by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
As readers may know, it’s currently Black History Month in the United States. As such, we continue to highlight Black Excellence. Here are two more notable people from the blind and visually impaired community.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald, a 13-time Grammy award winner, dominated the Jazz scene as “The First Lady of Song” for more than 50 years. Traveling around the world performing, Fitzgerald sold out venues to diverse audiences from all walks of life. After the death of her parents in the early 1930s, Fitzgerald’s name was drawn from a lottery to participate in Amateur Night and she chose to sing. The crowd was impressed and demanded an encore performance. This marked the beginning of her reign as the most famous female jazz musician for half a century. In 1936, when her mentor, bandleader Chick Webb, passed away, Fitzgerald assumed his role and the band was renamed “Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band.” During her career she worked with many of the Jazz greats, including Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Dizzy Gillespie. After many years of performing, Fitzgerald was diagnosed with advanced diabetes and developed diabetic retinopathy, which damaged her sight and would result in the amputation of her legs below the knees. Despite these complications, Fitzgerald continued to perform until her death in 1996. To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Ella Jane Fitzgerald, check out her biography on EllaFitzgerald.Com.
Another person of note, Allan Pineda Lindo, better known as Apl.de.ap, is a famous Afro-Filipino rapper, songwriter, producer, DJ, and founding member of the American musical group the Black Eyed Peas. Born in the Philippines with congenital nystagmus, myopia, and color vision deficiency, Apl.de.ap aspired to be an engineer or nurse but was discouraged “due to the jokes made by his teachers and classmates…” about his visual impairment. “’I knew it was going to be hard to do something on my own, but music gave me the way to achieve my dreams, I do not need to see well to create music but connect all my senses and have passion for what I do,’” explained Apl.de.ap. He developed a penchant for music and, upon moving to the United States at 14-years-old in 1989, he began to pursue a career in music. Practicing rapping and dancing for years, he eventually formed the Black Eyed Peas along with friends Will.i.am (William Adams), Taboo (Jaime Gomez), and Fergie (Fergie Duhamel), achieving commercial success in 2003 when the band dropped their album “Elephunk.” Over the years, Apl.de.ap has been recognized for his dedication to his culture as well as for his philanthropic work in the Phillippines and around the globe. He’s received multiple awards for his work and created “The Apl.de.ap Foundation” and his own music label called “Jeepney Music” to support people in the Philippines and around the world. To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Apl.de.ap (Allan Pineda Lindo), check out his biography on the official Apl.de.ap blog on Tumblr.