By Rasheera Dopson
Rasheera Dopson lives in Atlanta, GA. Her mission is to empower young men and women in the areas of self-esteem and confidence. She hopes that in sharing her story she can spread the message of overcoming adversity. In her spare time she enjoys blogging, watching 90s sitcoms, and volunteering in her local community. She recently earned a scholarship from NBCUniversal to study communications. She will begin classes at Syracuse University soon.
Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of time to think about my experience at the Children’s Craniofacial Association Retreat and Symposium and to say that I’m at a loss for words is an understatement. However, I will do my best to express the impact this organization has had on my life and the craniofacial community as a whole.
First, let me say that being a part of any community is one of the most formative experiences with other people that we may have beyond the family unit. I consider myself extremely blessed to be a part of something much larger than myself. You see, I love using the word community when referencing people with craniofacial conditions, because it sends a consistent message to myself and the world at large that “despite our facial differences we are strong and we are proud" because we have one another.
We all know the famous saying “United we stand, divided we fall.” I feel those exact same sentiments when speaking about the craniofacial community. We are stronger as one. I express myself so passionately because I am sure I speak for all people affected by craniofacial differences, across the globe, that the words “pride” and “community” have not always been in our vocabulary. Instead, most of us know well the burden of feeling alone, isolated, and not included.
Nevertheless, there is something powerful when you realize you are not alone. For me, this epiphany came to me at the CCA Annual Retreat and Symposium. I am sure many of you reading this have also found that moment coming into the CCA community -- that sense of safety and support—knowing that you have people who share in your struggles and strengths standing next to you and behind you fighting the greater fight.
This is what I felt at the CCA Annual Retreat. I felt connected and I felt proud. I remember leaving the retreat and walking through the airport so unapologetic, so confident and assured of where I belong. I trusted I was part of a group of people I was proud to represent. That day walking into the airport I did not do my best to try to hide or ignore the stares, but rather I stuck my chest out because I wanted to be seen. I wanted the world to not only see my face. I wanted the world to know that my face was one out of hundreds of thousands of the different faces with which I was just in community. And boy is our community strong. Even though no single person at the retreat was related to me by blood, somehow we are all connected through our shared life experiences filled with doctors and bullying.
The craniofacial community, though we might be small, is changing the way the world relates to and stigmatizes differences. I am honored to be a part of a community that displays kindness and warmth, passion, and compassion. A place were a different person can feel loved and accepted. I look forward to sharing the knowledge of my community to all whom will listen because I truly believe our differences can change the world!