Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Now that we’ve bid adieu to 2015 and ushered in a brand new year, I’d like to spotlight some of the people and projects that gave me pause, sparked thought, and helped expand the definition of what living with a disability means through their efforts and missions over the past year.
So allow me to signal boost and shine the light on some folks doing *awesome* work in the disability community. They have impacted my personal development and continuously provide fuel to forge on for another day. They are leading and teaching by example. Listed in no particular order of preference or awesomeness. If you’re not familiar with please do yourself a favor. You’ll thank me later.
1. Alice Wong, Founder/Project Coordinator of Disability Visibility Project
I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with Alice often online through Facebook and participated in thread discussions and Tweet sessions on disability. Alice is a disability advocate/researcher/archivist out of the Bay area in California. “The Disability Visibility Project (DVP) is an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture.” This project initially started as a one year project to share our communities stories as a way to preserve for history in the lead up to the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The project has become so popular it’s been extended and now has added features. Oh and the DVP Facebook group is where many disability activists, academics, and allies connect to read and discuss great curation of articles. By far, one of the best places of learning exchanges!
2. Leroy Moore, Founder of Krip-Hop Nation
Activist, journalist, author, artist are among the many hats Leroy wears. He has been chronicling police brutality cases at the intersection of race and disability for the better part of the last two decades. Bay area resident also, Leroy tours the country performing as a disabled artist through storytelling and rhyme raising awareness. I met Leroy after a performance in October of 2014 at Harvard University. It was terrific finally meeting in person after connecting so much online and I made it my business to attend and support. His latest artistic expression published in December marries his activism and artistry in Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics.
I met John about 10 years ago when I began to test the activism waters after learning some advocacy skills and applying them in my own neighborhood in Boston. We met through another local advocate I’d teamed up with while working on project to increase access to local businesses and both were members of one of the ILC’s (independent living centers). Since that time John has become a good friend, mentor, and colleague. We worked on our city disability commission together as members of advisory board. John was the chairperson and I hold the position now. John’s advocacy, insight, and policy knowledge are well-regarded and he led the charge against ballot initiative for assisted-suicide which was successfully struck down a few years back, here in Massachusetts. Proponents of assisted-suicide see it as an infringement of personal choice. John’s work is meaningful as he makes the case that disabled persons would be disproportionately affected in a society that assumes it’s “better dead than disabled.”
4. Dior Vargas, Creator of People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project
I can’t quite recall how I discovered Dior; I think it might have been from a post in DVP Facebook group but ever grateful that I did. The necessity and magnitude of importance for her work can’t be emphasized enough. She self-identifies as a “Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist” and her diligence in de-stigmatizing and bringing mental health in communities of color out of the shadows is duly noted. She was recognized at the White House as one of the Champions for Change. Her lived experience of mental illness and focus on treatment disparities is better informing the world.
5. Stephanie Thomas, Creator of Cur8able: fashion for people with disabilities
Beauty, fashion, disability, are a few of the things that pique my interest so it was inevitable and matter of time that I’d connect with Stephanie. Pure fate, it was written! We initially met on LinkedIn then became better acquainted through Facebook and also through Divas with Disabilities Project, an initiative I was involved in as a co-founder. Stephanie is a disability fashion styling expert, fashion editor, and on-air personality. I am a huge fan of Stephanie and her work. Her amiable personality coupled with her creativity in crafting custom fit chic expressions is what makes her such a standout. So whether Stephanie is styling for a photo shoot or hosting podcast you get a great sense of her polished brand of professionalism and feel like a gifted recipient.
6. Erricka Bridgeford, Creator of ErrickaBridgeford.com
When I think of Erricka, 3 things immediately come to mind- wisdom, strength, love. It’s been a few years since Erricka and I’ve been connected through Facebook via a mutual friend. Always delighted to discover another sis with a disability, I was *ecstatic* to finally meet her in person last November when she came to town to give a presentation at UMass Boston. Erricka is a trained mediator, speaker, social reformer, community-builder. She has an infectious spirit and smile. Her energy is simultaneously ebullient and serene. Erricka’s generous heart, listening skills, and fluid communication style make her a wonderful teacher. I could go on and on about her brilliance and substantive work but I’ll stop there and implore you to discover for yourself.
I look forward to reading more about all of the enumerated here in 2016 as well as making more connections with many others making valuable contributions. Appreciate the diversity and talent of the disability community and know the value of exercising creative control in telling our own stories.
Here’s to a great year of empowerment and beneficial impact! *cheers*