the room. I felt fire, electricity moving my body. And at the end of the dance people just stared at me and my teacher asked the students, "What did you feel?" And they said, "I felt like he was cold. He was alone looking for love." And it was right. It was the way to communicate. I finally made more friends and that's how it saved my life. Yeah.
Mina Kim: Yeah. You felt like people were understanding you and communicating with you. That's really beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that. We're talking with Antoine Hunter, director, producer and choreographer and also Alison O'Daniel, an artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We're talking about art, disabled artists in California who are advancing the landscape of disability storytelling and art expression. They're part of the 2022 class of Disability Futures Fellows. And we want to invite you, our listeners, to join the conversation. To share what films, shows, performances about disability or with disabled characters — or art, sculptures, paintings —mean to you. What stories would you like told? You can tell us by e-mailing Or give us a call at 866-733-6786. We'll have more after the break. Stay with us. I'm Mina Kim.
Mina Kim: This is Forum, I'm Mina Kim. Coming up on tomorrow on Forum: Major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, have collapsed in value this year, and the impact of the crash is unevenly felt: a quarter of Black Americans own crypto, compared to 15 percent of white people. We’ll talk about the future of crypto.. And California’s attempt to regulate it… and we want to hear from you: are you a crypto investor? How has the crash affected you? Let us know by emailing us at or leaving us a voicemail at 415-553-3300. Today we are talking about disability storytelling and we're joined by Antoine Hunter, founder of Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival and Alison O'Daniel and I want to bring into the conversation now Nasreen Alkhateeb, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Nasreen, welcome to Forum.
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Thank you for having me.
Mina Kim: Really glad to have you and congrats to you. . Why was this a game changer for you?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: It puts you into a spectrum that you are not necessarily known before or prior. So it allows future collaborators to consider my work. As a potential collaborator for them.
Mina Kim: When you say you were not known, did you mean you were not known as disabled or as a disabled artist before?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Not known as a disabled artist, not known as an artist.
Mina Kim: Did it take a while to describe yourself as a disabled artist?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: It wasn't until I was hit by a car that I realized I was disabled. And it took me a little while to get comfortable with that word. And that identity.
Mina Kim: How do you feel like that identity affects the kinds of stories you are drawn to? How would you describe your work and its focus?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Oh, sure, yeah. Also — I just want to say, you know, I use the pronouns she, her and hers. I'm a multi-heritage woman wearing fitted pants and a black T-shirt with long brown locks and tightly curly hair. I have seven identities and six disabilities. In my work, you know, I — I like to center disability. Racial inequity, gender inequity, religious inequity and after I became aware that I was disabled and that I could actually use disability in my own work, I started to broaden the peers around me and my community to bring in more disabled filmmakers and storytellers so that I could also use their firsthand POV knowledge to enrich the content I was creating.
Mina Kim: Can you share a bit about what you're working on right now?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Oh, sure. You know, one of the projects I'm working on right now is about the new generation of disabled space, explorers. A journey that as included filming a Zero-G flight with 12 disabled people.
Mina Kim: And what is it about that story that has grabbed you?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Well, the idea, you know, we're living during a really pivotal moment in disability history. We have an opportunity to revolutionize the way audiences see disability via first person POV. And when audiences get to see via first person POV they get a chance to experience missing information that they didn't have before that. This idea of, you know, spaces being welcoming to all people. And spaces that are structured and designed for everyone including disabled people. And when I say disabled people, I mean like the vast spectrum of disability.
Mina Kim: So NASA was not allowing people with disabilities to be astronauts essentially?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Yeah, historically, people with disabilities were not allowed to go into orbit.
Mina Kim: Wow. That sounds incredible. The other thing I want to ask you about is I — I really love the way that you were describing yourself and introducing yourself and, you know, as a cinematographer in your art, how do you think about accessibility and the diversity of disabilities? And giving access to your work?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Sorry, can you say that question one more time?
Mina Kim: How do you think about accessibility across the broad range of diversity amongst abilities? How do you try to make your work and the way you communicate accessible to people with a range of different abilities?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Well, lens -- thinking about looking through a lens and capturing information. You have to think about like who's behind that lens. And what they see and why they see it or what they feel and why they feel it. So when I am capturing in the moment, or even in preproduction and thinking about, you know, where to guide people's eyes, it has everything to do with the fact that I come from many identities. You know, those sides of me inform how I see and what I capture. So I'm noticing details. I'm noticing people. And body language that maybe someone who isn't multi-heritage or disabled would see. And my goal is just to always try to make people feel welcomed. You know? No matter what they — what background they come from. No matter what disability they have. To make a safe space so that everyone can exist safely.
Mina Kim: Yeah. You're reminding me of something that you said in a piece that I read that being a cinematographer means that the world is seeing the story through your eyes, through your lens. Has it felt like for a long time you were being asked to live and look through other people's lenses?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: You know, growing up in the neighborhood that I grew up in, much of how I was programmed to be and act and respond has everything to do with colonization. And living in America. And as I got older and I realized, you know, yes, I'm a multi-hyphenate and it can be overwhelming for someone who is not a hyphenate. So constantly editing myself and trying to fit into a space where there really wasn't safe space for me wasn't working. It wasn't working and it wasn't benefitting me at all. So I just sort of started to say, you know, lean into the punk-ness of who are you why should I be ashamed of this? Why should I curtail or edit constantly to make this space to make me fit into a shape that I don't fit in? I'm not that shape. And I noticed other people were also not fitting into those spaces equally. I noticed all of the people — I feel like I'm talking a lot and taking up a lot of space. I'm going to edit and stop there.
Mina Kim: Well, Alison O'Daniel, hearing Nasreen talk about her work and other people's needs and perspectives. I'm curious how you consider accessibility in your work because I know you've been thinking a lot about this recently.
Alison O'Daniel: Yeah and I just want to say, I'm sitting here and I'm looking at the Zoom. And Antoine and I are both nodding like so much through everything that Nasreen was saying. I mean, this is such a thrilling moment in general to be meeting all these other people who are, you know, thinking at such a high, not-basic level about this stuff. I think we've had to kind of engage what — I don't mean to be a snob but, like, a lot of kind of basic ideas about disabilities. That a lot of people with disabilities are like, yeah, yeah, I know, let's go farther, you know. So when you ask me about what I think about accessibility, I have been for a long time I've been  working in my films with acknowledging what the experience is like to not have access to certain things and so sometimes I bring that into my work. To really talk about, like that feeling of not having full access, and to utilize that. Almost as a material. Like almost as a sculptural material sometimes and so by drawing attention to that, I am acknowledging that my experiences, my lived experiences in the world are — I want to be clear, this, like, when I don't have access, this is not something that is okay or should be aspired to. In all the work that everybody is doing for accessibility is crucial. And sometimes what I do in my work is I — I create experiences that reflect what I experience. So in my film, for example, the whole film is open captioned as opposed to closed captions that you can turn on or off. My film didn't give you a choice. That level of accessibility is immediate in the film. And then the narrative structure recreates my livid experiences as someone who is deaf hard of hearing. And what I'm trying to create for the audience is a feeling of, you know, navigating information, trying to put together the pieces. Trying to make sense of it and not immediately think of that experience as something that can't be fruitful or imaginative. So I'm kind of inviting my audience to sit in some challenging experiences. As a way to open up the facts of how I live and experience the world as a possible entry point into information.
Mina Kim: Again, we're talking with Alison O'Daniel, visual artist and filmmaker, Nasreen Alkhateeb, filmmaker, Antoine Hunter, director producer and choreographer and you listeners are joining in with your thoughts on the stories that you would like told, the films, the performances, the art that has impacted you. Danny writes most of my parents worked for the California School for the Deaf. My mom worked in the media center reporting services. I went to a lot of plays in the school and I always loved it. This is an amazing show. Antoine, we talked a little bit about accessibility. If you want to comment on that, you're welcome to. I'm also just curious about the conversation that is happening right now with representation of disability. And representation of disabled people. And so if you have thoughts on  the parts of that conversation that you feel like are most important to you or that you're really glad is being talked about now, we'd love to hear that as well.
Antoine Hunter: Thank you. Thank you. This is Antoine speaking, yes. Let's talk about access. I capture myself with everyone for those who can't see me of course. If you can't see me because we're on a radio station. I have locks in the back. Some are four feet long. My hair is gray. I have a big bushy beard, I am wearing a T-shirt. I'm African, I'm deaf and disabled. Representation is definitely important. My experience there's a lot of parts. People are learning to separate to say I'm deaf, disabled. I have to put that together and I need access to both. You know. Interpreters, captions. Plus, I need to sit on a ball because my spine, my L2 and L1, are always shifting in and out.And I'm constantly in pain but I'm dancing gracefully because I love it and there's a healing power in there. Do other people have that opportunity? Not always. It seems that people are now putting their investment into healing. You know, when we come together it's so great. My day is being healed. You know? When we ask people what is your access need we start to have a better wisdom for ourselves and each other around us. You know, because for example, even myself, I was involved with the dance festival and collecting interpreters. I did not realize that some people prefer interpreters to be really close up. Some people interpreters to be far away. Some people who are deaf prefer to lip-read. Some people who are deaf and blind prefer PT meaning title interpreting. Meaning they need to feel the interpreters signing so so many different kinds of deaf people. Plus people who have different needs and maybe today I will be using my voice and maybe tomorrow I won't be using my voice, you know. So it's good to ask everyday what is your access need? And that is really important to ask. That's the wisdom that we need to give to ourselves and each other. I'm sorry to forget what else you said.
Mina Kim: This leads very much into the question of how disabled artists, disabled people are represented. And what you feel like still needs to happen in terms of representation.
Antoine Hunter: Thank you. Representation, definitely, I think that this space needs to understand that even though we have different culture and we don't have the space to have, like, interpreters who are Black to sign that definitely helped me understand better because the cultures involved. Plus, straight from a Deaf person and people don't realize sometimes when hearing interpreters sign they still — we can understand them because they're signing but sometimes when it's coming straight from a d/Deaf person, we understand even more. So it's quite interesting in the world that we live in today that if a hearing person learns sign language and they're signing, they get a lot of spotlight, but if a d/Deaf person is signing. And it's hard to translate, they can't hear it. They're working. The spotlight doesn't go there at all. And so that kind of stuff. I will say that if we can find our opportunities, it will benefit everyone, definitely. Because we're always learning from each other. It's a good, fair trade. I think we need to great our mind off of monopolies and take everything for ourselves. And I'm -- I mean, yeah, from what I'm learning, representation is definitely important. We just have to add people and become harmonious.
Mina Kim: We're talking to Antoine Hunter, founder of Urban Jazz Dance Company. Nasreen Alkhateeb, and Alison O'Daniel. And we'll have a full transcript of the show posted with the audio today and our thanks to Cathleen Riddley for ASL interpretation and Sherri Patti for live transcription during this hour. We're talking about how to push the landscape of disability representation and authentic storytelling and we'll have more after the break, stay with us. I'm Mina Kim.
Mina Kim: We're meeting three of the recipients of the Disability Futures Fellows program. It's the 2022 class and with us is Nasreen Alkhateeb, Alison O'Daniel and Antoine Hunter based in Oakland, you our listeners are also sharing your thoughts. Nancy asks, "Thank you for this program. How do Deaf dancers hear music? Visual and light cues? Feeling the beat?" Antoine, I think that one is for you.
Antoine Hunter: Thank you. This is Antoine speaking. I was trying to do the technology of unmuting myself, can you say that question again.
Mina Kim: Sure. Nancy was wondering how do deaf dancers hear the music. Visual and light cues, feeling the beat perhaps? And also Nancy was thanking you for this program.
Antoine Hunter: Thank you. Thank you. Many d/Deaf people have their own way of creating a strategy to do their art. Just many d/Deaf people have different hearing level. Some can hear a motorcycle but not the bird. Some can hear the bird but not the motorcycle. To have different strategies to move, like sometimes in the beginning of my career, I mean, I just said play the music and turn on the light at the same time and that's how I know the music started and fade out the music when the music is fading out then turn off the light. And that's how I know that the music is ending. But I started to get really smart creating different strategies. As I go depending on different kinds of art. And I get away with lyrics. So what do I do dancing to? Really depends. Some maybe feel more with drum music. Things like that. But, again, different strategy.
Mina Kim: Yeah. That was from Nancy, and listeners if you want to share your thoughts you can post them and e-mail them to or give us a call at 866-733-6786. Jess writes, "As a former professional dancer, my hearing was a faculty that I took for granted. I had a colleague with minimal hearing capacity who was able to feel the beat of the music. Now as I'm aging into my early 60s, my hearing has diminished dramatically. Friends and family don't fully understand how difficult it is to stay engaged socially as my hearing loss causes me to withdraw. Movies and programs about hearing loss are doing a great service in showing how we live—movies like 'Sound of Metal' and 'CODA' are a God-send." What are your thoughts on these films? I know there have been mixed reactions to those two films. Alison, do you want to go first?
Alison O'Daniel: Sure. And also I'll jump on the accessibility bandwagon and also describe myself which I am a white woman with brown long hair that's pulled over into a braid on my left side. And I have big round clear glasses and I'm wearing a shirt by Deaf rapper Wawa that says "show some love" which is a little shout-out. He's also a main character in my film. And, well I actually — I interviewed the director of "Sound of Metal," Darius, for Filmmaker Magazine and I will admit when I was approached to do this interview I was really, really skeptical because we don't have a good history of representation of the d/Deaf in films. And not only is it few and far between it's also just minimal and I — you know, I watched the film and I was really curious about, you know, how — what was I going to ask him and what position was I in to talk to him about it? And the questions that kept really interesting me were "Why you?" You know, "Why are you telling this story? What's your relationship to this?" I became really impressed when they shared his production notes with me because he did really amazing research and now, in hindsight, what I would say is that it's almost like "Sound of Metal" was like step one towards moving into what I think is really responsible filmmaking in the way that he worked with the Deaf community in Brooklyn and New York and really educated himself and Darius' background sort of interest in this was that his grandmother was Deaf. And so he became interested in that. I think it's a really beautiful American independent film. I think one thing that I am really looking forward to is also getting people who are d/Deaf and who have disabilities behind the camera and who are telling their stories with a lot of authenticity. I think one of the things about "Sound of Metal" that, you know, we're starved for these representations that feel authentic and there was a lot of authenticity in his film and yet at the same time it still is about someone experiencing trauma around Deafness and I think not all of us — like many of us have extremely diverse and varied lives where we experience frustration and trauma but we also experience beautiful things and easy things and very, like, mundane things around our experiences with disability. And so I want to show that and see that. And yeah, so also one thing there's just absolutely amazing about the disabled community is that we're incredibly diverse. Some people are thrilled about this film or these films and other people are, like, have a lot of questioning. And that's allowed because we're this huge diverse community.
Mina Kim: Right. Right. Nasreen, do you have any thoughts on this? And in the spirit of accessibility, I can also share with our listeners that I'm Korean American, and I have my hair pulled back in a bun and I'm wearing a button-down, blue and white, striped shirt. Nasreen, it's intriguing for me to hear Alison describe step one in her view as "Sound of Metal" and kind of implies there's a step two. I'm curious what your thoughts are as well in terms of where you would like to see disability storytelling in film go. What you think the work that still needs to be done is, essentially.
Nasreen Alkhateeb: You know, disability, the disability market's worth over a trillion dollars according to Nielson, which is strange because we only have 2.8 television characters on screen with a disability mostly, most of whom are portrayed by someone who is white and the actors who play characters with disabilities, actually 95% of them don't have a disability themselves. So there is not a clear indication of authentic representation by people who are disabled portraying our actual experiences. And that's a problem because how people — because there's such little content online for people to absorb, they're not absorbing the authentic versions and if they're always seeing a character that's in distress or a character that needs saving it impacts how they see people who are disabled. So thank you for, you know, thank you for bringing this up and giving us a chance to sort of identify content that does have normal and easy portrayals of disability the way that Alison had said. You know, "Lady Parts" is a great show that has that. "Reservation Dogs," "Crip Camp," the movie "I Care A Lot." These are films that have characters who are disabled who are just living their lives and defining normal the way we know normal is.
Mina Kim: Yeah, Alison, Nasreen is bringing up the narratives as well. The types of stories that are told around disability. I know you brought up some that you have found problematic, like "overcoming disability" as a narrative and so on. I'm curious if there are -- if this is sparking thoughts for you about the types of narratives that you feel are problematic and what you would want to contribute through your storytelling around that.
Alison O'Daniel: I think that again, focusing on trauma. That reinforces that audiences should feel sorry for people with disabilities and again that's not the whole picture of our experience or what we have to contribute. And so I think, you know, when I watch films which — honestly I just haven't seen that many. There's a lot of people who are working now, there's a group called FWD- Doc, FWD, which is filmmakers with disabilities, started by San Francisco's own James Lebrecht, who directed "Crip Camp." And there are a lot of people in that who are making work right now and then there's — Jim Lebrecht and Rodney Evans are people who are in the first cohort of the Ford Future award, and they both made films that are incredible that are documentaries. I think we just have a huge, huge hurdle to overcome in terms of narrative work. And I think for me, yeah, like the "overcoming disability" story. I just want to put that to bed. Let's just never see that again.
Mina Kim: Can you just describe what that is briefly?
Alison O'Daniel: Yeah, it's  a storyline where someone achieves something despite whatever is "wrong" with them. Someone who can, you know, I don't want to say names of projects. Because I don't want to, you know, be that critical but, you know, any sort of story where it's, like, "the struggle is real because you have the disability, but then you become almost like integrated into sort of normal non-disabled culture because it's no longer an issue or problem." And this isn't just — this is also something that is often used around storylines with sickness, too. You know, like it's not just, like, long-term disabilities it could also be short-term.
Mina Kim: Yeah. Well, we're talking with disabled artists in California who are advancing the cultural landscape of disability storytelling and those are Alison O'Daniel, visual artist and filmmaker in Los Angeles, Nasreen Alkhateeb, filmmaker based in L.A. as well, and Antoine Hunter, also Purple Fire Crow, director, producer and choreographer based in Oakland. and you are listening to Forum. I'm Mina Kim. So then what signs do you see that are helpful or positive in your view of disability storytelling? And the direction that it's moving in? The reason I ask is some have cited just this fellowship project is a positive development. It's the second year of this fellowship program. It was one that, I don't know if they knew how long, if it would have a second year as well. And so that just — as a piece of this, but I'm wondering, Antoine, if there are other signs that you are seeing that are particularly heartening to you, whether it be the conversation around disability storytelling or the actual examples of things that you're seeing that you're like, yeah, this is really moving in a direction that feels right.
Antoine Hunter: This is Antoine speaking. I'm also the president, vice president of the Black Deaf Advocates. And we work with children a lot. And these children really inspire me to work hard everyday because I'm hoping their future will be great. Things that I didn't have. I want to make sure those children have it and they lead us. One thing people don't realize, the older we get, at some point, all of us are going to have disabilities. You can't see, you can't hear, you can't move, but there are people we need to be fixing the problem now, for access right now for the better of the future. To be improved. We keep talking about the waste of time. Let's do it now. Work on it now. But it's always worth speaking about. But let's do the action now. You know? So I think, for me, about the future is that we get that space for the younger people to carry us further. I don't want to make it too confusing but I — like, I really am grateful for the Forum right now to have the conversation because people are being afraid to have that conversation and keep it quiet and how can we actually move forward without having that conversation? So I hope we continue the conversation a little bit. One year, next year, whether there's a fellowship or no fellowship, we need to keep that conversation open.
Mina Kim: Well, done. Let's do it. Nasreen, also wanted to ask you that question. You have talked about how disability is being redefined, I'm curious what are positive signs in your view?
Nasreen Alkhateeb: Positive signs that I'm super excited about. Day Al-Mohamed is a woman of color who's the first director of disability policy at the White House. Tatiana Lee is the first accessibility lead at a major studio. Natalie Patrice Tucker is a senior accessibility lead at Spotify and has been making the internet accessible for over twenty years. These are women of color who are paving the way and trailblazers like Alison mentioned Jim LeBrecht, Rodney Evans, Day Al-Mohamed. Sundance Institute for creating another program for accessible futures. Amber Espinosa-Jones, Kareem Ahmed, Moi Santos and shout-out to FWD-Doc for just releasing the first accessible scorecard, which makes it possible for people to rate film festivals and events to tell and to collect information about how accessible they are. These are nuggets and seeds that are being planted to shape our future in a really, like, major way. That wasn't here before 2022. So I am excited about those.
Mina Kim: Well, listener Ami writes, "Rom Coms, coming-of-age stories, made by and about people with disabilities — that’s the  thing we need." Alison O'Daniel, do you want to leave us with your thoughts about the things you are seeing with regards to storytelling that really excite you?
Alison O'Daniel: I actually am so excited about Gen Z. I think that, you know, I teach film at the California College of the Arts and students come in and everyone, regardless of disability, is using captions, like captions are becoming normalized, on social media, there is this extremely empowered Gen Z where everyone is saying, "This is the way you can do this. This is what it should look like. Caption your content. Don't call me by this name and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." So I feel like, you know, policy has to be put in place, films need to be made, art needs to be made. But people practicing it is where this really happens and Gen Z is huge and I love their empowerment. And in the art world there's a really beautiful community of disabled artists that are — I am just thrilled about and love so much all the work that everybody's doing.
Mina Kim: Well, Alison O'Daniel thank you so much. Nasreen Alkhateeb, as well, both filmmakers based in L.A., Alison as well in San Francisco, Antoine Hunter, raised in Oakland, also Purple Fire Crow, director, producer, choreographer, and also Cathleen Riddley for ASL interpretation, my thanks to you as well. My thanks to our Gen Z producer Caroline Smith for producing today's segment. Thank you, listeners. You have been listening to Forum. I'm Mina Kim.