501c3s

we live in a world where nonprofits give off a corporation vibe
a world where change-seekers and believers have to get on their hands and knees
begging and compromising their beliefs
starbucks cup in hand, the focus is on funders, elections, conferences, networking, volunteer hours
people become an afterthought
this is a business
jobs (and money) are on the line, damnit!

events are in glass hotels that scrape the sky
internet costs $18.95 a day
breakfast $10.99,
lunch $15.84,
dollar menu for dinner when you can’t keep up with the others
i try very hard not to break anything

my people at home want to taste this community we talk about
wade their feet in it..
but they’re stuck at home
“bus don’t come here”
…if they even have a home
“where do i go to sign up for housing list?”
looking for a job
“no places will hire me”
with bruises on their arms, legs, back
“i think i need to get out”
no money in hand
“i don’t even see that check”
these are every day conversations with friends

and yes i tell them about those good disability acronyms—
you know, the difference between medicaid and medicare, ssi, ssdi, pass, irwes, the “ada bus”, microenterprise, p&a services EVERYTHING—
but when it comes to the disability rights movement,
what do i say? that yes, go to this board meeting, you will feel like you’re making a difference?
seeing folks tear each other apart’ll be worth the 90 minute paratransit wait?
how about that this complex buys into the system?
that while people are dying in trifling situations
we’re shaking hands and passing out business cards?

yea… 501c3s… just another way to keep us in line.

note on poem below the cut.
people’s situations where i live are so bad that local activists are trusting a 21 year old no-nothing girl with only 4 years in the movement (guess who) to lead them in starting a center for independent living, a place where disabled people can come to get connected to services [information and referral] and basically just get an ally in this world that isn’t built for us. the need for a CIL is so real that not doing this is not an option. i am excited by the potential of this— rooting it completely in community and seeing how working together can transform this city— but am constantly thinking about how we can keep it from being professionalized, overbased in capitalism, too service-based and all the other things that leave people not believing in their local CILs.

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7 Comments

Filed under community, disability, organizing, writing/poetry

7 responses to “501c3s

  1. “this is a business
    jobs (and money) are on the line, damnit!”

    Yes. I was at a “disability rehabilitation service” today, and thinking about this NGO impact stuff.

    One worker was taking a very paternalistic approach to me. Yet another worker, who seemed a bit political, was trying to communicate with me across the structural impact of the whole NGO professionals vs. clients dynamic.

    I didn’t want to be negative with the latter employee, cos there’s some people in NGO’s who come from community organizing and are trying to make it actually serve the issues in some way.

    But I’m also absolutely not backing down with the former employee. I felt she was offering me “deserving poor” status; premised upon getting me to agree with her about some abelist stuff to satisfy her companies requirements.

    I was thinking; “this is a threat. With her power to withhold rehab services, this is an attempt to intimidate me and get me to accept “gratitude” for intrusive, incompetent behaviour, in conditions which make her look like an ally.”

    I was very conscious that I was being offered a chance partly because of my race, age, “proffesional skills” resume etc.

    At which point, I went confrontational because I want these people to realize that, while they CAN abuse NGO status to people who may really need services, it is about abuse of corporate voice, not cos they’re right.

    I didn’t end up needing to swear at her but, yeah.

  2. the ff

    Ohhhh. . . . You are sooo right about this. 501 (c) 3 status is just a movement muzzle. At some point I look around and want to say, “when did we abandon the idea of autonomy? Now we know better than she does what *she needs*? And why? Because it looks sexy & glossy in the brochure?”

    Kick ass CripChick!

  3. Wonderful–the poetry and your wonderful project!
    Not becoming ‘the system’ will be hard, but worth the effort.

  4. Blackamazon

    YES . Whya re you so AWESOME

  5. Of course you are the one doing it. You can do anything. 🙂

  6. dude – if any 21-year-old could start a CIL, it would be you. Let me know if you want to talk to someone at the Berkeley CIL for thoughts/pointer (totally different community, of course, but at least they’ve, um, heard of all your acronyms … you lost me after SSDI!).

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