Stories from the brainreels guest Vilissa Thompson
[The podcast audio is at the bottom of this post.]
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On May 18th, 2017, Vilissa Thompson started a social media campaign #DisabilityTooWhite. The public has a tired, old insistence on nearly always highlighting white disability rights and disability culture leaders at the expense of all others. Now, her campaign has turned one. She came on the show to celebrate the hashtagversary and to talk about this project, some of her other advocacy and empowerment campaigns, and her approach to intersectionality in every aspect of her work and life as a Black disabled woman.
From her website, RampYourVoice.com: “Ramp Your Voice! is the brainchild movement of Vilissa Thompson, LMSW, a macro-minded social worker and prominent leader and expert in addressing and educating the public and political figures about the plight of disabled people, especially disabled women of color. I strive to promote the importance of self-advocacy & strengthen empowerment efforts among disabled people. Ramp Your Voice! has been the means to spotlight the issues and barriers of disabled people, as well as create effective social and political changes to ensure that all people have the ability to succeed and prosper, regardless of their ability, ethnicity, religion, educational level, or place of origin.”
But you guys? I’ve been following Vilissa’s work for several years, reading her #BlackDisabledGirlMagic series for Women’s History Month, reading from her Black Disabled Woman Syllabus, and watching her present at the Disability Intersectionality Summit. So this is a ridiculously awesome honor for me to get to finally meet her and share her work with you.
If you’re not already familiar with Vilissa’s work, I’d love if you pop back up a couple paragraphs and reread the text I quoted from her website. I especially want you to notice her wording that her work is to “strengthen empowerment efforts among disabled people.” Because I hear a lot of non-disabled people who fight for disability rights say that our community needs to start advocating, start making our presence known, and start fighting for what we know we deserve. Reading her words reaffirms for me why I get antsy when they say that. Disabled people’s self-advocacy has been around as long as we have, which is as long as people have been around. Thanks to social media, it takes much less work for many people to find it. And if you want a push to learn more about how Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on defining intersectionality applies to disability experiences, any page you choose from Vilissa’s website will answer your questions. I recommend you choose all pages because they’re all amazing.
What an honor! Happy Hashtagversary, Vilissa!