1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Kerima Cevik, Disabled Writer, Activist, & Redefining the Rules

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    Photo of Kerima Cevik, a brown-skinned Black woman. Kerima is facing away from the camera, with her beautiful gray hair covering her face. She is leaning against window blinds, with the light from the window softly hitting her face.

    It is so important for Black disabled women to have a village – a group of individuals who understand her fully. A group of uplifters, motivators, and truth sayers who will give you gems of knowledge and love when times go dark. These women will understand your frustrations in ways that many do not and cannot You will never have to “prove” why something hurts because they will automatically know why – they have been through it too. Becoming an advocate has allowed me to build a dynamic village of disabled women, particularly Black disabled women, who hold me down and will empower me when my spirit is running on E.

    One of those women is Kerima Cevik, a disabled mother, writer and blogger that resides in Washington, D.C.  Kerima was one of the first Black women I found who has written about historical Black disabled people.  She has inspired me to do the same, as seen when I feature disabled Black people whose stories are left out of the history books.  Kerima’s interview is a powerful read, so much so that my heart was overwhelmed at the truth gems she dropped for this series.

    Without further ado, here is Kerima, in all her unapologetic and fierceness being:

    VT:  Tell us about yourself.  

    KC:  I am my least favorite subject, so I’ll try to be brief. I am a military brat who was fortunate enough to spend a part of my childhood and most of my adult life on military bases overseas and here at home. I am Afro-Latina and Ngöbe-Buglé. I am married to an engineer and have two children, an adult daughter who is an interpreter and special education teacher and a teenaged son who is autistic, nonspeaking, and respected and loved as he is. Our family is multiracial and multicultural.


    VT:  What is it that you do?

    KC:  I did community based work for awhile and it while it felt good to help other families, but I realized that permanent changes that might prevent many of the crises autistic people of color and their families were facing needed to happen legislatively. I tried legislative advocacy and realized that yes, change can happen, but it usually happens legislatively after a catastrophic event. In our state that was the death of Ethan Saylor, which happened two years after I attempted to work with a state Delegate to pass a bill that might have prevented Ethan’s death from happening and this still saddens me. My present focuses are pushing for an end to racism and racial disparities in autism services and supports, pushing for transformative change to end catastrophic encounters between disabled people of color and law enforcement, and educating against the erasure of Black disabled people.


    VT:  Part of your advocacy focuses on the erasure of the Black disabled experience in the disabled community. Why does this matter to you?

    KC:  This erasure has a direct impact on in the entire Black disabled rights struggle. We cannot be heard in the greater world if our greater disability rights community erases our people from the larger quilt of disability history. Future generations need Black disabled role models. This entire journey began with me trying to find role models who were just like my son. People looked at him and said finding someone like him, Black, nonverbal, autistic, who had accomplished anything worthy of being noted in history, was impossible to the point of being ridiculous. My response was Blind Tom Wiggins, Blind, Autistic, Black, a savant pianist and published composer despite being enslaved his entire life. Our own people are surprised by this when they shouldn’t be. Many Black historical figures are actually Black disabled historical figures. That is critically important now. The idea that both Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman became great activists and left lasting historical impact after they were disabled is so important. The reality that both these women and men like Tom Wiggins lives could not be erased at a period in American history when we weren’t even counted as people in this society is monumental. They teach us that greatness rises in every circumstance. Erasing this is actually something I call race-based ableism, or racist-ableism for short. It is behavior that works like a feedback loop into structural racism and structural ableism. We are up against this daily when trying to make our voices heard and it needs to end or we won’t be able to break the last barriers to inclusion held against us as an intersected group. This has become my life’s work to the exclusion of all else except autism advocacy and anti-euthanasia work.


    VT:  How can the disabled community extinguish its erasure of history and be fully inclusive?

    KC:  1)  We must achieve full representation in content and context about us. People writing about the condition of Black disabled people by appropriation of our work and pointing at quotes and citations but still leaving us out of the conversation doesn’t equal representation. One day last year, I went on Twitter and saw that I had been tagged on a Storify article about an entire Tweet chat where two white people I’d never met took what I wrote about police training for law enforcement and talked about what I meant by what I wrote! That is representative of where we stand now. Citing Black disabled women and quoting them with attribution is good, but not when it is a way of skirting giving a proper platform to powerful activists who are capable of speaking and writing for themselves.

    2)  Greater Inclusion in our disabled organizations and community spaces beyond optics is critical. Michelle Obama said something about her daughters being named ‘Time Magazine’s most influential teens.’ She said: “Yeah, I don’t know why.” When asked if she wasn’t a proud mom, her response was “they aren’t influential, they just happen to live here (she pointed to the White house).” Stella Young spoke about her parents reacting the same way when her hometown wanted to give her an achievement award basically for being disabled and not depressed. Right now we are included for optics. I have witnessed people placed in organizational positions and given accolades for simply filling the box of being disabled people of color and that is both an insult to their work as activists and unacceptably tokenizing.

    3)  Our disability rights community needs to right wrongs. Disability rights history always seems to exclude or severely limit prominent disabled African Americans many have not seen through the lens of their disabled identities. New editions of books already published about our disability rights and histories of disabled groups can have appendices added or be revised and updated to include the histories of intersected populations. These are things I am seeking pathways to make happen. The recognition that such books have the potential to be used as college and high school reference books means that everyone’s history should be told in them. All three points are achievable goals, there is simply no community or organizational willingness to make these changes happen.


    VT:  What are the obstacles Black disabled women face in society?  In our disabled community?  

    KC:  We always lived with the risks of what it means to inhabit the black female body. We are objectified, assaulted, fetishized and hyper/hypo-sexualized, and all these are holdovers from historical Black stereotyping. Additionally we live with everything it means to be disabled. We are infantilized, used for inspiration porn, trivialized, and wrongfully gaslighted into making us believe we are helpless against anyone who might do us harm. We must demand society abide by the ADA and the Olmstead decision with all these assumptions and suppositions about us out there. It seems like an impossible obstacle course.

    Yet we come from generations of ancestors like Sojourner Truth who spoke up and stood up for themselves regardless of their circumstances or where society tried to force them to be. That is our hope and the path others paved as Black disabled women. Somewhere I read that most myths have some basis in reality. The myth of the Black superwoman comes from resiliency and strength that stunned those who placed these obstacles in our paths. Poets like Maya Angelou and Sunni Patterson speak about our strength and our resilience without holding back on the reality of being us because it was so critical to how we are able to overcome these obstacles. Everything we do is questioned, judged, and much of the time deemed less than what white disabled folk or even disabled Black men do and that is wrong.

    The remainder of my life will be dedicated to trying to teach that part of overcoming structural racism everywhere begins with people understanding the difference between fact-checking Black disabled fem activists and suppressing our voices by automatically questioning the truthfulness of whatever is written or said by us.

    Over time, constantly having to defend the validity of what we say on top of fighting for our own voices to be heard exhausts the spirit. I pulled back from community-based activism, legislative advocacy and other projects and decided to limit myself to writing because of that disappointment and straight up battle fatigue. This situation is especially true in the autism community. This is partly because, if it weren’t for their children’s disabilities, some of the parents and grandparents involved in autism activism would never associate with intersected populations and that bigotry erupts on the skin of the autism community like clinical acne. So they are caught in this conundrum of having to stew in their own prejudice and be more inclusive to gain rights for their disabled offspring. Structural racism and micro-aggression toward disabled Black women ends up being the result of this pustular racism just under the surface of the disability right movement in general and the autism rights movement in particular.


    VT:  How can our community support/uplift Black disabled women?  What does that look like for you?

    KC:  You know how the entire #SayHerName campaign is filled with victims who were Black disabled fems? Everyone is writing about us without our voices? That is what needs to change. Space needs to be given for our personal understanding of what it means to be a survivor, an activist, and a Black disabled woman. Each time I read a new article on violence against disabled people listing black disabled women written by white activists who appropriate the term ‘woke’ to describe themselves and their work, I cringe a bit. Our white disabled peers need to move themselves out of the way and allow as many Black disabled fem voices to be heard about our own history, issues, goals, and challenges as possible. Everyone loves appropriating everything from our hair to our physicality, our culture to our language, but what I would like to see is allies who know better teaching the ones who don’t to truly let us speak for ourselves. Our own racial peers must also include us. Our own men must include us and cease speaking for us. It means a depth chart of representation beyond optics. That means us writing and speaking and them amplifying. That is what I’d like to see.


    VT:  How did you come into your Black disabled womanness?  What struggles have you experienced, and are still conquering?

    KC:  I had overcome a series of unfortunate events from kidnapping, assaults, and the byproducts of racism by my 17th birthday. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after a serious hemorrhaging event at age 18. Before my 21st birthday, I began to lose my sight. I nearly died, but they were able to save my life and my vision restored itself. There are questions about how that is possible with 6th nerve palsy in both eyes. I still have occasional episodic blindness. I was hospitalized with pneumonia then came an asthma dx [diagnosis] at 22.

    My body ages, and as it does it reminds me of all those times someone tried beat the hell out of me. My bones talk to me each morning. We try to come to an understanding about their obligations to me. Sometimes they shriek in protest, sometimes they agree to carry me through my days. I am 55 years old. I was told I wouldn’t live to see 30. So despite the increasing challenges of an aging disabled body, I’m beyond good. I’m fantastic. I live beyond the intent of those who tried to kill me and beyond the machinations of those who tried to belittle, humiliate, and destroy my mental and spiritual health. Existing with love and joy after all that’s happened to me is always humbling. It is why I’ll always be a Deist. I calculated the odds of my surviving any one of those moments when I should have died. Impossible odds happening repeatedly are just not statistically probable. So I believe in the existence of the Divine. I am not remarkable. I am just one female member of our Black disabled women’s community. 


    VT:  What does it mean to be a Black disabled woman in America?

    KC:  Being who we are means throwing off everyone’s forceful definitions of who we are, and everyone’s determination to define what our mental and emotional health, values, and goals should be in life. That is what it means to be a Black disabled woman. We fight for rights that are constantly denied us. We have always fought alongside our non African American disabled peers as well. The difference is we are telling them it is time they fought as hard for us as we do for them.

    I want justice for us. I want crimes against us to be pursued and adjudicated fairly. I want equal pay and work for disabled Black women. I want respect for us.

    We are the women who historically rise and shoulder the burden of voicing dissent against injustice at great cost and no expectation of reward. We don’t rise like leavened bread or a soufflé that falls when bullies shout and stamp their feet. We rise like mountains bursting upward from oceans. We don’t do this because we are not afraid. We do this knowing our bodies and our works and our words are opening up new opportunities for future Black disabled women to move forward and do great things. Our minds are paving the highways and byways of that brave new world.

    That is what being unapologetically Black, disabled, female means right now in America.


    VT:  If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?  

    KC:  I know you don’t believe it now, but you are going to survive this, and life will eventually be more wonderful than you can ever imagine. Be your own best friend. I love you.


    VT:  For the Black disabled women who may read this, what words of wisdom/love would you want to share?

    KC:  You are important, valued, respected, loved. Care for your hearts, minds, and souls as you would a cherished child. Whatever happens these things are your personhood, and none can strip you of them without your consent. Everything can be overcome. Believe me. We know this as Black disabled women because we already have overcome so much. Never give up. Rise. We are always with you. Solidarity.


    VT:  What’s a little known fact about you?

    KC:  Most people don’t know that English is not my first language. I am a heritage Spanish speaker. My heritage is Afro-Latino, Italian and Ngöbe-Buglé. I sing, though years of asthma and pneumonia have harmed my vocal chords. My husband still likes my voice, and when the moments present themselves he plays his guitar and I sing and our son wanders in and out of the music.

    * * *

    Final Thoughts

    From what you have read, it is undeniable how powerful of a voice and force Kerima is. Her words energized me in the way we both view the obstacles that impede the opportunities and quality of life of Black disabled women in this country, and within the disabled community specifically. To learn more about Kerima, you can find her on the following spaces: Twitter: @kerima_cevik; and the blogsphere, The Autism Wars (http://theautismwars.blogspot.com), discussing intersectionality on Intersected (http://intersecteddisability.blogspot.com), and addressing race and social justice on the Brave blog (http://overcominghate.blogspot.com).

    Our last feature for this series will be a writer and advocate who is not afraid to speak her mind and stand firm in what she believes. I have seen her grow to become a dynamic voice in this community, and am eager to share with you her words and her experience next week. Stay tuned.

  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Heather Watkins, Disabled Writer, Mom, & Community Leader

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    Image of Heather Watkins, light-skinned Black woman who is standing in front of a off-white colored door. Heather is smiling directly to the camera, and is wearing a black-and-white multi-striped top with black pants. Heather has her hands placed on her hips, which are in a relaxed pose.

    As we continue with the #BlackDisabledGirlMagic series, we have seen the various perspectives about the lives Black disabled women live and our worth shared in our own words. If you have noticed, I have asked each woman the same questions; this was purposeful. Though we all share the same identities of being Black, disabled, and women, we exist and interact in this world from different lens. Those differences are influenced by our upbringings, disabilities, ages, geographical location, educational and professional backgrounds, and so forth. Black disabled women are not a monolith, and that is what I wanted to highlight during Women’s History Month. We may encounter similar battles, but our views on life, our bodies, and survival are greatly individualized, as it is for everyone else.

    Heather Watkins is a blogger, disabled mother, community leader, and dear friend that reside in Boston, Massachusetts. Heather has become an older sister to me and was one of the first Black disabled advocates I befriended. Heather’s voice in the community is important because of her life experiences and ability to see people beyond the surface.

    I am honored to share Heather’s words and life outlooks with you all:


  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Kathy D. Woods, Fashion Designer for Little Women

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    Image of Kathy D. Woods, a Black little woman. Kathy is outside and standing in front of a white building. Kathy is wearing a red-orange snakeskin-printed dress with black dress shoes. Kathy is smiling directly into the camera.

    Fashion and feeling good in the clothes you wear are important, and for some disabled women, it can be a challenge to find apparel that fits your body type and shape.  Luckily, clothing lines are recognizing that disabled women (and disabled people in general) are an overlooked consumer market, and are designing clothes that makes us feel comfortable and confident.

    Kathy D. Woods has taken this one step further by becoming a designer that targets little women like herself by establishing her self-titled Collection brand:  Kathy D. Woods.  Kathy resides in Santa Clarita, California, and has received national attention for her brand and the work she is doing to allow disabled women to feel fierce and dynamic as they conquer the world.


  1. #BlackDisabledGirlMagic Series: Keri Gray, Millennial Who Is Passionate about Intersectionality

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    Photo of Keri Gray, light-skinned Black women with a small afro who is smiling into the camera and throwing up the peace sign. Keri is dressed in business attire and is standing near a black podium. The podium has a white sign on the front of it that reads: “national youth transitions center.”

    For Women’s History Month, I want to spotlight the phenomenal Black women I know who are trailblazers and deserve to have their voices and stories well-known.  These women are individuals I respect, admire, and am proud to know on a personal basis.  In our community, we do not celebrate #BlackDisabledGirlMagic enough or give praise to the ways we have made our own paths and are doing incredible work.  These women are the present, and their advocacy will impact future generations and empower budding advocates, especially Black disabled girls.

    The first woman featured for this series is Keri Gray.  Keri is 26 years old, and resides in Maryland.  I met Keri a year ago at the White House event for Black Disability History, and we instantly connected based on our passions to uplift Black women.  Her advocacy work spans many spaces and organizations; she is the Rising Leaders Initiatives Program Manager at the USBLN, the Education Committee Chair for BYP100 DC, and one of the Co-Founders for the Harriet Tubman Collective.  Keri is definitely one of the women I call my “disabled Sistagirls,” and I am blessed to know, support, and love her voice and friendship.  

    Without further ado, this is Keri Gray, a prime example of #BlackDisabledGirlMagic:   

    VT:  Tell us about yourself.  

    KG:  I was born in Salisbury, MD and raised on the south side of Longview, TX. I grew up in an environment where I had to literally cross the railroad tracks in order to do anything besides kick it at a friend’s house. My life has often looked like an Ice Cube “Friday” movie, lol. It has come with a lot of laughs, good friends and family, and some unfortunate situations. I believe it is my faith and hard work that has allowed me to blossom into who I am today.  


    VT:  What is it that you do?

    KG:  In my work, I identify as an Intersectionality and Youth Programming Artist. I enjoy designing programs that empower Black women, young people with disabilities, and communities of color. The issues that I address in my work are hard. How do you fight against long standing and systemic issues such as racism, sexism, and ableism? How do you re-imagine and then design a world filled with opportunities and access? These are hard questions, but I feel it is a part of my purpose to address these issues.


    VT:  Why is it important to you to uplift the experiences of Black disabled young women in your work?

    KG:  One of my biggest fears is to turn into a “hidden figure.” A person who did a lot, but was never recognized for their work. Some people would say that I should not aim for recognition. But to be honest, I am tired of Black women, and particularly young Black disabled women, not getting the recognition and respect that they deserve. It is important for me to uplift the experiences and narratives of young Black disabled women because we deserve it. I’m drawn to young Black disabled women because I am one. The intersections of my identities create an unique narrative that is impossible for others to fully understand unless they are also young, Black, disabled, and a woman. Young people are the center of any revolution, and often the creators or inspiration for innovative designs. Young people are powerful. In my daily life, I hope that I can encourage and create connections for those who are like me.  


    VT:  What are the obstacles Black disabled women face in society?  In our disabled community?  

    KG:  There is really no place for Black disabled women. Black disabled women deal with racism and sexism in the mainstream white society, and then we deal with ableism and sexism in the Black community. Black women are often the main audience and backbone of the Black church, and yet, their voices are silenced and their participation is limited. The obstacles to being a Black disabled women can feel endless.  When I think of these obstacles I quote a piece of Lucille Clifton’s poem: “Come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.”


    VT:  How can our community support/uplift Black disabled women?  What does that look like for you?

    KG:  It would be helpful for our community take a step back and allow for Black disabled women to have more opportunities to step up. I would also like to see allies financially invest in opportunities for Black disabled women to get together. As Black disabled women, we need time and space together. We need to see each other, we need to love and uplift each other, and we need to learn from each other. It is my belief, that when Black disabled women are able to build a strong community together then they will ultimately invest back into other communities, organizations, and businesses.


    VT:  How did you come into your Black disabled womanness?  What struggles have you experienced, and are still conquering?  

    KG:  To me, being a Black disabled woman is about embodying confidence and practicing consistent self-love. I have struggled with both concepts over the years. Due to my lack of confidence, I often hid my disabilities growing up. Due to my lack of self-love, I would harm myself and allow other people to harm me. I am not proud to say that I have settled in relationships and I have settled in job placements However, I am happy to say that my level of confidence has grown a lot over the years. Being a Black disabled woman means loving the unique qualities about myself. I have scars all along my body, and I think they are a beautiful testament to my survival. I have this prosthetic limb that allows me to walk anywhere I want, and I think its shiny metal is an unique characteristic that not many can show off. I definitely have a Black woman’s attitude (lol), and I think that’s sexy. It allows me to push past bullshit, and create authentic projects that relate to real narratives.


    VT:  If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?  

    KG:  I would tell my younger self that “you are going to be okay.” At the age of 26 years old, I have already experienced heartbreak three times. Each time, I felt like I was dying and that life would always be a bit gloomy. Although I am still hurting and healing from my past situations, I now have a better understanding of love and moving forward. I would want to tell my younger self, that you can heal from heartbreak and it is possible to experience love all over again. That’s truly a blessing.


    VT:  For the Black disabled women who may read this, what words of wisdom/love would you want to share?  What does it mean to be a Black disabled woman in America?

    KG:  I have found that Black women will find ways to self-medicate to escape from the hard burdens of life. We will attempt to escape through drugs, sex, materialistic items, or anything to distract us from feeling alone and unworthy. There have been times in my life where I have turned into a different person completely. I urge Black disabled women to find healthy ways to deal with the hardships of life. It’s critical to find sisterhood, to practice self-care, and to practice grounding techniques. Don’t give up and don’t lose yourself during hard times.


    VT:  What’s a little known fact about you?

    KG:  I am a huuuge hip hop fan! Music, and specifically hip hop, often inspires in my work. Rappers are some of the most raw, vulnerable, and creative hustlers that you can learn about. I actively try to bring that level authenticity and unpolished realness to my work. Shout out to Queen Bey, Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Solange, and Chance the Rapper.

    * * *

    Final Thoughts

    The reason I wanted to do this series is because of the lack of visibility of Black disabled women and the impact felt when our experiences are not included in the movement or in society.  When I started RYV! four years ago, I did not know a single Black disabled woman doing advocacy work.  Four years later, I am privileged to know many, and have them become a part of my disabled village.  I want this series to showcase the talents and excellence that exists, and allow budding Black disabled women advocates to know that they are not alone – we are here.  

    If you want to learn more about Keri and her work, you can follow her on Twitter:  @keri_gray.  Next week, you will meet a woman who has a stylish and fierce clothing line that allows disabled women to feel comfortable in what they wear.  Can you guess who she is?  

  1. Black History Month 2017: Johnnie Lacy, Defiantly Black & Disabled

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    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.

    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.


  1. Black History Month 2017: Remembering Joyce Jackson, Black, Disabled, & Phenomenal

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    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."

    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.


  1. Being a Black Disabled Woman Is An Act of Defiance: Remembering #KorrynGaines

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    Remembering Korryn Gaines

    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.


  1. Black Disabled Woman Syllabus: A Compilation

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    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:

    1. Use the hashtag #BDWSyllabus on social media to share your recs.
    2. Email me at Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com.
      Subject heading of your email should read:  “BDW Syllabus Recommendation.”

    There’s only one thing left to say:  Class is now in session.


  1. How “Lemonade” Empowered Me As A Black Disabled Woman

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    Lemonade 2

    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.


  1. I Celebrated Black Disability History At the White House!

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    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…