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Roger B. Jones: What next?

Roger Jones visit Peggys Cove with his older brother Burnley “Rocky” Jones. (contributed)

On June 8th, the anniversary of a very serious traffic accident now 35 years ago, Roger B. Jones, “the Ability Guy” reflects on living with a disability and the new wave of young activists we are witnessing today.

35 years ago, I transitioned into a new stage of life. Part of my old self was left on the side of the highway near the Halifax International Airport. Further into the future was of little concern because I was more worried about the immediate possibilities of existing with a spinal cord injury. Soon after though, I could not help thinking; what next?

Fast-forward to today when the world is dealing with COVID-19 and the repercussions of antiblack racism. We are all struggling daily to come to grips with this new reality, but I am still saying; what next? People across the globe are either hunkered down in some form of isolation or venturing onto the streets to participate in mass demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter. Maniacs sit in positions of power and underpaid (normally underappreciated), front-line workers are the new superheroes. We begin to reassess our priorities, in the absence of restaurant dining and available toilet paper. What next?

I am hopeful that humanity will learn something from the past few months and use that knowledge to improve our world. It has been refreshing to look out at the mountains and see… Mountains! In many cases governments have actually governed and neighbours have helped each other. Unfortunately, the police continue to kill Black men without cause, and seniors, persons with disabilities and other marginalized folks continue to be sacrificed for the benefit of others. There will always be the good, the bad, and the ugly, but present circumstances have shoved it in our faces for everyone to see and reflect. So, what next?

Looking back on the past 35 years, causes me to smile with wonderment. Don’t get me wrong, it was not all honeysuckle and roses. There were times when I was close to packing it in, but there were too many fantastic life experiences to enjoy. Every time I found joy in something; I would say, what next? When the going got rough, I would push on and say, what next? Eventually I began to realize that good times always followed bad and there was always something to learn. Living in the present could be rewarding but looking forward to future possibilities is what drove me.

Now I am sitting here cooped up in a limited space, listening to pundits, podcasters, and presidents, pontificating about the state of the planet. My PPE is running low and my social bubble is about to expand. My health is failing but the thought of jumping into the civil-rights fray is enticing. In earlier times I would have selflessly joined the cause but now my old bones are content to rest at home, cheering on the new wave of young activists. I feel somehow domesticated, thinking about my next meal and pill time or scrolling through the Netflix menu. However, life is good and there are still many things to smile about. My only question is, what next?

Roger B Jones, “The Ability Guy”

See also: 45 years of activist history in eighteen boxes: the Lynn Jones African-Canadian & Diaspora Heritage Collection

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