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.
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.
Over the past few weeks, I have been approached by individuals who wanted to understand the Black disabled experience, particularly the plight of Black disabled women and why our struggles matter. (The inquiries picked up when I published my “Lemonade” post last week.) I noticed a pattern from those who asked of my knowledge and personal reflections: many are ignorant of the experiences of Black Americans in general, Black women particularly, and when broken down further, Black disabled women specifically.
I decided that as someone who views herself as an “educator” within my advocacy scope, it would be fitting to create a compilation of books, essays/articles, speeches, music, and other bodies of work that accurately explains the diverse forms of Blackness that exists for Black women, and how the lives of Black disabled women meshed within that discourse.
I asked some of my incredible friends and fellow advocates for resource recommendations for this idea, and was provided a wealth of information that surpassed my hopes in establishing a “syllabus” of our intersectional experience.
The Black Disabled Woman Syllabus is a “living” document; meaning that I aspire to update it as needed, when resources become available that should be added to it. In order to do that, I need your help: If there are bodies of work that should be on the syllabus, there are two ways to make recommedations:
Use the hashtag #BDWSyllabus on social media to share your recs.
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.
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…
For Black History Month, I decided to interview disabled Black author Sophia Chester. You may remember Sophia’s name from last week’s post about disabled Black authors in literature. Sophia is someone I met via Tumblr, and I stumbled upon her book, Cosmic Callisto Caprica & The Missing Rings Of Saturn, on my dashboard late last year. Sophia was so excited that I “fangirled” about her book that I knew that I had to interview her for the RYV! blog.
Sophia’s book is one of many I support because it has a strong Black female character lead, as well as disability representation within it. In my eyes, Sophia knocked it out of the ballpark with the level of diversity that is present in her book. I ardently believe in supporting disabled Black women who are trailblazing empowering paths, and Sophia fits that mold for me.
Sophia was gracious enough to take the time in allowing me to interview her for Black History Month, and to share HERstory with myself and my readers. Her voice and body of work are greatly appreciated and needed, especially for those of us who aspire to become authors and writers.
Last month, I decided to create a hashtag for disabled women of color that would allow us to connect with each other, and build our sisterhood and empower one another. I wanted to share the hashtag officially on the RYV! blog so that my readers whom fall under the hashtag’s purpose would know about it, and hopefully start using it on social media.
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.