The Official Blog of Ramona Harvey

Author of "Unclipped Wings"

In Memory of Jodi James ~ Who Unclipped Wings is Dedicated to and Why

People have been asking me: who is Jodi James? And why did you dedicate your book to her?  Next week April 20th, 2011 there is a book signing at Purdue North Central in her honor from 11am – 2pm.  I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to answer that question. The picture below is of Jodi and I at the beach on my birthday.  It was one of the best days of my life.  Below this intro is something I wrote on the day Jodi died. This blog post is going tobe a bit long but I am not apologizing. Jodi would not.

Jodi and Ramona at the Beach

This is a picture of Jodi and Ramona at the beach. Both women are in their wheelchairs.

Long Live Jodi James the woman who always had my back, and still does.  A woman I trusted completely.  I have been forever changed by both her life and her death.

She was only 38 when she was killed in a car accident.  She died the day after we last talked, and a week before we were going to get together to celebrate our birthdays and the fact that we had both survived another year.  We were supposed to go to the aquarium in Chicago, but instead I went to her funeral wearing an ADAPT shirt, just like I promised her I would – the day I promised her I would not let her die in a nursing home.  I kept that promise.  I just wish she had made me work harder to keep it.  We both thought we had more time.

She did not die in a nursing home, but instead while doing the thing she loved most – driving.  I understand her love for driving because it is something we both shared.  She loved the freedom of it, and she loved the fact that when she was behind the wheel nobody saw her chair or her disability. She was just like everyone else on the road.

******************

About Jodi James – By Ramona Harvey
September 5th, 2009

My friend Jodi James died today (September 5, 2009). I don’t know if you ever talked with her, but she was definitely worth talking to. I met and got to know Jodi James because of our efforts to stop the corruption of the Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council (ICOIL), and improve the quality of life for folks with disabilities in the state of Indiana.

When I joined Indiana’s SILC I was naive. The council was supposed to be starting over and going to do things right. I was a new member of the council and I believed that. But Jodi James had been on the council before, and so she knew from her own experience how bad the council had been. She would not have joined the council again, but she was approached by several of the council members who begged her to rejoin the council because they were turning over a new leaf.

She accepted re-appointment on the Indiana SILC because she believed in the possibility of a new uncorrupted council that truly empowered people with disabilities. She believed that it was possible for Indiana to have a SILC that did not hide its actions from the very people it represented, because when you’re doing the right thing. There is no need to hide.

She believed it was possible for the SILC to actually empower people with disabilities in Indiana. She didn’t just say people with disabilities matter and are important and should be empowered, because that is what looked good on paper… but she acted on that belief.

Jodi James was once the Chair of the Indiana SILC (ICOIL), and for a brief moment in history, perhaps the only time in history, the Indiana SILC was truly consumer controlled…

When Jodi James was the chair of the newly restructured council, she didn’t just give lip service to the idea it was time to do things right, instead she acted in a way to ensure that things were done right. Jodi James didn’t just work hard to make sure that ordinary folks like myself had a voice, but once we had our voices…. she listened and she worked hard to ensure that even those people she did not agree with had whatever accommodations they needed to participate.

Jodi James was an advocate, and a leader, and a member of ADAPT who understood that sometimes when people’s rights and freedoms are being trampled on, that you just have to be willing to say enough is enough.

She was a true leader… not the kind that has to hide behind codes of conduct and closed door meetings, but the kind who was willing to roll up her sleeves working hard for what she believed in. She was the kind of leader who was willing to openly speak the truth even if it meant that she would get shot at…. and she was shot at….  we both were.

Jodi was an ideal chair, for an ideal SILC council in an ideal world. But we don’t live in that ideal world. Something Jodi knew better then most. Jodi was slandered, tried, and convicted without due process, for a crime of believing that NOW was the time to stop the corruption, the fraud, and the abuse of people with disabilities by those folks who are supposed to be protecting us, She believed it was time not to try and circumvent the laws that are supposed to protect or rights, but to enforce and uphold them before it becomes too late.

Jodi was not afraid to stand up for her rights the rights of others. Jodi was the type of person who stood by people who were doing the right thing, not because it would benefit her, but because it was the right thing to do. I am privileged to have known her, and proud to have stood by her side… and I would do so again in a heart-beat.

Jodi was so many other things to some many people. She was a phenomenal, and a beautiful woman. Jodi and I were a team and we were friends. I have been very fortunate that Jodi James is a part of my life. She will always be a part of my foundation and for that I am grateful.

**************************************

Jodi was my sister, just as much as my biological sister. When Jodi died she took a part of me with her. I would probably still be completely lost if she hadn’t also left a part of herself with me. I am not in the least bit glad that she died, in fact I still ache on a daily bases – but I am very glad that she lived – and she did live.  She was here for the party – and I for one am grateful.

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