Boyd Brown, who resides in the East New York section of Brooklyn, has been chosen to receive The 2017 Bernard Carabello Humanitarian Award as New York State’s Self-Advocate of the Year. The award, named for one of the first in the field of self-advocacy, Bernard Carabello, symbolizes what can be accomplished with determination and purpose.
This year’s NY Self-Advocate of the Year, Boyd Brown, is a young man with a nurturing spirit, and a positive attitude who has not let a diagnosis of an intellectual disability stop him from living a productive, fulfilling life. An active member of the New York Center for Family Support (CFS) Self-Starters for five years, he is also a member of his local Church, where he serves a Junior Pastor. He has held a job for several years and was recently promoted. He is a strong and positive daily role model for the men he lives with in a group home, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. His daily encouragement has resulted in his fellow housemates joining the CFS Self-Starters Group and advocating for themselves to achieve a life of promise and independence. His housemates look to him for advice and encouragement on many topics that affect their everyday lives.
Says Boyd, “My goal is to become a statewide advocate leader and effect policies for people with intellectual disabilities. I have seen I can make a difference for those I live with and I want to be able to do this for many others. ”
About the CFS NY Self-Starters
Five years ago, recognizing the need for regular communication from those they serve, CFS’s Self-Advocacy Group was born. Since their inception, the groups have been run by and include members who are intellectually disabled. They are lead by a mission statement they created, which is, “To give a voice to those who have been silent”. An election system was established and each Board Officer serves for a two-year term. Boyd is currently campaigning to become this year’s President. Supported by The NY State Self-Advocacy Group known as SANYS, the CFS Self-Starters were guided by the State for the first year. Self-Advocacy groups research community-based offerings and activities, and advocate for themselves to CFS, for their members. One such endeavor was the initiation of a voter registration drive. Additionally, this self-advocacy group has made great strides in being able to affect agency change and to make contributions to their communities.
Within CFS, the self-advocates are also standing members of established CFS committees such as The Human Rights Committee, The Incident Review Committee, The Workforce Development Committee and The Natural Resource Committee. Currently the group has grown from about a dozen original members to over 75. Many CFS individuals with developmental disabilities have had a positive experience as a self-advocate and have said it has helped them to find their voice. The group continues to grow in scope and abilities with the ongoing support of the CFS associate director of residential services, and several key CFS managers.
About Bernard Carabello
Misdiagnosed during his early childhood, Bernard Carabello, (who has Cerebral Palsy), lived at Willowbrook from the age of 3 through his 21st birthday, when he was finally allowed to leave the school of his own volition. After he was released from Willowbrook, Bernard was appointed to a consumer advisory board to monitor conditions at other institutions for people with disabilities. He has continued to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and is the Founder of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, which provides opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to meet and discuss their concerns with one another, and learn about their rights and opportunities.