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Institutions to Independence

Karen Loven and Judge Donovan Frank Interviewed for TPT

How do you know Judge Frank?

Karen Loven: I know Judge Frank for visiting at Merrick. He's a very good judge. I think a lot of people could get more experience with the judge, that he's more lenient and I think he's a better judge than I ever seen like, not on TV, but on TV judge is not as nice as Judge Frank is.

Why is it that people don't get it?

Karen Loven: Because they don't know any better, they don't know how to stop themselves from using the R word. I went down to the State Capitol and I use the shredder and a lot of us shred the R word because I was getting tired of hearing it, and I wanted to do something that was being respectful for me.

Did you have a sense of your rights?

Karen Loven: Yes I did. My rights were never taken away. I teach people at my building, I teach them at home. It's just… I feel that's my right. I wouldn't want to live alone, because I'd be too lonely, and some people like that, but I wouldn't because I don't think that's really a safe environment for me, and I'd rather have people surround me that I care about and love, and if there's a need I'd go help the people that need.

What have you learned from Karen?

Judge Frank: You know, I was just going to say Karen forgot what she said, you teaching people, well I'm one of the people she probably… she's taught. Well you can get a sense of it listening to what Karen just said. And in other words it's… it's not just the… what she's taught me, and you know you have to understand this is somebody… we've not just been in the courthouse and Merrick together, but we were… we sat at the same table for dinner (Yes) and had conversations that friends and people have. (Right) And so this is just… this is much more than teaching about something, I think should be obvious, but as Karen says, it isn't so obvious to some people about the R word. There are other things, I mean you can see it, you can hear it.

How would you describe yourself?

Karen Loven: I'm a joyful person, I'm fun to be with. I do a lot of things that I do very good at, and there are some things I don't do as good at. But people accept me for who I am. I know I have a disability but I don't let that bother me and I go on with my day.

Karen, what would you like to do?

Karen Loven: I would like to help the poor people to understand what their rights are. The poor people don't always get that chance to listen to other people, but I feel that they need a need also to get to it well not to live in boxes or anything like that because I would not want to live in their box. I feel bad for them, but they also deserve the same right as we do. They can get help, they can go to doctors, they can get some assistance, go to a doctor and make them well.

What do you want people to know about Self-Advocacy?

Karen Loven: That they have a right to have their own meetings like I do. I go sometimes but not always because they need me on the work floor and it's hard to get off sometimes. Just like other people, like families, they have a right to get involved with their community, like church. I get very involved with my church. I sing, I help in my neighborhood, I help at home. People should get involved. They shouldn't have to be alone at little boxes or they shouldn't live in cars or anything, because that… I don't think I could do that.

Do you think people with disabilities know their rights?

Karen Loven: Some of them… some of them really have a hard time understanding, but maybe someday, if I have the time, I would like to teach those people they have rights because every person that lives around the world should have a right to either be a judge, or be listening to a judge on a case or working for them or when they need help. I'd be glad to help a judge or a person that has a disability. I wouldn't let them go.

Do people now their rights?

Judge Frank: I believe they do, but if I may, you asked me earlier just a few minutes ago and depending on where the camera was, you could've seen my demeanor change just a little bit a few minutes ago, what Karen teaches. I mean, think about something that just happened a few minutes ago.

You could bring in Ph.D. candidates, you could bring in Harvard people, anybody you want and ask them what is something important you do, did you hear what this woman said? If you believe, as I do, that a civilized and democratic society, that how we will all be ultimately be judged, how we care for those who most need around us, right out of – here's what she said, "I want to get a message to the poor and teach."

I mean think about that! I mean, how many people haven't worked with people, regardless of the nature of the disability? If you went up to them and say, well look at… let's talk about what people understand about our society. They would exercise a stereotype, they wouldn't think for a minute that people like Karen, she's got it all figured out. I'm telling you right now, so I'm sitting here saying I could be with a group of students and you'd never get this response, and here is this very special person. She's got it figured out just right. Right where the priorities are. I mean to me that is so, you know… thank you.

Karen Loven: You're welcome.


Judge Frank: She has the same expectations, the same hopes and dreams as I and other people have. I mean, she has the same rights as you've heard her say, to participate in things as I do and as I said earlier, why, she teaches me more than I teach her and I don't know if…

Karen Loven: Right.

Judge Frank: Yeah I think you'd agree with me.

Karen Loven: Yeah.

Judge Frank: See that? These are… sometimes people, when you haven't been… You know, I can't walk in her shoes, I can't say I know how she feels, but when you spend time with someone, you get to know them. When I find out about the obstacles that she has had, when the feelings that she has, both the good feelings and the hurt feelings about things that happen, I re-examine myself and what I'm doing.

In my case it's even more important because I take an oath as a judge, I think it's important to everybody, but I make a promise in an oath, and there's no better reminder than well, look at, well here's a reminder, Judge Frank, as Karen would say, of equal justice.

And so… you know reading… You can't read these things in a textbook, you can't read them, and then, of course, when you, as Karen has said, there's certain people who stereotype things or make assumptions about you. And you know, just like when you're done with these interviews here, of course you know with family and friends, but people who haven't worked with people, they carry around these assumptions, these stereotypes and they're…none of them are true. You heard exactly what she said.

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