Rachel DeGuzman's "At the Crossroads: Activating the Intersection of Art and Justice" initiative hits its one year anniversary this week with "Black and Disabled: A Long Table Conversation and Installation." The program, which DeGuzman describes as "an artistic interrogation of the intersection of race, gender, and disability," will take place on Sunday, October 7, and will start off with a series of engaging provocations for the Long Table Conversation that follows.
In planning this event DeGuzman worked closely with disability rights activist Luticha Doucette. DeGuzman reached out to Doucette after reading her opinion essay for the New York Times titled "If You're in a Wheel Chair, Segregation Lives," in which Doucette discussed the intersection of her experiences as a woman of color and a person of restricted movement in an ableist world.
"As a black woman with incomplete quadriplegia and chronic pain, and as a full-time manual wheelchair user, my own ability to move freely is frequently restricted," she writes. "Too often, both the lack of accessibility in public spaces and the ingrained ableism of many nondisabled people bars my way."
In the piece, Doucette explains the indignity of having strangers talk past her — about her — to her companion as though they were her caretaker. And she likens her experiences with inaccessible spaces to instances when people of color were forced to use out-of-the-way entrances: "As a black woman I am keenly aware of the irony of being ushered through back ways, sketchy hallways, side entrances and kitchens to enter restaurants, bars and other establishments."
This event's provocations include "I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much," a 2014 TED talk by Stella Young; an excerpt from a video on the Black Panther Party's involvement in the 1977 Section 504 decision, sourced from the Paul Longmore Institute on Disability Collection; "Overcoming Ableism: What You Don't Know as an Able Bodied Person," a 2015 TEDxUCIrvine talk by Naty Rico; "Casual Ableist Language," a video by Annie Elainey; "Police Shot Unarmed Black Man with Hands Up," a recording that was shown on ABC News; and Comedy Central's "Drunk History: Judy Heumann Fights for People with Disabilities."
During the Long Table Conversation portion of the event, Doucette and DeGuzman will be joined at the table with others, including Jeiri Flores, Advocacy Discipline Coordinator for Flower City AmeriCorps; Melanie Funchess, Director of Community Engagement at Mental Health Association; Shannon Henderson, Youth Advocate at Hillside Work Scholarship Connection; and Raleigh, North Carolina-based artist and accessibility advocate Clara K. Johnson.
"Working with Luticha on this event has caused me to interrogate my own ableism and complicates my understanding of intersectionality and social justice," DeGuzman says, adding that Doucette explained that she can't visit the homes of most people she meets with autonomy and without risk of incurring pain and indignity. "It shook me to the core. This is not just about accessibility in public spaces or for people we know, love, and then make accommodations for. Ableism is everywhere."