This is what independent living in the spirit of Ed Roberts has taught us. It is what we must continue to pass on, one crip to another, sweat upon sweat, friend to friend, brother to sister.
The Belchertown Crip Railroad.
Sojourner Truth saw herself as an everyday woman, a vehicle for peace and justice.
Sojourner Truth saw herself as an everyday woman, a vehicle for peace and justice.Recently a statue was erected in her honor, near a house that she had purchased and lived in when she was part of a peace cooperative in Florence, Massachusetts, a town about twenty minutes from my own town.
During her lifetime she helped many of her African-American sisters and brothers fleeing from the South to safety in the North. This has become known as the Underground Railroad.
In her honor, I have nicknamed the project I started the Belchertown Crip Railroad. Sojourner Truth's presence spurs me on to connect with a crip, point her in the right direction, make a phone call or two, and certainly invite her over to my home. "Our homes, not nursing homes!" is a reality we are all responsible for implementing.
As the title of my website indicates. I am, simply and profoundly, an everyday cripple. Like all of you out there fighting every day for your rights, your life, your kids' schooling, your parents' home care, your husband's health insurance. Putting one foot or one wheel in front of the other, moving to get from Point A to Point B in this everyday cripple life.
Most of the time I have enough of what it takes to encourage and advocate with another human being on the phone or via the internet. I can share what I know, listen to someone's anger, someone's pain. I can maybe offer a wisdom or two, and at least throw out an idea when another crip may feel themselves between a rock and a hard place.
I am as ordinary as today's bread, and bread, the necessary staple it is, does indeed rise. This is what independent living in the spirit of Ed Roberts has taught us. It is what we must continue to pass on, one crip to another, sweat upon sweat, friend to friend, brother to sister.
This teaching of empowerment through sharing and doing is the backbone of our movement. Martina talks about missing the organized crip movement in her Pennsylvania hometown, of feeling lonely in Belchertown. I certainly can relate to that feeling as it is mine also.
I have just sort of started encouraging disabled people who were not in good situations to move to my town. I help them out by giving them leads for housing and helping them fill out applications, letting them use my address and phone number.
A few have stayed at my house until their own housing was available, enabling them to get assistance before they even moved into their own apartment. I found it was pretty easy to share personal assistance while folks lived with me for a short period till they got on their own. It was no big deal, and besides, if they lived with me for a little bit it was easier to do the mentoring thing.
Some have moved here without having ever gone shopping for themselves, without ever having cooked a meal -- never mind figuring out how to unwind all the red tape it takes to get the housing, insurance and personal assistance to be independent.
Mentoring, assisting other folks with disabilities, is something we can all do. My guess is every one of you reading this article has at least one lead on an upcoming subsidized apartment. It doesn't take a group of people to do this -- it just takes you. You don't have to be feeling great to do it; you don't have to do any of it in person. Much of the help I give people is with the phone or by email -- a lot is just support and understanding -- and the resolve to put up with the bullshit and wade through the obstacles till the goal, independence, is achieved.
Whatever your education, occupation, ability, disability, illness or age, there is something under the umbrella of independent living and freedom that you can contribute to. We can't expect independent living centers to do it. Many are simply not doing it.
We can't expect the crip next door to take it on. We must grab a shovel and dig in. The work is endless, and sometimes overwhelming. The numbers of disabled people still locked up in nursing holes is astonishing. We have to change it -- however we can, in whatever ways we can.
MaryFrances Platt calls herself "a drooling, plugged-in, wheeling, broke-down, radical crip." Her last article for Ragged Edge was "The New Refugees." Visit her website at http://www.geocities.com/theeverydaycripple/
WHAT DO YOU THINK of what you've just read? Send us an email.