Black Disability Freedom Dreams

Screenshot of Zoom call with 7 individuals - the 5 Fannie Lou Hamer Program participants along with AAPD's Keri Gray and Maria Town. All of them are smiling at their computers.

“This program has become my anchor of hope that Black Disabled people can have a community that uplifts one another through the challenges we face in voting and our everyday lives.  It helped me find my voice and helped me build skills to create a new path. One that enabled me to embrace my Blackness and my disability simultaneously. Our cohort dreamed of sharing this space with the world.

January 4, 2021

2020 has been one of the most challenging years for many of us. Black people, especially Black people with a Disability have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and police brutality.  However, disproportionate impact is nothing new to our Black, Disabled community. Despite the injustices we face regularly broadcasted on the news, despite the statistics and careful analysis of academics proving how systematic racism and inequity exists, and despite Black people and people with disabilities running for office and occasionally winning, our bodies and our well-being are still not seen as a priority when writing or executing law and policy. Additionally, our perspectives and needs are often overlooked when making decisions that impact education and employment practices.

Personally, I experienced numerous challenges learning how to navigate academic, professional, grassroots and political spaces. Oftentimes, the safe spaces of embracing Blackness and Disability are broken up into separate silos, which can make it difficult to articulate how both intersect when advocating for my needs. However, this year, I had the honor of organizing through AAPD’s first cohort of the Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program. The Fannie Lou Hamer Program was created for Black Disabled advocates in memory of Black, Disabled voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Our cohort advocated for voter registration and civic engagement across Black communities leading up to the 2020 national and local elections, one of the most impactful election years of our lifetime.

This was a cohort where my ideas and organizing efforts were embraced and taken to new levels where they had been previously dismissed with other groups. I also learned about so many new nuances and perspectives that I now push myself to be accountable for. This program has become my anchor of hope that Black Disabled people can have a community that uplifts one another through the challenges we face in voting and our everyday lives.  It helped me find my voice and helped me build skills to create a new path. One that enabled me to embrace my Blackness and my disability simultaneously. Our cohort dreamed of sharing this space with the world.

Thus, we launched a campaign called Black Disability Freedom Dreams. We recognized how hard this year has been on the Black community and the Black Disabled community in particular. The converging crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-Black state violence has uncovered long standing inequities that render Black communities socially, economically and medically vulnerable. In this context, inspired by Fannie Lou Hamer’s assertion that “Nobody’s Free, Until EveryBody’s Free,” we were compelled to broaden our drive for voter registration to a broader contemplation of #BlackDisabilityFreedomDreams. The Black, Disabled community encompasses a broad range of people with varied life experiences, needs and relationships to disability, so we hosted this event as an open exchange of ideas about how people who are Black and Disabled imagine and work towards liberation. The discussion was guided by the following questions:

  1. Why is voting and integrated civic engagement important to Black people with disabilities?
  2. How can we tackle and overcome ableism in our communities? How can people with Disabilities inform the greater population of ableism and how it exists to be more inclusive?
  3.  How can people with disabilities overcome impostor syndrome and stereotypes that threaten their day-to-day lives? How can we inform others of Disability stereotypes and how to be more inclusive in more professional and academic environments?
  4. What does Black Disability Freedom mean to you?
  5. Why is voting/civic engagement important?

AAPD and our entire cohort hopes that these highlights and guiding questions will continue the conversation and inspire others to create a space where we can be our full selves, unapologetically, as we dream and fight for our freedom.  We encourage people to use the hashtags #BlackDisabilityFreedom and #BlackDisabilityDreams continue this conversation to remind the world that we exist, we are here, and our lives and liberation is worth fighting for. We also hope that those who want to engage in allyship will gain insight on how to stand in solidarity with us. We do not have to feel alone on an island with the challenges we face. Our work is far from over, and we have many elections like the Georgia Senate runoff coming. This is a call to listen, learn, and however you can, take action.

Link for the Black Disability Freedom Dreams event on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhAWLAq7UvE&feature=youtu.be

Link for the transcript of the Black Disability Freedom Dreams event:
https://www.aapd.com/black-disability-freedom-dreams-transcript/

By: Jalyn Radziminski, organizer in AAPD’s Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program.

Through AAPD’s REV UP Campaign, we are proud to announce our new initiative, the Fannie Lou Hamer Leadership Program. This program is designed for young (ages 18 – 30) Black disabled advocates who are committed to boosting voter registration and civic engagement across Black communities leading up to the 2020 elections. Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend and have the opportunity to create a national nonpartisan campaign that promotes voter registration and participation.

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