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Disability Pride Month with Mahal Bastinado

Time & Space

Disability Pride Month with Mahal Bastinado

Posted on 07/27/23

Multi-disciplinary artist Mahal Bastinado, who has cauda equina syndrome, brings our celebration of Disability Pride Month to a close with a conversation about willpower, creativity, and her incredible achievements.

"Cauda equina syndrome is the compression of a collection of nerve roots called the cauda equina. Nerves send and receive electrical signals all across your body. The collection of nerve roots, shaped like a horse’s tail, is located at the bottom of your spinal cord."

– Cleveland Clinic

Tell us about yourself - who you are and what makes you you.

Hey! I’m Mahal Bastinado and I am disabled creator, ready to thrive in the entertainment industry. After graduating film school, I’m taking steps to further my career as a screenwriter, actor, producer, and director. But, I don’t want to stop there! Music is my security blanket. I love to song-write, sing, and produce for myself and other artists. My dream is to write and produce a movie and it’s soundtrack. I also really love pancakes.

What have you learned from having a disability that you may not have learned otherwise?

My disability (Cauda Equina Syndrome) came with many barriers for me. But, I learned and more importantly understood willpower. Going paralyzed from the waist down at 17 is traumatic physically, mentally, and emotionally. I discovered willpower when I gave myself something to fight for. Walking across the stage for my high school’s graduation was my fight. And I did. With honors and an assistant principal award for performing arts.

How do you embrace being different?

I embrace being different by talking about it on social media. I show my good days and my bad days. I talk about Cauda Equina Syndrome and how it affects me. It’s less about embracing and more about acknowledging. I have an “invisible disability” that affects my body tremendously. Some days I struggle to get out of bed due to fatigue and/or pain. Acknowledging CES allows there to be community. This is important because a multitude of people can help support each other through something they themselves understand. Everyone’s journey with CES is different. But, it’s important to feel heard and understood and know that you’re not in it alone.

What's one piece of advice you live by?

“Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life”

– Confucius

This live by this quote! I’m most myself when I am in a creative environment. So, I work jobs that allow me to learn while growing creativity. I see my job as exploring the entertainment industry and sharing stories through different forms of art.

This quote is extra special because it was given to me by a teacher who expressed different ways of learning. We discussed what helps us to learn best and he incorporated our differences into his lesson. Music, colors, pictures, sitting in groups, and so on. This made showing up to an 8am class worth it! People were able to learn using different forms of art. Thank you, Mr. Megie.

Choose only one - past, present, or future - and explain your selection.

I choose present time because I want to discover the future and learn from the past. I think moving out of the present gives me the opportunity to over analyze. I’m still learning to enjoy where I am in life and it’s a journey I want to go on.