I recently was the Grand Marshall at Chicago’s 7th Annual Disability Pride Parade. I was honored to be invited, then uncomfortable by the thought of leading the parade. I’m unsettled by the dynamics that lead communities to pick out one person to honor and celebrate when pride particularly isn’t about individuals or fame or being a celebrity but rather about communal struggle, rebellion, and joy. But I did it and had a plentiful day in community. Here’s some of what I read at the rally:
“Disability Pride calls for celebration, hope, rebellion. We take shame, fear, and isolation, turn them around, and forge wholeness. Pride refuses to let the daily grind of ableism, discrimination, exclusion, violence, and patronizing define who we are. Pride knows our history, joyfully insists upon our present, and stretches into our future. It must not leave anyone behind—not folks in prison, not folks in nursing homes, group homes, their families’ back rooms, not folks in psych facilities, not our elders nor our youth. Pride demands and nurtures open, expansive community. Pride means listening hard and being accountable to each other. It means struggling against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism, just as stubbornly as we fight ableism. Pride isn’t about any single identity or community but rather about all of who we are—disabled people of color, disabled lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people, disabled women, disabled poor and working-class people, disabled immigrants, disabled transgender and transsexual people, psych survivors, people with intellectual disabilities, people with chronic illness, people with nonapparent disabilities. Pride asks uncomfortable questions and demands honest answers. It dances, sings, protests, loves, cries, fights, rolls, limps, laughs, stutters. Pride invites us to make home in our bodies and with each other.
“Pride fuels rebellion. During a time when U.S. troops are waging war in Afghanistan, millions of gallons of oil have been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, and Arizona’s anti-immigration policies have just become law; strong, vibrant, rebellious communities are more necessary than ever. I hope we, as disabled people, will continue to take to the streets, knowing that war, environmental devastation, corporate greed, and criminalizing people of color have everything to do with disability. We need revolutionary pride, liberatory pride now!”
The photo is of Eli speaks at Disability Pride rally, wearing a black top hat with rhinestones and a rainbow boa.
I and a host of other folks decorated my trike for the parade. Here’s another pic:
The photo is of the back of Eli’s trike, above which is a banner that reads “Lame is sexy.” The trike is decorated with a big orange flower that is a whirlygig and spins in the breeze and a small disco ball hanging over the banner, among other things. Beside the trike stands Riva Lehrer, co-creator of this crip pride mobile, with her hand on her hip looking sexily into the camera. During the parade, a number of folks handed out Emi Koyama’s wonderful “Lame Is Sexy” button.