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Living while Black and Disabled with Tracee Garner Author of Introducing Disability: An Anecdotal Field Guide For the Rest of Us
Episode 2572nd March 2023 • Beyond Adversity with Dr. Brad Miller • Dr Brad Miller
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Tracee is an author, speaker, writing coach, and course creator.

She has written several fiction and non-fiction books, mainly aimed at showing the success of African American people in overcoming adversities.

In this episode, Tracee shared how she triumphed over her disability and the advocacy she raised for persons with disability to have a better living experience.

Tracee talks about how she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age two. When she was ten years old, she now needed to use a wheelchair to move.

But because of the support of her parents, she grew up as a faithful person. She knew that strengthening her mental fortitude was a must not to perceive disability as a limitation.

She lived a normal life despite her condition. Tracee is not afraid to use her voice and talk to others, which is why she has gotten so far in life.

Her writing started from just needing to advocate herself. She experienced talking to people in power to fight for disabled people to live a good quality of life.

Tracee also talks about her struggles when she is in college. Because of this, she ended up writing a story to submit to a writing contest, and she won the competition. It becomes her motivation to become an author.

Tracee Garner’s story is transforming and inspiring. She is a person who lives without limitation, even with a disability, one who proves that a disability will not hinder a person from achieving a dream and doing all the things.

Episode 257 of The Beyond Adversity Podcast is a must-listen for anyone struggling to overcome their situation or disability—those who are down and thinking that they can’t do anything. This story will motivate you to win the battle and rise from the pressure of your challenges.

“The Beyond Adversity Podcast with Dr. Brad Miller is published weekly with the mission of helping people “Grow Through What They Go Through” as they navigate adversity and discover their promised life of peace, prosperity, and purpose.






Dr. Brad Miller 0:00

One of the challenges people sometimes have is a disability.

Dr. Brad Miller 0:04

And we have a great guide for us today. Her name is

Dr. Brad Miller 0:08

Tracee Garner. And she's the author of several books

Dr. Brad Miller 0:11

and is a speaker and a writing coach and of course creator.

Dr. Brad Miller 0:16

And she's written fiction and nonfiction, particularly targeted

Dr. Brad Miller 0:20

and depicting African American folks triumphing over adversity,

Dr. Brad Miller 0:23

and meeting success and love in life. She's a public speaker, and

Dr. Brad Miller 0:27

she has a coaching program. And today, among other things,

Dr. Brad Miller 0:30

we're gonna be talking about disabilities, and her advocacy of that.

Dr. Brad Miller 0:35

And in her field guide disability, a field guide for the rest

Dr. Brad Miller 0:37

of us, Tracee Garner, welcome to Beyond adversity.

Tracee Garner 0:41

Thank you, Dr. Brad, thank you so much for having me.

Tracee Garner 0:45

I'm glad to be here and chat with you and share about my journey.

Tracee Garner 0:49

And one of your four D's you were telling me about?

Dr. Brad Miller 0:51

Yeah. Well, the, it is excellent to have you with us as we,

Dr. Brad Miller 0:56

you know, we really, really do focus on kind of helping people

Dr. Brad Miller 1:00

understand identify their adversities they've had in life,

Dr. Brad Miller 1:04

and some are somewhat hidden, you know, someone may

Dr. Brad Miller 1:07

be able to have depression, for instance, sometimes people

Dr. Brad Miller 1:10

can gloss over that by, by, you know, just trying to get through life.

Dr. Brad Miller 1:15

But other people have other more prominent adversities, and

Dr. Brad Miller 1:19

you happen to have some physical challenges and physical

Dr. Brad Miller 1:25

disabilities, and which and means all kinds of challenges,

Dr. Brad Miller 1:29

not only with yourself personally about, you know, navigating

Dr. Brad Miller 1:32

the world and things like that. And you're going to teach us

Dr. Brad Miller 1:34

some things about this here today. But tell us a little bit about

Dr. Brad Miller 1:37

your story, particularly your a little bit about your background,

Dr. Brad Miller 1:41

and what got you then into your life now as an author and

Dr. Brad Miller 1:44

an advocate for people with disabilities and helping teach

Dr. Brad Miller 1:47

folks who don't have physical disabilities? How do you integrate with that?

Unknown Speaker 1:51

Sure. So I am Tracee Garner. As you mentioned, I live just

Tracee Garner 1:56

outside of DC, in Virginia, and I've been disabled all my life,

Tracee Garner 2:03

I was diagnosed at age two, with muscular dystrophy that

Tracee Garner 2:06

is a neurological neuromuscular disease, that makes your

Tracee Garner 2:10

muscles weaker over time. And I walked until I was about 10 years old.

Tracee Garner 2:14

And then I never really walked out, right, just always holding on

Tracee Garner 2:18

to things using my crutches, until I needed to use a wheelchair.

Tracee Garner 2:23

And I actually got a wheelchair in elementary school, about

Tracee Garner 2:26

five or six. And, you know, I'm from my mom's in the choir

Tracee Garner 2:32

and sings, and my dad was a pastor. And so I think that my

Tracee Garner 2:36

upbringing and stuff, they really taught me to be a faithful person.

Tracee Garner 2:39

And to just, you know, have such a great attitude, even though

Tracee Garner 2:43

I would have what most perceived as a limitation as a disability,

Tracee Garner 2:49

but it's really starts in your mind, you know, you can really overcome

Tracee Garner 2:53

a lot of things if you can win in the mind first, and then the

Tracee Garner 2:57

mind will kind of direct the body to keep going the mental fortitude

Tracee Garner 3:02

and everything I grew up in, I have an older brother, who's five

Tracee Garner 3:06

years older than me, and he's in the military, where he was, he's

Tracee Garner 3:08

retired now. And I went to public school, I did everything everybody

Tracee Garner 3:13

else did, and had a pretty normal life. I was mainstream most of my

Tracee Garner 3:18

life since about the fourth grade. And I've been in regular classes for

Tracee Garner 3:23

her for a long time. But I've always had this strong voice and this very

Tracee Garner 3:29

opinionated, sassy kind of response to things that often got me in

Tracee Garner 3:34

trouble. So So I've just always use my voice to talk and tell people

Tracee Garner 3:38

what I want need. And it's gotten me very far, a lot of

Tracee Garner 3:42

trouble but also far in my life and.

Dr. Brad Miller 3:45

Using the tools that are available to you. But it sounds like

Dr. Brad Miller 3:48

the wheelchair just been a part of your life for most of

Dr. Brad Miller 3:51

your life. I mean, that's your reality, right?

Tracee Garner 3:53

It is. It's a part of me, it's a tool, it's a tool that enables me

Tracee Garner 3:56

to move around my country and around my space. And so

Tracee Garner 4:02

I don't know where I would be without, you know, just the

Tracee Garner 4:05

advancements in the technology I drive I have modifications

Tracee Garner 4:07

on my vehicle that allow me to drive with my hands, my life is full

Tracee Garner 4:11

of adaptive tools, then I'm thankful for them because you know,

Tracee Garner 4:15

what kind of life you know, would you have without some of

Tracee Garner 4:19

these technological advances. So I'm grateful that I live in this time.

Dr. Brad Miller 4:24

And you mentioned how this is your reality that you live

Dr. Brad Miller 4:28

with this and you have dealt with it but you not only have

Dr. Brad Miller 4:31

dealt with it, you have thrived in many ways, as you say, using

Dr. Brad Miller 4:35

your voice, and you have used your voice to be an author and

Dr. Brad Miller 4:38

developing your own business, your own coaching career and a

Dr. Brad Miller 4:41

public speaker and advocate in this in the world of disability

Dr. Brad Miller 4:46

and accessibility and or in accessibility in some cases, but

Dr. Brad Miller 4:50

tell us what it how that you got from kind of growing up with

Dr. Brad Miller 4:54

this reality to really then leaning into it with writing

Dr. Brad Miller 4:58

and all the other things we've mentioned here.

Tracee Garner 5:00

I think that, um, you know, a lot of my writing kind of got,

Tracee Garner 5:04

if you will say excavated and really, you know, found through

Tracee Garner 5:09

having a disability, I often had to write things, write a

Tracee Garner 5:12

letter to get some assistance, tell my doctor here do this

Tracee Garner 5:16

form, they wouldn't do the forum. So then I do it myself and

Tracee Garner 5:19

be like, here, assign this. So a lot of these things just came out

Tracee Garner 5:23

of that I wanted to move forward in a program and an area,

Tracee Garner 5:27

I wanted access to something. So I was just like, you know,

Tracee Garner 5:30

this is not going to happen, unless I kind of lead and tell people,

Tracee Garner 5:34

you know, and do it. So a lot of that writing started from,

Tracee Garner 5:38

you know, just needing to advocate for myself, I had to

Tracee Garner 5:42

write testimonials. I've been in front of like, boards of

Tracee Garner 5:45

supervisors who make decisions and tell them why, you know,

Tracee Garner 5:48

we need this or that. And also, we've had to use public transit

Tracee Garner 5:51

for a long time, almost until my 30s. Until about my late 20s,

Tracee Garner 5:55

I had such a hard time getting the vehicle modifications that

Tracee Garner 5:58

I needed, approved by the state because the state was going

Tracee Garner 6:02

to give me financing and financial help. And then I had a case

Tracee Garner 6:05

manager who was just like, well, I don't think you, you know,

Tracee Garner 6:07

deserve it. He didn't say that. But he denied me seven times.

Tracee Garner 6:11

So I got to writing I wrote like 14 pages of, you know, just justifications

Tracee Garner 6:16

and like, my life is like, just one big long, justifying, you know,

Tracee Garner 6:22

circumstances of why I need what I need in order to live a good

Tracee Garner 6:26

quality of life. So that's kind of what it was born out of.

Dr. Brad Miller 6:30

So that writing you did the 14 pages was that in for a specific

Dr. Brad Miller 6:33

issue of public transportation issue or something of that nature

Dr. Brad Miller 6:37

and the hope, I'm just aware about the public transportation

Dr. Brad Miller 6:42

matters in my own city of Indianapolis. And now that's a real challenge.

Dr. Brad Miller 6:46

It is a week almost take off on a whole different tangent on

Dr. Brad Miller 6:49

that whole. Good way. But, but my point is, is you took action on

Dr. Brad Miller 6:54

that on that area. And that's where I want to go with you here for

Dr. Brad Miller 6:57

just a minute here. Tracee, you didn't just sit back and kind of

Dr. Brad Miller 7:01

let life happen to you. Which is the temptation for a lot of

Dr. Brad Miller 7:05

us no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Tracee Garner 7:08

And it still is, it always will be.

Dr. Brad Miller 7:11

Yes. And but let's talk about the actions that you took

Dr. Brad Miller 7:14

you mentioned letter writing or writing letters.

Dr. Brad Miller 7:17

What are some of the other actions that you took to kind

Dr. Brad Miller 7:19

of help you break out any patterns of being stuck to become

Dr. Brad Miller 7:23

successful? What are some actions you took both kind of

Dr. Brad Miller 7:26

an outward focus writing letters? And so on, or maybe even

Dr. Brad Miller 7:29

an inward focus? What are some of the actions that you took?

Tracee Garner 7:33

Well, a lot of the actions that I took were, you know, I'd

Tracee Garner 7:35

always find out when there was public comment being accepted.

Tracee Garner 7:39

It was very nerve wracking to go in front of all these people

Tracee Garner 7:42

sitting up in this high desk kind of looking down on you like,

Tracee Garner 7:46

What are you here for? You got three minutes to

Tracee Garner 7:49

make your case. And I guess that's where storytelling came from.

Tracee Garner 7:52

Because I told them a story about what I was going through.

Tracee Garner 7:56

And I also challenge them, like, have you ever been, you know,

Tracee Garner 7:59

riding a bus and stuck on there for like, two hours, because of

Tracee Garner 8:03

traffic because they have to pick up you know, three other people

Tracee Garner 8:06

with disabilities, because they have to, you know, because

Tracee Garner 8:09

they're never on time, you know, how this affects my employment,

Tracee Garner 8:12

my ability to get to work, I was 16, I had my first job. And, you know,

Tracee Garner 8:17

my parents weren't always available, they had their jobs, to take

Tracee Garner 8:21

me everywhere. And I just wanted my own independence.

Tracee Garner 8:24

So those things propelled me to write the letters to give the public

Tracee Garner 8:27

testimony. We got a route, you know, this was like 10-15 years ago,

Tracee Garner 8:32

extended here till 10pm When an adjoining county next to

Tracee Garner 8:36

mine was able to have transit for people with disabilities until 2am.

Tracee Garner 8:40

They had a law where they had to run as long

Tracee Garner 8:43

as the Metro did. And I was like, why don't we have that just

Tracee Garner 8:46

because we have some part of the county that is a rural area,

Tracee Garner 8:49

like these things were really mad. So it was really the

Tracee Garner 8:52

anger that propelled me, you know, it wasn't like stark

Tracee Garner 8:55

raving mad. Sure, you know, but I was just like

Tracee Garner 8:57

an angry enough to be propelled. This isn't fair.

Dr. Brad Miller 9:01

You became a really motivated proponent, right advocate

Dr. Brad Miller 9:03

for your, for your rights, and yes, deservedly so, and

Dr. Brad Miller 9:09

for a lot of folks I know with disabilities and many other

Dr. Brad Miller 9:12

circumstances, elderly and so on. Public transportation is

Dr. Brad Miller 9:17

really one of the only alternatives that they have. So you

Dr. Brad Miller 9:22

took that kind of action, and you got some attention.

Dr. Brad Miller 9:25

And then eventually, it led you to writing some books, fiction

Dr. Brad Miller 9:28

and nonfiction things like this. And so how do we get

Dr. Brad Miller 9:32

to that point? How do we get to a point of, I take it that's,

Dr. Brad Miller 9:35

you know, part of your career now is coaching and writing

Dr. Brad Miller 9:39

and so on. Tell us a little bit about your

Dr. Brad Miller 9:41

writing and your coaching.

Tracee Garner 9:42

So even though things were you know, I'm moving things

Tracee Garner 9:45

I'm growing up in my in my academic life and being a young

Tracee Garner 9:49

adult, what was the hard thing was having a relationship.

Tracee Garner 9:53

I actually got rejected by someone was going to college and

Tracee Garner 9:56

I actually did not like college at the beginning. It was so hard for me,

Tracee Garner:

and during math class, I would kind of withdraw into myself

Tracee Garner:

and I found real like, you know, almost a soothing feeling,

Tracee Garner:

writing about characters who also faced adversity, but who

Tracee Garner:

overcome it. So I was kind of writing to my, to my desired

Tracee Garner:

end, by creating a fictional world that led me to live vicariously

Tracee Garner:

through them. And, you know, they would face adversity,

Tracee Garner:

there'd be some drama, there'd be somebody trying to kill them.

Tracee Garner:

You know, none of that happened in my real life, but you

Tracee Garner:

kind of feel like you're being oppressed sometimes. But I'm

Tracee Garner:

just doing that was very cathartic. And it allowed me to

Tracee Garner:

dream, I really wanted to escape math class, because I could

Tracee Garner:

not solve the problems that were on the board. And I wanted

Tracee Garner:

to dream. So I withdrew onto paper, and started writing these

Tracee Garner:

stories. And I wrote a full length novel. And I submitted it to

Tracee Garner:

a publishing house. And I was really looking at that time for

Tracee Garner:

validation. And I also really, the main thing was, again, I didn't

Tracee Garner:

want to be stuck at home, I didn't want to have failed my

Tracee Garner:

academics and have nothing to fall back on. So I just thought,

Tracee Garner:

you know, well, let's, first of all, let's pray that I did pray for

Tracee Garner:

something else. And I had no idea what the something else was,

Tracee Garner:

until I saw the writing contest. And I was thinking well, so

Tracee Garner:

I hurried up and finished a story in order to submit to this contest.

Tracee Garner:

And I won, I won the contest, I got the grand prize, I got a

Tracee Garner:

trip to New York, and they paid for me and my parents to go

Tracee Garner:

up and accept my award. And the other condition of the contest

Tracee Garner:

was the publication of the book in one of their upcoming releases.

Tracee Garner:

And that was just life-changing. That validated me that told me

Tracee Garner:

I could write or at least write enough that some small group of

Tracee Garner:

people likes it, you know, enough to buy it and put down money

Tracee Garner:

for it. And so that just motivated me to, you know,

Tracee Garner:

it was just a wonderful life-changing thing.

Dr. Brad Miller:

What a great affirmation. And then you said, part of your

Dr. Brad Miller:

motivation had to do writing the creating these characters,

Dr. Brad Miller:

and so on came out of your own sense of wanting relationships

Dr. Brad Miller:

and so on. Did any of this kind of help in that area? You know,

Dr. Brad Miller:

did it manifest itself in friendships or relationships or

Dr. Brad Miller:

anything else in your social world for instance?

Tracee Garner:

Well, it did. In fact, in one really scary way, I have a

Tracee Garner:

book that I have not finished, and I met someone and they,

Tracee Garner:

the story was about a young woman, the story hit close to

Tracee Garner:

home, and that's why it's not finished. Because I just haven't,

Tracee Garner:

you know, gather about my determination to finish it, but I will,

Tracee Garner:

I really do have plans to finish it. But um, there was just a young man,

Tracee Garner:

that in the story, he's a great guy, his mother died of cancer.

Tracee Garner:

And he has an accessible home that he made for his mother.

Tracee Garner:

And the girl that he likes, also has a disability. So when she

Tracee Garner:

goes and visits him, he has this wonderful home that is like

Tracee Garner:

a dream to her. And he's also an architect, I should mention,

Tracee Garner:

he's an architect. And he built this, you know, he built this for

Tracee Garner:

the mother, his mother died, I met someone whose father

Tracee Garner:

died of cancer, he had an accessible home, I could go and

Tracee Garner:

visit and you know, just be with him. And that was just that

Tracee Garner:

was wonderful. To me. It might not seem like much to people,

Tracee Garner:

but it was kind of like writing out what really happened.

Tracee Garner:

I thought it was just the weirdest thing. Most homes that

Tracee Garner:

I visit are not accessible to me and I don't visit them for

Tracee Garner:

that reason. So to find someone who had an accessible

Tracee Garner:

I know you could build anything. My point is that it was

Tracee Garner:

already like that. In here. I had written this story, what

Tracee Garner:

some of the very weird similar things so yes, it can be

Tracee Garner:

a manifestation. I don't plan it to be like that. But it's just

Tracee Garner:

amazing that something like that could occur and it was

Tracee Garner:

really kind of eerie. It's sometimes I wonder if the relationship

Tracee Garner:

stopped? Because I haven't finished the book.

Dr. Brad Miller:

Yeah, well. That's kind of another sound that gets

Dr. Brad Miller:

another chapter yet to be played out here for.

Tracee Garner:

Definitely yee. Stay tuned. Come back in a year.

Dr. Brad Miller:

As you mentioned, kind of touch a little bit of you mentioned

Dr. Brad Miller:

prayer life as a part of what your experience was, tell

Dr. Brad Miller:

me that but about any kind of a connection to higher power,

Dr. Brad Miller:

your belief system, prayer, anything along this line, which

Dr. Brad Miller:

has been a part of your experience and kind of supporting

Dr. Brad Miller:

you or helping be a resource for you to get through these times

Dr. Brad Miller:

of adversity, to become a writer and the things that you've done.

Tracee Garner:

Right. And one of the other things I just want to mention back

Tracee Garner:

to the to the writing for one sec is that writing led me to a

Tracee Garner:

community of other writers. And that also helped me it was

Tracee Garner:

like, I'm struggling in school. I don't quite feel like I fit in with

Tracee Garner:

the people here. They're all doing well, most of them in their

Tracee Garner:

academics and if they're having a hard time, they

Tracee Garner:

don't show it and so Writing was like, you know, I wanted

Tracee Garner:

to learn so much about the craft, that I begin to go to

Tracee Garner:

workshops, I begin to join my local chapter, the local

Tracee Garner:

romance writing chapter that I'm a part of here. I actually

Tracee Garner:

became president of it just two years ago. And that was,

Tracee Garner:

you know, a one-year term. But those things helped me

Tracee Garner:

continue to hone my voice and my skill, he had also risen to

Tracee Garner:

leadership to be a leader in pandemic times and lead a

Tracee Garner:

group, you know, large entities. But my prayer life is really

Tracee Garner:

, you know, I just believe that God is with me, to help me,

Tracee Garner:

I do get mad at him. It's like any other relationship at times,

Tracee Garner:

you know, just the anger and resentment that I still feel, you

Tracee Garner:

know, even though I handle my disability, that is not to

Tracee Garner:

say that it isn't without moments of real annoyance, that

Tracee Garner:

something is not working, frustration that I can't participate

Tracee Garner:

in the way that I want to do to my disability, but it's about

Tracee Garner:

handling those things, making peace with those things,

Tracee Garner:

that this is your reality, and that you still can be successful

Tracee Garner:

and have joyous moments, even though you have a

Tracee Garner:

chronic condition. Like I just know and feel God's even

Tracee Garner:

when I'm writing especially, I feel like God is telling me

Tracee Garner:

put this in here about this. And sometimes I have no idea,

Tracee Garner:

why sometimes I even asked out loud, why what

Tracee Garner:

does that have to do with anything?

Dr. Brad Miller:

Oh, that's a valid question of the why and the patient's

Dr. Brad Miller:

issue might be good. I think the people I've encountered in

Dr. Brad Miller:

my life. I've been a pastor for church for many years, and

Dr. Brad Miller:

some of the church buildings I was in, were not very accessible.

Dr. Brad Miller:

In fact, one of the major projects I had one of my churches was

Dr. Brad Miller:

building a very long ramp, just to get some very basic, accessible,

Dr. Brad Miller:

even accessibility and develop an accessible restroom and so on.

Dr. Brad Miller:

But what I've done as I've just been amazed at the patience of

Dr. Brad Miller:

the people that I've encountered, I never forget, when I was in

Dr. Brad Miller:

grad school, I went to Northwestern in Garrison Seminary in

Dr. Brad Miller:

northwestern Chicago, old, old, old main building, one of our

Dr. Brad Miller:

professors was a woman who was confined to a wheelchair

Dr. Brad Miller:

and anyhow, she they put her they taught she'd the class she

Dr. Brad Miller:

taught was on the second floor. And in order to get there myself,

Dr. Brad Miller:

I was on a team of about eight guys whose job was to carry

Dr. Brad Miller:

her well from the first floor to the second floor. And I could see

Dr. Brad Miller:

in retrospect, I could see how that could have been in should

Dr. Brad Miller:

have been humiliating to her could have been humiliating to her.

Dr. Brad Miller:

We she but took it in stride and had a good attitude about it.

Dr. Brad Miller:

But in later years, I thought this is just totally not right.

Dr. Brad Miller:

Not necessary that she had to do that. You know, me and

Dr. Brad Miller:

these other guys did mind doing it, but it was it was no easy task.

Tracee Garner:

And it's dangerous. It was dangerous. It's a liability issues.

Dr. Brad Miller:

He was crazy dangerous because this was an old old

Dr. Brad Miller:

building with relatively steep steps and, oh, well,

Dr. Brad Miller:

I've talked enough about it but you get the idea here.

Dr. Brad Miller:

What I'm getting at is that you the spiritual aspect and

Dr. Brad Miller:

the other aspects of your emotional wherewithal has to

Dr. Brad Miller:

speak to your situation to help people get through that yourself. Included.




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