Seeing in the Dark: New book raises profile of disability community

by Belo Cipriani

Disability activist Alice Wong. Photo: Courtesy Disability Visibility Project
Disability activist Alice Wong. Photo: Courtesy Disability Visibility Project  

Some books become classics because they bring to the forefront new ideas, while others are imprinted in our consciousness because they shine light on a little known world.

"Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People," edited by Alice Wong, is one of those rare anthologies that both highlights new ways of examining disability, as well as raises the profile of the disability community. Wong, a San Francisco-based disability rights activist and journalist, has gathered 16 essays from some of the leading voices in disability advocacy, to shed some light onto disability issues in the Trump era. While several of the authors identify as members of the LGBTQ community, for this column, I have chosen to focus on three of my favorite essays by LGBTQ contributors; however, all of the essays in this collection are worth reading.

"Hip Hop and Disability Liberation: Finding Resistance, Hope and Wholeness," by DJ Kuttin Kandi and Leroy Moore:

"If we, as a hip-hop community can face our own internalized ableism as we confront institutionalized ableist systems, we can find truth in our futile search for hip-hop 'authenticity,'" the authors write.

Like a hailstorm, Kandi and Moore deliver a slew of examples of ableist behavior by some of the leading voices in hip-hop. They offer criticism, but also ideas on how hip-hop as a community could be more inclusive of artists and fans with disabilities. The result is a poignant essay that captures the struggles and hopes for hip-hop.

"Building Back Belonging, Hope and Possibility," by Mia Mingus:

Mingus writes, "Resistance is only as powerful as what it is in service of. Resistance by itself — resistance just to resist — is not meaningful and will lead to burnout very fast. It's when resistance is in service of something larger than itself that the true power of resistance is unleashed."

With sharp prose, Mingus shares how her own journey shaped her advocacy work. As someone who helps people who have experienced violence regain belonging, Mingus discusses the process of cultivating hope in a world that spills a lot of hate. This thought-provoking essay offers optimism, as well as a model for contributing to social causes during challenging times.

"Back into the Fires that Forged Us," by Shain M. Neumeier:

"For one, many Americans have an authoritarian streak, or at least concede that even extremely harmful forms of authoritarianism are legitimate or necessary, either out of genuine belief or for political gain," Neumeier writes. "This includes many of the very people who use the rhetoric of freedom and independence, at least where it concerns guns or the right to emotionally abuse others."

Neumeier's expository essay examines the criminalization of resistance to injustices by marginalized communities. It highlights the participation of the media, government officials, and civilians in inflicting abuse in the name of American freedom. Well-cited and narrated, this piece looks at how the law has been used to hurt underrepresented groups — especially the disability community.

"Resistance and Hope," available at https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/resist/, is a quick read that not only brings the reader a deeper understanding of disability discourse during the age of President Donald Trump, but also offers people with disabilities and their allies a guide to joining the disability justice movement at many levels.

Belo Cipriani is an award-winning author and prize-winning journalist. His new book, "Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities," is now available. Learn more at www.olebbooks.com.

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