A Day of Reflection

Emily Blum
January 18, 2021
“The time is always right to do what is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate the birthday and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and we remember his words that compel us to act, to use our voice, and to do what is right. Individually and collectively, I, along with my colleagues at Disabillity Lead, commit to living out the values that our nation honors on this day.

As leaders committed to disability and racial justice, and the civil rights and equal opportunity and civic participation for all people, the work ahead of us feels immense and insurmountable. Admittedly, at times, it feels like Sisyphus and his immense boulder that falls to the ground every time it nears the top of the mountain. It feels defeating and enraging, and it feels heartbreaking.

It was with a broken heart that we watched the insurrection of the Capitol by white nationalists and domestic terrorists. It was with a broken heart that we watched and participated in the actions for racial justice and against police brutality this summer. And it is with a broken heart — yet a spirit intact — that we commit to the deep, urgent, and ongoing work that must be done to achieve both racial healing and full equity and inclusion in our communities.

To that end, Disability Lead is taking the time to do what is right:

We are developing a community of leaders to advance disability and racial justice.

On the heels of our four-part Disability Justice in the Fight for Racial Equity Forum last year (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4), we are convening people in the Chicago region who are active or want to be active in disability rights and racial equity. Community members will connect, collaborate, socialize, coordinate project work, share resources, and best practices, and benefit from the momentum and inspiration of a budding community of healing and practice. Our aspirations for this community are to both advance the movements of racial equity and disability justice and create working groups that will identify concerns and create and implement solutions.

We are committed to anti-racism transformation as organizations and as people.

In partnership with CROAR and Disability Lead Fellow and Member Derrick Dawson, we are undergoing a process to evaluate our complicity in upholding white supremacy and effectively interrupting those practices and policies.

We are centering the voices of people of color with disabilities.

One of the ways that we are following disability justice is centering those most marginalized and following their lead. After the successful launch in 2020 of our virtual Disability Power Series highlighting leaders with disabilities, the majority of our Disability Power Series speakers in 2021 will be people of color with disabilities. We will be featuring the work of people of color in all areas of our work inclusive of our social media presence and curriculum for Members and Fellows.

We have a standing commitment to work towards ensuring our membership reflects the diversity of the region.

People with disabilities experience a range of intersectional identities inclusive of race. We will only be successful when our Network truly reflects all our identities.

Now, more than ever, we recommit ourselves to this critical work. And we invite you to join us.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Op Ed