It’s been a little while but we’re back with a fantastic new Role Model in the Dwarfism Community interview! This time, we had the privilege of speaking with Mia Ives-Rublee, a civil rights activist. Check out what she had to say.
Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?
My name is Mia Ives-Rublee and I am a civil rights activist who mostly focuses on issues around disability and race. I grew up in North Carolina and I currently live in Washington, DC.
And what do you do?
I currently work for the Federal Government. But I spend my off hours working with several organizations on disability inclusion. I coordinate the Women’s March Disability Caucus, helping raise awareness on issues that Disabled women face.
Do you enjoy it?
I find civil rights work and advocacy really fulfilling.
How did you end up doing it?
My interest in civil rights and social justice became very apparent to me at a very young age. I grew up as a disabled transracial adoptee and that identity made me acutely aware of the inequalities in our society. Throughout my childhood, I volunteered at numerous places in my community. In college, I got involved in interactive social theater to help open up a dialogue around social justice issues. I eventually decided to study Sociology and get my Master’s Degree in Social Work. After getting my Master’s, I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for six years. My work as a Rehab Counselor opened my eyes to how often the policies we put in place, while often well-meaning, can further hinder a person who is already facing barriers to participating in their communities. I became extremely frustrated, seeing that many of the clients I worked with would return. It was then that I decided I needed to do more. I worked in research for a while and then got involved in grassroots organizing. It was my work in grassroots organizing that I felt I had found my calling.
If you were 21 again, would you do something different?
I think it is very easy to see things that you might do differently as a 21-year-old. Overall, I would say I wouldn’t do anything differently. I went through a lot of growth and learned a lot of stuff through trial and error. I know it’s cliché to say this, but I wouldn’t do anything differently because I am proud of the work that I did to get to where I am.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about working in advocacy is to see the small changes that you can make in the world. I had this unique moment in my life where a person came up to me to tell me that in the past they were very resistant at first to make a small change that would help with accessibility. However, they said that they now understood the importance of change. That acknowledgement meant the world to me. If I can continue to make those small changes, I will feel like my work in the movement has been worth the struggle.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
The worst job I ever took was to work as a radio operator/scheduler for a transportation system. It was horrible because the person I worked for didn’t provide clear instructions and said that I intentionally wrote my notes poorly. I’ll admit, I have bad hand writing. But I don’t understand why they would think I purposely wrote poorly.
What are the best and worst aspects about being small?
The best and worst part of being small is that people underestimate me. The best part of being underestimated is that I take great joy in proving people wrong. The worst part of being underestimated is that it can affect the type of work people are willing to give me.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?
The best piece of advice I can give my teenage self is that it is okay to make mistakes. I actually still need this reminder at times. I am a very self-conscious type of person and I do have a thin skin when it comes to criticism of my work. I think it’s good to remind yourself that people make mistakes and that is part of the human experience. You have to learn to forgive yourself for the mistake and learn from it.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I admire Senator Tammy Duckworth. She has broken a lot of barriers and she is the first politician that looked like me. Asian American women are often pushed out of leadership. Asian American Disabled women are rarely seen in the public. To see her succeed and become a role model for so many is truly inspiring to me.
How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?
I love photography. Growing up, I had difficulty expressing myself with words. So, art was a way for me to communicate. Photography gives me a chance to express myself without words and allow more nuance.
What’s your favourite book?
My favorite book growing up was the Outsiders. I really connected with Ponyboy, a kid who loved movies and was extremely thoughtful. He saw issues in his community and wasn’t sure how to address them. He felt like an outsider even in a group of outsiders. It’s something I could relate to. I’ve reread the book so many times I’ve lost count.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement so far has been helping to organize one of the largest protest marches in history, the Women’s March.
When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be known as person who cared about others and helped their community.