Inclusion For All: Interview with Community Leader, Nubia Flores Cedeño

We are thrilled to be partnering with the Art Theater Long Beach to show this important documentary SUMMER IN THE FORREST on Sunday, 4/29 at 11:00am at the Art Theater.

SUMMER IN THE FORREST is about Jean Vanier, who founded L’Arche in the 1960s as community near Paris that has become home to many men and women with developmental disabilities. The filmmakers follow Mr. Vanier, now in his 80s, as he lives and works with those who have Down syndrome and other conditions.

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After the screening, We Love LB will host a powerful Q&A. We are honored to have three special guests, who have spent their lives striving to shape a Long Beach community that is more loving, inclusive, and aware of all people with all abilities. One of our guests, who will be sharing after the film is Nubia Flores Cedeño.

Here is a glimpse into Nubia incredible story.

We Love Long Beach: How does having a special needs child affect the way you value community?

Nubia Flores Cedeño: I’ve learned how incredibly valuable and powerful community can be and that it comes in all forms – Your neighborhood where you live, your school community, your city and state. And I’ve learned the importance of being an active member in each of those communities for the sake of my son and children like him, children with special needs. One of my parents’ favorite sayings is, “Lo que se siembra, se cosecha,” which translated is the saying, what you give out is what will come back to you. I am a mom, first and foremost, and when you have a child with special needs, there’s a lot more care involved and needed at home and at school. I realized that not only was it necessary to be a good mom, I need to be a part of the change within the community.

WLLB: What is a piece of advice that you would give parents of a
child with special needs who wants to educate and spread

Nubia: It was really hard for me to even conceive of the idea of doing work outside my home because my son required lots of care. So, what I want to say to parents, if you don’t have time right now to educate and spread awareness, that’s okay. However, if and when you have a moment where you see or feel an injustice or see an area that requires improvement and it angers or disappoints you, use that moment to fuel you and talk to other parents to help make that change. That’s how it started for me. I saw many parents around me working tirelessly for our community and I had no idea where or how to jump in, or if I even had the time. That all changed for me on election night, in 2016 when the country elected a person that could go on national television and mock a disabled reporter. The vision of him mocking a disabled reporter kept playing in my head and I could not stop crying. I thought, how could a person like that even begin to empathize with our community? I feared that a person like that could set us on a backwards path in this country. I feared that somehow this person and his actions could give permission to others to exhibit this behavior. After weeks of crying and sadness and one march in downtown Los Angeles in January, I suddenly felt empowered. I saw many people like myself that were ready to be a part of positive change. That was my moment. I got fired up! Since then, I just show up. I go to meetings, I joined the City of Long Beach’s Neighborhood Leadership Program (where I learned how to be a community organizer here in our city), I reached out to our local, state and federal representatives, I attend CAC meetings (Community Advisory Committee, LBUSD parent group). I have asked all of our representatives, “What will you do to help special education in our schools?” And probably the most important things I’ve done for my community is I joined my son’s PTA at his school. If we want inclusion for our kids at school it has to begin with us, the parents. We have to be our children’s voice and if you want to see an immediate impact in our community, you can start at your child’s school. Share your story, invite others to learn how they can help, and take part in the planning of events. I keep this quote by Shirley Chisholm close to my heart, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

WLLB: What’s been the most challenging part of raising awareness for your family. 

Nubia: For our family, the most challenging part was understanding how others, even in our own extended family, how they couldn’t just jump in and help. Many in our own family stopped calling to include us after the diagnosis. It felt as if people began putting distance between us and them. Except my mom. My mother was and is amazing and I have to give her a huge shout out! But that time was hurtful and the scars are still there. When we first received the diagnosis, we had a period of time of just trying to figure out what it all meant and how to get support in place for our son. There was a period of our own education and unfortunately you can’t educate others until you’ve educated
yourself and it was during that time that it felt like people pulled away. But in working in the community, I’ve learned that people do want to help and be supportive. They just don’t know how to. I’ve learned to assume goodwill. If people don’t jump in right away, its most likely because they don’t know how to.

WLLB: Final thoughts?

I am thankful for this opportunity to share a little insight about our family. If you want to help, support parents like me out in our community. If you see us at a PTA meeting asking about how we can help make an event more inclusive for our kids with sensory challenges, support that parent. Ask yourself when you vote in elections across the board, “Is the candidate inclusive and supportive of helping all of our citizens, including those with different abilities?” Or when you see a parent at a school board meeting urging the school district to promote and provide inclusion for all our students, support that parent. Because in the end, inclusion is good for all and ALL MEANS ALL.

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