In the Blog
Take Back The Night 2016
Take Back the Night Poster
I feel angry. I feel upset. I feel anxious (actually, I haven’t said that last one to Adli yet!) These are statements I make to Adli when I want to express my emotions. I want him - currently as a cisgender boy - to learn to express his feelings, however artificial it may seem at first.
I also have been trying to talk about oppression. How do I educate and support the learning of my kid around identity politics and the violence many communities experience simply because of who they are, when Adli is a 2 and a half-year-old who neurologically will just not understand the depths of these concepts?
I started letting books do some of the talking, where Adli could see whom I was trying to talk about when I say “Ads, you don’t touch a Black girl’s hair” or when I use the term “mobility or assistive device” for example. Naturally, these concepts are lost on him on a deeper level.
And, yet, daily I feel guilty for not doing enough to teach him more.
At the same time, I look at myself and recognize the concepts I still have not fully grasped and some of my failed attempts at unlearning.
Most recently I have been posting about my latest Take Back the Night Toronto 2016. This year our theme is ‘All People, All Access: Living with Disability and D/deafness for a Barrier and Violence Free World’.
I have posted and reposted the Facebook event (and our need for volunteers!) and haven’t received many ‘likes’ or shares.
Facebook Image of This Year’s Post
So it got me thinking. And looking over and over again at how many times this particular Take Back the Night was either ‘liked’ or shared.
And then it made me think of last year’s TBTN.
First, I went all the way back to August 2015 to look for a post I made on TBTN 2015: #AllBlackLivesMatter: Black Communities Take Back the Night.
Facebook Image of Last Year’s Post
Comparing the 2 posts makes it clear; on August 28th, 2015 my post on the BLM TBTN got 16 ‘likes’ and 17 shares. And on August 31st, 2016, my Folks Living with Disabilities TBTN post got 2 likes and no shares. (And my co-worker’s sharing of my post got no ‘likes’ and no shares!)
TBTN 2015 was the only year I had folks who use assistive devices not be able to roll close to the rally stage due to its placement on the gravel (folks cannot afford to damage their mobility devices by rolling on moving gravel, as well as wheels getting stuck in sand and gravel). It was also the year that the most people living with disabilities left the march in the middle of it.
As a non-disabled person, who also coordinates a part of TBTN called the Accessibility Team (providing access and accommodation to all disabilities throughout the entire event, especially the March) I was put to shame. I didn’t realize the stage being at homebase in a baseball diamond/the gravel would prevent over 40 people in mobility devices from being able to approach it. And, on the March route, as the flash mob took up space at the corner of Queen and Spadina, it caused the entire front of the March to back track into a circle formation around the flash mob. This caused the accessibility team and all folks who use assistive devices to be run past by able-bodied folks. And, of course, making it even more difficult to have folks with disabilities to return to their contingent at the front of the March, where they set the pace and the accessibility team can support them in an organized way.
Before we left Queen and Spadina last year, a number of activists and attendees living with disabilities had vacated the March and did not return.
As one of the organizers of the event, I felt a sense of wrongness, shame and guilt about my huge mistakes. I allowed the stage to be set up where it was and I didn’t do more to make sure the accessibility contingent remained safe and structured throughout the flashmob and March.
Its been a journey within the same community of folks living with disabilities who work to end gender-based violence, to be accountable for those errors.
This community I have worked with over the years at TBTN has been more than forgiving. They have role modelled how to call in and how to unlearn. And they have helped me transform my shame at these huge ableist mistakes into a call to action.
But don’t get it twisted; we aren’t doing a “people living with disabilities” TBTN because of last year’s debacle. We agreed to do it last year, prior to approaching Black Lives Matter.
We also chose to centralize this community to honour the death of a long time committee member and Disability and Deaf community activist, Lynda Roy.
Finally, many organizations and communities have shied away from working with these communities in leadership because we think that accessibility is too costly. Access is no joke; from ASL interpretation, attendant care, accessible food, transportation, ramps, large print documents, creating alt descriptions, putting online documents in multiple formats, and it goes on.
But, I think what costs so much more are leaving out this communities’ leadership because we, as non-disabled folks, think it’s too hard or it’s going to cost too much.
So there’s a lot of feels, and a lot of stuff I have to work on as a non-disabled activist. And it repeatedly collides with what I tell Adli about politics, activism and oppression.
So when we point to a TTC bus and Adli also sees a wheeltrans bus and ALSO calls it a TTC bus, well, I tell Adli that I feel happy.
And we take the rest of it from there.