Disability Lead celebrates and recognizes Black history and we work to center the power of Black disabled leaders in our movement. These many leaders within our Network fight racist and ableist policies and practices; we’re proud to call them Members.
In honor of those Members as well as the Black disabled leaders who are no longer with us, and future Black disabled leaders who have yet to be known, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on our organizational commitment to anti-racism as well as uplift the deep, yet too often overlooked, history of Black disabled leaders.
As an organization committed to both disability leadership and disability justice, Disability Lead’s work is inextricably connected to racial justice. It is imperative if we envision a world in which people with disabilities lead with power and influence, and work to ensure that all of us are able to show up and lead with our whole selves. The path forward acknowledges and addresses the ways in which white supremacy and other oppressive systems are inclusive of ableism and impact our culture, structures, and programs.
Last year, Disability Lead launched an anti-racism transformation team, also known as ATT, in partnership with Chicago Regional Organizing Against Racism (CROAR). The inaugural team members: James Ferg-Cadima, Laura Isaacs, Dan Tun, Keidra Chaney, Ann Manikas, Robin Burnett, and Risa Jaz Rifkind— Disability Lead staff, Board of Directors, Members and Fellows work to audit our programs, policies, and practices. Those results will tailor the recommendations for budgeting priorities for ongoing work to dismantle white supremacy.
ATT meets regularly and is currently tasked with how white privilege, comfort, and guilt are prioritized and intersect with our organization’s history and the disability movement.
In 2021, Disability Lead launched the Collab, a community of practice open to anyone interested or working in the movement of racial equity or disability justice. Collab is a space that is open to all. With 67 members who have been sharing resources and exploring topics like cultural competency, accessible mental health practitioners, and the new law, CESSA, in Illinois regarding alternative responses to mental health crises is moving this group forward. We implore you to join us.
Finally, we honor those who paved the way for our collective rights, and we uplift and remember just a few of our forbearers including:
Brad Lomax: As a member of the Black Panther Party and the disability rights movement, Lomax played a critical role in solidifying cross-movement solidarity between both groups during the historical 504 Sit-ins. Lomax’s work as a bridge-builder between racial and disability rights communities was central in coalition-building between both movements.
Fannie Lou Hamer: A well-recognized civil rights activist and organizer for voting rights. Her work centered on elevating the rights of Black voters and women, particularly across the state of Mississippi. Hamer had polio as a child and later became physically disabled due to a severe beating in a Mississippi jail.
Marsha P. Johnson: Johnson was one of the first people to resist the police during the Stonewall Riots, and became a leader in transgender organizing. Johnson had both psychiatric and physical disabilities. Because she was a disabled Black transgender woman, Johnson was regularly arrested and subjected to medical treatments without her consent. As a result, she developed a vision for liberation that addressed interlocking systems of oppression.
There are many others who deserve and need to be known and we encourage you to seek out leaders who are fighting against racism and ableism. A few of those resources include:
Jen White-Johnson created the Black Disabled Lives Matter image that has been layered over the Disability Lead plus sign.