Black History Month Reflections and Celebrations

Emily Blum
February 3, 2023

Black History Month offers all of us at Disability Lead a moment to reflect on the incredible power of Black disabled leaders and to center their stories and work.

I am reminded of a recent Disability Lead guest and featured speaker at our year-end event: Dr. Sami Schalk, author of Black Disability Politics. In her book, she explores how disability continues to be central to Black activism and dissects examples such as the Black Panther Party and National Black Women’s Health Project.

In her scholarship, which is inflected by an activist and disability justice lens, Dr. Schalk explores the interconnectedness between racism and ableism. She writes, “Black disability politics fundamentally understand racism and ableism as mutually constructive and assert that this understanding of the relationship between systems of oppression is required to create systemic change and liberation.”

Disability Lead continues to be on a journey of learning, both as an organization and in support of our Members who are working to dismantle these systems of oppression. In late 2021, we launched the Collab, a community of practice around the intersections of racial equity and disability justice. With more than 70 members, we are seeking to create a community of individuals who are not only passionate about these issues, but are actively working to create systemic change.

The intersection of race, disability and mental health has emerged as critical within the Collab, and we’ve hosted several conversations around these topics, including policing and mental health, and the need for more culturally competent providers. We are grateful for Member Chris Huff who led events on these concerns, educating Collab members on existing policies as well as what is still needed to achieve equity.

On Feb. 22, we’re partnering with Planned Parenthood Illinois (Member Claire McNorton), Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition (Members TJ Gordon and Jae Jin Pak) and UIC’s Disability Cultural Center to host “You Alright, Fam? A Community Conversation about Black Mental Health”. This conversation will explore questions like: Is it possible to receive trauma-informed, culturally relevant care? How does grief shape our lives and mental health? Is postpartum depression/anxiety/psychosis common, and what are ways to cope while experiencing it?

We invite you to join us by signing up here. Shortly after this event on March 1, we will host an intimate follow-up discussion and reflection for our Collab participants. We would love for you to be there.

We are so proud of our Members who are leading movements and actions, and fighting against racist and ableist policies and practices. And we can’t wait for the future Black disabled leaders we have yet to meet. Together, we can create a world in which we can all realize our collective rights.