Corey Lee is a dad, a husband, a music producer, podcaster and peer mentor to people with spinal cord injuries and disabilities. His work is bringing people together to talk about topics relevant to the disability community and helping people learn from each other. Get to know some of Corey’s work and motivation behind it!
Tell us your SCI story. I was injured on June 12, 2005 at the age of 22 while I was serving in the Navy. Me and a few friends were celebrating one of my shipmates birthday. I exited the water, and noticed one of my friends admiring the view of the ocean. I jokingly said to him “do you see anyone drowning”. He pointed at the water and said “there goes someone Lee”. Afterwards I ran into the water, and dove into a wave. Immediately I realized that it was more shallow than deep because I broke my neck on impact. Facing the prospect of drowning I cried out to God “to save me”. At that moment my body turned slightly and I was able to breathe. One of my other shipmates pulled me from the water, and my life was spared.
Where do you currently reside? I currently reside in Bloomfield, Connecticut
Education/ Experience (degrees, music, production etc.) I graduated from Bloomfield High School in 2001. I joined the Navy in January of that year, but didn’t report to Boot Camp until September 6, 2001. My experiences in the Navy were multifaceted. I worked in the engineering department as a machinist mate repairing several different pieces of auxiliary equipment i.e. HVAC, steam and heat, galley equipment, but my specialty was hydraulics. I was stationed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is an aircraft carrier (famously known for the Covid outbreak). As far as music is concerned I have been rapping since I was 12 and began doing production work i.e. producing beats around 2009.
When did you realize you had a passion for music? I realized I had a passion for music in 1995. I’ve always had a thing for writing. Putting words together and telling the story that provides a visual to the listener is extremely intriguing to me. You’re able to provoke so much emotion and give multiple meanings to a simple sentence, and the listener can interpret it a variety of ways. I love when I say something on a song, and someone asks me at a later point What did you mean when you said that? or I didn’t catch that the first time around. It can make a song timeless. I liken it to a treasure hunt when you listen to what I put out. Thus far I have completed four albums (With hip-hop in mind volume 1, With hip-hop in mind volume 2, 13th Year, Head Above Water)
What motivated you to start your music career/podcasting after your injury? I’ve always been motivated to do music, however when I got hurt I didn’t really know how to approach it again. All the things that I dreamt about seemed so far away i.e. cars, big houses, etc. Over time they became less important; it’s just the messaging needed to change. I wanted to show people that you can overcome insurmountable odds, and that you can do that regardless if you walk or not. Podcasting came once I met Jonathan Sigworth (from More Than Walking). He asked me to host one of his podcasts and do the research and create the questions behind the topic, which at the time was during the month of February and celebrating Black history. He continued to ask me and eventually created a permanent place for me to organize the podcasts. The message is so important to me that there is more to life than just walking. If I base my existence off what I am only able to do, what then happens when I no longer can do that? I desire to encourage people and his podcasts platform is definitely a place where I can do what I enjoy the most!
What are some of your hobbies? My hobbies include writing, recording music, shooting music videos, and gaming.
What motivated you to be a peer mentor and why is it important to you? When I was initially hurt I didn’t have someone consistently coming alongside me and breaking down what to expect in my new existence. I did encounter three individuals on separate occasions that provided some guidance. I recorded a song about my experience with them called “Three Wise Men”. The information they gave me, gave me hope for “life beyond the hospital”. Peer mentorship is vital no matter what stage of SCI you’re experiencing. Over time your injury fluctuates and you may need someone who is older to speak to, or if you’re newly injured you may want to speak to someone within your age group who has been living with it all their life. They help to navigate and get you through some tumultuous times.
How did you get involved with More Than Walking? I’ve been working for More Than Walking for two years as of next February. I was informed about Jonathan, through a gentleman named Bill who happened to be at a local window retailer. I had some peer mentoring experience prior to that, and afterwards he told me about Jonathan’s organization. I reached out to Jon and we made the connection. I conducted an interview with him, and I could sense the sincerity about his goal which is “sharing the pathway to independence after spinal cord injury”. I’ve always wanted to do more hands-on work in my community, but didn’t know exactly how to go about it. After doing the podcasts, more opportunities came up and Jonathan would always find a place for me to use my voice. Connecting with others who share similar disabilities has been therapeutic. The need for people to know that you’re not alone is crucial and More Than Walking can help and has helped so many people to realize their potential post injury.
What are your future goals? (short-term/long-term) Some of my future goals are to just continue being the best husband and father to our two boys that I can be. My family is very important to me, so being present and active in their lives is a high priority. Parenting from the chair poses some difficulties, but I want my children to see that nothing should deter you from being a go-getter. Expounding on my artistry. I really want to write and put forth ideas for commercials, and movies. As I stated before I love telling a story, so if I could in some way shape or form bring my talents to a broader audience, that’s what I want to do!
What advice would you give to the disability community? Some advice I would give to the disability community is to never call into question what you believe is not going to happen to you. What I mean by this is during the preliminary stages I believed that I would never be independent, never be married or conceive children. My outlook on life was very bleak, as it is for so many of us who become disabled. I was wrong in every aspect. My independence came when I purchased my first home, shortly after that I met my wife of 13 years (14 altogether) and we went on to have two children. God has a way of making things happen! I truly believe that I’ve been placed in a position to show people that “with man some things are possible, but with God all things are possible”. Stay encouraged and continue to endure!
Where can people find your work (social media or website) I am on all major platforms as far as music. You can click on my Link tree and find all my information! linktr.ee/PHEEZ83 “Easy listening when experiencing hard times… Hip-Hop with a little Hip-Hope attached to it”