Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Expression vs. Insensitivity: A Message to Kanye West from a Person with Parkinson’s

From Tom Palizzi
Chair, PDF People with Parkinson's Advisory Council

Kanye West is without question a richly talented and multifaceted artist. With utmost respect for freedom of expression and the inherent controversial nature of art in general, there is, however, a fine line between expression and insensitivity.

"On Sight," the opening track on Mr. West's new album Yeezus, includes the lyrics:

“The monster about to come alive again/
 Soon as I pull up and park the Benz/ 
 We get this b*** shaking like Parkinson’s”

Many of us appreciate the lighter side of having a chronic and degenerative movement disorder, though as many interpret such statements as harsh and insensitive. While it appears Mr. West is familiar with one of the more recognizable symptoms of Parkinson's disease, there are several other, less obvious challenges people with Parkinson's face.

For more than 55 years, the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) has been helping people understand and cope with Parkinson's disease. In a unique and bold move, the foundation formed the People with Parkinson's Advisory Council (PPAC) to ensure the effectiveness of their actions.

As Chair and on behalf of PPAC, I would be delighted to help Mr. West better understand the truths and myths of "Parkinson's" and how it indiscriminately impacts the lives of roughly 1,000,000 Americans and their families. Notable people such as Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali and Ben Petrick, my peers and millions of others are testament to the enduring spirit of people with Parkinson's.

Mr. West, please take a moment and visit www.pdf.org to learn more and, by all means, feel free to contact me or my colleagues with any questions.


Tom Palizzi
Chair, People with Parkinson's Advisory Council


DonnaM said...

Tom, I think you were very considerate and respectful to Kanye West in your letter, qualities which he seems to lack. I don't have a problem with his use of Parkinson's in his lyrics. I've had it twenty years and like some others, feel it may spark discussion in people who hear his song. But an album titled "Yeezus" pretty much shows his disrespect for others beliefs. COmbine that with a thoughtless lyric line and his lack of empathy is clearly evident. I don't know why he and his wife are household names or rather, I do know, and it's not because of any talent either one of them has. You, Tom, showed real restraint and total classiness.

Sherri Woodbridge said...

Ditto to DonnaM's comment! And thanks, Tom, for the great post

t0hierry said...

I have Parkinson and I'm a writer, painter and musician. I joke about my illness, in a way that other people with that disease can laugh with me. The lyrics from On Sight do not show any love, any humanity, any complicity, any desire to reach out and include P.D. patients. It's OK to not know about this disease, I wish I didn't, but in that case, there are tens of thousands of words in the English language to chose from. Other than Parkinson.