Chapter 5: Advocacy
11:24:21:02 - 11:25:17:04
Lisa: So I wonder, what kind of supports were you looking for, for Darryl, when he was a young boy? What was available to you?
Lizzie: I wanted good special education for him, and I wanted service for him. You know, I wanted service for him. You know, I just wanted service to fit his needs, and that's it. Because they do better with service. Service was very important to me, that we keep the service going.
Lisa: Why was that important to you?
Lizzie: Because that was uh -- keep him together, it would keep him together, it would keep him so that he could maintain himself, that he could go out, he could do things for himself, and he will understand that you have to mind and do things, and that's what service is. You can't keep nobody with the special needs without the service around them.
11:25:17:04 - 11:28:36:04
Lisa: I wanted to ask you a little bit about the meetings that Dorothy took you along to.
I know that you started out, I think, in -- you'll have to help me with this -- I want to say you started out with North Central, and I know North Central --
Lizzie: Well she -- that was where she -- we ready -- she told me -- we ready -- we was ready for North Central. That was on Broad Street, Broad and Erie, okay. Then something happened, it went to -- they just went to comprehension -- you know how they change the name -- comprehensional service. And at that time the board, invested money, and the people didn't pay it back, so that was not right. And then they COMHAR pick us up for two years. And that's where I started with the administrative stuff with [name] and the board work there. And after we left there, we went on to uh -- I think Charles Drew took us up. They were up on Tabor Road. Like Broad and Olney way.
So I was on their board for many, many years. So after they -- in fact, what they did, what the board - mistake the board did is they got rid of the executive director.
And any organization will tell you, when you go to the top, and you get rid of that top person, you've got to bring in a person just as good or better, to keep that organization going. And they couldn't find nobody, so they, you know, it folded, kinda folded and then we went into 586c. I can think back to 586c. They wanted to give us to Northwest. Okay? We for one wanted to keep 586c together, and I can remember Estelle Richman, kinda. I didn't have enough parents to back me there so I went alone. I had to, I didn't have no choice. Yes, we don't mind 586c two base service units together, but we do not want to be in Northwest. We want them to help us, and then that's it. Fine, so I got a call from the county office - Estelle Richards. Said we incorporated a new agency, you're the board president. Okay, that put me where I need to be. So we helped them incorporate.
I learned a lot about finance and incorporation. Okay, I stood my grounds. I refused to do anybody's dirty work, and I was not going to get my hands dirty, and I never did.
I worked with the business department. Some of them, the director was crooked, always had somebody beside me to advise me. I think one day that the business director said put your name on this stamp, and you won't have to come here and sign the check.
The controller looked at me, said, have you had lunch yet? I said, no I haven't.
I'm taking you to Jenkintown, and get you some of the chicken salad that you like.
All right, okay. Soon as I got in the car and put the seat back, don't you put your name on no stamp, that dirty crooked man, and he told me all about it. The next two or three days, he said, have you made your mind up yet? I said yes I have. I said I'm old fashioned.
I come here, stay two days and sign off this stuff with you but I'm not putting my name on the stamp.
11:28:40:05 - 11:29:19:17
Lisa: One of the things that I think is so interesting about the '70s in Philadelphia was that the way services and supports were provided were changing.
Lizzie: The programs, yes.
Lisa: They were coming from institutions and medical facilities and universities, and more toward community based providers.
Lizzie: Yeah, it was community-based.
They wanted to change institutions into community-based. They did.
It would be to replace -- replace in the community, to give them the community life, you know, meeting with peoples and going out and then different things in the community, which they felt that was better.
11:29:19:17 - 11:31:46:28
Lisa: But it was also interesting that parents I think were having more opportunity - -
Lizzie: They had more opportunity, yeah they did.
Lisa: -- to direct the way services and supports should be provided.
Lisa: So I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about how you became involved with some of these provider agencies, and what --
Lizzie: Because when we lost our base service unit, and I remember, they wanted some parents involved. And by me was COHMAR and I was with Harry [last name?].
And he was my way into the county office - with Richard Cera.
And they wanted parents involved, because one thing Richard Cera... had heard from these parents, said you never would have lost your base service unit.
So after we lost that, that sort of kind of motivated me then, and I lost the service, and I said this will never happen to me again.
But all the positions I had, I had support from staff, directors, that was -- stayed close by my side.
And I went back to school myself.
I went back to college myself and started taking college courses, like public speaking because if you the leader or something, you going to have to make speeches.
But you want to make the speeches right. You want to know how to make the speeches, and that's where the class -- and they paid us to go these classes, and I went to the class with some mental health people, and I learned from them, and this is what they learned from me: whenever they would come in the class, and they would be upset and broke down, I said you can do this. Don't let nothing stop you. You can do this. So I can think of a guy named Paul. That night he got his certificate. He said I owed it to you. He said cause every time I felt like, said you come on strong and you talk to me, and you motivate me, and you can do this, don't stop. And that's what I'll tell -- the whole time I went to the class, I never got a chance to eat no lunch, I never got a chance to eat no snack on the break, because every time we had - when I had a lot of people talking to me, and I'm trying to encourage them to (keep going). Don't stop. You can do this. Can't be that bad, said, 'Oh yeah. You're right.' You know? But I learned a lot about that mental health side from them.
11:31:46:28 - 11:33:19:05
Lisa: And did that help you become a better advocate also?
Lizzie: Yes, it do. Talking with people. You got to get - you got to get with the peoples. I remember a time we was making public speaking about... and we went to this church. I had to make a speech that morning, on this church, and it made -- with the homeless peoples. So I made my speech, and here's what I said that motivated them: I said, remember Ladies and Gentlemen, all of us is one step from being homeless. That broke the ice. And so they was happier, they was talking, they was eating, they was enjoying theyself, but I had to buy pack of cigarettes, because I asked if anything I could do for anybody. Guy -- yeah, buy me a pack of cigarettes. Later I said, all right, Daddy, you got it, because I left myself wide open there, you know? So it was really fun. You try to make peoples feel, no matter what condition or where they are, you try to make them feel. Because I believe that everybody was created equal, and everybody the same, and that's what I was talking -- that's what my speech was about. And they was happy, because nobody was not trying to put them down, you know? And I sit down, eat with them. They got -- church gave them clothes, and they was happy. They was happy. Because when I first started, they thought somebody was going to come in here, with all this fancy speech and don't care about them. But when I said all of us is one step from being homeless, that broke the ice.
11:33:19:05 - 11:36:46:10
Lisa: Ms. Richardson, I'm wondering, with your roles with provider agencies, with family supports with other parents, did your roles on boards and did your affiliations with some of these organizations help you to advocate for your son?
Lizzie: Yes, it did. It really -- I would think time when I was on the board, and they were going on, like the community of people, they were discharging all the community people out of the workshops, so when the MR director brought the budget that night, on one side it was 56, and when you got to the other side of that budget, it was 26. And I asked, I said, Davey, who are these 26? He said, said they discharged all the community peoples, and they going to keep them... peoples in the workshop. So Darryl was going to the workshop. I couldn't go to the board and say, I wanted my son to go to workshop, so what I did, I went on behalf of all these children in the workshop, their parents is working and what they going to do? Then I said, what you can do is get permission from the county office to change that money around, the categories that they had in it. Don't send the people to camp this year. We're talking about one week of camp, and a day program, and next year, give everybody free camp. So the board agreed to it, and they voted for it, and that's what we did. Next thing was insurance, transportation. I went to the transportation department, the guy borrowed a van, he got the right lights and everything, and we paid him $25 a week to take our children to workshop, and that was the transportation. And they saved all the community, not only my son, but we saved all the other community... that was in their workshop, and that was it. When I sit on the board, I taught them about program. They taught me about everything they could think of, and they would vote it -- you know, they voted for it. I remember one night we was trying to get a drug and alcohol program. Everybody say, ah, we don't want that - didn't want it. I say how about the children? No, my children ain't gonna do that. I said, How about - guys what you voting on? What's wrong with you? How about your grandchildren? That's what did it then. Oh they changed that vote. Said um -- I change my no vote to yes, and when they was debating yes there, I made another motion, and it passed, and they got the drug and alcohol program at... Women's World. So you know, you had to be just -- one night we was -- we had a crooked lawyer, and he was crooked. I had the information, I thought I did, I got the information earlier. So I passed the books around. Everybody was all happy and excited, and oh this is good, this is good. Then I pass around the information about the crooked lawyer. I walked in the room with all the folks was on the other side. But when I passed that crooked - saw what we were doing, they read it. Everybody went to my side, and we voted, and we got rid of him that night. He was history, you know? So they said, how did you do it? Said you didn't have the votes. I said I knew that. I said but I had... a long time ago. She said you had to butter him up first, then come in, do what you have to do. So that's what I did, by giving the right information about the service, and they was all happy how the MR side was going and then I passed other information around. So that I didn't go there and tell them what he did, I had it in writing. And they could read it for themselves.
11:36:46:10 - 11:37:45:05
Lisa: Ms. Richardson, you've been talking about so many issues that you've advocated for, whether it was for drug and alcohol programs, or on behalf of folks who are homeless. I'm wondering if there is a particular issue that you advocated around that gives you pride, or --
Lizzie: I was all about service, no matter what service you was getting. That was my goal, was you know, you can't say to MR some of them just do what I know is MH and they're MH and MR. And the drugs and alcohol, you know you want your - a lot of people that is on drugs are trying to recover and that stuff and you know have issues and all that kind of stuff, you know? And the board, when you're on board, you have to address all of that. You can't get on one topic and stay there, you got to address everything -- personnel, all that stuff. You know, personnel, MR committee, MH committee, and I was on those committees, you know. I just was wanting to advocate more to everybody have service, no matter what service they need, that they have service to make their life better.
11:37:45:05 - 11:38:55:22
Lisa: And I believe you're on the citywide supports coordination advisory committee.
Lizzie: Yes, I'm at Partnership. Yes, I am.
Lisa: And what do you do there?
Lizzie: Well, we -- they go over the budget with us, and they go over different things with it, and we advocate and all. Most of the time, they ask me about the -- they were doing the SIS thing, you know when the state come interview you, you know. So that night, Mary called on me, she said, you had that, what did you do? I said, well first of all, take your support coordinator with you, programs specialist. Everybody know your child. And I said I think back the morning we did it, and I had the support coordinator, program specialist, and I, we were saying the same thing. We were singing the song there. We were saying the same thing. And we got too fast, and the young lady said, said you don't have an advocate? I said, no I don't, my own son don't have. She said that's good, she said because you brought peoples here that know your child. You didn't give them no advocate trying to score points, said you brought somebody that knows your child to help your child, and that was it. They're going to help the consumers. You know?
More Interview Chapters
About Lizzie Richardson
Born: 1937, Smithfield, North Carolina
Parent, Advocate, Board Member North Central Services
Mentoring, Parents, Services, Waiting List