Last week, September 19th/17 New York City government pulled at popular culture’s heart strings trying to get a pat on the back by putting a meme of Hip-Hop star, Drake when he played a character that got shot in high school and became a wheelchair user, “Jimmy” Brooks aka Wheelchair Jimmy in a city park. The meme is Drake’s character, Jimmy Brooks in the television series, Degrassi what NY is calling, The Wheelchair Jimmy meme” at the entrance of Fort Greene Park in gentrified Brooklyn. The same place where Krip-Hop Nation’s ( an international network of Hip-Hop artists with disabilities) co- founder, Rob Da’ Noize Temple, just got gentrified out of his Brooklyn home and studio where he not only lived but was a recording studio and mentoring venue since the late 1970’s. As we all know that the Hip-Hop star, Drake, is not a wheelchair user and is not even from NY although there are many wheelchair Hip-Hop artists in NY that are doing kick ass work.
Why a city government’s department, Parks & Recreation Department, agreed to put a non-disabled Hip artist in a city park? Is the city government department that suppose to uphold and follow the Americans with Disabilities Act playing a role in promoting disability appropriation by using what they call, “The Wheelchair Jimmy meme”, as a ramp into Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn? We can’t say that this department didn’t know what’s been out there for a long time, that non disabled Drake played a wheelchair user character and it sounds like the department had the notion that it was making the park more accessible with this meme and viewed it as up-lifting. Yes it provides a ramp into the park but it is still a mark of disability appropriation. Did the Parks & Rec department ask the NY disabled community? From articles it sound like they did have hearing on this meme. In many articles it said:
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday (September 19th) during a public hearing agreed to put the “The Wheelchair Jimmy meme” at the entrance of Fort Greene Park.
Spokes person for Park & Recreation Dept. goes on to say in a joking tone.
“Started from the bottom of Fort Greene Park’s signature hill, now we’re here with the final design, which takes care to create a more welcoming park entrance with improved views.”
In my view “The Wheelchair Jimmy meme” has been stamped by city government saying that it is ok to promote disability appropriation with our money! What is sad is they had hearings and it seems the public was all for it! I bet they, NY city government department, Parks & Rec and many people who will see it, this meme, won’t see it my way and will continue to see it as a good thing and inspiring for people with and without disabilities to see. I can also see that this meme will be used as a symbol of progress during the annual Disability Pride march that happens in NY every July. As a Black disabled man, I’m so pissed that the first Black disabled public meme in my hometown, NY, is one that appropriates my culture.
Hint hint it is a bad time to put up a meme/statue that really don’t feel right to many segments of society!
Pic: Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, NY where a new ramp was place with Drake’s character Jimmy Brooks who was shot and became a wheelchair user on the show Degrassi with Akon in blue jeans and another Black man looking downward.