Vilissa Thompson: Disability Rights in Black 2020

February 17, 2020
Vilissa Thompson: Disability Rights in Black 2020

Vilissa looks to the camera over her shoulder. She wears a white top and sits in a black wheelchair.
It’s day 17 of our #DisabilityRightsInBlack series and Vilissa Thompson is spotlighting the power of southern Black organizers with disabilities! Hailing from Winnsboro South Carolina, Vilissa is a Licensed Master Social Worker, organizer, writer, advocate, and creator of Ramp Your Voice. Her insightful message below emphasizes how inclusive cross-movement organizing can strengthen community and political change.

We highly encourage you to review Vilissa’s website for several in-depth and beautifully written blogs on Black Disability History and to follow Vilissa on Twitter @VilissaThompson.

“The South got something to say” has become more alive within me as I’ve gotten deeper into my activism as a Black disabled Southern woman. The South is home, and the work to be completed to free our people here is tremendous. Black disabled Southern activists don’t get the spotlight as those in other regions, but that doesn’t mean that our work is insignificant to the movements we are a part of.

To be Black, disabled, and Southern gives me a sense of pride in the progress made and what has yet to be won. It’s critical for those of us in this region to not only have our unique experiences heard, but to also ensure that the Black liberation efforts do not exclude disability. Some of the greatest organizing work exists in the South, yet the absence of Black disabled Southern activists is stark. I challenge the leaders and shakers in this region during Black History Month to take inventory as to where the gaps are regarding disability and the visibility of Black disabled people, and what you should and can do to correct this erasure.

Black disabled Southerners are a powerful force in getting us to understand key dysfunctions within voting access, inequality in schools, employment discrimination, etc., and how they transpire specifically here in comparison to other parts of the country. The insight we possess shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed; what we have to say is key to the fight for freedom we are in for our people and the broader society. Let’s never take that for granted or believe that we can get to the other side without it.

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