Erin Brown is a mother of two, an adaptive athlete, an entrepreneur, a disability inclusion consultant and a 16-year cancer survivor.
“For me the word ‘suffer’ holds no weight when speaking about my cancer, amputation, or any other illness or incident. I did not ‘suffer’ . I overcame and now live in a community that has always existed. Our cancer journeys are unique, each is designed for growth,” says Erin.
Her journey to this place of victory, she describes as ‘a gut-wrenching one’, that has both ‘stretched her mind, pushed her beliefs and self-values’ it’s also deepened her purpose, and Erin admits that ‘she would do it all over again’.
Erin often dreamed about competing in the Olympic Games, “From the moment I laid eyes on ‘Flo Jo,’ watching the Olympics became one of my most prized memories with my father. Flo Jo’s flare reminded me of my mother, who was also a national volleyball and track athlete. My father was a sports enthusiast so we never missed an opportunity to watch the Olympic Games together.”
After her amputation she was even more compelled to continue competitive sports as she had been an athlete since the age of 9, taking part in track and field, volleyball, basketball, swimming and softball. My mother became my coach ‘Flo Jo’ and the wind between my wings.
“When the Paralympic Games launched in 2012 it provided a goal to what I was working towards – a parallel playing field as the Olympics,” says Erin.
We had quite a bit more to find out about this inspiring woman. Here’s what she had to say:
Erin Brown’s Interview with Story-Book Entertainment
Story-Book Entertainment Inc (SBe): What were your first thoughts when you received your diagnosis, and what did you do to try and center yourself?
Erin Brown: I received my diagnosis over the phone after returning from Florida and being referred to Cedar Point; now Jackson Memorial. I actually was not shocked at the results … I relied on the past experience of my mother’s journey with lupus and knew there was a plan of action that comes with diagnosis.
SBE: How does it feel to be the first and only Bahamian competing in the Paralympics?
Erin Brown: It is an oxymoron. I am sad and ecstatic all at the same time. Sad because competing is a quarter of the journey. Athletes know too well what it takes to be competitive. We need ACCESS in these three key components:
Training: coaching, nutrition, resources, equipment and support.
Race: national and international competition opportunities,
Recovery: physio, chiro, massage therapy etc. All of which is non-existent for a para athlete.
Yet, I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to create all the above and provide a blue-print for our nation’s Paralympic Development. We have had paralympians represent our nation and medaled, why are they not highlighted?
SBe: Can you explain the question?
Erin Brown: John Sands was the first and only athlete in 1972 to compete for the Bahamas in wheelchair sprint. He did not place. The following year he took Christine Morgan and they medaled in their events. Consequently after that a team delegation was sent. Please see below*
This is why I ask….why are they not highlighted or honoured like other athletes..
SBe: What are your greatest fears in qualifying and competing?
Erin Brown: I have no fears at this time, my main priority is to ratify our Bahamas Paralympic Committee so that our future para athletes have an inclusive space, access to train, race and recover. My goal is to complete what I started and go beyond the name ‘Erin Bionic Brown’… it is for our aquamarine, black and gold (National flag).
SBe: At the end of this, what do you want people to take away?
Erin Brown: The disabled community is an important thread in a nation’s fabric. When we do not engage, integrate or support the entire fabric; it leaves the nation’s potential diminished.
SBe: What do you hope to gain?
Erin Brown: If one child, adult, parent, educator, employer, doctor, prime minister , coach, politician or nation builder with a disability recognizes their worth, opportunity and right to thrive along with non – disabled individuals and understand that Disability is NOT an after-thought in development, policies, investment or success…. my small drop in the ocean will keep the tides going.
SBe: How do your kids feel about the whole thing?
Erin Brown: I’m not sure… that is actually a question I would love to ask my sixteen-year-old son. He has seen and experienced all that I have and been there with me every step of the way. My second, my daughter is four and just loves to be wherever her ‘mommy Erin Brown’ is.
SBe: Tell me a little about your company Erin Brown Connects (EBC)?
Erin Brown: EBC focuses on Disability Advocacy and Inclusion Management. It’s a multi-dimensional company that provides disability education and resources as well as Disability Inclusion services for training, brand marketing and employment.
SBe: What has been your most rewarding experience to date in terms of sharing your story?
Erin Brown: Most rewarding experience has been to live by faith and leaning on a promise that is faith based.
‘No’ is no longer attached to bad news and rejection isn’t framed as an inadequacy on my behalf. The reward is manifesting the impossible, representing the invisible, regaining or redefining our disabled community’s value through shattering the expectations and stereotypes of the world around us through action.
SBe: What has been your biggest challenge to overcome?
Erin Brown: Biggest Challenge is SELF. Daily I must protect my space, guard my mind, recharge and reset. Yet, I dare to ask who doesn’t? This is a part of the journey … GROWTH.
SBe: Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?
Erin Brown: Mama Cax aka Cacsmy Brutus another island Goddess whose cancer journey led her to body positive community. She embodied so much of me in all she represented, I found solace in her words, her presence on this earth and in her work. Mama Cax took Disability rights to tables, spaces, industries and persons that she will never meet, yet her sheer existence changed lives ..
Mama Cax’s mission was to break stereotypes about people with disabilities and bring disability inclusion to the fore-front not just in visibility but for fair and authentic representation. Rest in Peace Goddess.
SBe: Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?
Erin Brown: Erin Brown Connects would be the training authority in Disability training, education, access and employment opportunities for civil society and individuals with disabilities.
Therefore, becoming the leading Disability Consultant in the Bahamas. My long term goals consist of pursuing a law degree in Disability, competing as an elite para athlete in the paratriathlon, para swimming and other disciplines. The Bahamas Paralympic Committee will enable future para-athletes in The Bahamas to compete and establish a team to compete in the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.
SBe: Describe yourself in three words.
Erin Brown: BOLD, HUMBLE, FEMININE.
All images provided by Erin Brown.
Additional notes on the Bahamas Paralympics
*John Sands was the first and only athlete in 1972 to compete for the Bahamas in wheelchair sprint. The Bahamas also competed at the 1980 Summer Paralympics in Arnhem, Netherlands. The country’s delegation consisted of six competitors in two sports, track and field athletics, and swimming. Christine Morgan and Olivia Armbrister, competed in both sports.