Today I’m recovering from HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones Street), a march to the North Carolina statehouse where 5000+ people rallied for change, specifically around the 14 Point People’s Agenda. My face is embarrassingly sunburnt to the crisp and for some reason all swollen—to the point that one eye won’t open—but I’ve learned to go better prepared next time.
I want to say that it was the most empowering event I’ve been to in a long time. It definitely was powerful (and cool to meet and be around people, like running into Y!). Still, I’ve never felt more invisible in my life and being invisible is draining (I slept 16 hours afterwards and I normally sleep 5-7). Although representing the “people”, there was no mention of my community— unless you count us as diseases under the healthcare point. The location, though historic, was completely inaccessible and while people had to stand on the hillsides because of a lack of seating, the 15-chair row around me and my friends were empty. When people were passing out pamphlets or asking for support, it was like there was a wall around where we were sitting– time after time they’d do every row until they reached ours and then without eye contact, would quickly scurry away. Are disabled people really all that scary?
Maybe part of the problem was that my community wasn’t present. Though we get disability issues, we don’t talk a lot about other issues, like worker’s rights, immigration, and racism (at least in my state). And with 75 sponsoring organizations of HK on J, none were disability organizations. Where were we?
I’m not sure if me wanting to see disability on the table is actually me being a sucky ally and not being able to centralize other communities. There is a very good chance of that. Maybe I have to understand that communities have different concepts of disability and respect that. I need to remember the word disability is often subconsciously seen as white because of how it’s been represented in the media— the white privileged male manual chair user,—representation of disabled people of color within our movement and how the definition of disability changes with communities. Still, it would have been nice to have recognition that our human rights are violated every day and that we are a community.
A few friends and I are going to get an appointment with the organizers so we’ll see, it might be better next year. Still, I had to write it here because I need some kind of record that HK on J wasn’t all that I had hoped because in a few weeks my mind will probably revert to glorifying this event in the way I wish I could right now. I needed it that much.