We are at our boiling point in this country. The police violence that transpired within the last week set off a deep fire within all of us with the murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota. To see two Black men murdered during encounters with the police in such savage regards was sickening to watch and comprehend.
On social media a couple of weeks ago, the hashtag #GirlIGuessImWithHer trended on Twitter that showcased voters, particularly Black Millennials like myself, reluctance to support presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Some of the tweets had a humorous flair, while others displayed the true confliction many are battling about whether to support Hillary in the general election come November. The hashtag got me thinking about my own unease in realizing that I may have to eat crow and vote for Hillary in November, and I felt that being a politically active disabled woman, it would be fitting to give my thoughts on the topic.
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 noticed a lot of chatter on Facebook surrounding the story of Anaya Ellick, a 7 years old girl from Virginia who won a national penmanship contest. Anaya is an African American girl who is a congenital amputee. The contest she entered into and won was the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Manuscript Penmanship. Participants of the contest must be a student with a disability, and a team of occupational therapists judge the entries and award a winner. Anaya beat out 50 other participants to receive this honor, and in the video below, you can watch Anaya accept the recognition, and hear from her mother and school administrators about her penmanship.
Lemonade is no longer known as being the sweet and tangy beverage Southerners like myself enjoy on a hot summer day. It is now known as being the title of the visual album Beyoncé released on Saturday night via HBO, and “Lemonade” is responsible for the social media mayhem that transpired. Beyoncé never fails to be an original, and “Lemonade” was a true work of art that encompassed so much depth, emotions, and empowerment in less than 58 minutes. You may be wondering, “what does Beyoncé and ‘Lemonade’ have to do with disability advocacy?” Let me tell you: It has EVERYTHING to do with how we view the life experiences we endure on this earth, and how we grow and learn from them. Being a Beyoncé fan, I did not expect “Lemonade” to strike me as profoundly as it did on a personal level, or to see disability representation within it. “Lemonade” is a short film that caused me to get on a rollercoaster ride, one that made me reminisce on moments in my life that each “chapter” spoke to. “Lemonade” is unlike anything I have watched as a music enthusiast in a long time, and I felt that it was a creation worth discussing here.
Last week, I participated in a Facebook chat about the lack of racial diversity within disability rights & advocacy organizations, from the founders to Board members. Some folks were surprised that many of these entities, especially the nationally known ones, failed to have at least 50% people of color representation.
You know who was not surprised at the lack of racial diversity uncovered? *Raises both hands*
Spring is in the air, which means that we will be coming out of winter hibernation and seeking activities to mingle with old and new acquaintances. As a single Black disabled woman, I decided that this is the season where I begin my journey in finding viable candidates for the Mr. Right title.
Yes, I am going to dip my toes back into the dating pool, and I decided to share my experiences for a new series, “That’s the Way Love Rolls.” This series will highlight the good, bad, strange, and utterly humorous moments of my dating experience as a 30 year old disabled woman. I will also share the experiences of other disabled women, since I know my fellow disabled sisters have some very interesting tales regarding their own journeys in finding love.
Last week, I attended the SC-NASW 2016 Spring Symposium in Columbia, SC, and was a presenter at the conference. This year’s theme, “Our State in Crisis: Social Work Forging Solutions,” touched on many emotional and controversial subject matters that affected the Palmetto State within the last year. Presentation topics and panel discussions ranged from racism, colorblindness, domestic violence, politics, the flood relief efforts that occurred in the state in October 2015, advocacy efforts on the state and national levels, and a host of other issues that were important for helping professionals to be aware of and learn how they could be a part of the change needed to push our state and profession forward.
My presentation was one of a few that touched on racial issues, and why the disparities should be on the minds of social workers, and what can be done to eradicate the inequalities. I was quite stunned that SC-NASW would host such sensitive topics, but with all of the racially-charged events that occurred in South Carolina in 2015, it was not surprising that racism and race relations would be spotlighted in some way, shape, or form.
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…
A new year brings us great hope, determination, and excitement of what we believe we can accomplish over the next 12 months. I know that this is especially true for disabled advocates like myself, who are relentlessly focused on making our lives and the lives of the largest minority group in America and globally better than it was the previous year.
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.