Building Intersectional Movements (video and transcript)
Disability Justice and Racial Equity Forum
Video and CART transcript
>> EMILY: Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us for Building Intersectional Movements: Disability Justice and Racial Equity. The second of four events in our forum. This is Emily Blum speaking, I’m the executive director of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership. My pronouns are she/her/hers. The image description of me for those who are blind or low vision is that I am a white woman with brown wavy hair, I’m wearing brown tortoiseshell glasses, a cream blouse and an animal print sweater. I’m in my home office, in front of an abstract blue, yellow, green piece of artwork. We sent out a guide on accessing key accessibility features in Zoom and we have both CART and ASL interpreters. We also have Spanish live interpretation available. If you have any challenges accessing these features, please connect with us via the chat box. My colleagues will be monitoring and responding. Please also keep that chat box clear for technical issues only. Thank you everyone for joining us this afternoon including so many Advancing Leadership members and those who donated to support the accessibility of this program and series. For those who may be unfamiliar with us, we are a network of positive disruptors, all people with disabilities, including myself, who are using our power to create an equitable and inclusive society. And we believe our ideas, experiences, and leadership as people with disabilities are vital People with disabilities are vital to achieving justice. If you want to join our network and attend our year long Leadership Institute applications are open until this Friday. So visit ADA25Chicago.org/apply, for more information. And that information will be in the chat box as well. Today’s event and our forum, which is is a four part series centering in-depth and action-oriented conversations on the intersections of racial equity and disability justice is presented with generous support from the Disabilities Fund at the Chicago Community Trust, MacArthur Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation, CDW, and Crossroads Fund. Thank you to all of our sponsors and all of you who donated to support this forum. I want to remind those who signed up for the post presentation breakout sessions that they will need to leave this Zoom meeting when we conclude at 4:55 central and and rejoin for the breakouts using the additional link in the Know Before You Zoom email at 5:00 p.m. following the presentation. Our partner in this forum, Andraéa Lavant, will come on with directions for joining the breakout group, and we will also have CART, ASL, and Spanish interpretation available for those sessions. Engage with us on social media—
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn— throughout the forum using the hashtags, #DisabilityPowerInfluence and #DisabilityJusticeForum. Okay, finally, on to today’s event. We are thrilled to be joined by an incredible panel moderated by Xavier Ramey, CEO and lead strategist of Justice Informed. Please note there’s a small change to our line up and Michelle Garcia of Access Living is no longer able to participate today and we are all sending her our very best vibes. In her place we will be joined by justice advocate, Jae Jin Pak, alongside our other panelists, author, artist, and educator Benji Hart, and queer Latina feminist mental health activist Dior Vargas. But before I turn it over to Xavier for what i know will be a fabulous, fabulous conversation, I’d like to introduce founder of Krip Hop Nation, Leroy Moore for a reading. Welcome, Leroy.
>> LEROY MOORE: Hello. Thank you for having me and yeah I’m Leroy Moore from Krip Hop Nation. I’m going to read three poems to kick it off. So thanks once again. The first one is called “Ramp the White House.”
No it’s not FDR
We want more then our SSI
Watching bureaucrats cause we took over the FBI
The wealthy we sent out the CIA
Ramp the White House
Snatching chairs up from the Senate and the House
Lobbyists scattering around like mouse
But their tails are under wheelchair’s wheels
This is for real signed and sealed
Finally funding disability laws
44 years time to correct the two party’s flaws
Ramp the White House
With state of the art elevator
A bed that turns into a couch
President rolling up in a fly scooter
In Home Support Services for all Disability Voices
United took over the United Nation
Soft puffy carpet if people fall
Music at President’s inauguration by Krip-Hop Nation
Ramp the political arena Cover by the disability media
Roll up to voting polls with touch screens
First place are the greens
People Climate Movement with houseless and disabled taking the lead
Feed the world
365 Pound on pound give us five
On a brown side It’s about time
to Ramp the White House
Black robes covering crutches on the Supreme Court
Trickle it down to school boards
Sailing coming to shore to the Port of Oakland
This is called “No More 101.”
Come on keep up
Sit down and shut up
This is not 101
Welcome to adulthood
Political education for my hood
Parents educate yourself
You’re raising our future
Read to them Black Disabled Art History 101
To do that you need to listen
We know that you are ready to begin
For the rest of you this is the end
You see I an’t the one
No competing cause I already won
I’m trying to pass on the baton
The second level This is for my people
If you can’t keep up, here is a shovel
Dig your own grave
That’s the cost when you don’t behave
Sometimes we have to use that ableist slur,
you are fucking lame
No more 101
Going to 202
You see we’ve been here so no Me Too
We don’t live in courtrooms
So here are some brooms
To sweep away intersectionality
We have many identities
Oops sorry slipped back to 101
That is basic by just looking at me
Hey mainstream media keep this on file
We don’t need another inspirational porn profile
Put some Disability Justice in your media cause this is not 101
Don’t have time to go back
When Black disabled people are shot in the back
Straight ahead got to move forward
We might lose some But we started with none
Now there are lot more than one
Pull up Sins Invalid’s website
Where DJ came from, let’s do this right
Talk to the people who started it, now that is tight
Half of the class trying to bring our ass
Back to 101 but we put them to rest
You all have past this class
Next semester going on to next level,
Krip-Hop And you know we can’t stop put on that boom bap
Let’s see if you can last
And the last one is “When Can We Come Home (from Black disabled people in the Black community)”
We must heal our wounds
The time is coming soon
You gave us so much blues
It’s all up to you
When can we come home
We tried to call but there’s no dial tone
Can’t flex cause no one answered our text
So you tell me what’s next
Always feel like we are alone Like we’ve been kidnapped at birth
On a spaceship leaving earth Just to get services
Black Ableism waiting, so this is how it is
We must heal our wounds
The time is coming soon
You gave us so much Blues
It’s all up to you
When can we come home
We have multiply
This time there’s no bye bye
We are looking at you eye to eye
This is a conversation not a fight
We are healing our wounds
The time is now
You gave us so much Blues
But It’s not up to you
We are coming home
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Leroy, thank you so much for your words to really catalyze and kick start the conversation. Everyone, my name is Xavier Ramey, Chief Executive Officer of a social impact consulting firm here in Chicago—it’s called Justice Informed. And I’ll be moderating this conversation and I just want to thank the entire team at ADA 25 Advancing Leadership for inviting myself as well as the other panelists, but Leroy, I just want to say that was, that was incredible. Part of the challenge of I know all of our work is trying to get people to move past the 101, let’s, let’s stop with the simple conversations, there are enough of us who know what the world needs to be. And enough of us who are ready to live in that world that we need to, we need to move quickly. And in a more complex manner to advance justice and advance equity. So thank you for those words. From a former poet, to a current poet. Y’all, I’m so excited about this panel, I’m so excited. Some of my heroes, my, my Instagram heroes, my blog heroes, folks that I have watched on both social media and learned from in the real world, for some time, are a part of this conversation. About the intersection of disability rights and racial justice. So we’re going to dig in. But before we do that, I want to ask the panelists to introduce themselves. So we’ve got some really awesome folks. Jae Jin, would you like to go first with just giving us your name, your organizational affiliation, your preferred pronouns, and an interesting point about yourself as well.
>> JAE JIN PAK: Sure. Hi. Good evening, everybody. As I said, my name is Jae Jin Pak, I use he/him/his pronouns. I work—I am connected with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s institute on disability and human development—as well as the Illinois, Illinois self-advocacy alliance. But for the purposes of this conversation I’m just—from my experience. And I love—I love Dr. Who.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Nice, nice. Dior, would you like to introduce yourself as well?
>> DIOR VARGAS: Hi everyone, my name is Dior Vargas, my pronouns are she/her/hers and I’m a queer feminist mental health activist. I’m not sure if we’re able to give our image description but I’ll just do so now. So I have short blonde-brownish hair, I’m a light-skinned Mexican Latina, wearing a black sweater. My background is a gray couch, a white wall, see the window behind curtains, and then you see a little bit of a lampshade. And an interesting fact… I wasn’t ready for this. My sister and I are 14 months apart.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Close.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Y’all are very close.
>> JAE JIN PAK: Oh Leroy, this is Jae Jin. Could I describe myself quickly? I forgot that, I forget that. So I’m an As— I’m an Asian-American man with Black hair, put it on one on the left side, wearing a red shirt and I’m using a— my background is a picture of the Chicago lakefront and skyline with blue skies. Thanks.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you. Benji? You’re up.
>> BENJI HART: Hello everyone, thank you all so much for having me. My name is Benji Hart, I go by all pronouns, anything said with respect. I’m an author, artist and educator, a police and prison abolitionist based out of Chicago. An interesting fact about me is I make the best Mac and cheese and I will go toe to toe with anybody else’s Mac and cheese. You heard it here first, very proud. And image description, I’m a light skinned, Black femme, I have on a pink Chicago dyke march T-shirt. I’m in my living room space, my hair is in a top knot, and I have some posters behind me including Black trans lives matter.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Awesome. Thanks y’all. I was going to gonna throw this image description at the end of my mirror moment. I’m going to throw mine in as well, I’m an African-American, slightly dark skinned person. I wouldn’t say that I’m on the darkest side or the lightest side but I’m definitely a Black man.
I’m very proud of that. I am wearing a black shirt, a T-shirt that says Justice Informed across of it on a logo. I’m also wearing a dark navy blazer with a pink lapel flower. I am in a room in my house with a sort of teal wall on one side and a dark navy blue one on the back side with one picture in the background. So—oh, I’ve got a beard and some curly hair that I think is really fly and well moisturized today. Thank you, Dior, appreciate that. So, so let’s get into the first questions, y’all. And Benji, I’d love for you to start on this. Sometimes people give their bios and they give a long history of their work and practice. But I’d love for you all to introduce yourselves more fully through a mirror moment. A mirror moment is something that I consider a point in your life, your work history, your personal life,
etc, where you saw yourself. You saw something in the world or you saw something in you that was disruptive. And it served to shape your identity and what you’re doing today. What was a mirror moment in your life and how has that impacted you?
>> BENJI HART: Thank you so much. I think for me maybe the first mirror moment that I had in my life was seeing vogue for the first time. I’m a—I’m a dancer, I’m a mover, and the first time that I saw voguing, I think was the first time that I saw people, individuals being Black, being queer, and being femme. All unapologetically, all loudly and all at the same time. And I think as a young Black queer gender-nonconforming person I had up to that moment seen those things as at odds with each other and realizing not only that they weren’t at odds with each other but that they informed each other and that they were powerful and they were dangerous when they were practiced and celebrated simultaneously. Was a—was a mirror moment for me and a revolution. A small revolution for me, realizing that all the different parts of myself weren’t separate, they were deeply connected and stronger when they were aligned with each other.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: A couple snaps for that, thank you, Benji. Dior, would you like to share your mirror moment?
>> DIOR VARGAS: Sure.
I was thinking of a few, but I guess I’ll do the one that’s like the most emotional for me. So growing up I—my coping mechanism—
and I apologize if I trigger anyone, but my coping mechanism was attempting suicide. And so from the age of like 11 to 18 I was consistently trying to do that. And it wasn’t until I was 18 when I was hospitalized and placed in the psychiatric ward. And so for me I just saw that people had to feign sanity in order to be able to get out of there. And so I quickly got on that bandwagon so to speak and decided to just do that as a way to survive. But also to get out of there. So anyway, I remember trying to be more open and social. And I remember being in the living room of the psychiatric ward and Oprah was on. And my roommate, who was a much older woman, who I did not speak to— I didn’t speak to anyone, honestly— she—Oprah was on TV, and she was at a concentration camp. And my roommate pointed at the screen and said “I was there.” And I—I think that, that really just made me question everything that I had done in terms of trying to cope. And also just having this upbringing of like hearing about your immigrant family and all this stuff that they went through, and me trying to consistently end my life. And then having a roommate who had gone through such a horrible experience. It just really opened my eyes and…
it was just something that I— from there I just started taking care of my mental health and really trying to move forward from very destructive coping patterns.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you for sharing that, Dior. Jae Jin, you’re up.
>> JAE JIN PAK: Oh, wow. Thank you, seriously, for sharing both of those. I—when I was thinking about this—
I have two— well, one of them in terms of my mirror moment dealing with my kind of like Asian identity and being different it was throughout my elementary school
—of being— what felt like being the only Asian kid in school and then dealing with stereotypes and bullying made me realize I’m different. And then…oddly enough, in 2004, I was invited to a community leadership program for young American Asian-Americans. And that walking into that space of being in a room of 40 Asian-American peers, sharing—talking about our names and sharing stories and experiences and just in that space, seeing people that looked like me, that could relate to me, I didn’t have to explain it, was one of the most powerful experiences that I will never forget. And in a positive sense, it helped me reclaim my Asian heritage and kind of like be proud of it, removed a lot of like cumulative— because the teasing and the stereotyping. And kind of negative, or the shame and the negative attitude I was carrying with me. Well, those are…
I would say 2004 was like…
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you all for that. My mirror moment is really one that changed my life in many ways, but also directed a lot of my work today. So I grew up in North Lawndale in Chicago, I’m in a part of North Lawndale called K-town, and subsection of K-town called Holy City. And it’s called that because that’s where the Vice Lords were founded. Vice Lords are street gang. And it was rough growing up around there, but when I was younger, my parents split up and my mom moved up near the Cabrini Green projects on the other side of town, North side, and that was the first time I had ever gone to— you know, you’re living in a neighborhood in Chicago that’s predominantly—you know, one part is predominantly white, but it just structurally looks really different. You have the Gold Coast like four blocks away. These ritzy buildings and cars that have symbols on the front that I’ve never seen before. And what also came with that was a higher rate of police interaction. And it started my experience in Chicago as a Black person, the first time I was thrown on the hood of a car outside my house, when I was walking home, when I was 16. And I didn’t know it then, but I would have many, many experiences with Chicago Police Department on the hood of a car, inside the car, laid out on the ground, pressed up against the wall, gun to the back, handcuffs on the sidewalk, whatever it was, it began a long experience with a conversation around safety and what safety means, around violence and how we define it. Whether it is simply physical or whether it is also political. And also the nature and the weight of my Black skin. And side by side with that, what has b
een the work since then, understanding the limits of other people who don’t look like me. Their commitment to me. Versus their intention to have a commitment to me. And my Black skin. My white neighbors never said a word, every single time I was on the hood of a car for almost ten years, never said one word. And that taught me a lot about what I need out of allyship versus what I think about allyship. That was a big mirror moment for me at the age of 16. And that mirror was face to face with me for the next 10, 15 years. However, now I want to get into terms, y’all. I want to get into terms as much we keep hearing all these terms thrown around, justice, equity, equality, agency, etc. As we’re talking about this, I would love for you all, for everyone who’s here, for the panelists to— to explain how you see the difference and the distinction between justice and the work of equality, let’s say. So how do you define the difference between that? If you have a different word that you would say is stronger— basically I want to know what’s the stronger word, justice, equity, etc, versus what’s the word we keep using that isn’t strong enough? Anyone want to jump into that?
>> DIOR VARGAS: I’m happy to start. I feel like a lot of times we’re talking about equality, equity and justice. And those are three very different things. I think about that image that probably many have seen where it’s these three people behind a fence cheering a baseball game. And equality is where all of them are standing on the same size box. And not all of them can see because they’re varying heights. Equity is where they are standing on different size boxes, where they’re all able to see. And then justice where there’s no fence at all. So it’s—it’s basically removing all the barriers and the things that hold people back and the systems that hold people back. So I think that they’re very different things. We often use equality when that’s—
I’m not with that word. I’m—more in equity, in justice. But even more so on the justice side.
>>Xavier Ramey: Thanks, Dior. Benji?
>> BENJI HART: I hear Dior on that for sure. I think, I think for me the big difference between justice and equity is I think justice—
I think equity is about acknowledging where people are at and trying to get people to a more equitable place. Whereas justice is about actually getting to the root of why people are where they are at. And determining what needs to happen, not just for folks who— to be at the same level or on the same page or in the same room but to actually have there be accountability for harm that was caused and how they’re actually be— shifts, structural, interpersonal, what be they, to address harm and to address violence. Not just in a momentary sense but in a structural sense, a historic sense. You know, I think it’s—I think it has a larger scale and a longer view, a longer vantage point. And I think that’s important because we come to different conclusions when we’re using those different lenses. I think if we’re talking about disability justice, we’re not just talking about making sure there are folks with disabilities in the room or making sure that folks with disabilities have the same access as folks without disabilities, we’re actually charged with much more radical work and much more radical tasks and actually undoing systems and structures that even make the category of disabled possible. I think this is an important week to have this conversation because of Indigenous People’s Day. And you know, is equity the goal when we’re talking about what indigenous communities need or is justice the goal? Are we talking about how to get more indigenous representation in the room, or are we talking about actually returning stolen land and resources to indigenous communities? Because I’m much more invested in that. So I think justice gives us a more radical charge and requires more of us. But also leads to a lot more healing and a lot more— I think it’s actually a more meaningful way to get to the equilibrium that I think folks imagine.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you for that, Benji. The you went deep on that one. I appreciate it. Are there words that you all feel we need to retire? Are there terms that you feel either erase, mislead, or miscommunicate what you all feel the work of disability rights and racial justice needs to be? Where do we need to start taking things out of the lexicon? Taking things out of the vocabulary, taking things out of play to make that space like Benji talked about for more liberatory practices?
>> JAE JIN PAK: This is changing I think in terms of talking about language, I think it is important to really understand and acknowledge that the complexity of language, and the power of language and words, and— for me…since—I kind of, like my identities intersect with an Asian immigrant and disability, one of the words, one of the words that I have come to feel uncomfortable with and— and feel it’s okay to kind of relegate to history is— is the term “handicapped” regarding the disability just because of the negative imagery and negative around it and for me also in the immigrant sense or the Asian immigrant context for me, the word “oriental.” I learned and grew to realize the negative impact of that. And I really now am in a position of pushing and— and encouraging more specific language of like— and learning from, you know, my colleagues in the pan-Asian community, that Asian-American is—can’t—
has its place, but it’s not universal. That when possible, and you learn a person identifies as Korean American or Japanese American or Arabic or Iraqi, that you make an effort to be that specific so that it’s clear when you’re talking about— when you’re addressing a question or responding to a question or a theoretical. I think that’s also true for— and I apply that to the disability community. I think the ability for the here and now seems to be a—a— accepted kind of general term. But when possible, I try to be specific. Like vision impairment or blind, or— and I’ve learned from my mentors in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community the importance of saying deaf and hard-of-hearing community. And acknowledging their culture. As much as I can. And also owning when I make a mistake. I’ll start there and stop further. Thank you.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thanks, Jae Jin. Dior, Benji, any words we need to retire or terminology you think we need to replace that you feel prohibits us or
slows us down in the work of justice?
>> DIOR VARGAS: Yeah. I would say in terms of behavioral health, so both mental health and substance use, I think very often people still use the word “committed” when they say committed suicide. Using terms like completed suicide or died by suicide. Using words which I—I still have to correct myself when I say words like crazy or insane. I think it’s just so part of our vernacular. But using words like wild or ridiculous or something like that. If there’s someone you would refer to them as an addict versus saying that that person lives with a substance use disorder. Or if they’re a former alcoholic, using the words like someone who’s living or who’s in recovery. I just feel like it—those negative terms are dehumanizing to individuals. And add to the stigma. And so those things, people really need to be more aware of the language they use. Because language has power.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you. I want to switch gears onto 2020. So this has been a really turbo—
a really, really turbulent year. It’s also been a year of a lot of advances. And one of the things that we saw this year was, you know, partly due to COVID-19 and then partly in response to the protests against racial injustice. And the prison system. And the policing system here in the U.S. Really globally. We saw the government can move quickly. We saw the government actually can move quickly. They can move 2 trillion dollars in a couple weeks. They can look at the many advances that the disability rights community has been asking for and demanding for years and years around workplace accessibility. Whether it be around captions or using Zoom or otherwise. And companies quickly got up to speed on things they were resistant to. How has 2020 shaped your understanding of what society is capable of as it pertains to urgent and quick advances in justice work for those people who really do need disability rights or racial equity, or both?
>> BENJI HART: I would say to quote my friend, Kemi Alabi, poet Kemi Alabi, 2020 has been a mask off year. It’s been a year where a lot of— a lot of what folks on the margins have pointed to, has been proven true. And that’s true in some of the most, you know— some of the most violent and harsh realities of this year, but it’s also true in terms of the movement and of the insurgency and of the really dramatic shifts in positive directions. In hopeful directions that have also happened this year. And I think, again, for many of us who are on the margins or for many of us who belong to oppressed communities and oppressed identities, these actually aren’t new revelations but there’s some important fodder from this year, there’s some important proof in this year. And we know that the speed and urgency with which folks in power act has everything to do with which communities, which systems and which structures are their priorities and not with what is actually possible. And I think that’s, again, we know that, we intuit that, but I think 2020 has shown us that. And whether it’s folks with disabilities, whether it’s undocumented folks, whether it’s poor and working class folks, period, whether it’s trans folks, we can go down the list. Not only are the demands that oppressed communities and progressive movements are making, not only are they possible, I would argue they’re the only way forward. If there’s—if there is—there isn’t going to be collapse, if there isn’t going to be total implosion of many of the systems and structures that we’re dependent on. Demands that seemed radical in 2019, demands that were called radical in 2019, some of them have been the solutions to dealing with COVID. Some of them have been the solutions to dealing with… the demands put forward by grassroots movements in the streets. So all that’s to say I don’t just think we’ve been lied to about what’s possible, I also think that folks with disabilities, Black folks, indigenous folks, trans folks, women, are the Vanguard, not only for what is possible but for what is necessary, for what is required if we are to survive this moment. And it’s a scary moment to be in because we feel at the precipice and it’s really hard to know which way we’ll fall. But I genuinely believe that the— the most marginalized voices are making the most radical demands, and if we listen to those demands, we’re actually in a watershed moment to reshape our society in some of the most just ways. Some of the most radical ways that have ever been imagined. And in my hopeful moments I think that’s very exciting, actually.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you.
>> DIOR VARGAS: I would also share, thinking about COVID and thinking about access, specifically in New York City— and I know this is a case for a lot of other cities— when it comes to students, high school students in New York City, specifically public schools, a lot of these students don’t have Wi-Fi, they don’t have access to technology. And now—there’re still issues with how students are accessing these things, but I know that schools are now trying to give students Chrome Books, iPads, those with—those Wi-Fi capabilities. And so those are things that no one really paid attention to and now that we’re in a position where those kids need that to learn, now they’re doing what they should be doing to support those students. I’m also thinking about how a lot of these corporations are now hiring DEI, so diversity, equity and inclusion folks, to start having these conversations when we should have had these conversations decades ago. And so it’s hard for me to see the authenticity in that. And I know I’m going through a whole other tangent, but I just hope that we’re more intentional and less of that whole quota idea or just making sure we do this just for the sake of it.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you. Last, last question I have for this part— and we want to go to a Q and A as well, so folks have questions, start putting them into the Q and A or—I know that Andrea is going to be coming on later to moderate those questions. So just be ready for that. But this last question is about the— you know when we think about over the last year, there’s been a—
an elevated conversation on police and prison abolition, and just in general the question of which systems must be replaced? Which systems do we find a level of inherent violence in? And that was really elevated this year in a way that we haven’t seen it before, including back in 2014 and ’15 around when the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement started as well as you know, the Civil Rights Act. And the civil rights era in those decades. But prisons are often institutions that in many ways, they exacerbate the experience of physical and mental disabilities. Partly due to the lack of adequate facilities. Partly due to an inherent culture of physical harm. The presence of a culture of toxic masculinity, and an assumption of mental and/or psychological violence in anyone who is incarcerated. There’s an assumption that people are violent by nature if they are incarcerated. And all of that happens while prisons are still a foundation of racialized capital protection. And community harm. And so with that, the police have then been thrust into the spotlight because the only way to get to prison is by virtue of being caught by a police officer. And so police have been thrust in as the carriers of harmful practices. But also at times they reflect the identities of those who need protection most. They may be people with disabilities, they may be people who are Black. They’re people who are Latinx. And in some ways that’s co-opted the language of social progress and awareness, similar to the constant portrayal of police officers right to shoot, being justified due to their fear or anxiety in a situation. But that anxiety is not a— the call of focusing on anxiety is not something that, you know, extends into the disability rights conversation as it relates to policing, it’s only for the police officer. And so the question I have is how do you see this as a moment to join the movements for disability rights and racial justice in real ways, and what tools or practices or communities do you feel that we need to focus on to leverage this moment?
>> JAE JIN PAK: It’s changing—
that’s like— again, this is like a really… I really appreciate the conversation and this question. And it’s hard, because—it’s funny, it’s like, for me, I definitely think there is a need, and I do want… now that’s the wrong way of starting it. Yes, we do need to change policing and the governmental system. How that’s going to be done, I’m not quite sure. But I really want that to happen. Because it is—it’s devolved into a warehousing and that’s fueled by bias and racism and ableism and just negative stereotypes of who is easy to oppress and put away. And that’s not the purpose. Part of me—believes and hopes that that’s not the point— that’s not the purpose of a criminal justice or a justice system where there is investigation and trial and some supposedly just fair punishment. But alongside that is also I—
that’s tied to the— that support me and my colleagues in the immigrant community is also this rampant abuse of the immigrant customs enforcement agency, and the unlawful, enforced detention of asylum seekers, and refugees and immigrants and people who are fleeing to this country for what the U.S. promises, is the sense of a better life. And then being…arrested, jailed and stuck in cages and separated. And yeah, in the past year, few years, all of that horridness that’s going on as well. And that—I would…I’m tired and frustrated to seeing the people and the communities that I can identify with— and I get so angry and so sad and frustrated and just tired as— like, I don’t know— part of me is wondering where can I find the energy to make the fight? I know the fight has to happen. And I want to be part of it. But at times it’s incredibly tiring. And—and the racism and the racial injustice and the death of—the police brutality, I want to get to a point where we hold the police account— police officers and law enforcement accountable to the standard of the prize they have, you know. And the—they have the power of—of killing people, and we should have a higher standard for them to—judgement and behavior than somebody not. And before I get, again—overly emotional, I’ll pass it back.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you. We got time for one more response. Dior, or Benji?
>> BENJI HART: Dior, are you cool with me taking it? Okay. Cool. I’m going to try and be brief, because this is my whole thing. I could talk about this for a long time. But I really appreciate the question. And I think…where to begin? I think we should understand the police and prison system as doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing, not as something that’s failing or that’s broken, but as— but as something that’s actually serving the exact purpose it was created to do. And that being something we can say definitively and say confidently when we understand the police and prison system and its historic context, as something that was created in the wake in the abolition of chattel slavery to control Black bodies and which has also evolved over time to control workers’ movements, to control poor and working class communities. And to—to control the bodies of folks with disabilities as well. And I really appreciate Dior’s interjections throughout this conversation because institutionalization has evolved alongside incarceration and I would argue that the institutionalizing of folks with disabilities is not separate from or alongside mass incarceration, it is mass incarceration, it is a part of the police and prison system. And a part of the way that folks with disabilities are targeted alongside Black folks, alongside trans folks, alongside immigrant folks, not just for surveillance and incarceration, but for death and for all the myriad forms of harm that the police and prison system inflicts, by design, not by accident, but by design. And that is why I see it already—
which is great, that’s why I think the demand to defund police and to defund incarceral bodies and systems which includes ICE, border patrol, includes the military and redistributing those resources is a racial justice demand but it’s also a disability justice demand. Here in Chicago, we closed half of our free mental health clinics in 2012, we closed six of our 12 mental health clinics and the city said that’s not in the budget, we can’t afford it. And then a few years later, the city had 95 million dollars to build a police academy on the West Side when it couldn’t find 2.3 million dollars to keep the mental health clinics open. Again, that’s not about what’s possible, it’s about what the city’s priorities are. And the city’s priorities are not folks with disabilities, certainly not poor and working class folks with disabilities. Not Black folks, not immigrant folks. And the budget shows that. So when people say defund the police, we’re not just talking about what systems we want to take resources from, we’re talking about what systems actually keep our communities safe. And free mental healthcare is one of those systems, that’s where we want to see an investment. Free healthcare, period, is one of those systems. High quality public education, which is accessible to all students, in all the ways individual students require to show up every day. Having counselors and interpreters and resources that support student growth and student learning, and not police officers patrolling our public schools. These are all demands that benefit Black folks and queer folks and trans folks and folks with disabilities. Folks of all oppressed and marginalized identities, so I think that’s a really important demand to lift up in this conversation because for me that’s one of the most concrete ways that there can be real solidarity between the movement for disability justice and the movement for Black lives, movement for trans liberation, feminist movements, so many of the movements that are leading the call right now. I think we intersect all of those movements intersect in the demand that investments actually be made in our communities. And not in the bodies that surveil, police, harass, and kill our communities, as they have been doing since they were founded.
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Thank you for that, Benji. And thank you all for your candid and incredibly thoughtful answers. So this—this concludes the panel portion. Dior and Benji and Jae Jin thank you so much for bringing your brilliance, your brilliance, your dopeness. Everything to this conversation. I want to pass it off to Alex on the ADA team. I also want to—I know just know we’re a little bit behind so I’m not sure how many, if any questions we can get to. But I want to bring Alex back in.
>> ALEX PEREZ-GARCIA: Thank you, Xavier and thank you to all the panelists, I’m going to ask just one question that will tee up our next conversation for the next part of the serial series which are to all the panelists what are your asks for those in government decision makers, policy-makers and the philanthropic sector to change course and increase accountability to the communities that you care about? And what do you want to see happen? In working with those decision-makers. So what are your asks?
>> JAE JIN PAK: This is Jae Jin. I can start if that’s okay. So I’d ask policy-makers to make policies— when I talk about, think about diversity and inclusion, that they’re very intentional and proactive in including all different disability community—the disability communities and all the diversity of disability, be part and included in legislation or policies they talk about. As well as all the different racial and ethnic communities that are part of—that are connected to a town or state or region or country. That…one of my things is—or frustrations and—is being Asian is in a lot of conversations and mainstream conversations around disability, it’s like, or around language access, is Spanish and English. And I am all in for the fight for language access of anything, but I’m Korean. I have friends that have other languages, so please be intentional and fair in including multilingual and as well as the LGBTQ and all the gender identity communities, it’s complex and be very thorough in that. And intentional. And I would also ask all the funders to provide funding for organizations and make it the funding easier to access to do accommodation and what— and what—help organizations become accessible. Both to all the accessibility needs of the multiple disability communities and needs that are out there, and listen to those of us in the disability community who say what type of accommodations we need. And give us funding that’s equitable and fair. As well as organizations that provide services to disability communities. Giving them money and funding, to do more comprehensive and—and in-depth services. As opposed to picking and nitpicking. Thank you.
>> ANDRAÉA LAVANT: Okay, this is Andraea, everybody, so I’m jumping on because we are—we want to get to the breakout sessions. So I just wanted to ask Dior and Benji if you had any kind of— like a one sentence statement that perhaps you would want to say in response to this question.
>> BENJI HART: My one sentence statement is: The simplest framework that I think folks should be universally operating from is an invest/divest model. Meaning that when I’m looking to folks in seats of power, I’m looking at where are you willing to remove resources from and where are you willing to reinvest those resources? So I want to see a divestment from police, prisons, detention centers, ICE, border patrol, any institution that is about caging, surveilling and killing oppressed communities, which is what those institutions were created to do. And an investment in green space, arts programs, affordable housing, free healthcare, free public transportation, all the things that actually make our cities and our communities more accessible. And that provide actual support to oppressed communities. Which police and prison and incarceral institutions fundamentally don’t.
>> DIOR VARGAS: Benji said it, so…
>> XAVIER RAMEY: Benji said it.
>> ANDRAÉA LAVANT: Bam, there we have it. Thank you all so much. To Jae Jin, to Dior, to Benji, to Xavier, thank you all for an incredibly powerful conversation. Thanks also to Leroy, who started us out at the beginning with such a powerful words. We’re super grateful. And we are grateful to continue the conversation. So for those that don’t know me or were not on the last session, my name is Andraéa Lavant. And I have a disability focused strategy and communications firm And I’m thrilled to partner with ADA 25 Advancing Leadership for these incredible conversations around disability justice and racial equity. My image description today, I’m sitting in my living room with my bright teal couch and pillows. I’m wearing a rust colored dress. And have on a necklace, a beaded necklace. I have on my teal cat eyeglasses and shoulder length curly hair. So now we are going to move into the breakout groups, where each group will be moderated by an Advancing Leadership member. There will be CART and ASL in some of the rooms. If you find yourself in the room without the accommodation that you need, please return to the main session and we will correct it. If you did register for a breakout group, please join us using the link that was shared in your email. And I imagine may be shared in the chat. And we hope to see you all at our next forum. And look forward to having—to moving these conversations forward. I will see you in the breakout group.