Daniel Huffman’s Response to Ayisha Knight’s “Until”

Society has an issue with categorizing people into groups based on a myriad of qualifiers that often times never benefit those being categorized in any meaningful way. Instead, those people end up sidelined in decisions made about them, for them, but almost never with them. This can lead to a feeling of those with disabilities feeling ostracized (intentionally or not) from society. Ayisha Knight’s poem focuses on the aspects about herself that seemingly put her outside of society—and while those aspects are all things of herself she cannot change, and everything wrong about her cannot be fixed—nor should it—that is often the case in the way society expects those that are different from the norm to act, behave, or adjust themselves to. When a person can’t (and preferably, won’t) fit those norms, society expects them to become a silent voice in the crowd, and while Knight is literally a silent voice in the crowd, she is the one speaking the loudest.

She opens her poem and spends roughly the first half of it bringing up fears about expressing herself against a push back that claims those very things that are wrong about her aren’t… wrong enough even though those very things are labeled upon her by the very ones telling her what is wrong. Very comparable to the way in which many people with disabilities are overlooked, unheard, or at times downright ignored in ways that seem to make those around them more comfortable in an odd better-for-society kind of way. Knight pushes through those boundaries and societal setbacks come the second half of her poem when she makes her voice truly heard without speaking a single word when she owns and accepts the truths about herself. It shows that even those with disabilities not only have their own thoughts, dreams, and everything else that makes them no different from anyone else, but when there’s a will, there’s a way to express those thoughts. But first, everyone (including herself) else must first be willing to listen.

There is also a strong contrast between the audience that Knight’s poem is directed at (society and they/them) and the actual crowd attending her reading that’s worth noting. It’s obvious that there are many people that don’t agree with the set standard of societal norms of how any given person should exist—namely those that Knight touches on in her poem regarding not only her deafness, but her race, gender, sexuality and even femininity—so it’s odd how when she is viewed as a whole that is comprised of all of those aspects, and when she can see herself as she so desires, and with so many others seeing her in the same light—we’re still faced with a societal divide. We still have classes focusing on disability discourse. We still have so many groups tirelessly advocating for the rights of those with disabilities (and everything else) and we still don’t seem any closer now than then.

Of course, certain people could make the argument that the crowd listening to her poem would rally behind her message because of course, seeing as they went out of their way to attend the reading—but those certain people are also annoying and easily ignored, so. Either way, the people that matter, and the actual means in which Knight is expressing herself are at least attempting to start the fire. Just need the right spark.

Word Count: 571

I pledge: D. Huffman