President Barack Obama types a message to Haben Girma, who is deaf and blind, in the Blue Room before she introduces him during the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th Anniversary reception in the East Room of the White House, July 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House. Consistent with these restrictions, a commercial printer may produce print(s) of the photograph for the subject(s) personal use.

Dance and Music Knows No Limitations

Dance and Music Knows No Limitations

What some of us take for granted as social or professional dancers, others do without just fine. I met an extraordinary person last night at Mr. Mambo’s- Haben Girma. She’s from San Francisco and like many Salseros who travel, she wanted to sample the local Salsa Scene. She is also a Deaf/Blind person who travels with a seeing eye dog. Thanks to Jon Treviño, she went to the Salsa Room Thursday night and he recommended Mr. Mambo’s for her Salsa enjoyment Saturday night.

I was fascinated watching her dance and not just for the obvious reasons. What was amazing to me is that her Follow AND Timing was freaking on point whether being led ON1 or ON2, things that are, like it or not, very important to me as a Salsero. Even more, the look on her face while dancing contained all of the luminous bliss one gets when enjoying either their partner, the connection, the music, the dance, or ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Of course I taped her just BECAUSE. Jon later asked if I wanted to meet her and I leaped at the opportunity. To communicate with others, she travels with a braille machine that is connected to a keyboard. Over the years, she has learned how to speak normally so when you type into the keyboard, that sends her the braille of what you are saying and she responds by speaking. It took a minute or 3 for me to get the hang of our conversation because I was thrown off by her responding with normal speech and so would forget and would stop typing and kept trying to talk to her. Finally after my excitement settled down, I developed a rhythm to our chat and was charmed and definitely impressed. This lady responds to you with such a strong inner light of positivity that I was a bit overwhelmed and deeply humbled. She told me she was having a fantastic time and that the dancers were so much fun to dance with and were nice.

With some trepidation, I told her that I had taped her dancing with a few (thousand) people and complimented her follow. She was so excited and wanted to know where I would post the videos. I told her that I would make sure she got copies of what I taped unedited to use how she wanted. I was relieved by her enthusiasm of my taping her because I do have a conscious and sometimes feel funny about invading the privacy of a social dance with the intrusive eyes of my all too seeing camera generally WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT- not that this has ever STOPPED ME from doing so.

Haben is the 1st Deaf/Blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School and has been featured and/or celebrated by many Global Media outlets and by many of the World Titans of Politics/Business/Innovation/Government Policy for her work in advocacy of people with disabilities to connect and be integrated meaningfully into society. An admirable woman who I am honored to have met.

Thank you Haben for coming to Mr. Mambo’s- it was more than a pleasure meeting you! And thank you Jon Trevino for welcoming an incredible Salsero to our DC Latin Dance Scene.