Cowans, who described the Barbados Gospelfest as “a wonderful model of expressing the goodness of God in the world through music,” expressed gratitude to the festival’s organizers.
“You know, marginalized people in the world are sometimes referred to as the voiceless, and perhaps there are more people who are not voiceless so much as we are not listening,” he said. “The theme that I chose is a theme that aligns with the gospelfest and I believe one of significance for persons with disabilities, and for the church and society at large.”
He reflected on the biblical story in which Jesus brings a new perspective to a blind man who is begging on the streets. “Jesus has a way of bringing a changed perspective to every situation he touched,” said Cowans. “For years, this community had seen a man sitting in a particular place, begging.”
The man was blind, he said, and for people in his community, that’s what defined him. “The community saw ‘blind’ and ‘beggar’ as synonymous.”
Cowans rhetorically asked: For what else is there for a blind man to do—but beg?
“What else could he offer to his community?” asked Cowans. “When our community does not engage and ask such questions, you end up with what Jesus discovered on that day: a man symbolizing the interaction of disability and uselessness.”
The community had another label on the man who was born blind. “This damage, this curse—was someone’s fault,” said Cowans, who then explained how communities across the world can bring a new perspective.
The lecture was presented in association with the Barbados National Organization for the Disabled.
When Cowans was a member of the National Advisory Council on Disability to the Minister of Social Security, he chaired the Margaret Moodie Trust Fund, a scholarship fund for students with disability accessing tertiary education.