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inclusion

Heather Avis said she "could count on one hand" the amount of times her daughter Macy had received party invitations.

Macy Avis, a 9th-grader with Down Syndrome, had a reaction to receiving a birthday party invite that was so pure and joyous that it quickly went viral on Instagram.

Heather Avis, Macy’s mom, wrote in the video’s caption that she could “count on one hand the amount of birthday parties” that Macy had been invited to throughout her childhood.

Understandably, when a friend from Macy’s life skills program handed her an invitation, her joy was “palpable.”



“To me it spoke of a longing fulfilled. All I could do was laugh with her and then cry as I celebrated with her,” Avis wrote.

In the video, we hear the proud mom say, “You got invited to a birthday party?” followed by absolute squeals of delight from Macy.

Watch:

Macy and her mom weren’t the only ones feeling celebratory. So many viewers chimed in to share their own joy at the news, and offer some encouragement.

“Thank you for sharing this wonderful moment with us! I got goosebumps listening to the glee in Macy’s voice. I am so incredibly happy for her and can’t wait to hear all about the amazing time she’s bound to have!” one person wrote.

Another declared, “This is the best thing on the whole internet."

The birthday party invite is the result of Avis’s “fight” to find inclusive spaces for her daughter, a journey she noted has “only just begun” in a pinned Instagram post.

Avis explained up until recently how Macy was in general education, where they had experienced some “amazing inclusive classrooms,” but still overall “felt a longing for belonging.” This led Macy to joining a life skills program with other disabled students, where she has been able to nurture a solid community—complete with birthday invitations.

As for how that party went, this follow-up video speaks for itself:

Along with celebrating Macy’s victory, Avis used the moment to note that “the party was inclusive not because a student in the general education program invited Macy, but because a person with an intellectual disability invited both disabled and non-disabled individuals. It was inclusive because people like Macy and the young man we were celebrating, who are often excluded, truly understand how to include others. Let’s reflect on that for a moment!”

While it’s important that students with Down Syndrome are placed in environments with the resources they need, not including them into the general community doesn’t help break through the stigma they regularly face—including being treated as children even when they are adults, or assuming they are entirely dependent. This was an issue recently tackled in the “Assume I Can” ad starring Madison Tevlin.


Moreover, Avis added that prioritizing diversity and inclusion offers the “beautiful gift” of “recognizing our shared humanity” among those who might at first seem different from us. That’s why she continues advocating for both her daughter and the Down Syndrome community through her The Lucky Few Foundation and podcast.

Each suit represents the "inner temples" one must face.

In all my friend groups, I am considered a bit of a woo ambassador. Whether it be from a crystal, intention-setting candle or meditative bath bomb, I love seeing the look of fascination and intrigue on a loved one’s face after receiving a bit of magic.

My favorite thing to do is gift someone their first oracle card deck. You’ve probably heard of tarot cards—oracle cards are like tarot’s laid-back younger sibling. Each card has a symbolic picture along with a simple, yet poignant message, usually of the empowering variety.

Sure, they’re a common staple of a modern-day spiritual practice, but the main reason I adore them, and why these little cards have become so mainstream over the years, is that they can be valuable self-reflection tools, helping us to make new connections, break old patterns and creatively work on personal development. Plus they’re endlessly fun and who doesn’t love pretty things?

There is, however, one issue. Oracle card decks can be given pretty much any theme you can think of—be it unicorns or angels or pop music icons—and yet, very few feature diverse images or delve into minority cultures. Understandably, when a person cannot even see themselves authentically reflected in the cards, it can leave them feeling missing from the equation. Assuming that it wasn’t created for them, some don’t explore the cards at all. Which is a shame, considering what a powerful tool they can be.


Being a seasoned cardslinger, I was egregiously aware of this during my recent search for an appropriate deck to give my friend as a birthday present.

Luckily, I found the perfect one.

inclusive tarot, black owned oracle cards

You'll find deities, queens and other powerful people to connect with in this deck.

Amazon

The African Goddess Rising Oracle deck contains 44 cards (works of art, really) that focus on prominent figures of African culture. From deities like Oshun—the Yoruba goddess of love—to real-world icons like Voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, each character helps the reader connect to what deck creator Abiola Abrams describes as the “foundational beliefs” of African spirituality: ancestral veneration, reverence for elders and community, respecting natural phenomena, and the power to transmute obstacles.

Abrams’ bio will inform you that she is an award-winning author and first-generation American daughter of multigenerational healers, seers and farmers in Guyana, South America, who are descended from several West African nations. But truly, one glance through her gorgeous deck will just as easily reveal her impeccable knack for storytelling and personal connection to the myths passed down in her family.

Because of its rich historical context, this deck has a much more grounded quality than other more fantasy-based cards—it feels a bit more like receiving wisdom from a wise elder than a heady, esoteric concept. Because, well, that was all by design. As Abrams explains, her creation is “faithful to our sacred truths and secrets passed down through oral tradition.”

In case you were curious—my friend loved it. The very next day after receiving it, she told me how validating it felt to “see even my ancestors telling me I’m on the right track.” It’s that kind of insight and affirmation that oracle cards can help cultivate, which is why it’s so important to have diverse representation. Everyone needs that sort of thing now and again.

To be fair, there are other highly honorable mentions for more inclusive oracle card decks, but something about African Goddess Rising hits different. It helps that Abrams is also a recognized leader in the personal growth space—the empowering messages come from a sensible, well-founded place with simple, actionable steps.


Also—in case it wasn’t obvious, the African Goddess Rising deck can be for anyone. Each message is universal, rooted in humanity and able to speak to us all. I have since procured my own copy, and you can do the same here.

Upworthy may earn a share of proceeds from items purchased on this list.

These hobbits know a thing or two about handling trolls.

The Fellowship of the Ring has banded together once again in the name of solidarity and standing up for what’s right.

In response to racially centered backlash for the diverse casting choices in the new Amazon series “Rings of Power” (a situation disappointingly common for many modern fantasy franchises) the trilogy’s original Hobbits Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan took to social media—about as treacherous as Mordor, some might say—to show their support.


Each actor wore a clothing item displaying a row of elf ears in different skin tones along with a message in Elvish that translates to “You Are All Welcome Here.” The coolest, most LOTR way to rebel possibly ever.



The design was created by LOTR aficionado Don Marshall, otherwise known as “Obscure LotR Facts Guy” on TikTok. On the merchandise website, Marshall noted the exact Elvish language used (Sí de maedyl), which paints a pretty clear picture of this guy’s impressive knowledge base. Fifty percent of the proceeds for every “You Are All Welcome Here” T-shirt and hat go to helping charities that benefit the POC community.

His reaction to seeing the hobbit gang wear his merch is a heartfelt delight for nerds everywhere.

@donmarshall72 Replying to @tara_cards_ I am speechless. Thank you all. The translation was done by @WizardWayKris. The merch is available at the link in my bio! #lotr #hobbits #lordoftherings #tolkien ♬ original sound - DonMarshall72


Wood, Astin, Boyd and Monaghan have certainly reunited before to give us a nostalgic laugh, like their incredibly silly rap video on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” but this homecoming took on a different tone.

“Rings of Power” features people of color in central roles, including Silvan elf Arondir, played by Afro-Latino actor Ismael Cruz Córdova, and his human lover Bronwyn, played by British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi, as well as Princess Disa the dwarf, played by Sophia Nomvete, a Black British actress of African-Iranian heritage.

Since their casting announcement, the actors and the show have received an influx of hateful comments and harassment online. And despite Amazon's claims of streaming records on its debut day of Sept. 2, the Prime Series was the target of “review bombing,” when disgruntled fans inundate the internet with negative reviews based on a social or political reaction rather than to the show’s quality, which distorts and misrepresents how a show is actually being received by audiences.

Members of the current cast have defended each other, calling the claims that a diverse ensemble strays away from Tolkien’s original ideas “nonsense,” but getting support from Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin was next level in terms of denouncing vitriol. For as we know … it takes an army to defeat a horde of trolls.

Tolkien himself, though accused of having racist rhetoric in his novels, was certainly no stranger to defending against bigotry. Back in 1938, Nazis demanded to know if the fantasy author was Jewish (in an attempt to purge anything non-Aryan from German culture). Tolkien clapped back in the classiest way possible, regarding Jewish people as “gifted” and correcting the assumption that Aryans are even of German descent. Tolkien was, after all, a gentleman and a scholar.

With a story that depicts orcs, goblins and other gruesome creatures, it’s tragic to think that something much more monstrous lurks in our everyday life. Though racism is an ugly reality, having a united voice helps overcome that insidious foe. The beauty of fantasy is that it is limitless, going as far as imagination beckons. That is a magic meant for everyone.

Courtesy of Jeanette Tapley

Disney princess surprises deaf park goer

As if Disneyland wasn't magical enough, the parks have been working to be more inclusive of all of their guests and recently a girl named Zoe Tapley got to experience it herself. Zoe is deaf and when her family was visiting Disneyland recently she was doing her rounds meeting the characters, when the woman dressed as Ana from Frozen began using American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. The special moment was caught on camera by Zoe's mom Jeanette Tapley who shared it to her TikTok page where it has racked up over two million views and over 450,000 likes.


This trip was Zoe's second trip to Disneyland but according to her mom, this was the first time she has had an interaction with a character that knew ASL. When asked what Zoe's reaction was to the encounter, Tapley told Upworthy, "Zoe was in shock. She was so excited to be chatting with a Princess without my husband or I having to jump in and assist her. She just kept saying, “Wow!!!” We all just cried because it was so special and surprising!" But this isn't Disney's first rodeo with including ASL for their characters. In 2016 a video went viral of Captain America using ASL to communicate with a guest.

@jeanettetapley

When Princess Anna can sign and have a full conversation with my deaf child. 🥹 Zoe has never been able to chat with a princess without Jesse or myself interpreting. This was magical. Thank you Princess Anna for making our trip so special! #deafchildren #asl #americansignlanguage #BigInkEnergy #fyp #feelgood #inclusionmatters @Disney Parks @Disneyland California

Disneyland has been working on becoming more inclusive of their deaf and hard of hearing guests since 2010 and it's pretty evident that they are starting to see the fruits of their labor. Tapley said, "Disneyland actually has some great services for hearing impaired and early in that trip we went and watched a show that had interpreters. It is based off a schedule that is found on Disney’s website," She continued, "you don’t realize how un deaf friendly theme parks are until you are wandering around with your deaf child. With Zoe we just try to make her aware of her surrounding and have check in spots."

Tapley explains that the more deaf friendly a place like Disney can be the better. When you aren't hard of hearing or deaf and aren't exposed to the population, you may not realize how difficult it can be to navigate places like an amusement park. It takes places listening to different communities and people of differing abilities to know what is helpful over harmful. Tapley told Upworthy, "When deaf friends can come in and feel safe and included wow! What a gift! I think it would make for a more popular travel destination and it would make Disney stand apart!"

Zoe and Princess Ana

Photo Courtesy of Jeanette Tapley

The entire interaction left the family feeling pretty good, including the little notes Zoe has been getting from fans of the video. "We are just so thankful. Zoe has loved reading notes from people, she feels seen and loved and it’s been really fun to know that she is not alone. We are SO incredible thankful to Princess Ana for loving our family like this. We are forever bonded and I believe that she will be Zoe’s favorite princess for all of time," Tapley said.

This sure is a moment to remember. Hopefully in the future more kids like Zoe get to meet their favorite character who can communicate with them as they do with other guests.