Did You Eat Yet? July 2023 – Disability justice month with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Hi Friend,

My name is Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and I am the gracelessly aging warrior queer auncle of your dreams. I’m also a writer and longtime disability justice and transformative justice organizer. I’m the author or co-editor of ten books. My latest book documents the last few years of disabled organizing for survival in the triple pandemic and dreams how we’re going to get to a free disabled future. I also write about collective care and disability justice, brown femme disabled poems, and share strategies on accountability beyond the criminal justice system. I still believe in the disabled future – even in the middle of the hell of the present.

Things I am loving right now: the Creative Interventions toolkit workbook, Alice Wong’s cute collab with Umeishio, the Seattle-based Asian grief work of A Resting Place the Mean Scary Femme Appreciation Club sticker on the back of my 07 Honda Fit the writer M Tellez of @cyborgmemoirs makes.

Well, officially it’s Disability Pride Month to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act getting signed into law on July 20, 1990. I want to be clear that the ADA didn’t happen because nice abled people decided to help the handicapped. Disabled activists literally crawled up the steps of the US Capitol to show how fucked up the inaccessibility of the world is. We raised hell for years to get the ADA passed. But the ADA is a floor, not a ceiling. It’s meant to provide basic rights, not the liberation we dream of.

What’s the difference between disability rights and disability justice? As Japanese/Haitian DJ movement founder and co-creator of Sins Invalid Patty Berne says, “Disability justice exists in the “cliffhangers” left behind by the disability rights movement.” Disability justice centers the issues and resistance of queer, trans, and BIPOC disabled people, inside and outside the state. Disability rights was and is a majority white movement focused on changing laws and policies.

For a crash course on disability justice, read through these 10 Principles and check out Sins Invalid’s DJ primer while you’re at it. You can use this BIPOC disabled made tool for yourself, your community or organization to reflect on where you’re at understanding and putting disability justice into practice. 

It’s a weird time to be disabled and alive. On the one hand, there’s so much rad disabled organizing, cultural work, shit to read and read some more. I just got done performing at the I wanna be with you everywhere disability justice performance festival. I was blown away by the care, access, and seamless bringing together of people both in person and online. But at the same time, the world is in a huge fascist eugenics slaughterhouse of attacks on bodily autonomy, disabled voting rights, access to Medicaid and backlash against the “cripping of the world the pandemic brought.

It’s the best of times and the worst of times, but we keep going. As my friend, badass Arab Jewish disabled femme transformative justice worker Shira Hassan said in her book Saving Our Own Lives: “We have to stay in love with each other’s survival at the messy kitchen table of community. “

I am nothing if not a rolodex femme. I am in LOVE with Kalaya’an Mendoza’s work in building community safety. Elliot Fukui’s MadQueer, BEAM, Fireweed Collective and Mirror Memoirs are all incredible spaces by and for survivors and people living with mental health/Madness. Chicago Mask Brigade and Mask Oakland are doing critical work keeping our communities safe by giving away free masks. And Alice was on @humanresourcesnetflix, as herself!

One of my favorites things is the “#StaceyTaughtUs” syllabus of damn near everything Stacey Park MIlbern wrote or did. Alice Wong and I compiled it after Stacey died in 2020. Stacey was a queer Southern Korean working class femme disabled organizer who was a genius at breaking down DJ, and you can learn a lot from her.

Sandy Ho’s essay about growing up as a disabled Asian queer girl sneaking out of the house gave me all the life when I stumbled on it. I can’t wait for Alice Wong’s series on Eater about disabled people and food. Everything is queer, trans, Asian, and disabled. Disabled Parts is a wonderful project about crip sexuality. This reel by Imani Barbarin made me cackle in recognition – don’t miss out on her Tiktoks. And check out these slides by @AbolishTime.

Here’s a great place to stay up to date on disabled art and politics. Check out the Don’t Mind If I Do exhibit. Deem Journal and Jezz Chung are releasing their audio series Dreaming Different, exploring the question, “How can we design the future through a neurodivergent lens?” Micha Frazer-Carroll’s Mad World: The Politics of Mental Health is out now from Pluto Press. And you can check out Kinetic Light’s incredible mixed-ability, very queer and Black dance performances here and here.

Alice Wong is coming up on a year since a sudden medical crisis drastically changed her life. She’s fundraising to continue to stay out of the nursing home. Yomi Wrong is fundraising to build an accessible sauna/hot tub at Shelterwood, a land project by and for Black and Indigenous LGBTQ people. 

We need to demand the state support the millions of us living with Long COVID. Commit to Long COVID Justice – take the Pledge! The Long COVID Justice coalition has a ton of actions you can take in the ongoing pandemic as the government encourages us to “forget” it, along with People’s CDC. Sick in Quarters is maintaining a database of groups doing mask mutual aid distributions join one or start your own!

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    Say NO to Zionism and Islamophobia! 70+ Asian American and allied organizations tell The Asian American Foundation: Drop Jonathan Greenblatt! The ADL is NOT AN ALLY to Asian American communities, organizations, and movements.
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