Category Archives: organizing

kit yan’s letter to HRC

this reminds me of the time a friend and i sat in a queer—err excuse me, glbt with a q following it on the next line—disability caucus meeting this summer. the group invited a HRC person to speak and when we asked why HRC had been invited, we were stared at. then when we spoke up against the group simply focusing on marriage advocacy with so much work to be done, they thought we were stupid southerners who were against gay marriage because of ignorance or overexposure to too much homophobia. needless to say, i left the meeting early, never having been talked down to so much. 

kit yan, from the good asian drivers spoken word duo:

you’re a force with responsibility
so listen, think, then act
you’re an icon of equality
so remember the colors of the community you stand for
you’re the face that the devil trusts
but you’ve become its reflection
hear us, please.
unfortunately we can not wait for you
we’ll be here when you return,
but we cannot wait for you
in the meantime, we’ll fight for ourselves…
-kit yan at 2:10


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Filed under community, links, organizing, queer

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,


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

no tote bags, no swag, no cocktail parties…

a whole bunch of amazing activists, thinkers, and people are listed in the 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World article done by Utne. (bfp, jess hoffman, susan nussbaum, mattilda bernstein sycamore, and so many others— a definite read if you need an energy boost!).

my favorite description though was of the Allied Media Conference, mostly because with ALL the conferences we all go to, the way this one is set up is just revolutionary. everything a conference should be and Utne does a great job putting that in words:

Conference Callers
Organizers of the Allied Media Conference

Now this is what a “conference” is supposed to look like: 800 concerned citizens and activists, most of them young and denim-clad, many of them people of color, queer, or both, gathered in Detroit on a crisp June day to create and critique media. There are no tote bags, no swag, no cocktail parties. Just tables full of radical literature, free hip-hop concerts, and late-night bowling.

And you can forget about expense accounts and self-serving corporate sponsors. These people spend months raising funds to finance their trips from all over the globe, and conference organizers are squeaking by on their annual budget of $100,000, all of which makes the 2008 conference (the 10th annual) hum with a singularly engaged, productive energy. “It really makes the event user-owned,” says Mike Medow, one of the conference’s five organizers. “Everyone made a personal sacrifice or a personal investment to be here, and everyone has a deep stake in its success.” Continue reading

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Filed under links, organizing


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. Continue reading


Filed under community, disability, organizing, writing/poetry

coalition building v. community building

And as we carefully plan, to live and care for the land
In all, we share what we can, then we can eat the fruit
And when they tell us our lies, undercover disguises
We sever the ties and never be confused
And when we have to decide, to rise and gather the tribes
No matter the price, we will speak the truth
— sweatshop union, better days

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Filed under community, i love my people, organizing

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”.


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?


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

tropic thunder

What do you get when you put
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


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