Practical Bravery: CRYSTAL ASIGE
Change can often seem like a dream, framed by moments when individuals step into the spotlight, determined to ignite transformation. And when those individuals step up, sometimes from unlikely places, we can see just how weak the system is that needs to be reformed. And we question why we haven’t been angry that it wasn’t changed sooner. Or by anyone else.
Our guest is not just a Kenyan Senator nominated to parliament by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party; she’s a symbol of resilience and determination to many Kenyan people. Losing her sight to glaucoma in her early 20s, whilst studying in the UK, made her realise the hard way that systemic inaccessibility was going to do more damage to her quality of life, her career and livelihood than the blindness itself.
Her advocacy knows no bounds. She represents people with disabilities, women, and youth, all while breaking down the pervasive stigmas still associated with disabilities, not only in Africa but across the world.
She was a keynote speaker at the One Young World Summit in 2023, an event we are going to cover in some special podcast episodes soon. From Kenyan pop star to University of Bristol student to Kenyan state senator, her professional journey has seen her work with industry giants like the BBC and Disney, and now she’s creating a tidal shift in the world of accessibility.
In this episode of The Possibility Club, Richard Freeman meets the remarkable Crystal Asige.
“I’m not the kind of person who’s scared to be around difference, or scared to speak out, because I’ve already been able to experience and live a life where I was able to do both.”
“I was always smiling, I was very much of a tomboy — I think I still am.”
“When I was confronted, or given the news that this is what you have, this is what it’s going to mean, I struggled for sure. I was in my second year of university, I didn’t have my family around me, so I had to go through that alone, which was quite dark and pretty painful.”
“I spiralled into doing the wrong thing with the wrong people at university, so I could escape from the reality of hey Crystal, you’re going to go blind and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“What does compassion really mean? What does trusting somebody really mean? What does listening really entail?”
“In those formative years of the glaucoma I became twenty years older in about two years.”
“I am understanding more and more that it’s very important to let yourself be all of you. Just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I pack it up now I’m in politics. Respectability Politics should not hinder me from being all parts of who I am.”
“Through my music I try as best as I can to stamp the moment I’m in through the music, the lyrics, the feel, the texture of what I’m putting out there.”
“Visually Impaired Parliamentarian, aka VIP”
“Writing a bill is great, but the story around writing the bill, the reasons why the bill is important, how it’s going to change people’s lives every day, that’s I think what will connect with human beings for decades to come.”
“They might not remember my name but I hope that they remember what I was trying to put out into the world and I hope the energy is apparent in anything that I do creatively.”
This episode was recorded in June 2023
Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible
Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts
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