I’ve been reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Why We Can’t Wait,” writing on the nonviolence and civil rights movement. I took a class on King last year and saw many parallels between the movement King led and what we’re doing what Able Community. Although we are serving different communities with different approaches, we are also finding solutions to living conditions that limit and oppress both communities. King did not want to lead the movement initially and did not think that the first bus boycott would succeed, so I think our reservations about Able Community’s success is ok.
King’s movement was successful and maintained forward momentum over several years, partly because of King’s leadership, media exposure, and becoming a fundraising machine (for bail money and other expenses), but mostly it was the people in the movement. There wouldn’t be a civil rights movement if it wasn’t for the people nominating King, making financial and personal sacrifices to boycott buses, sacrificing their bodies to physical abuse and imprisonment for civil disobedience/nonviolence actions. Likewise, there wouldn’t be an Able Community without each of you. We have it easier; we won’t be subject to physical brutality and assassinations. We just have to outthink the existing system that we are restricted to.
I reflected on the differences between the civil rights movement and Able Community. We do not face imminent dangers to our lives, although we have and should continue to face opposition against what we are doing, even within the disability community. Perhaps this, coupled with the fact that each of us individually are not coming from generations of disability in our families (most likely, we are the only ones with disabilities in our families—in past and future generations), may produce the lack of urgency. We may feel like if we just grin and bear with our situations, regardless of how much we want improved conditions and more independence, it is not a big deal because it will just end with us.
However, this logic is flawed. As a person with a disability, we are coming from a past, present, and future of people in the disability community with a history of oppression—genocides, sterilizations, institutionalizations, etc. Even if some of us do not end up living at Able Community, we should stay motivated as stand-in representatives for the beneficiaries of Able Community. Nothing in the future is certain. But I have to believe that Able Community is feasible and will be successful; that there is a light at the end of our very dark tunnel. Otherwise, I don’t think about you, but my life will literally lack hope. I believe in Able Community because I believe in us and that we will be able to make it happen, even if we don’t have all of the answers now. I am confident that we will find the answers as we move forward.
It saddens me to share that I just found out that my friend from seminary, who acquired a genetic disability and who was helping Able Community with our business plan, passed away today. Although his health limited his involvement with Able Community, he truly believed in Able Community’s work. Even before I told him about Able Community, he wanted to develop a community of people with disabilities sharing resources and relationships. I remember that he was so excited about Able Community when he told him about it; he wanted to start something similar at the seminary. We should remember Kevin’s excitement when we get discouraged. We are working for change not only for ourselves, but for our friends like Kevin.
I realize that our morale seems diminishing and that King was able to maintain motivation with at least weekly sermons. So this is my attempt to motivate you.
We are ABLE,