January 23rd: International Day of Mourning and Memory
Rolling Around in My Head will be commemorating the 2nd annual International Day of Mourning and Memory. This day was established to commemorate the lives lived by people with disabilities who were locked away, who ARE locked away from full participation in society. It was also established to remember those, our elders, who have worked tirelessly for inclusion and access, for the word 'all' to actually mean 'all'. We have a history, as a community, of suffering and segregation, but we also have a history of struggle and vision and power and voice.
The ways of society in regards to the different have been powerfully abusive:
A few months ago I met an elderly woman with an intellectual disability. She had lived most of her life in an institutional setting. She left the facility, old and afraid, in her mid seventies. She was not afraid of living in the community. She was afraid that she would love freedom and then have it snatched away. She lived, every day, as if it would be her last lived free. She will never trust. The world was once taken away from her. Driven, with a lie ringing in her ears, to the place where she would be locked away. "They told me that we were going on a vacation. To the sea. They told me we were going to the sea." She never saw family again. She knows she has a brother. But, though she waited, he never came.
She is in her early eighties now and those who support her, support her. They are devoted to ensuring that she drink deep from the well of liberty.
She calls 'lie' to those who believed that she did not belong with ever breath she takes.
Her locking up was a crime against her the likes of with are impossible to understand. The crime: difference. The penalty: Life lived in chains.
The day was chosen because January 23rd was the day Sandra Jensen, a woman with down syndrome, who had been refused a heart transplant because others decided her life wasn't worth life, received a heart transplant. Her fight to be recognized as a valued human being culminated in victory. This is the day which gives heart to hope.
So please join me ... write a blog, tumble, tweet, facebook ... do what people do to get the word out. Let everyone know that, on January 23rd, we as the disability community stand united in our commitment to freedom for all. We are united, pride against prejudice. We are a people to be reckoned with.
And we are here to stay.