With every stroke of her brush, Lindsay Adams paints a story – maybe one that’s personal and relatable, one that’s cultural and worldly, or one that’s bold and outspoken. Regardless of the message, she makes sure it’s told in her own way.
Adams was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a motor disability affecting one’s ability to speak, move and maintain balance, according to the CDC. But instead of seeing her disability as an inhibitor of her identity as an artist and communicator, she embraces it. Instead of it being a flaw, Adams says her cerebral palsy is what makes her flawless.
“One of my biggest struggles with CP is fine motor skills,” she says, pointing out the irony. “I can’t put on earrings. I can barely button my shirts. But I can paint my ass off.”
Adams says because she possesses communication skills some disabled people do not, she identifies as a disabilities advocate in order to speak for those who can’t tell their stories.
“There are so many people with CP and other disabilities who don’t have the resources to communicate or don’t have the physical ability to. I got to the point where I realized this is my protest. I’m aware there’s a gap here – not only as a Black woman, but as a disabled Black woman.”
Although she feels at peace with her disability more than she has in the past, she still has moments of uncertainty, especially when meeting new people because she’s not sure how they’re going to react. This uncertainty is amplified by her other identities as a Black person and as a woman.
Adams has lived at the intersection of these three marginalized identities all her life, and although she has learned to navigate them, her identity as a disabled person is the most difficult to steer in today’s society.
“Being Black and a woman, I’ve figured out over the past 30 years how to navigate the world. But having a disability, I’m not sure if someone won’t want to listen to me, if I’m going to fall or if I’m going to be physically comfortable in a venue. But it’s definitely made me very resilient because I still have goals. This is what it is. Some days it’s okay and it’s easier, and some days it’s not.”
She gets her resilience from her mother, who got it from her mother, and so on. They were “both very resilient women” and “made no excuses for themselves.” Adams says this is the attitude of many Black women because of the perseverance they need to survive and succeed due to societal oppression brought on by the intersection of their gender and race. But there should also be some self-love and inner kindness present.
“As Black women, that’s what we do, but I think now we need to give ourselves space and grace to take care of ourselves,” she says. “You can’t do it all, and it’s okay to ask for help.”
Some of her artwork speaks out against oppression and supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Adams created “Tired,” a painting featuring a Black woman curled up and laying on her side, the week after George Floyd was killed. This piece is part of “Quarantine Chronicles,” a series cataloging her personal journey during the global pandemic once she started working from home.
“I didn’t know how long I was going to be at home, but something in my head was like, ‘Hey, this moment is so unique,’ and I wanted to express it in some way,” says the artist, who began painting and drawing when she was just 4 years old.
But Adams is more than an artist. She graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree including a double major in international studies and Spanish, and a minor in studio art. She fell in love with international affairs and world culture when she was in high school, and dreamt of becoming a diplomat or lawyer.
“Studying international studies translated well [to painting] because I wanted to show how other people interacted with each other. We’re all unique and it’s much bigger than just walking down the street in the areas we’re confined to.”
But instead of spending more time at school and, as she puts it, falling into more debt, Adams turned her focus. She began working as a business consultant before she found her way into marketing, where she felt more comfortable and confident. Now as a marketing strategist at Accenture, a strategic communications hub specializing in business branding, Adams says she feels right at home with this position in strategic communications.
Storytelling is her calling, Adams says, despite the perceived difficulties with her communication skills she might have faced due to CP. Throughout her life, she has strived to believe in herself and follow “protect your peace,” a mantra by which she lives her life and even has tattooed on her side.
“Your peace is so necessary to get things done and to sustain yourself. Life is hard and it has a lot of unknowns, so at all costs, we have to protect that internal engine so we can keep going.”