Collective Work: Disability Justice Beyond Academia
Jane Gravel, PhD, The Words for Things Jane Dunhamn, Sub-Committee Chair, NJ State Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights Kathy Coleman, MSW, Artistic Director, Disability Art and Culture Project
Visions, Actions, and Changes In the intersections of race and disability Historic Black civil rights organizations In disability art and culture Integrated dance
I’ll Be Rested, Mavis Staples I’ll be rested when the roll is called I’ll be rested when the roll is called I’ll be rested when the roll is called Until justice flows down and righteousness Like a mighty stream Keep alive the names Of those who put their lives out on the front lines And died just trying to live and breathe
For racial justice in disability, there is a move to utilize outside sources other than dominant culture disability advocacy and service delivery systems.
Vision You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. --Buckminster Fuller
Action – Getting Started Identification Research
Action Writer Black Organizations Barriers
Change Expected – BIC & NAACP Education of Black Leadership Disability Component to Black Conventions Black disabled workshops and Black disabled keynote at BIC
Unexpected – Legislative Black Caucus Bill for a Commission on Underrepresented Communities in Disability Review all disability bills for Legislative Black Caucus Unexpected – USCCR Statehouse hearing on issue of services by NJ DOC for people with non-apparent disabilities
Call for accountability by Black non- disabled leadership Request to participate in disability agencies’ activities Participate in the discussion of closing developmental centers Participate in wage discussions for direct support staff
Commitment to Black disabled issues NJ Public Policy Research Institute National Council of Negro Women Garden State Bar Assn. NJ Black Mayors Assn. Nat’l Org of Black Law Enforcement
Collaboration with Black United Fund National Black Disability Endowment Fund National network of Black owned disability service provider agencies Repository of evidenced based models of effective service delivery
Inclusive Arts Vibe Programs K- 6 Grade After School Dance Program ◦Collaboration with Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) ◦Located at Lynch View Elementary School ◦Disabled and non-disabled participants Community Dance Company ◦Youth/Young Adult ◦Anyone can join – not school based
Vision Disabled students should have equal opportunity to participate in dance both in schools and communities.
Although there is always room for the purpose of dance to be social or therapeutic, disabled students should also have the choice to participate in dance to improve their skills, enhance their creativity, and become artists.
Establish an atmosphere for exploration and learning that includes support for expressions of authentic disability identity and disability pride. “I feel proud when I perform.” –Amy
Build art and culture that value the variation that makes up humanity. ◦During choreography, when we used the dance skill word shake, a student said she couldn’t shake cause her meds make her shake too much. I asked her if she would like to do something else. She said she would wiggle. -from SUN program observation notes
Create and perform quality dance and therefore challenge the notion that “those people” can’t contribute to the arts or in other areas of society. ◦I feel like most of my interactions w/dev. disabled there’s a gulf btw. us – I am tempted towards callousness b/c it is so hard to relate. Seeing the performers’ radiant, beautiful humanity gave me so much hope and love. -Evaluation comment from audience member
Nurture students’ abilities to make choices, work in groups, and develop leadership skills. ◦Students each contributed ideas to create a story dance, The Girl’s Hideout. One student didn’t like another student’s idea. They were instructed to write them all down and then decided as a group which ideas went together best to fit their story. -from SUN program observation notes
We struggle in our youth/young adult group with recruiting non- disabled dancers and dancers with a variety of disabilities. The first dancers to join us were dancers primarily with intellectual disabilities. Since this time we have had more difficulty recruiting other dancers.
Disability Hierarchy Some impairments are perceived as being more desirable than others both within the disability community and in the non- disabled community. This creates separation between people with disabilities and between people with and without disabilities.
Examples During a high school club rush, a student came to our program table interested in our dance video. She walked away once she saw the word disability on the flyer. A dancer commented, in a way that belittled the other dancers, that she was higher functioning than the other students in the group.
The SUN program is more inclusive, but there are still issues that arise… ◦A fourth grade student said, “people with disabilities can’t dance; all they can do is move their heads and arms and do wheelies.”
Making Strides Our Latest Performance Audiences members described the young dancers as "push[ing] the boundaries of artistic expression" and "somewhat avant garde."
One artist wrote, "...the movement was captivating and engaging. Your dancers worked like a flock of sparrows rising into the sky, synchronized, but individual.....Your dancers proved that no matter the material, anyone can dance."
Striving for Social Justice in Dance Opportunities to participate Develop skills as dancers Create quality art Foster leadership and affirmative disability identity Change perception of who can dance and what dance can be!