A 'Simpsons' animator's real-life struggle inspired a cartoon for kids with disabilities.

As long as animator Chance Raspberry can remember, he's held a pencil in his hand.

When he was 11, Raspberry broke the family VCR by skipping it backward and forward, pausing it to copy the images from Disney's "Sleepy Hollow" into an old notebook. Other days, he sat hunched over the desk in his room, mimicking the jet-black pen strokes that made Spiderman come to life.

For Raspberry, drawing pictures was a window to the rest of the world.

It was the '80s, and at the time, he was coping with Tourette's syndrome, a disorder health professionals and people close to Raspberry knew little about. It meant he often engaged in behaviors that no one could predict or control.


The tics, which started as unusual bouts of excess energy, often caused Raspberry to do dangerous things — like venture into the street in the middle of a preschool class.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Once, Raspberry alarmed his preschool staff by perching on top of a jungle gym, pretending to shoot classmates with an imaginary bow and arrow. When they told him to stop, he literally couldn't.

As a result, Raspberry was often sent home, his parents pleading with school administrators who didn't understand him and his behavior. When he was 8, the tics started to manifest in sudden, violent outbursts.

"The worst tics were when I would repeatedly slap myself across the face. I would have to hit myself in alternating patterns of five and 10. On top of that, I had this tic where I needed to rub my right cheek against my right shoulder, and eventually I got a rash," Raspberry explains.

When he felt alone, Raspberry found solace in the zany world of cartoons, where high energy was normal.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

He began to draw. But being an artist — and one with a disability — didn't make everything easier for Raspberry. Classmates would often try to startle him just to see what he would do. Sometimes, they would even ruin his drawings.

"I remember I used to make this sound, like ‘weeee,’ obsessively. One time I left my desk to find that this drawing I was working on for hours was gone. I came back, and the drawing had this ‘weee’ written all across the top. It was destroyed, and I was really mad, because it had taken me so long,” Raspberry recalls.

He channeled all of his energy into his drawings, even ignoring the occasional teacher who would rip the pencil sketches from his hands in class and crumple them into the trash. Despite it all, his drawings got better and better.

16 years, countless hours, and thousands of cartoon sketches later, Raspberry ended up with a career drawing the same unruly boy who inspired him as a kid: Bart Simpson.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Raspberry says he always loved Bart "because he's this outsider, rebel spirit — but he's never been ashamed. He doesn't regret being different."

"I think as a kid who had these feelings of being an outsider and being different, I loved watching Bart getting into trouble and seeing these stories told through the eyes of someone my age," he says.

After winning a group Emmy for his work on the Simpsons at 28, Raspberry decided he wanted to do more for other kids with neurological differences. He wanted to help those kids — and people around them — understand why thinking differently needs to be not only accepted, but celebrated.

Drawing from his own childhood experiences, Raspberry found the inspiration for the new animated show he's developing called "Little Billy."

Little Billy Harper. GIF courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Like Raspberry, Billy is a young boy with a neuro-cognitive disability — only Billy's is a fictional one called "ultra-hyper-sensitivity." People around Billy don't often understand him, and some people even find him dangerous.

“I am basing this on my actual life, and I had all of these issues with my teachers and not getting along or following the order of things," he says. The show is largely based on Raspberry's life around age 4, when his abundance of energy made him realize he was different from other kids.

In 2014, Raspberry raised $30,000 on Kickstarter to help bring "Little Billy" to life. He's currently finishing the pilot and continues to work full time as a character layout artist on "The Simpsons."

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Raspberry channeled his abundance of energy into creating the completely hand-drawn series — the trailer alone required a whopping 1,372 drawings.

The goal of the series is to tap into the nostalgia of childhood in an entertaining, healing way while also creating visibility around what it's like to grow up with special needs.

"The show will explore in full in an honest way how a family that is dealing with this goes through it, how they’re affected," Raspberry says.

"Just because we're different, it doesn't mean we're broken."

Watch the trailer for "Little Billy" below:

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."