Category Archives: activism

an open letter

Dear Wheelchair Dancer,

Hey sister— thanks for your blog post on the elections, racism, prop 8. I’ve been in such a funny place lately after all of this and your writing really helped me in naming why.

Sylvia posted a tweet the other day about wanting to wrap Obama in bubble wrap, Teflon, a condom, Fort Knox— anything— to keep him safe until January 20th. That’s kind of how I feel about my emotions. And I hate to sound cliché here, but also my hope. My head knows what this election means and what this election does not mean but I still want scream Yes We Can!, rock my Obama shirt in classes full of Republicans, and, well, just bask in the symbolism of it. I want to believe in what everyone else believes in for more than one night, even if a lot of it is compartmentalizing what I know and not thinking about things folks like Moya and so many others are sayin’. So I close my door, download all the free mixtapes people are producing for Obama, and bullshit around happily.

But then it changes, right? At least it did for me, couldn’t even last a week. I read a message from VivirLatino about another mass ICE raid where over 100 people are rounded up in Florida and separated from their families. I hear white racist gay folks getting time on the tv and then blame Prop 8 on communities of color! I get an email from someone I really care about saying someone she knows was being beaten to death from what seems like a hate crime. With tears in my eyes I read of Duanna Johnson’s death and then see talk show radio hosts trying to leave comments on my blog saying they’re advocates while simultaneously disrespecting who she was. All these things tear me right from that cloudy good place. These things come at me like a million lightening bolts, reminding me of all the work that needs to be done and more importantly, who will be the ones doing this work.

It will be us. We will do it cause there isn’t anyone else but us, the people, la gente. So like our dear friend asks in her blog— as organizers, as artists, as community-builders, as dreamers, how can we learn from his campaign? How can we get the folks on the ground, many who weren’t believers in power of people before, to keep dreaming and ready to pick up other tools? How do we stay focused? Clear-headed? How do we build this bigger than non-profits, projects, campaigning?

And what about when the evil, the hate, the bondage is internal— How do we combat these things when they come in the form of our communities, people we love? I mean I didn’t truly understand what racism and white privilege really meant until I got involved in social movements, you know? Is it possible to take these conversations happening post-Prop 8 and turn them into something that lasts? Will there be room to sew close our open wounds, our mistrust? And is it even worth it, trying to work it out with gays and lesbians who will always choose marriage, gentrification, assimilation and capital building as priorities, when so many fellow queers are homeless, forgotten, oppressed, closeted, beaten, denied their humanity?

I’m really hoping you have some answers, that someone has answers. In the meantime, thanks for being who you are, for our gchats, for the love…

In solidarity and w/ love,
cripchick

4 Comments

Filed under activism, community, homophobia/heterosexism, internal change, organizing, queer, violence, woc

proud of my girls…

there are so many amazing things going on that i’ve been meaning to link. this is a what-inspires-cripchick post. lately i feel exhausted and like i’m barely hanging on but then i see revolutionary ideas, projects, ways people can come together that are being envisioned and created by radical women of color and i am energized again. below are some projects friends are working on. This is just the beginning!—

i.

Broken Beautiful Press is continuing the work of the Combahee River Collective, a group of black, lesbian, socialist, feminist writers and thinkers who put out the Combahee River Collective Statement in the 1970s. This new study group/zine group/black feminist group can be found at combaheesurvival.wordpress.com

An excerpt from the new Combahee Survival website:

This booklet moves survival to revival, like grounded growth, where seeds seek sun remembering how the people could fly. We are invoking the Combahee River Collective Statement and asking how it lives in our movement now… Black feminism lives, but the last of the originally organized black feminist organizations in the United States were defunct by 1981. Here we offer and practice a model of survival that is spiritual and impossible and miraculous and everywhere, sometimes pronounced revival. Like it says on the yellow button that came included in the Kitchen Table Press pamphlet version of The Combahee River Collective Statement in 1986 “Black Feminism LIVES!” And therefore all those who were never meant to survive blaze open into a badass future anyway. Meaning something unpredictable and whole. We were. Never meant. To Survive.

ii.

Then we also have the Cyber-Quilting Experiment, a rwoc-led project examining how the internet can be used as a resource for social justice work and movement building activities. You can find the Cyber-Quilting Experiment at cyberquilt.wordpress.com

From the vision page on Cyber-Quilting Experiment website:

As cyberquilters, we believe that what we need is bigger than our individual calendars and our possible days. What we need is bridging of movements. Whole, ready and connected. Where we can see, hear and feel each other. Where we know how to help meet each others’ needs. Where we can unite at important political moments and make a difference. Where we remember, with every heartbeat, that our work does not start and begin in our individual bodies. Where we realize that our work is expansive because it resonates in the working blood of women of color organized, mobilizing everywhere in tune.

iii.

The first edition of the Quirky Black Girls magazine is out! Check it out at www.crawldog.com/qbgmagcom/ The Quirky Black Girls social networking site can be found at http://quirkyblackgirls.ning.com

From the QBG manifesta:

Because Audre Lorde looks different in every picture ever taken of her. Because Octavia Butler didn’t care. Because Erykah Badu is a patternmaster. Because Macy Gray pimped it and Janelle Monae was ready. Resolved. Quirky black girls wake up ready to wear a tattered society new on our bodies, to hold fragments of art, culture and trend in our hands like weapons against conformity, to walk on cracks instead of breaking our backs to fit in the mold.

iv.

mamita mala, a radical nuyorican mami, activist, and an amaaazing poet, spoke at the This Is What We Want speakout this week.

Here is a delicious excerpt (full transcript below the cut:

We cannot just vote with our hands. We need to vote with our feet hitting the streets. We need to vote with our mouths yelling and spitting truths and that can happen around our kitchen tables and in our kalles. Mujeres latinas, we need to vote with our lips, tits, and hips and the history they carry, from forced operaciones that left our women sterile to attempts to take away all of our choices about our bodies.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under activism, community, intersections, links, spoken word, woc

50 Arrested as ADAPT Takes Affordable, Accessible Housing Crisis to Congress

ADAPT PRESS RELEASE:

Washington, D.C.—From their base at “DUH City”, groups of ADAPT activists fanned out on the Hill to hit congressional leaders who have responsibility to help solve the housing crisis for low income people with disabilities. Visits to the offices of Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA), a longtime leader on housing issues, and Senators Chris Dodd (D, CT) and Richard Shelby (R, AL), the Chair and ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs resulted in a total of 50 arrests. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under activism, disability, links

one last post on tropic thunder

I’ve been thinking a lot about the strategies the disability community has used in responding to the movie Tropic Thunder. I wanted to wait until the initial media coverage passed so this conversation could be held more internally and not distract from the message we were putting out there.

The amazing Jess Hoffman from Makeshift magazine was recently a guest blogger at Feministe (h/t to Sudy) and has been writing a lot about capitalism and feminism. In part of Jess’ last post, she built on the words of Sister Lorde, Moraga, Anzaldua, and others to talk about why intersectionality was needed in feminist communities. Jess pointed out that this intersectional analysis created by radical women of color has often been misinterpreted and stolen by feminists to say something along the lines of “because *some* women have multiple identities, we need to address their experience” instead of “all systems of power are linked and a multiple-issue analysis is the only way to defeat oppression”.

Excerpt:

So it’s not just that some individual people experience multiple forms of oppression, or even that all people have some kind of personal relationship with all systems of oppression… but also that the systems of power themselves—racism, economic hierarchy, sexism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.—are working together.

Included in our activism against ableism and the use of the r-word in Tropic Thunder have been statements from disability organizations and disability activists along the lines of “People can’t say n*gger, w*tback, or other racial oppressive words but they can still say r*tard!”, “Disability is the last frontier!”, “When making Tropic Thunder, Dreamworks brought in African American consultants to make sure the movie wasn’t offensive—where were the disability consultants?”

Though I think I know what this feeling is based on—the frusteration of ableism not being addressed as oppression in activist communities and mainstream society—I believe this short-term strategy or sentiment absolutely cannot be a part of our activism. Not only does this strategy alienate disabled people who have multiple identities but it does nothing to address oppression. When we say these kinds of things, it says that we believe racism, heterosexism, sexism, etc are personal conflicts that happens between people (and that we’ve overcome!), not institutions in which our soicety is based upon. It ignores families being ripped apart by ICE raids, trans women of color being killed everyday, and the ever-growing prison industrial complex.

One leader in the disability community rightfully pointed out the need to stick with the issue of the r-word and not swamping it with 17 other disability issues. I agreed with him, afterall, our society and movement have a history of silencing people with intellectual disabilities. But still, why weren’t the other connections made? How come we chose not to talk about all of the other horrible imagery (particularly against Asian-Pacific Islander folks)? Some responses I’ve seen to this question have been that it is more strategic. Is it really strategic in the long run and if we decide that it is— strategic for who?

I believe our activism has to be bigger than our own oppression but if you want, let’s talk about strategies for our movement. I believe it IS strategic to talk about other systems of oppressions—how else can we expect to have the system of oppression we face as disabled people recognized? How can we even go into social justice work uwilling to talk about the privileges we have?

This can’t be done in a superficial, let’s-high-five-Dr.-King way. What good is our activism, anyways, if it’s based on the backs of others?

10 Comments

Filed under ableism, activism, API-A, community, disability, feminism, homophobia/heterosexism, organizing

tropic thunder

Q:
What do you get when you put
blackface,
sizeism,
old racist jokes,
glorification of war
and outright ableism together?

A: Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a big-budget film to be released next week. The synopsis on the promotional website describes the film as

“an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film. After ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys.”

In the movie, Ben Stiller plays an actor who is upset for not winning an award for his [wretched, offensive] portrayal of a man with developmental disabilities in a movie titled Simple Jack. Robert Downey Jr. plays a white man in blackface. Jack Black plays another actor, one who wore a body suit and starred in a picture called The Fatties.

It upsets me when I hear people let things go in the name of humor. Movies, television, and all forms of media play a huge role in how people perceive things, even when the themes are less obvious. Two weeks ago, Angie Zapata, a young trans woman of color, was murdered (and called “it”) just for being a trans woman. Only a few months before Angie’s death, Dorothy Dixon, a disabled woman, was abused, beaten, and murdered in Illinois. The New Jersey 4 are still in jail for defending themselves against a homophobic attacker (in which the media called them things like a “wolf pack of lesbians”). There are so many more that we’ve lost. We cannot afford to let movies rooted— or quietly lined— in mischaracterization and dehumanization pass by. If it was just comedy, it wouldn’t cost us so much.

Patricia Bauer, a disability rights blogger who has been following the movie, wrote that disability organizations will be meeting with Dreamworks this Wednesday. Be prepared to take action.

Under the cut, you’ll find a R-rated preview and a dialogue between two of the characters that will show you why this is unacceptable. [trigger warning— many violent scenes, language, and all-out offensive stereotyping]

Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under ableism, activism, disability, intersections, organizing, violence

thoughts on alex barton and the way we organize

Recently, a young boy by the name of Alex Barton participated in an experiment on democracy.

Sounds harmless, right?

Way off. Wendy Portillo, Alex’s teacher, allowed his classmates to go around and tell him all the things they did not like about him. After the class told him he was “disgusting” and “annoying”, the teacher allowed them to vote him out of the class. After a 14 to 2 vote, he spent the day inside the nurse’s office.

Alex is five years old and in kindergarten. He is currently going through a process to see if he has Aspergers syndrome, a disability on the autism spectrum. Since being kicked out of his classroom, Alex’s personality has changed, he says he feels “sad,” and he is seen telling himself over and over “I’m not special, I’m not special.” Florida authorities have said that effects do not meet the standards for emotional child abuse.

At the end of this entry are ways you can tell Florida schools you think all people have the right to an education and to be treated with respect.

One aspect that really bothers me about this case is our strategy for addressing ableism (or not addressing it). There has been a HUGE outcry from the autistic rights community. Although I have not even begun to dip into all of the blog posts written on this case— it’s now estimated that 50 people have already blogged about this!—I am surprised at the way we as a community and as individuals frame this issue. Much of the outrage has come in the form of the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or, so they’ll do unto you when the tables are turned), which Lastcrazyhorn writes about. We’ve all talked about how NO ONE—aspie or not— should have to go through this trauma. Though this is all very, very obviously true, I’m left wondering why we can’t name what happened ableist. Instead we have to say that no one deserves this treatment, you wouldn’t want this, we’re contributors, and give other explanations. It’s like the word ableism has no power. Continue reading

21 Comments

Filed under ableism, abolishing medical and charity models of thinking, activism, community, disability

recap on the weekend

I feel hopeless when I’m supposed to be speaking on sexual consciousness but am feeling disconnected from my own body because I don’t look white, skinny, or able-bodied like the masses of queer people there

I feel like I’m misleading people and betraying my own when I talk about disability in a cross-disability intersectional framework and the only visual image people are getting is that disability=mobility because the only disabled people presenting (including myself) are wheelchair users

I feel home when I fly into North Carolina and am surrounded by bodies of all sizes, shapes and colors— my, how one can miss this love/hate relationship with the South is surprising

Like this weekend, I sometimes feel invisible

Like this weekend, I sometimes feel like I talk about disability too much, but this is hard to balance when I feel like I am brought somewhere to only talk about disability

Like this weekend, I am unsure what the future holds or what community actually looks like for me

Here’s to friends that remind me why I am in this, the spirit of community, and those disabled people and allies who through all this, made the sessions and trip worthwhile.

8 Comments

Filed under ableism, activism, community, disability, queer, queer issues/culture