My Journey to Becoming an Advocate
Growing up, sickle cell has always been a hindrance within my life. It has often limited me from being able to do the things that I love to do consistently due to being physically unable to. There are times when I will be in too much pain to leave the house or feel too mentally drained to be my normal proactive bubbly self.
A wake up call
During the pandemic, due to the collapse of the NHS (the health system here in England) and the lack of support across the board, most of lock-down and shielding really acted as a huge wake-up call for me. I had to learn how to fend for myself even more so during this period than ever before, as the government here in the UK really left us to fend for ourselves, so I was literally left with no choice but to.
A pandemic crisis
Unfortunately, early on in the pandemic, I caught COVID-19, and I was also severely ill with a sickle cell crisis. I tried to call all of the suggested services and reach out for help, but they were all too concerned about COVID-19 on a wider scale to even attend to me or to treat me as an individual. They didn’t even try to help me with my personal concerns in regards to my sickle cell, provide me with any form of medical care, or advice around having COVID-19 beyond other than advising me to stay home.
Once again, I felt very neglected, dismissed, overlooked, and let down by the system.
Sharing my story on social media
Due to my continuous frustrations around the system, COVID-19 ended up acting as a huge breakthrough moment for me. Lock-down became a wake-up call. It forced me to speak up and speak out against the systematic injustices in which sickle cell warriors were facing here in the UK via my Instagram @dialecticdee.
I had already established a community and had quite a good following which I had racked up from my previous work as an artist, being consistent, and establishing myself as a brand on social media. I had just hit 5000 followers, which was a blessing in itself. My community really helped me to push my message and research further by re-sharing and reposting all of the exposing evidence in which I was posting on my main feed and page around sickle cell and the lack of support or help with health costs and on their stories.
Before I knew it, my work was labeled as advocacy work and I became known not only as a spoken word artist, but also as a sickle cell advocate.
I didn’t know my work would ever go down the route of advocacy even though I have always been very political and outspoken. I never knew that advocating would become part of my everyday life. I never knew that sickle cell would also nourish give back to me rather than solely take away from me.
It is a true blessing that I have finally managed to learn how to bridge the gap between what I love doing, performing poetry, and public speaking with advocating. This has allowed me to find a way to turn my testimony from a negative into more of a positive.
I can inspire others along the way as I navigate through this journey and living life with sickle cell.
Have you taken the Sickle Cell In America survey yet?