What You Need To Know About Disability Justice

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series. The keynote lecture with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, titled “Body/ Land/ Home: Disability Justice, Healing Justice and Femme of Color Brilliance,” will be held on Tuesday, October 25th at 6PM in the University Center Ballroom (event details here).

disability-justice

by Auroura Levine Morales, Patty Berne and Micah Bazant

Disability justice is the continuation and expansion of disability rights, a movement that sought equal rights and access for disabled people, but was often constrained by its focus on mostly white and male individuals. Disability justice uses an intersectional lens to bring a more nuanced and active approach to the movement. By challenging assumptions about ability and embracing all kinds of bodies, the disability justice framework looks beyond the commonality of disability to incorporate other identities. 

Many people continue to be marginalized within conversations and activism around disability, despite its existence across all communities and populations; to counter these troubling hierarchies, disability justice centers the experiences and needs of queer people and people of color. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of oppression and people, disability justice demands the same integrated approach between all movements for liberation. 

“Disability exists in every sector of society: in immigrant communities, in prisons, in religious and spiritual communities, among veterans and homeless folks, among children and elders and everyone in between, so every movement has to advance disability justice, and vice versa. A movement that sees some people as disposable or able to be sacrificed is not disability justice.” – Nomy Lamm, This Is Disability Justice

More than just a theory, disability justice is a movement-building practice that calls upon people to actively protest, perform, and speak out against oppression and injustices globally.

Want to learn more about disability justice?

What You Need to Know about Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series, starting with this primer on our keynote speaker Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Her lecture, titled “Body/ Land/ Home: Disability Justice, Healing Justice and Femme of Color Brilliance,” will be held on Tuesday, October 25th at 6PM in the University Center Ballroom (event details here). 

Based out of Toronto and Oakland, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer, disabled femme of color poet, performer, healer, and activist of Burgher/Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/Roma ascent. Much of Leah’s work focuses on people and conversations that are often underrepresented, including disability justice, queer and trans people of color, and abuse survivors. In addition to her award-winning books of poetry, including Bodymap, Love Cake, and Consensual Genocide, she has also written a memoir titled Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home. 

“Stories create the world. Seeing stories that look like your own, that you’ve never read written down before, or that are stories you’ve never thought of before that change your whole idea of what is possible, are a big revolutionary deal.”

shira-drawing

art by Shira Devorah

Leah is also a co-founder and former director of Mangos With Chili, the longest-running performance art tour featuring queer and trans individuals in North America. She performs pieces with the disability justice collective Sins Invalid and is a co-director of the Toronto disability justice collective Performance/ Disability/Art.

“[I]t was so inculcated in me that disability is this shameful story. And you know, if there’s not queer people of color space, queer people of color won’t perform. If there’s not disability space that centers queer and trans people of color, sex workers, poor people, all of the above, elders, young people, we won’t know that there’s similar stories.” 

 

For more on Leah, check out:

  • Her blog, Brownstargirl
  • This video of her performance in Sins Invalid
  • Her interview with Bitch Magazine on disability, representation, and survivorhood