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Resistance and Hope
Essays by Disabled People

Crip Wisdom for the People



Alice Wong


Copyright © 2018 Alice Wong

All rights reserved.

Distributed by Smashwords

All rights reserved. Each story is owned by the original author and has been included in this anthology with their express permission. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the original author and the editor.

Alice Wong, Editor and Publisher

Robin M. Eames, Editorial Assistant and Herder of Cats

Book cover by Micah Bazant

Ebook formatting by www.ebooklaunch.com


Praise for Resistance and Hope

"Get this book right now! Resistance and Hope is the disability justice Bible you've been waiting for. If you want to read a book chock full of disabled Black, brown, queer, trans genius, real talk and vision, if you want to understand that six million dollar question ‘What is disability justice?,’ if you're a sick or disabled or Mad or neurodivergent or Deaf person figuring out how to survive fascism and create the world we want and deserve (or an abled or neurotypical person trying to catch up with us), this book will give you comrades reassurances that we are brilliant revolutionaries and a plethora of tools and visions for how we make the road by limping, crutching, rolling, signing and stimming. I am so grateful for Alice Wong for doing the cultural work of putting this together and for every single writer in this book."

Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha, performer, community organizer, and author of Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice (Arsenal Pulp Press, October 1, 2018)

• • •

“Until our movements are fully intersectional, we will not make the progress necessary to build the equitable society we all deserve. Resistance and Hope is a necessary manual for all of us as we learn how to build movements that are as inclusive as the world we hope to see.”

Brittany Packnett, activist, educator, writer, Co-Founder of Campaign Zero and Co-Host of Pod Save the People

• • •

"There have been many conversations about which stories deserve to be told and which do not. However, the essays in Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People not only deserve to be told but heard and seen by people who want to see themselves and people who want a stronger and more important view of the world and the fight ahead of us.

Keah Brown, journalist and author of The Pretty One (Atria Books, Spring 2019)

• • •

Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People is a timely and must-read collection of essays by some of the most cutting edge leaders in the Disability Rights Movement. If you are interested in learning more about disability rights and justice, activism, and current times we are living in today take the time to read and may these pieces evoke discussions in your communities as we fight for justice and equity.”

Judy Heumann, Disability Activist

• • •

“It is so necessary for people who have been historically marginalized to tell their own stories. I am proud to know Alice Wong, who is someone dedicated to telling these stories with authenticity and integrity.”

— Blair Imani, Author of Modern HERstory and Founder of Equality for HER

• • •

“A rare and powerful collection that demonstrates hopeful resistance. If you want to know how to fight and survive when Trump cuts try to destroy people you love, then read this book. These 17 authors outline strategies for successful resistance that emerge from communities committed to race, age, language, queer and disability diversity, equality and justice. As Anita Cameron writes, ‘To resist, one must have hope. Without it, we are lost.’ This book is a much-needed guide for resistance in these despairing times.”

Corbett OToole, Co-Founder and Publisher of Reclamation Press and author of Fading Scars: My Queer Disability History

• • •

“We cannot talk about true democracy and true diversity in America if the voices and ideas and work of disabled people are not given space at the welcome table. Alice Wong, long a tireless leader and visionary advocate for the disabled community, has assembled a powerful new anthology, Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People, featuring 17 brilliant and bold disabled activists and artists. In the age of Trump this collection is a revelation, bringing from the margins fresh new ways to look at America, and fresh new ways to look at ourselves."

Kevin Powell, author of The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood

• • •

“In Resistance and Hope, activist, advocate, and scholar Alice Wong brings together new voices and perspectives on living with disabilities that come from an inclusive array of multiply marginalized disabled people. In the spirit of nothing about us without us, Resistance and Hope offers us an urgent and needed collection of “crip wisdom“ on belonging, community, and self-care that goes far toward showing us how to build the kind of just world we want to live in together.”

— Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, disability bioethicist and educator at Emory University and UCLA and author of Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature

• • •

"An instructive and empowering anthology on the lived struggles of persons with disabilities. You will finish this book hopeful, optimistic, and ready to rebuild our nation for all to shine."

Arjun Singh Sethi, activist and author of American Hate: Survivors Speak Out (The New Press, August 7, 2018)


Table of Contents

Praise for Resistance and Hope

Introduction

Rebel - Don’t Be Palatable: Resisting Co-optation and Fighting for the World We Want by Lydia X. Z. Brown

To Resist, One Must Have Hope! by Anita Cameron

Barron Trump's (Alleged) Autistic Childhood by Cyree Jarelle Johnson

Hip Hop & Disability Liberation: Finding Resistance, Hope & Wholeness by DJ Kuttin Kandi and Leroy Moore

They Had Names by Mari Kurisato

the birth of resistance: courageous dreams, powerful nobodies & revolutionary madness by Talila A. Lewis

Renewal of Faith and Hope by Noemi Martinez

Reflections as Congress Debates our Futures by Stacey Milbern

Building Back Belonging, Hope and Possibility by Mia Mingus

Beyond Hope by Lev Mirov

Back into the Fires that Forged Us by Shain M. Neumeier

Self-Care When Things Shatter by Naomi Ortiz

Who Gets to Be the Activist? by Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán

The Audacity of Hope In the Make America Great Again Era by Vilissa K. Thompson

Jewish and Disabled: Finding Kavanah and Tikkun Olam in Activism by Aleksei Valentín

Don’t Bring Cotton Candy to a Nuclear War by Maysoon Zayid

About the Team

About the Disability Visibility Project



Introduction

As the results of the Presidential election rolled in the evening of Election Day 2016, my heart raced. I felt unsafe and a sense of urgency to do something. In my moments of fear and panic towards what I knew would happen, I was strangely comforted by the fact that disabled people have been surviving and resisting for millennia.

Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People is a powerful collection of essays by disabled writers, artists, activists, and dreamers. What is the relationship between resistance and hope? What can disabled people share with the world during this time of uncertainty and unrest? You will learn from a wide range of perspectives from multiply marginalized disabled people on where we are right now, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Share this anthology with everyone everywhere—on social media, in the classroom, at the kitchen table, with your friends and neighbors.

The idea for the Resistance and Hope anthology developed that evening in November as I wondered what could I do to fight back and create something of value for all of us. I reflected on Sins Invalid’s show in October 2016, “Birthing, Dying, Becoming Crip Wisdom,” and realized we weren’t entering into a new moment; every moment is cyclical and tied to living, resisting, dying, and rebirth. We are all linked to one another for survival. On a related note, thank you to artist Micah Bazant for the beautiful book cover. Mushrooms are my symbol of resilience and interdependence for this publication.

It is my intention for you, dear reader, to soak up crip wisdom from these writers and our ancestors. Think about your privilege, get angry, and become involved in your various communities.

With gratitude and solidarity,

Alice Wong, Editor and Publisher

Founder and Director, Disability Visibility Project



Rebel - Don’t Be Palatable: Resisting Co-optation and Fighting for the World We Want

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Content notes: abuse in activist communities, activist praxis, accountability, intracommunity harm, compliance culture, conflicting access needs, cure rhetoric, respectability politics, multimodality

As a writer, thinker, educator, and organizer, I cannot stop thinking about the innumerable ways the world we live in is so violent, and how I desperately long for a better world, what that world might look like, and how we might get there. That is the work of social justice, or what could be described as laboring for liberation.

In the past few months, I have witnessed and felt a shift in the spaces I live and work in—heightened fear, rage, and loss, much of it tied directly or indirectly to the shift in the U.S.’s political landscape. That shift is real and valid, but for me, the election of Donald Trump wasn’t surprising. It angered and upset me, for sure, but there was nothing shocking about the United States choosing (what is ultimately) white supremacy. This nation was founded on stolen land, genocide, and myths of white (abled, male) supremacy that led to laws and “traditions” based on the supposed inferiority and undesirability of anyone who didn’t fit that mold, whether because they were Black, Indigenous, women, or disabled (among other things).

It’s clear to me that movements for liberation, justice, and healing are fighting wars on two fronts —against external enemies and internal dangers alike. Trump (and his administration), the alt-right, and systems of structural oppression (like transmisogyny, ableism, or settler-colonialism) are all external threats. On the other hand, patterns of gatekeeping, abuse, horizontal or intra-community oppression, and silo-ing (single-issue politics) represent some of the internal dangers we struggle to address. Frequently, we lose track of the distinctions between the two, instead of recognizing both how they are related and how and why they are distinct, and therefore require different types of strategies and tactics. I don’t claim to have or know all of the answers to these problems (at either the interpersonal or structural levels), but I do perceive some strategies and principles we need to keep in mind.

The first and most important thing is emphasizing the importance of sticking to values and principles, instead of rigid or overly ideological thinking (the kind that leads to unnecessary political litmus tests, lack of nuance, and no space for people new to movement work). Values and principles help underscore what kind of world we want to live in - things like valuing interdependence, anti-violence, and accountability with compassion. There could be many other possible values and principles too. When we operate from a set of shared values and principles, we can both set a framework for the core conditions necessary for doing movement work and building the world we want, and allow for multiple possible and valid interpretations of how those principles should work and be applied in different contexts.

Effective resistance requires challenging harm and violence both within and outside movement/community. I learned disavowal—one of the most insidious oppression tactics—most explicitly when I first connected with the autistic activist community. Some of the first messages I got said that society needs to accept autistic people because autism is a valid difference and not a psychiatric or intellectual disability. Those messages actually say that our humanity is contingent on somebody else’s inhumanity (not to mention how they erase autistic people with psychiatric and/or intellectual disabilities). Disavowal tells us that we only get to move ahead or get more rights or be more included or get an opportunity if we do so at somebody else’s expense. It reinforces capitalist scarcity politics by saying that only so many people can be included or have rights, and that in order to include or give rights to some people, somebody else must still be excluded and denied rights by definition.

Many of us know that to be marginalized or targeted means a lifetime of abuse and violence, including the violence of compliance and indistinguishability philosophy.[1] Like all other forms of violence, compliance and indistinguishability target us both from outside and from within. I want and need to talk about what it means to create a compliance culture within movements. For me, activism was inevitable. Meeting other autistic people was life-changing and incredibly empowering. It brought so many things to my life that I will forever be grateful for, but it has also nearly destroyed me. I’ve found myself in communities that constantly replicated the very same hierarchies and forms of violence that we fought against, wrote about, and discussed in late night conversations, anywhere where we might be able to sum up the collective privilege of resources to be somewhere together. We’ve replicated the same things that we talk about as violent and horrible and wrong. And one of those is a compliance culture specific to activism.

Here’s an example of that: In autistic activism land, it is not permissible for an autistic person to say, “I think I would like to be cured.” The idea of autism as undesirable defect is so widespread in society, but if somebody says that, they will be yelled at for being self-hating. That’s not to say that talk about cure is not retraumatizing and deeply triggering for many of us. But for some autistic people, especially those who haven’t ever learned about general opposition to the idea of cure, that medical model might make sense. Even someone who is deeply familiar with neurodiversity literature might still desire to be “cured” by some or another definition.[2] The point is, that it can be simultaneously valid for many of us to be triggered by and unable to engage with conversation about cure, while others find discussion of cure to be deeply validating.

Activism has its own overcoming myth. You enter some activist space, Tumblr, a campus group, your neighborhood cultural center. You’re expected to make mistakes, but to eventually never mess up anyone’s pronoun, ever, to never accidentally use the wrong vocabulary, regardless of how educated you are, self-educated or formally. You’re expected to be on this linear progression of no longer making mistakes once you are politically conscious, radical, or involved enough. And if you do make a mistake (and things that are actually toxic or oppressive end up being conflated very easily with valid disagreements), it’s evidence there’s something deeply wrong with your character regardless of how you handle it, whether you try to be accountable, or whether you work to not repeat that harm again.

I don’t mean that to say in communities where we’ve all been traumatized that we should excuse harm. We should never say that being traumatized or marginalized absolves us of responsibility when we harm others. But we’ve quite undeniably built up a mythology that there’s a linear progression in activism. And in reality, that myth is itself ableist, classist, racist, and capitalist because it implies that we’re all on an upward progression - the same language that white supremacy uses to say colonialism needs to civilize Brown people.

Compliance training in the community also means the social immunity of those with platform and influence from criticism - unless the criticism is a vitriolic attack tearing down everything the person has ever said or done throughout a lifetime.[3] Compliance in movement space means that although we often reject hierarchies and power structures as inherently abusive, we nevertheless create and perpetuate them quite frequently.

The movement calls for a lot more complexity and nuance than that. The movement has to acknowledge that none of us are perfect or infallible. This is why disability justice is critical to organizing. It recognizes and values that our needs, knowledges, capacities, and abilities to engage are fluid. It’s hard work to navigate that line between not giving ourselves a pass because we recognize that we will fail at some point, and insisting constantly that we work to do and be better. Disability justice allows us to embrace these imperfections, recognize our vulnerabilities and to recognize that most situations and most relationships are complicated and often intensely fucked up.

When we have communities that are based on shared experiences of trauma, we need to talk about how to navigate multiple conflicting traumas. We’re not going to get it right every time. It’s impossible to somehow extricate some set of rules that will perfectly apply to any situation, end abuse, and eliminate possibilities for and propensities to abuse, all across multiple forms of oppression. But we can think about what principles and values we seek to honor and what many of the possible multimodalities for engaging with those principles might be. We could seek to put those values and principles into practice, not as rigid rules, but as flexible guidelines based on a movement - and therefore the people in that movement.

What is the kind of world that we want to live in? If the purpose of much of our thinking and activism is to address wrongs and violence in the world, then what does it mean to also address wrongs and violence in our own communities? I have witnessed it. I have been part of it. I have been targeted by it. And I want and need us to question what keeps us beholden to the idea of palatability—why do we permit so much debate, so much calling out, so much speaking of truth, but draw lines at our own movements, lest we go too far? We can’t let our movements be co-opted by neoliberal, exploitative, and unaccountable individuals and organizations that push respectability politics or hackneyed and watered-down versions of the principles we fight for.

What does it mean to do the hard work of holding someone accountable and seeking justice, but without violence? What does it mean to center survivors if most nearly everyone in the space is a survivor? How can we handle, for example, conflicting and mutually contradictory abuse accusations, or ambiguous and shifting definitions of concepts that should have a plain meaning but are instead twisted totally beyond recognition? How can we believe survivors and hold space for both of these people if they are in our community, in our neighborhood, in our organizing group, in our friends circle and not excuse abuse? What does it mean to do reparations on the individual level? What does it actually mean to hold yourself and others accountable? What does it mean to do accountability when the word accountability and literally every concept created in activism, advocacy, organizing, or social justice has at some point or another been twisted to abuse and harm?

Who can’t be here? Thinking about what disability justice means in doing accountability requires asking what it means to hold myself accountable for my privilege. Struggling with disability justice means asking at every point: Who has access and who does not? When do I allow myself to be valid and when do I not? What does it mean to support other people and also not to expend all my emotional labor at other people’s whim? What does it mean to build community if community itself is traumatizing?

I don’t think that any of these questions come with easy answers. But I do think these are the questions we don’t ask often enough and that our movement does not address as often as it ought to. We spend a lot of time talking about disability justice and what it means externally from the movement - when talking about the prison industrial complex, historical forms of oppression, treating people like objects, medical experimentation, chattel slavery, war, reproductive access and justice, colonialism, economics. We don’t talk as much about what disability justice means in a movement. Sometimes we scratch the surface.

We talk about how we can make events more accessible, and we absolutely need to be having that conversation more frequently and seriously than we already do. But aside from events, what does it mean to make your organization, Facebook group, or house accessible? What does that mean for those of us who are on a fixed income or have no income, or if you’re houseless or people you know are houseless? What does accessibility mean if I have access to something that someone else doesn’t? Some of the ways I have attempted to practice that are of course remaining in conversation and collaboration with those who have the time and the emotional energy to speak with me and to work with me at least sometimes, to think about: If you are impacted by something that I’m not, where am I failing?

Reflecting on the privilege that I have, I’m neither going to solve it or erase it, but I do have an obligation to hold myself accountable for the privilege that I benefit from and for my capacity to harm—whether derived directly out of my privilege, or simply aided by it. And I also have to hold compassion for myself and for movement, to build a movement based on disability justice means to embrace interdependence and how we need one another in this process.

We can’t go it alone. It means to embrace multimodality as a way of doing movement. There is no one way to do activism right. There is no one way to communicate the ideas that we have bursting within ourselves that we want to share. All contributions, all types of labor, all of us are valid and valuable. And the sooner we recognize that, we’ll be in a better place to be able to grapple with these difficult questions and rebel against the respectability politics mandate and the activist compliance culture alike. Struggling with disability justice has to be an imperative for liberation because it requires us to do the hard work of engaging with each other as human beings in the full complexity of our bodyminds and all the weight that we carry.

© 2018 Lydia X. Z. Brown

About

[Image description: giving a short talk at the Disability Intersectionality Summit in Boston, Massachusetts, 5 November 2016. Image shows a young east asian person gesturing with both hands — their t-shirt says "The Whole Damn System Is Guilty As Hell" with the logo of the power fist (and comes from the Organization For Black Struggle based in St. Louis, Missouri); they are also wearing a nametag that says Lydia X.Z. Brown they/them, and a color communication badge showing green. Photo credit Kelsey Kent.]

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, organizer, and activist whose work has focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. They have worked to advance transformative change through organizing, conducting workshops, giving testimony, and disrupting institutional complacency. Lydia recently completed a term as the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council chairperson. Along with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, they are a lead editor of All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology by autistic people of color. Recently, they taught a course on disability and social movements at Tufts University. Their writing is featured in numerous scholarly and community publications, and they have received many honors, most recently from Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund, National Association for Law Placement/Public Service Jobs Directory, Society for Disability Studies, and American Association of People with Disabilities. Their blog is Autistic Hoya.

Twitter: @autistichoya



To Resist, One Must Have Hope!

Anita Cameron

Content notes: struggle and solidarity, infrastructural violence, suicidal ideation

In the dark times since the election, a one-word mantra has arisen. That word, that mantra, is Resist!

Many have lost hope. I too lost hope at first. I was very, very angry. I became depressed to the point of seriously considering suicide. Thankfully, that feeling only lasted a few minutes! Still, I was left with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. After all, I am almost everything this administration hates in the body of one person: Black, a woman, a lesbian, disabled, poor.

I saw how this administration did not wait to begin before hiring unqualified staff who hated people like me and other marginalized peoples. Though some, including the President, have been accused of (or caught in) acts of wrongdoing, they continue with impunity because they are surrounded by like-minded people. With all that corruption and complacency, what is an ordinary person to do? How could I resist?

I thought about fleeing the country, but realized that even with all of my skills, I would never be allowed to enter another country because of my disabilities.

I became numb in order to be able to deal with these feelings, but had to cast off that numbness in order to let hope seep in. As an activist, one must have some measure of hope. Otherwise, why bother?

What is it that we must resist? Fear, hatred, racism, misogyny, ableism, xenophobia, and general disrespect. We must resist the efforts of this administration to take away our healthcare; to deport people based on their religion; to rewrite history; to disrespect women; to strip away protections for trans folks; to criminalize people based on their race, skin color, or low socioeconomic status; to erase and eradicate the disability community; and to silence anyone who resists.

It’s easy to say that we must “resist,” but what is resistance? What does it mean to resist?

To resist means to exert oneself so as to counteract or defeat opposition. Another way of putting it is refusing to go along with the status quo. To resist is to fight. It means not allowing yourself, your family, your friends, or anyone to be pushed around by people or entities who would rather you cease to exist. Resisting can be hard but it must be done.

How does one resist? What can you or I do to combat what is going on?

Organizing is a form of resistance. The phrase "Don't mourn, organize" is being bandied about now more than ever. To many, it feels hollow because it seems like nothing can stop this administration’s transgressions; they've already gotten away with so many different kinds of misconduct.

Still, organizing against their policies sends a message that not everyone agrees with the evil bullying of this administration.

How does one organize? How many people does it take to organize? What can people organize?

Organizing can be simple or complex. One person can organize a specific action, such as drawing up a petition or holding a one-person vigil, while many people can come together to organize a specific event, such as a march, rally, or town hall meeting.

For those who can’t or don’t want to organize, participating in events and specific actions is also a form of resistance. For those who are homebound or bed borne, you, too can resist. You can sign an online petition. You can call or email your legislators. You can organize from your bed. You can use social media to resist by sharing an article or petition on Facebook, or by tweeting at a legislator.

There are other ways to resist if you don’t want to go as far as doing “political” things. You may feel unsafe because of your job, or because of where you live or who you live with. Speaking out against hatred, racism, ableism, disrespect, and discrimination is another form of resistance. Uplift marginalized peoples. Validate our experiences. Center us. Defend us.

Remember that unless you are part of the 1% or less, you have a chance of being negatively affected by what is happening in our country, even if right now you feel that you are “on top” because you are a White, cis, straight, Christian, nondisabled male, because of your status as middle or upper middle class, because of your education level, or because of any other reason that you feel that you aren’t “one of them.” It is important that you try to understand things from our perspective and resist alongside us, because if things continue as they are, you may get a rude awakening one day and find yourself among our ranks.

To resist, one must have hope. Hope is essential. Without it, we are lost.

What is hope? Hope is the act of wanting something to happen or to be true. Hope means that we are not giving up on our country or ourselves.

We must have hope in the face of all that is going on, because without it, we will die. We will watch and do nothing while healthcare goes away, while education becomes utterly substandard, while families are ripped apart through deportation and bans, and while safety nets are snatched from the disabled and poor. We will watch and do nothing while this administration commits more and more outrageous injustices and leads us to war and annihilation.

Hope gives us the strength to resist, to take action. With hope, we believe - we know - that we can stop or change things. Hope leads those of us who can, to act.

Hope and resistance has borne fruit. The President’s ban on Muslims from certain countries has been stopped, at least for now, after hundreds of people protested at airports. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would have led to the death or institutionalization of millions of Americans, was stopped not only because of disagreements among right wing Republicans, but through the actions of so many of us who wrote, called, tweeted, emailed, and visited our legislators, as well as those who held town hall meetings, and who protested and were arrested in order to stop it, at least temporarily.

Victories like this, even temporary victories, keep hope alive in those of us who resist. We can dream of a better and brighter day, just as those before us dreamt that someday we would all be free and equal. While that dream has not yet truly come, it is closer than ever.

In this age of hate, when everyone is desperate and all seems hopeless, it is extremely important that those of us who resist remain steadfast in our hope. We cannot allow these temporary victories to lull us into a false sense of security. In response to every victory, our opponents, those who want us dead or gone, craft new and clever ways to oppress us.

Just as the powers that be are creative in their methods of oppression, we resisters must be equally and more creative in our resistance. After all, at some point, our methods of resistance will become predictable and easily thwarted. It is well known that certain legislators no longer attend their own town hall meetings. Some legislators will no longer accept petitions, postcards, or letters. Call-ins to politicians are stopped in their tracks because staff close the phone lines. Protesters are often stopped before they reach their target, or arrested within minutes of arrival.

Hope allows us resisters to devise better and more efficient strategies to continue our fight. It keeps us on the path of nonviolence and justice. Violence is hopelessness; it is an act of one who has given up and who sees no other choice. It is hope turned to desperation. I’m not being judgmental. I know what it is to feel desperation. I understand the emptiness and hopelessness that leads to violence. It is hope based in love of self, of neighbors, and of country that leads to creative resistance that will bring back what we have lost and what we still might lose.

Hope gives courage, which leads to more hope. It is what makes us hold on when all seems lost. It is what propels us to do things we thought we could never do: call that senator or member of congress to oppose unjust legislation; carry a picket sign during a vigil; get arrested for shutting down a building, a street, or the Capitol as a form of civil disobedience. Hope gives you the strength to tell your right-wing uncle that Black lives matter, poor people aren’t leeches, disabled people deserve to live and have rights, immigrants aren’t bad people, and stop misgendering your trans cousin!

To resist, one must have hope. The work cannot be done in a vacuum. Hope sustains resistance. Resistance sustains hope. “Resistance” without hope is merely an empty word. Shouting “Resist,” posting a meme on social media, making some artwork… that’s easy, and meaningless. To give it meaning, to make it useful, to make it actual, you need a fuel, a driving force: hope. Without hope and all it entails, there can be no resistance.

© 2018 Anita Cameron

About

[Image description of Anita Cameron, a Black woman with very long dreadlocks, wearing thick glasses, a tan hat and dressed in various shades of grey, sitting with one hand handcuffed to the fence of the White House during an ADAPT protest. A copper colored cane is in her lap and she is staring seriously, almost scowling into the camera.]

Disability rights activist Anita Cameron has been involved in social change activism and community organizing for 37 years. As a teenager, the 52-year old Chicago native joined peace and justice organizations and participated in nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1986, Anita joined ADAPT, a national, grassroots disability rights organization, and has been a member for 32 years, serving as a national organizer, strategist, and police negotiator. Anita is very proud of the fact that she has been arrested 134 times with ADAPT doing nonviolent civil disobedience after the style of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Anita is an accomplished writer and blogger who has served as a guest columnist for newspapers, magazines, and blogs, writing mainly about issues affecting people with disabilities, including issues of discrimination, voting rights, transportation, opposition to physician assisted suicide, and emergency preparedness. She has written for Yahoo! Voices, The Mobility Resource, and The Huffington Post, and has been published in “Voices of A People’s History of the United States”, by the late award winning historian Howard Zinn. The book has recently undergone a tenth anniversary reissue, which includes Anita’s original article, “And the Steps Came Tumbling Down: ADAPT’s Battle with the American Homebuilders’ Association”. Anita now blogs at Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, as well as at her own blog, Angry Black Womyn.

Anita is Director of Minority Outreach at Not Dead Yet. She lives in Rochester, NY, with her wife Lisa.

Twitter @adaptanita



Barron Trump's (Alleged) Autistic Childhood

Cyree Jarelle Johnson

Content notes: eugenics, child abuse, suicide

President Donald Trump has a contentious relationship with disability communities. His attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and derision of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Serge Kovaleski have rightfully put him at odds with our movement. His approach towards disability issues is troubling, yet in the context of plausible rumors that Barron Trump is autistic, this misbehaviour could amount to child abuse. Public humiliation and cure rhetoric are common forms of emotional abuse leveled at autistic children. The treatment of the youngest Trump is potentially a proxy for the abuse that will continue to be the norm in Donald Trump’s America.

Donald Trump met with school leaders this Valentine’s Day, and spent a great deal of their time together talking about autism, a non-sequitur to their scheduled conversation about early childhood education. Principal Jane Quenneville noted what she believed to be a rise in students with autism spectrum disorders. Trump slammed what he called a “tremendous increase” noting that he found it “a horrible thing to watch.” The voices of autistic students were noticeably absent from the room.

[Screenshot from a Tweet by Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump on September 24, 2014, 5:35 AM: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!]

The Centers for Disease Control have noted no such increase. About 1 in 66 to 1 in 68 people are autistic, a small fraction of the human population. While these numbers may be greater or fewer in some states, overall there is no “autism epidemic.” There is, however, a regime of misinformation about people with autism spectrum disorders.

When President Trump was still Candidate Trump, he issued at least two tweets baselessly linking early childhood vaccinations to autism spectrum disorders. On March 28th, 2014, he tweeted “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!” This conspiracy theory, most common among conservative Christian Darwinists on the far right and ableist body purists on the left, casts autism as an avoidable horror. To them, autism is far worse than the deadly diseases vaccines are designed to prevent. This line of thinking promotes a “survival of the fittest” mentality, at once eugenicist and ignorant to the fact that healthy, non-disabled people die each year of preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, and influenza. These are the lies that create stigma. These are the myths that “warrior” parents use to excuse the abuse of autistic children.

[Screenshot from a Tweet by Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump on September 3, 2014, 9:30 AM: “I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.]

Trump’s claims linking autism to vaccines are based on a fraudulent study that has since been thoroughly debunked; however the influence of the study has unfortunately been very persistent. There is a great deal of evidence that his line of thinking excuses and even promotes the murder of autistic children. Trump’s proposed cuts to healthcare will surely leave parents of autistic children with fewer options for safe childcare, and less money at the end of the month. It is common for a lack of social and medical support for parents to be cited as a contributing factor to the murder of children with disabilities. If autism is being presented as a curable or preventable negative trait, something to “[s]ave our children & their future[s]” from, then what incentive do non-autistic people have to respect their autistic children as human beings?

Enter Rosie O'Donnell. In late November 2016, O’Donnell posted a video to her website asserting that Barron Trump had an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her proof lay in Barron Trump’s supposed inability to clap in a way that seems allistic, and some fidgeting in his seat. On November 28th, 2016, she tweeted “Barron Trump Autistic? if so - what an amazing opportunity to bring attention to the AUTISM epidemic”. O’Donnell has an autistic child. Instances in which the parents of children with autism use their supposed knowledge of ASDs to harm autistic people as a whole are myriad. Many have asserted that the youngest Trump should be “off limits” to scrutiny and speculation. Donald Trump’s war on the autistic community necessitates inquiry into what this means for the autistic people around him.

If Barron Trump is indeed Autistic, he is very likely subject to humiliating taunts and behavioral “therapies” designed to make him more like allistic children. He is the president’s youngest son: hypervisible, incredibly privileged, yet vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. This is not a rallying cry in defense of Barron Trump; yet if rich, white, autistic boys are harshly scrutinized for benign behavioral irregularities, other autistics will continue to bear the brunt of the fallout.

When autism is positioned as inherently negative, autistic people are seen as disposable. Why is having difficulty clapping considered troublesome enough to prompt a saccharine video about the sad fate of autistic kids? Now is the time for autistic youth and adults to highlight and respond to the intense scrutiny that autistic people of all ages face, and its consequences. People with autism die eighteen years sooner than non-autistic people, and are much more likely than allistics to commit suicide. Some of those suicidal impulses stem from the bullying that folks on the spectrum incur from people who agree with Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell’s fatalist view of autism.

© 2018 Cyree Jarelle Johnson

About

[Image description: a black non-binary person with very low cut hair and glasses looks directly into the camera. Behind them is a tree with low hanging branches bearing red berries, and a body of water.]

Cyree Jarelle Johnson is an essayist and poet from Piscataway, New Jersey. They are a Poetry Editor at The Deaf Poets Society, a journal of D/deaf and Disabled literature and art, and a proud member of the Harriet Tubman Collective. They are currently a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry from Columbia University.

Twitter: @blackTiresias



Hip Hop & Disability Liberation: Finding Resistance, Hope & Wholeness

DJ Kuttin Kandi and Leroy Moore

Content notes: Hip Hop hxstory and potential futures

For many of us Black and Brown people and people of color, music and art is more than just music and art just as Hip Hop is more than just Hip Hop music and art. Hip Hop is a culture that awakens our spirits and finds home through spoken word truths. Hip Hop is about surviving and thriving in an unjust world. It’s about healing, embracing, and holding space for one another. It’s a movement that flows with rhythm and rhyme through pain and joy. It pushes back against all that seeks to erase us as we leave our writings on the walls. Through the call and response, we shatter glass ceilings and beat juggle our way into existence, especially when we are unloved. Hip Hop is everything we are told not to be and everything we aspire to become. Hip Hop is the toprock and sixstep reach to our whole selves; and the verse and the hook of resistance along with the swag of a squad full of hope.

Founded by Black and Brown working class youth in the Bronx, Hip Hop culture has always been a form of resistance as it has always been a space of hope and love. Through resistance work, one can and will find community who bring hope by their perseverance and dedication for justice amidst oppression. While resistance work can be hard and full of struggle, it is also amongst the people we serve where we find upliftment and hope. Hip Hop, a hxstorical resistance movement of marginalized communities of color that fought against an oppressive system in the early 70’s in the Bronx, continues to find hope through the Hip Hop elements of Breakin’, MCin’, DJin’, Graffiti, and Knowledge. It is also through that same hope of “cuttin’ it up” on vinyl, windmills on cardboard boxes, and spittin bars in a cypher where Hip Hop proceeds its journey into resistance as it continues to “look for the perfect beat.”

In reality, we know that there is no such thing as perfect. Yet, sometimes to our own demise, we tend to strive for perfection. And in Hip Hop, it’s almost always about “authenticity.” More on authenticity later. Regardless, there is work to be done if Hip Hop is to move past this idea of perfection and continue onto the path of resistance. In order for Hip Hop to truly evolve and expand in its understanding of resistance and hope, the Hip Hop community must move beyond just the 5 elements of Hip Hop and approach Hip Hop with an intersectionality practice—a practice that integrates a Disability Justice framework. Therefore, as we continue to celebrate what Hip Hop means for us, it is also important that we be critical of the work that Hip Hop has done thus far. Despite Hip Hop being a large platform that shares stories of resistance and hope, there are still many stories and people that have not been centered and given the platform. Specifically, disabled Hip Hop artists have been left out of the conversation or rather, they have been forgotten, ignored, and/or othered.

Hip Hop has touched people with disabilities world-wide; however, people with disabilities are still oppressed in and out of the Hip Hop world-wide industry. Today, Hip Hop has grown into a world-wide movement and a multi-billion dollar industry. Hip Hop artists Jay Z, Duffy, Dr Dre, and Birdman and Slim Williams are reaching the 2017 Forbes Five list with multi-million to billion dollar deals and money making contracts with companies such as Tidal, Apple, Ciroc Vodka, and Armand de Brignac. Yet many of us do not know the full stories of graffiti writer Kase2 also known as King Kase2 (born Jeff Brown) with an amputation, Ronald “Bee-Stinger” Savage with Tourette Syndrome, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels who released a memoir on depression and suicide in January 2017, and more early stories of artists with disabilities in Hip-Hop. Why is there still a stigma of depression and suicide, and why is it hardly discussed such as the death by suicide of Hip Hop music mogul Chris Lighty in 2012? Why aren’t queer and trans disabled Black, Brown, Indigenous, womxn of color centered and given not just the feature but the headline of every performance bill? Why are there many celebrity artists whose disabilities are often erased or sometimes silenced if they speak about their disabilities in public? How does this global billion dollar movement touch people with disabilities but leave them out of the picture? These are just some of the questions we need to reflect upon and address, especially if we intend to further our resistance work as a Hip Hop community.

Hip Hop’s journey of resistance began long before the two turntables ever existed, as Hip Hop has its roots in slave ships where The Dozens were born, in disabled slaves who battled each other by telling stories, in field songs that had messages that were passed down from slave to slave, and in the Blues like Blind Willie Johnson who sung a haunting song on the steps of a New Orleans courtroom and was arrested while singing for tips outside of a Custom House. These real stories of resistance through music by Black and Brown disabled artists are only the tip of the iceberg, but very few make the connection of race, art, disability, and resistance. Musicians with disabilities have always been here; however, there has been a lack of cultural activism especially in Hip Hop with disability justice, to not only advocate but to continue to display the talents of musicians with disabilities.

Today, organizing groups such as Krip-Hop Nation bring in the cultural activism and disability justice perspective as they honor the history of Black and Brown disability resistance through the arts. Krip-Hop Nation is an international network of Hip-Hop and other musicians with disabilities with a few chapters around the world called Mcees With Disabilities (MWD) in Germany, UK, and Africa. Krip-Hop is a community as well as style of music, an artistic space where people with disabilities can speak out and speak back to the social structures that exclude people based on disability, race, sexuality, and a host of other marginalized identities. Krip-Hop Nation’s byline “Krip-Hop is more than music” is reinforced through their ever-growing movement-building politics, which is a process that builds from identity politics, to self-empowerment, to cultural artistic expressions of speaking, singing/rapping, and writing with a political activist and intersectional lens.

During this Trumpism era it will be necessary that we work in solidarity with organizations like Krip-Hop Nation who are doing the work of centering Black and Brown people and people of color with disabilities. The Trump administration, along with Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, recently previewed the 2018 budget which vows to cut $72 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income in the next ten years. The Trump administration’s proposed cuts encompass $1.74 trillion on social welfare reductions. This is just a preview of the challenges people with disabilities will be facing in the next four years. Thus, international organizing networks and artistic collectives such as Krip-Hop Nation will continue to be vital as they create and hold space for artistry, education, and community building. More than ever, it will be crucial that we give love to our disabled ancestors and organizations/projects that uphold disability justice, artistic avenues, and display our stories such as The Disability Visibility Project, Sins Invalid, The Harriet Tubman Collective, National Black Disability Coalition, Hip-Hop Bruha, ThisAbility Newspaper of South Africa, and so much more. We will need to protect and preserve these spaces, and create newer resistance and hope spaces for the art arena and our international community. Our Hip Hop community will need to move through, with, and beyond just conversations of access and inclusivity, and into a dialogue exchange of how disability, social justice, and Hip Hop culture can and do intersect.

As Hip Hop community organizers, our work needs to support the work of organizing networks like Krip-Hop Nation who are grounded in an intersectionality framework, connected with community, and centering people of color with disabilities. We need to be committed to disrupting and addressing how society views people with disabilities as we work on dismantling white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist ableist systems. We must also recognize our disabled ancestors and founders from Blues to Hip-Hop because we are building on what they have built. We will need to celebrate this history and intersectional cultures by politically educating ourselves and our local to global communities. Simultaneously, we need to be critical thinkers and challenge this very foundation along with questioning why disabled peoples have been left out and/or oppressed.

Disability Justice organizers Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, Leroy Moore, Sebastian Margaret, Eli Clare, and Stacey Milbern (along with the inspiration of many Disability Justice movement organizers around the world) created the Disability Justice (DJ) framework and practice which lays out ten principles for movement organizers to work from such as Commitment to Cross Disability Solidarity, Collective Access, and Collective Liberation. The DJ framework in company with the Hip Hop Intersectionality Framework (HHIF) created by DJ Kuttin Kandi and Krip-Hop Nation’s Hip Hop for Disability Justice Campaign are just some of the resources that provide a basis which can be put into not just our Hip Hop artistry but into our daily practice.

With the intention of Hip Hop developing a praxis that widens and deepens its knowledge and work on social justice, it is paramount that Hip Hop aims to apply these frameworks as well as connect and collectively move with the people. Just as Hip Hop has always been about the movement, we will need to be movement-building with Disability Justice at the forefront. We will need to continue to challenge an industry created by corporate greed that tries to tear our spirits by strengthening Hip Hop’s anti-capitalist lens. Hence, it will be imperative that Hip Hop continues to shift away from an industry that often others and shames people with disabilities, and into a place of centering wholeness through a Hip Hop movement that demands Disability Justice.

Hip Hop has always been a space for Black, Brown, Indigenous peoples, and people of color who have been excluded, marginalized, and othered. But Hip Hop has also been a space where Black and Brown people and people of color who are queer, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or disabled have been excluded, oppressed, and othered. Some examples of Hip Hop ableist actions have been through the Hyphy Movement using ableist words such as “retarded”, Drake’s appropriated “Wheelchair Jimmy” dance as he acted as a wheelchair user, and 50 Cent who has consistently bullied autistic people. Be that as it may, Hip Hop did not create ableism as ableism itself has always been intertwined with white supremacy and heteropatriarchy way before Hip Hop was created. Actually, Hip Hop was created as a response to white supremacy. As follows, this is all the more reason why Hip Hop needs to, as Disability Justice organizer Mia Mingus eloquently stated in their 2011 Femmes of Color Symposium keynote speech, “move towards the ugly.” We will need to move towards the hidden, the shamed, the displaced, the othered, and the undesirable, as Hip Hop has always been the kind of resistance space that sought hope from the often othered and ugly. Hip Hop’s original roots relied on the voice of the struggle and the marginalized to create its authentic aesthetic. Consequently, this is the type of resistance work that will find not just hope but the kind of liberation and wholeness Hip Hop has been seeking and needing.

As more Hip Hop artists come forward speaking openly about their disabilities and/or support for people with disabilities, the more we can collectively gather, share, and organize. The more that we center disabled queer, bi, trans, gender non-conforming, womxn of color; the closer we get to liberation. If we, as a Hip Hop community can face our own internalized ableism as we confront institutionalized ableist systems, we can find truth in our futile search for Hip Hop “authenticity.” It will be then that we will realize that authenticity is not simply just found in some nostalgic Hip Hop “purist” sound but in the static of the dirty skratch on even the shiniest most crunk vinyl. It’s deep in the cut, stacked under a crate full of records. It’s lost amongst the grooves. And it’s bent, cracked, and warped. But it’s a sound worth playing as the “purity” is found in the screech of the kick and the snare, and the authenticity between the rarity and the most common of the funk. This is where hope lives and where we are free. It is silent and yet it hollers out truth from droppin’ it on the one. It’s tragic as it is liberating. It’s comforting and excruciating. Still, it plays on, because perhaps this is still about that journey for the “perfect beat”, after all—the perfect beat created by the imperfect, othered, and forgotten disabled Hip Hop head who brings authenticity through every whole note played and every resistance song chanted.

© 2018 Leroy Moore and DJ Kuttin Kandi

About

[Image description: a smiling Brown Asian, Fiipinx, womxn with long dark brown hair wearing a camouflaged jacket and elephant-printed hat tilted to the side.]

DJ Kuttin Kandi also known as the "People's Hip Hop DJ Scholar" was born and raised in Queens, NY. She is widely regarded as one of the most legendary and accomplished womxn DJs in the world. Kandi is a disabled PilipinX/PinXy-American Queer, Writer, Poet, Theater Performer, Educator, Hip Hop Feminist, and Community Organizer . She is a member of DJ team champions 5th Platoon; Co-Founder and DJ for the Hip Hop group Anomolies; Co-Founder of the famed NY monthly open mic “Guerrilla Words,” Co-Founder of the coalition R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop (Representing Education, Activism & Community through Hip Hop), Co-Founder and Board Member of the new DJ Coalition - Freedom Sound DJ's, and the Founder and Editor of the blog Hip Hop Bruha. DJing for over 20 years, Kandi competed in over 30 DJ competitions such as ITF Championships and Vibe Magazine DJ Championships. She is the 1998 NY Source Magazine DJ Champion and for 18 years she held the title as the only womxn DJ to be in the DMC USA FINALs. Kuttin Kandi has been interviewed and featured in numerous magazines and newspapers such as Source, Vibe, Vogue, YM, Rolling Stones, XXL, The New York Times, The Daily News, and the Vibe Hip-Hop Diva’s book. Kandi has performed all around the world with artists such as Bob James, Kool Herc, Jay-Z, Gangstar, LL Cool J, Mya, MC Lyte, the Roots, Young Gunz, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Black Eyed Peas, Common, Jean Grae, BlackStar, and punk Riot Grrrl group LeTigre, just to name a few. Kandi has been honored and performed at venues such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lincoln Center, and Madison Square Garden for WNBA’s NY Liberty. She is a known Pop-Culture Political Essayist and has written for several anthologies and blogs. Kandi is also the Co-Editor of the book "Empire of Funk: Hip Hop and Representation in Filipino/a America" and is currently working on new writing projects. When Kandi is not performing she is organizing on the ground with various grassroots community organizations, speaking, writing or lecturing. Kandi worked at UC San Diego’s Women’s Center for seven years specializing in social justice & diversity programming and within Student Life at Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area. Kandi is a member and organizes with Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Asian Solidarity Collective, Asians For Black Lives San Diego and the Intersectional Feminist Collective. DJ Kuttin Kandi continues to do community organizing work and provides various lectures on diversity, gender & sexuality, race, body politics, disability justice and etc.

Website: https://www.djkuttinkandi.com/

[Image description: a photo of Leroy Moore, a Black man with a shaved head looking left from the camera. He is wearing a black tuxedo with white shirt and magenta bow tie. Behind him is a glass-paned window.]

Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a Black writer, poet, hip-hop/music lover, community activist and feminist with a physical disability. He has been sharing his perspective on identity, race & disability for the last thirteen years or so. His work began in London, England where he discovered a Black Disabled Movement which help lead to the creation of his lecture series; ‘On the Outskirts: Race & Disability.’ Leroy is Co-founder of the Sins Invalid performance project and its Community Relations Director. Leroy is also a contributing writer and performer for many Sins Invalid shows. He is also the creator of Krip-Hop Nation (Hip-Hop artists with disabilities and other disabled musicians from around the world) and produced Krip-Hop Mixtape Series. Leroy formed one of the first organizations for people of color with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay area that lasted five years. He is founding member and current Chair of the Black Disability Studies Working Group with the National Black Disability Coalition. Leroy was Co Host of a radio show in San Francisco at KPOO 89.5 FM, Berkeley at KPFA 94.1 FM. He has studied, worked and lectured in the field of race and disability concerning blues, hip-hop, and social justice issues in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa. Leroy is one of the leading voices around police brutality and wrongful incarceration of people with disabilities and was the assistant producer on a 2015 documentary, Where Is Hope, on police brutality against people with disabilities. He is a longtime columnist, one of the first columns on race & disability that started in the early 90’s at Poor Magazine in San Francisco, www.poormagazine.org, Illin-N-Chillin. In 2014, San Francisco Bayview Newspaper named Leroy Champion of Disabled People in the Media on Black Media Appreciation Night.

Leroy is the author of a new children’s book, Black Disabled Art History 101, Krip-Hop book and his poetry/lyrics book, The Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics has been published by Poetic Matrix Press in the Winter of 2015. Leroy has won many awards for his advocacy from the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council under Willie L. Brown to the Local Hero Award in 2002 from Public Television Station, KQED in San Francisco.


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