Disability rights activist Eddie Ndopu speaks at UCSB Campbell Hall on Thursday, Nov. 2 | Credit: Courtesy

Eddie Ndopu knows how to grab your attention and keep it. And he’s doing it while seated. 

Three decades ago, the award-winning humanitarian and disability justice advocate was told he wouldn’t live past age 7. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy — an attack on the spinal cord’s motor neurons — Ndopu is now on the world stage. At 32 years old, his résumé is nothing short of stunning — a current boardmember of the United Nations (UN) Foundation (alongside such luminaries as the Queen of Jordan, the former Prime Minister of Norway, and media mogul Ted Turner), a cofounder of A Billion Reasons, a social-impact incubator leveraging disability-based innovation to face UN sustainability benchmarks, and a former member of multiple initiatives at the World Economic Forum.

Ndopu was profiled by Time for his efforts to combat climate change and disability exclusion, and is one of 17 people tasked with tackling the United Nations’ 17 global sustainable development goals — extending to education, gender equality, and peaceful institutions. He’s also a Black, queer Oxford grad with a brand-new memoir: Sipping Dom Pérignon Through a Straw. The book details Ndopu’s experience at the prestigious university, where he was the first African student with a degenerative disability to be admitted on a full scholarship, graduating with a master’s in public policy. 

Clearly, he’s made good use of it — and is now recounting not only his life as a disabled activist and global change-maker but also the challenges we all face, with a public lecture tour. Join USCB Arts & Lectures and Eddie Ndopu on Thursday, November 2, for a free night of inspiration, humor, and most of all, humanity. Free copies of Sipping Dom Pérignon Through a Straw — a title every writer wishes they came up with — will be available while supplies last. From humble beginnings to the halls of power, Ndopu is proof that sitting down doesn’t mean you’re sitting out.

Admission to this event (Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m., at UCSB Campbell Hall) is free, but reservations are requested. See artsandlectures.ucsb.edu to RSVP.


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