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Lesson 2: Joining the Blindness Field Page 4 of 30

The History of Braille in Song

Meet Chuck West, Singer and Songwriter

Chuck WestWelcome to the recording studios of Chuck West Sounds. Chuck entered the hip-hop scene in 2012 after several years of writing rap lyrics in his spare time. Since then he has performed at many venues in the Chicago area and has developed a following within the hip-hop community. Though a skilled writer, he is also known for his free-style talent and his high-energy performances. He is a huge anime fan, and is currently a member of the Def Notes, a rap group that focuses on anime-themed lyrics and beats.

Meet JP Hardboiled, DJ and Musician

JP hardboiledA seven-time beat battle winner, DMC DJ Battle two-time finalist, and all-around super geek, DJ JP Hardboiled loves making music and life. He is a photographer, filmmaker, writer for Geeksagogo.com, and AnimeChicago.com, performing flamenco guitarist, singer, gamer, comic collector, and fitness blogger. He creates passion-filled electronic and hip-hop music with various music groups as well as his own original material. When he's not making music, he's watching all types of movies or digging through comics at a comic convention.

So sit back and experience some of the key historical events that shaped the blindness field as sung by Chuck West and mixed by JP Hardboiled, two of Chicago's talented hip-hop performing artists.

Listen to the Songs

Select a song (track) from the playlist below. You can review the lyrics of a specific song by selecting the Lyrics button and using the scroll feature.

Chuck West Singing
  • Before Braille
  • Make Moves
  • War of the Dots
  • Rep Yo Squad
  • Better Tomorrow

Lyrics

Before Braille

One day at the Saint Ovid's fair in Paris 1771
A man by the name of Valentine Hauy stopped by a local cafe to relax and watch some entertainment
But when he saw how a particular group of entertainers was being treated
His life and the world would change forever

(Hauy)
It's the cruelest thing I've ever seen
A spectacle vicious as the worst bad dream
Dehumanizing a people for entertainment
And all because a certain group of people can't see

Funny glasses and dunce caps strapped to their faces
Scratching on violins cause they weren't taught to play them
And to make matters worse, everybody is loving it
As if it's all just for comedic wonderment

(Audience)
They say, Ha Ha, these poor helpless souls
They're ridiculous creatures and probably don't even know
Like dogs chasing their own tails, foolish as hell
Why not, cause after all they can't do nothing else

Hauy:
Infuriating
I can't let this continue oh no
I have to act
I have got better intentions and so
It's time to bring the visually impaired all that they need
Give them a way to write and read so everyone can see

Chorus:
They treat the blind like clowns
I'll be the change
But that'll change right now
I'll be the change

They treat the blind like clowns
I'll be the change
But that'll change right now
I'll be the change

Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Ha

I met this blind teen who has a lot of potential
But can't read or write to help him that was essential
If he could become literate then he could obliterate
The myth that the visually impaired are less by principal

Kid: You can teach me to read?
Hauy: I can teach you to write too!
Kid: How you going to do that?
Hauy: I got ways yes I do!
All the letters and words and sentences will be yours
Because your sense of touch is still intact and not poor

An alphabet that you can touch simple and plain
Embossed on the paper put your fingers up on the page
Doesn't matter whether you can see what is written
All that matters is that you are able to ready, okay!

Kid: Put my hands on the page?
Hauy: Yes, feel out the letters
Kid: And feel out the shapes?
Hauy: Yes, feel out the letters
Kid: The shape of a letter A?
Hauy: Remember it in your mind
Kid: I think I'm getting the hang of it
Hauy: You'll get better over time

They treat the blind like clowns
I'll be the change
But that'll change right now
I'll be the change

They treat the blind like clowns
I'll be the change
But that'll change right now
I'll be the change

Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Empower the blind
Find a solution
Ha

We've been working this to the bone, now he's reading and writing
Literate as any in society I see
Time to expand let our work reach even farther
Think of the possibilities if we push harder

Found another two dozen students to teach
Implement the emboss system I used before
Open the doors quickly, let it be now known
That the first school for the blind is born!


Make Moves Lyrics

A few years after the Royal Institute for the Blind had opened
And Hauy's dream for education and equality for the visually impaired was slowly coming true
The road ahead would not be easy however
The current reading and writing system Hauy had developed had its limits
And a particular student of Hauy's was looking for a way to improve it.

It's time to make moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Make Moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Here at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth
Where folks has struggled to finally prove a fine truth
That it doesn't take a seeing eye to be literate
Equally opportunities for the blind that's what the dream really is.

Now I'm a student here myself and excel in many subjects
Using the current raised typed system to function
Feeling these letters out, delighting my teachers all day
But our bookshelf is close to nothing and it's hard to trust in

This way to read and write you know how long it takes to even write
A book for the blind folks like me and my classmates it's making me despise
The giant letters embossed, which we're forced to trace with our fingers
And when I write a letter back home I have to suffer and linger for days

How ironic is it that the founders of our school who can see
Lack the vision to create a simpler system for we
Are growing tired of this laborious process
Progress can't be made until we find a faster way to educate

It's time to make moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Make Moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Make Moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Make Moves
Develop these great tools
When things get too complex
We don't mope and make due
We changes things!

Now I see the problem and I might now know to fix it
An easier way to read and write it's got to be efficient
I remember hearing about how our school received a visit
From an army general who had quite an intriguing vision

He said, "My name is Charles Barbier, I heard about your school
I think it's for a noble cause, and so I brought some tools
Instead of raised type I got a system of dots
It's something easier for fingers to feel and plot."

Yeah, what did he call it? Oh that's right, Night Writing
A little something for us all so we can spend less time writing
Get books published and another benefit worth highlighting
Students get a deeper education like woo!

So, I look at his dots, but man he's got a dozen of them
So many for every letter and that's just too much for us
But I'm glad I got this reference, he was onto something
Cause I can picture taking this and making this language way more efficient

And that is the story of Louis Braille
The man who managed to simplify this dot system of Night Writing into what would be known simply as Braille

But this new system wasn't immediately welcome into the school's curriculum
Even after it was, people continued to argue as new schools for and of the blind were established around the world
And thus, the search for the greatest reading and writing system for the visually impaired continued.

Make Moves


War of the Dots Lyrics

Fast forward to the twentieth century, and we see just how heated the conflict between teachers and students were over two popular Braille systems: New York Point and Modified Braille

Teacher: My only goal is to assist the visually impaired
Working at schools for the blind just to give an even fair
Chance to those who've been ignored by all those who didn't care
But now even my students are fighting me, grilling me I swear

Approaching me at my desk saying (Student) Your lessons suck
The system that you're using to teach us was never meant for us
Serving us the dots that are more difficult to use
When Modified Braille works better, come on see the truth!

Teacher: I'm only teaching you ingrates the best way I know how
Using the easiest way I know so I won't let you down
My points and dots giving me power to give you sound
Teaching for your futures, yet you treat me like a selfish clown?

Student: We want our education, but you never let us have it
Won't teach us how to learn best, as if by a stroke of magic
We could be the greatest can be in this society
If you confuse us with your New York Point that's been stifling our growth

Teacher: I simply have nothing to say to those who won't listen
Student: I simply have nothing to say to those who ignore my vision
Teacher: I'm trying to teach
Student: You're trying to be selfish
Teacher & Students: How can we succeed and not agree on how to handle this

Teacher: New York Point
Student: Modified Braille
Teacher: New York Point
Student: Modified Braille
Teacher & Student: War of the Dots

Teacher: New York Point
Student: Modified Braille
Teacher: New York Point
Student: Modified Braille
Teacher & Student: War of the Dots

Teacher: I wanna teach
Student: I wanna learn
Teacher: You make it tough
Student: You make it hard
Teacher & Student: No peace! We going to war!

Teacher: I wanna teach
Student: I wanna learn
Teacher: You make it tough
Student: You make it hard
Teacher & Student: No peace! We going to war!

Student: I am the student and these are my classmates
We're sick of teachers trying to preach devious pathways
We'll never rest until teachers teach us how they're supposed to
Teacher: Do you folks out there see what I have to go through?

Now cause of the conflict, publishers trying to calm us
Throwing both systems at us, so now we accomplish
Less than we could if we weren't having to be bilingual
Scatter-braining us with points and dots I want life simple

AFB: Hold up! Wait up! Everyone stop what you're doing
We at the American Foundation for the Blind have got the solution
We've been painstakingly searching and after sweating the small stuff
Have found that neither system is best, and we were awestruck

AFB: Our friends in Britain have showed us a better system
The perfect point-dot prescription will give you a better vision
Of how to teach and to learn, empowering people firmly
Planted in the idea that the blind deserve a chance to advance!

Teacher: What a minute, so are you telling us that we just wasted all this time arguing for nothing?

Student: Yeah, did we just spend this entire song going back and forth about something that could have been solved if we had just asked the American Foundation for the Blind?

And the British?

Oh, the British.


Rep Yo Squad Lyrics

In a time when the visually impaired and others with disabilities were being denied basic rights, finding and building groups that fought for equality was a challenge. Luckily, there were those who rose to that challenge.

(Student)
I'm just as literate as anybody else
Thanks to braille-style books and the school I'm at as well
But I still don't feel like a true part of the world
Cause there is no guarantee that I'll be offered the work

The home, the independence, the voting rights, the life,
Among other things many Americans have now
I got to find a way to change this who's with me
We need strength in numbers are there any crews listening?

(American Printing House)
Right here, it's the American Printing House
Heard your cry for help it's truly something to sing about
Working to provide free books and equipment
Providing education needed to tackle commitments

Plus we're pushing government for federal acts
To better attack funding materials that you need
So fear not my brother, you know we got you
Let us stand together bring a better life to you the blind

(Student)
Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

(Student)
Now that seems all well and good
But let's see if we got more crews who are down to bring us livelihood

(American Printing House)
Not to worry sir we've got councils and institutes
Places full of dedicated souls who will fend with you

"American Foundation for the Blind at your service!"
"National Association of Parents of Children with
Visual Impairments..."

(Student)
Wait!
I'm glad you all came to help you see
But I want to see some groups run by people like me!
How about it? Are there any associations and councils
That are run by the blind, someone I can truly vouch for?

"National Institute of the Blind right here!"
"American Council of the Blind right here!"
"National Federation of the Blind right here!"

(Student)
See that word "of" makes a whole lot of difference
It proves that we can be independent, can I get a witness?

Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

What do we want?
Equal Rights!
What do we want?
Equal Rights!
That's right we want to
Eat where we want, shop where we want
Sleep where we want,
Stay healthy and go out where we want!

What do we want?
Equal Rights!
What do we want?
Equal Rights!
That's right we want to
Eat where we want, shop where we want
Sleep where we want,
Stay healthy and go out where we want!

"And now stand by for a message from the government"

(Government):
You say you want equal rights?
You're willing to stand up, put up a frequent fight, okay
I got to say that I respect your energy
You'll be getting new laws in place throughout history

"1879"

Free books and technology to learn some savvy for the real world, cause hey, we want to earn some

"1935"

Funding our states with dough to show
Our nation cares for those with impairments, keeping it fair kid
Insurance and income for those disabled
So my homies' granddad can live a life that's stable

"1936"

Federal Government giving us a chance
To work in their buildings so we can have some cash

"'73 to '90"

And for the youth, I want none of them left out
We can make the future better for the new generations
Cause honestly, I don't want to affiliate
With a country who would ever have the nerve to discriminate!

(Student)
Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

Are you down for the cause?
Rep your squad!
Equal rights for us all?
Rep your squad!
If you know you deserve to be seen, to be heard
Have respect in the world, better rep your squad

What do we want?
Equal Rights!
What do we want?
Equal Rights!
That's right we want to
Eat where we want, shop where we want
Sleep where we want,
Stay healthy and go out where we want!

What do we want?
Equal Rights!
What do we want?
Equal Rights!
That's right we want to
Eat where we want, shop where we want
Sleep where we want,
Stay healthy and go out where we want!


Better Tomorrow Lyrics

Many years have passed since Valentin Hauy dedicated his life to helping those with visual impairments gain equal rights and education. Great strides have been made, and though there's still more work to be done, the future is looking bright.

(Student)
It's graduation time for me and my friends
Smiles on glowing faces, future is so bright and,
I can't help but think, rather can't help but know
How far we've come, this world has truly developed so

There was a time when the world had us dressing up as clowns
Playing instruments that we were barely taught a thing about
Unable to get a job, some of us couldn't even get around
Screaming for our education, while others pretended we didn't make a sound

Now we got books with the right bumps to make us literate
And we got peeps working with us to help us navigate
The world around us 'til we found us independence and a great
Career, our U.S.A. and the whole world open like pathways

Gaining the rights that every citizen is worthy of
With or without sight we all can seize the day and journey on
Stand up everybody in here with me, yeah you heard me y'all
From Valentin Hauy to us today who strive for equality our work pays off

We're here and feeling fine
We lift each other high
Together we are strong
We'll make tomorrow better

We're here and feeling fine
We lift each other high
Together we are strong
We'll make tomorrow better
When people tell us we can't do it
We'll show them the light, y'all
When people tell us we can't do it
We'll show them the light, y'all
When people tell us we can't do it
We'll show them the light, y'all
When people tell us we can't do it
Ha!

Want to thank pioneers Hauy and Braille; the ones who lent us a hand
And the folks who represent us well; we always stay up in the plan
For us and by us, no B.S. no bias
We thrive on the laws that we push through to find us

Equality, but wait, you see, we've still got work to do
Cause I know children still invisible to get their just due
Kids with limited support from service delivery systems
That are not perfect but still work with parents who must be listened to

So the struggle goes on, but not just in the U.S.
We're all around the world building ways to relieve our stress
From Canada to Europe councils working to ensure that
People of all ages get what they need to live a full life

So let's stand tall
We in here!
Stand tall
We in here!

Raise your hands and give applause for everything we've done here!
We're one here, let's go out now to live and to work
Cause after all, we make up a significant part of the earth!

That's right y'all

We're here and feeling fine
We lift each other high
Together we are strong
We'll make tomorrow better

We're here and feeling fine
We lift each other high
Together we are strong
We'll make tomorrow better

And so the fight continues. What started with one man has become a worldwide movement. Proof that change is possible when you offer something that helps so many people. It's never easy, but it's often worth it.


Select Next to start Lesson 2 Section 1: History — The Evolution of Rights.