Social media was abuzz with shock earlier this week when we learned that the critically acclaimed show Underground was canceled on WGN America after two seasons. I was incredibly upset that this dynamic show and its compelling depiction of slavery would no longer be returning for a rightfully earned third season.
Today is the hashtagversary (hashtag anniversary) of #DisabilityTooWhite. I cannot believe it has been a year since the hashtag went viral, and how it changed my life and the dialogue in the community.
It still astounds me that something I created from an impassioned reaction to an article stirred up so much conversation and controversy. The hashtag forced me, and others, to discuss the elephant in the room – the racism, invisibility, erasure, lack of representation, and othering of disabled people of color. Our community can no longer feign that we do not recognize the inequality that exists within; the hashtag has the “receipts” of the injustices enacted on those of us multiple-marginalized. The hashtag allowed people to understand that they are not alone in how they have been mistreated, abused, and ostracized in the community. That realization validated their feelings and experiences, which was a powerful confirmation so many received.
I owe my health and ability to live in this disabled body to Medicaid. It is the social program that is will be under attack if the Senate accumulates enough votes for the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The AHCA is the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare. There are provisions within the AHCA that will impact those of us with pre-existing conditions and/or utilize Medicaid.
The disabled community, including myself, have been very vocal as to the harm the AHCA could cause for us. I’ve taken part in discussing my own story & urging our Senators to vote “no” by using the #IAmAPreexistingCondition hashtag, and being interviewed by Al-Jazeera along with other advocates about the bill (click to view Part I and Part II).
I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Center for Disability Rights this month that outlines why Medicaid matters so much to me, and why the AHCA would be dangerous for my people. We need more disabled voices proclaiming that healthcare is a human right that should not be deemed as an optional circumstance to acquire.
Image of two disabled men strolling and rolling down an outdoor pathway. Man on the left is Donald Galloway, tall Black man with an afro with a guide dog by his side. Man on the right is Ed Roberts, white man who is in a wheelchair. Both men are facing the direction of the camera while in mid-stroll/roll. Photo credit: Ken Okuno.
For my last feature for Black History Month, I will spotlight the life of Donald Galloway, a man who was not hesitant to take on authorities when it came to the inclusion of disabled people. Donald’s story resonated with me because he was a social worker like myself, and in reading his advocacy legacy, fighting for justice and inclusion is the call we answer as helping professionals. As with many of the Black disabled social workers I know, our involvement in this movement is a unique mixture of ramping our voices while fulfilling the ethical duty we have as professionals. Donald was no exception to this, and I felt that as we are nearing the end of Black History Month and about to begin Social Work Month (which is in March), telling his story will bridge the two worlds I am proud to be a part of.
Image of 2 Black men outside wearing suits. Brad is on the left in his wheelchair and Greg is on the right crouching down. Both men are smiling for the camera.
One Black disabled advocate from the past I have enjoyed writing about is Brad Lomax, who was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP). One of the reasons Brad’s story and involvement resonates with me is because of him confirming his unapologetic Blackness and disability. He was a proud member of BPP and used his participation to urge the Party to become a part of a major time in disability rights history – demanding the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973.
I want to take a different angle in discussing Brad by focusing on the impact of the activism that led to the enactment of Section 504, and why Brad’s advocacy matters.
Image of Johnnie shown smiling directly into the camera. She is sitting in her wheelchair wearing a buttoned shirt, with an office desk to her left.
In continuing with my Black History Month focus on Black disabled leaders, I am proudly sharing the story of Johnnie Lacy, a woman who directed the Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) in Hayward, California for over a decade. The photograph of Johnnie is from the collection of Kenneth Stein, an advocate with a passion for history and highlighting those forgotten trailblazers that rivals my own.
Image of Joyce shown smiling, walking down the wide sidewalk in an Oct 20 t-shirt, with a large crowd of people with balloons and signs behind her. She is holding up the right side of a big banner that says “FULL RIGHTS FOR DISABLED PEOPLE — IMPLEMENT 504.”
For Black History Month 2017, I will feature the names, faces, and voices of Black disabled people who were a part of the influential advocacy efforts made during the heart of the Disability Rights Movement. As I have stated on the blog, the erasure of Black disabled people from disability history is profound, and the same offenses are committed when we discuss Black history. Taking action to correct these wrongs is a steadfast passion of my advocacy; these stories must be told so that Black disabled people will have disabled historical figures to look up to and be proud of.
Image of a group of protestors outside of a school building holding signs to show solidarity to the injustice committed to a disabled student.
The intersection of race and disability is often ignored when we discuss the injustices that disadvantage disabled students of color within our schools. This oversight can mean grave consequences to students who live within these margins. The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately impacts disabled students of color (especially Black disabled students), yet very few are addressing what occurs in our schools; a recent incident in Pittsburgh caught my attention as being yet another example of how we are failing to advocate for and protect Black disabled students.
On Twitter, disability rights advocate Dustin Gibson shared details about a Black disabled student at Woodland Hills High being victimized and dehumanized by his principal. Dustin is a revolutionary in training in Pittsburgh that has centered his identity as a Black man with bipolar disorder in his work. He builds with people impacted by systems both locally and nationally. Organizing with the perspective that the people closest to the impact are closest to the solution, many of his efforts are grassroot.
I asked Dustin if he would tell the story of the Woodland Hills incident, the connections between racism and ableism, and why Black disabled lives matter. Here are his words:
Luke Cage was one of Netflix’s original series I had waited all summer to watch. Being a blerd and someone who enjoys comics, I was proudly a part of the #Cagetember fandom seen on Twitter. What excited me was not just Luke’s amazing abilities, but the fact that he was a Black disabled character, an existence that does not receive enough attention or respect within comic spaces. Luke represents so much to disabled blerds like myself, and I felt that it would only be justly to share why Luke’s existence matters, and the need for more Black disabled characters.
If I die in police custody, I died a soldier, a warrior, a hell-raiser, an instigator, a maker of the good trouble.
If I die in police custody, Make them respect my disabilities in the news reports. Don’t dare let them erase a damn thing. I am unapologetically Black and disabled.
If I die in police custody, Don’t weep for me. You better NOT shed one fucking tear. My name means “to love and cherish life” in French. That’s what you are to do for me – share about the love I gave you and how much I cherished the little and big things. Don’t play that weak ass sad music at my funeral. Play Beyonce’s “7/11,” Rihanna’s “S&M,” N SYNC, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, anything by Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz – that is how you are to celebrate my life at my funeral.
Important Disability-Related Videos You Should Watch
Here's the Out of Step's TOOST Radio interview I participated in as a panelist on Nov. 6th, 2013. During the interview, I discussed my personal & professional viewpoints about the choice of discussing disability status while seeking employment opportunities. The part that I'm featured begins 15:29 minutes into the interview.
In this video, Beyoncé helps Kid President with World Humanitarian Day 2013. The Kid President has OI like I do. I think that his messages are ones that all walks of life & ages can learn from. I'm so jealous that he met one of my idols & favorite music performers, Beyoncé! I wanted to share with you all the interview the Kid President did with Beyoncé for World Humanitarian Day, which was August 19th, 2013.