On Wednesday, the Harriet Tubman Collective released its statement regarding the Movement for Black Lives’ policy platform. The Movement for Black Lives, also known as M4BL, launched its policy initiative August 1st, 2016, which highlights the disparities of Black Americans and provides a blueprint to stop the violence and oppression that Black people experience through 6 policy demands.
Being a Black disabled woman in America is a sheer act of defiance.
What brought me to this statement was the gross amounts of ableism, racism, and misogynoir I witnessed and read last week during the coverage surrounding Korryn Gaines’ encounter and death at the hands of the police.
Korryn’s existence represents me – a Black disabled woman. Korryn had a developmental disability due to lead exposure from living in housing that had toxic lead paint levels. Korryn’s life and death made me think back to what I had written about Blackness and police brutality last month regarding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
To be Black, disabled, and female means that you always have eyes on you. You must be “on” at all times; must be willing to “perform” for White, Black, & non-disabled Americas. You must be perfect and a good cripple, or be crucified at the cross, as we saw when Korryn’s story unfolded.
There were two matters in particular that struck me profoundly about the coverage surrounding Korryn’s fatal police incident: the way Black men discussed Korryn’s story on social media, and the Black community’s continued miseducation regarding disability.
It is with absolute delight that I announce the collaboration established between Ramp Your Voice! and Disability Visibility Project to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now is the time to “get woke” about how the ADA as impacted disabled Americans, particularly those who are of color and disabled. The plight of disabled Americans of color cannot, and will not, go unnoticed within disability advocacy – this partnership allows for our voices to be visible and ramped up when we reflect on how successful the Act has been for our rights and lives.
By now, many of you may have heard of the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite. It was created last Wednesday on Twitter impromptu by me, and has gained a lot of support, resistance, and interest from those within and outside of the disability community. I have been interviewed by many pertaining to the hashtag, and felt that it was very much appropriate to discuss it on my blog, and to be very candid on how I felt about what has transpired in the past week.
In the past week, I have been a part of two discussions about appropriation occurring in the disability community. In both incidences, the ignorance and disregard in respecting the oppressions of marginalized groups were shared, and the outcry for the offense to stop is great.
How is appropriation occurring? It occurs when we compare our struggles as a community to those of other marginalized groups, particularly racial minorities. The widely used appropriation “scapegoat” is Black people and the Black experience; words like “cripface” are derivatives of words that have roots within the Black community (e.g. “Blackface”). When we “refurbish” words from other histories and cultures to explain our own struggles, we are stripping the true historical roots of those experiences to the bone marrow, and tossing them aside like yesterday’s garbage. Our movement have been around long enough to establish our own terms, lingo, etc. – we should not appear to be “lazy” in developing terms that we can call ours. When we “reinvent” words, we are being disrespectful to the cultures and experiences we are borrowing from, AND the individuals within our communities who may identify within those groups.
I want to make one thing crystal clear: it pisses me off as a Black disabled advocate when I see disabled people, mostly disabled Whites, rehash words from the Black experience and attach them to our movement. I know why this is done – sheer laziness, plus we all are knowledgeable about the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, which provided the “blueprint” for other movements like ours when it comes to fighting for our rights in society. HOWEVER, that does not mean disabled people have the right to compare our struggles to Black people and say that they are the same, or to microwave words from Black history in trying to make them fit into our history. That is NOT how you strengthen your own movement – doing this is an absolute slap in the face for those of African descent in this country, especially for Black disabled advocates like myself. My culture and history are not for you to appropriate in any regard, and I will fervently call out any advocate who does this with zero hesitation.
Over the weekend, I came across a post written by my friend David Perry regarding a tweet Pope Francis shared that mentioned disability. The Pope released a key paper that discussed love, marriage and family on Friday, April 8th. Within the document, there are several mentions of disability, and what I have read of these excerpts were problematic in many regards. The manner in which disability is referenced in the tweet and within the document disturbed me to the point that I voiced my concerns on social media, and a friend of mine suggested that I write a letter to the Pope about my stance and what I would like the Pope to understand about disability.
It took about 30 minutes to draft such a letter. I referenced the tweet specifically because it had over 9.000 retweets and over 24,000 likes in a matter of days; such a wide reach demonstrates the notability Pope Francis has and how his words possesses great power to influence the way we see each other – in this case, the way disability is perceived within and outside of the family unit.
As you may have noticed, there was no new post on the blog last week – I took an impromptu trip to Maryland to attend a Black History Month White House event!
Last week was incredible, in more ways than I can accurately express in words. I still have to pinch myself because I cannot believe that it happened, and that I was at the White House surrounded by so many Black and proud advocates and allies.
Like all amazing stories, let’s start at the beginning…
Donald Trump, the name (and the hair) evokes a plethora of responses when you bring up the businessman who is now a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, there is no escaping the controversies he starts that gets everyone’s attention and stark reactions.
The latest Donald Trump outrage has caused many to wonder what more can Donald Trump do to offend people, and still maintain the frontrunner power grip he has. Since Donald Trump’s newest antics involved the disabled experience, I decided to write my perspective on Donald Trump’s influence, and how his remarks and actions affects one of the largest voting blocs in the country.
Photograph of Sharina Jones testing out the wheelchair stroller she’ll be using with her baby.
As someone who may want to become a disabled parent one day, one of the many concerns I have is how I would carry my child around as a wheelchair user. I know that there are baby wraps that I can wear while my child is very small, but as she/he grows, I will need something that will grow with her/him and allow me to transport them to and fro safely and comfortably. This need is one that has been grossly overlooked in the parenting/baby supplies industry. Imagine my excitement when I learned about a high school student from Michigan who invented a wheelchair stroller to bridge that gap for parents in wheelchairs. I had to feature it for the “Tools You Can Use” series because this is a product that would personally improve my abilities as a future disabled mother.
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.