Introducing Collab, A Space for Racial and Disability Justice

Emily Blum
October 12, 2021
“…Among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.” —Audre Lorde*, There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression

Today we launch the Collab, a space for people who work on and care about racial equity and for people who work on and care about disability justice** to think and work together. Our goal is to provide a platform and community where members can build relationships, learn from each other, and collectively tackle problems and issues that face our communities.

Simply put, the Collab is a new community where identities and experiences are valued, and people who “share the goals of liberation” can learn alongside and from one another. And it is our fundamental belief that only when we show up for racial justice AND disability justice will we achieve our shared goals of meaningful inclusion, equity, and, ultimately, justice.

I come to this work with humble acknowledgment of my privilege as a white physically disabled woman. I also come to this work with a strong desire for change as disability justice lays out; the collision of racism and ableism is too dangerous to ignore. I hold in my heart Michael Hickson, a Black man with quadriplegia, whose doctors both misdiagnosed him as having COVID-19 AND denying him life-saving treatment, doubtful that intervention would allow him to have much of a “quality of life.” I also hold in my heart Stephon Watts, a Black 16-year-old Autistic youth who was gunned down by the Calumet City Police while experiencing a behavioral health emergency.

But a place in our hearts is not enough to eradicate the violence, discrimination, and death experienced by disabled people of color. And it is not enough to disrupt the bodily, social, and financial impact of systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts those who are disabled and people of color.

We invite you to join us in community and collaboration, and we need you to come together for better understanding.

We worked with DEI practitioner, Levi Baer, to model the Collab as a Community of Practice. Ultimately, we sought to build a space, as Levi best articulates, where people can “share passion and practice in a collaborative community space…with a focus on inclusion, member-driven leadership, and learning.”

We want to not only talk about Micheal Hickson and Stephon Watts, but inspire change that protects and values disabled people of color. We also believe more issues need centering like the school-to-prison pipeline, economic impacts of COVID-19, and impacts of our changing climate and the proliferation of natural disasters.

These are the kinds of topics we imagine the Collab to discuss and center. And in doing so, we will celebrate the wisdom and lived experience of all Collab members and connect the community to outside experts to bolster learning and create new connections and opportunities. We also hope the Collab will yield new partnerships, friendships and be a place of inspiration and care.

We are excited to launch the Collab and encourage those interested to learn more and sign up here. The signup form will allow us to get to know you a bit better to best support your Collab journey. What we promise in return is a virtual space (at least for now) that is accessible and accommodated.

Intersectional challenges need intersectional leadership to solve. We invite you to join the journey.
*Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist who lived at the intersection of multiple identities, including disability, having been diagnosed with breast cancer. She devoted her life to confronting racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism. Her seminal piece, There is No Hierarchy of Oppression, published in 1983, serves as a calling to this day that justice will only be achieved if we work together.

** Disability justice is a framework guided by the understanding that our oppressions are interrelated and interconnected. We invite you to learn more from Sins Invalid, the creators of the disability justice framework.