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Day 2: Kujichagulia, Disabled-ly

Day 2: Kujichagulia, Disabled-ly

Habari Gani? Kujichagulia, disabledly.

Kujichagulia means “Self-determination”.  Day 2 of Kwanzaa is probably always been my favorite day.  When I was little, it was because I liked saying the name. Kujichagulia.  I felt so smart being able to pronounce what I thought was a hard word (don’t judge me).  As I got older, I really began to appreciate the actual meaning. Self-determination: Speaking and thinking for ourselves. Determining, for ourselves who we are, what we want, what we stand for. Agency. Autonomy.

And oh boy! Don’t we, as disabled people embody that ideal, or the want of it. Historically, we aren’t given the space to be as independent as we can be.  We aren’t given the room to speak for ourselves.  All to often we are spoken for and spoken over by non-disabled people.  Online, on the ground, it doesn’t matter. Ever go out to eat with a non-disabled friend/partner? Ever notice the waiter speaks to your friend but wants to know what you’re having?  What about at the doctor’s office?  I know there have been several times my partner accompanied me and the staff directed all questions about ME to HIM!!

It’s more than just that. It might be determining our career paths. Apparently, we aren’t supposed to have any.  Determining our love lives…we aren’t supposed to have any. Things as simple as having social lives and interactions. Nope! Not supposed to have any.  If we were in court right now, I’d say “Objection! Assuming facts not in evidence”. In other words, society’s assumption that we lack agency, autonomy, self-determination is based on absolutely nothing but ableist ideals.  And I reject it.

When you’re disabled, somehow that means you automatically lack the ability to be your own person and make your own decisions. Well, at least from what I have observed.  Maybe you experienced something different? Comment below and tell us what Kujichagulia (Self-determination) looks like for you.

Day 1: Umoja, Disabled-ly

Day 1: Umoja, Disabled-ly

Habari Gani? Umoja, disabled-ly!

The first day of Kwanzaa, December 26, is Umoja.  Umoja means Unity. This is a principle I’ve noticed the disabled community has become quite good at practicing.  It could be that sometimes, we are all we have. For some of us, the disabled community is our social network, our family, our support system.

At least it has been for me.  I’ve come to rely on disabled peers online when it comes to different life things.  When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was seek out the disabled parent community.  We share each other’s donation links because hey, being disabled gets expensive. We sometimes turn into our own medical team or awareness “organization”.  And we do it all without judging (I hope. Oh I hope).  We boost each other’s work, amplify each other’s voices, and have fun with different discussion hashtags.

We are a community.

When we put out a call to #DisabledTwitter, we all come running, or wheeling, or limping, or rollating, or…well, you get the picture.

We come to support each other.

The best part to me is that we don’t HAVE to know each other. Once you identify as disabled, you become part of the family. Umoja to the disabled community means we found a new family.  We defend each other. We promote each other. We are there to answer each other’s questions (health or otherwise).  And we do much of this no questions asked!

Why though? What do we get out of it? In our community, we know all to well what it is like not to have that support.  We know what it is like to have to fight for, advocate for, defend our very right to live.  And we know the struggle in doing so when the world around us would rather we disappear, whatever that may mean. And we know what it’s like to feel like we are doing it all alone. Until we find our community.

We practice solidarity.  We practice unity.  We epitomize Umoja.

What are some ways you promote Umoja/Unity? Answer in the comment section below.

Kwanzaa, Disabled-ly

Kwanzaa, Disabled-ly

Harambe Marafiki!! That means “Come together friends” and celebrate.  The celebration here? Kwanzaa, which I talk about here.  Then I began to wonder, what would the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles, look like if applied them to the disabled community?  What does Umoja or Nia or Imani mean to me, a disabled, Black woman? What could it mean for us?

Kwanzaa is traditionally a pan-Afrikan celebration.  That does not mean that if you aren’t Black, part of the diaspora, that you can’t join in.  I am inviting #DisabilityTwitter to celebrate the Nguzo Saba with me each day.

Over the next seven days, I will take each of the Nguzo Saba and talk about them in the context of the disability community.  Each day, I will link my original post about that specific principle to give you some background and some possible activities to do.  I invite you to participate and comment on what the nguzo saba means to you…disabled-ly.

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