André McCollins is the victim in one of the few videos of students receiving repeated shocks investigators were able to retrieve from the Judge Rotenberg Center. His screams of agony now fuel the rallying cry of disability rights activists and organizations calling for an end to the use of electric shocks on disabled children.ADAPT is now embedded in Washington DC trying to get the FDA to implement the already approved restrictions on these shock devices. Read about ADAPT's latest effort here.
Cheryl McCollins, faced with Mamie Till's choice, looked at her beautiful son who has never recovered from the harm done him, and decided the only way to make certain no one else's loved one was harmed was to get the video of what they had done, those 31 shocks that put Andre in a coma, and give it to the press.
She went to court and fought for that horrific tape and won.
We don't have any idea what it means to be Andre McCollins, Black, autistic, innocent and irreparably harmed, then having to have the evidence of that traumatic event played over and over because the institution that harmed you and so many others is backed by powerful people who just don't seem to care that this is being done to students.
We don't have any idea what it means to be The Emmett Till of the African American autistic community, have your torture video be used to save others, but be erased while still being very much alive.
Imagine being Cheryl McCollins. She is trying to carry on her life and Andre's care amid threats to keep quiet and still made this choice that Mamie Till made. To live with the doom of seeing over and over again that they hurt your boy to a point of no recovery and you were powerless to save him.
People are fighting now all around them. Disability and human rights activists to finish this over 30-year fight to end the torture, powerful wealthy families afraid of the idea that they may have to take a direct interest in their abused disabled loved one's life after years of GED shocks to keep their families members locked away and victimized by multiple shocks daily. All the while Andre and Cheryl, and so many other survivors are forced to relive the trauma of what was done to them.
Do you think it was easy for Mamie Till, to make that choice, to show the battered and broken body of her beautiful boy in an open casket, knowing that it would be the image forever linked to his name?
I've forgotten. Some of you wouldn't know who Emmett Till and his mother Mamie were. Before your time, not of your world perhaps. Here:
"Mamie Till was the mother of Emmett Till, who was murdered in Mississippi on August 28, 1955, at the age of 14, after being accused of flirting with a white cashier woman, Carolyn Bryant, at the grocery store. For her son's funeral in Chicago, Mamie Till insisted that the casket containing his body be left open, because, in her words, "I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby." " - Wikipedia
Years later, Carolyn Bryant admitted she lied, and Emmett was innocent.
Cheryl McCollins made Mamie Till's choice. To have Andre be the symbol of harm in one of today's so-called modern day institutions, to show that this is not the path to help our loved ones no matter how violent and out of control we believe them to be, that torture of this nature is not the answer.
I have conveyed my gratitude to Cheryl. I told her that my state was one of the states sending autistic youth to the JRC. I told her Andre could have been my son. We grieved for the harm done and I let her know what Andre endured will never be in vain.
While we are all out there, telling Andre and Cheryl's story for a cause while others omitted it from any history of autism, remember Andre and Cheryl are suffering as this video is aired again and again and used in petitions and rallies and actions to end the shocks to others. Don't let Andre and Cheryl become Elsie and Henrietta Lacks, dehumanized archetypal objects of their victimization; their lives dissected packaged and marketed to discuss the use of Henrietta's cells rather than for the human value of the lives of a mother who died in tremendous pain from cancer the disabled daughter she gave up to the only institution for Blacks in Maryland, both used for experimentation for the progress of science.
Andre lives on despite having never fully recovered from the harm done him.We need to be mindful of this as we continue fighting and invoking his video trauma. Give them respect and remembrance beyond their use as graphic human slogans for a cause, and do so for every surviving victim of JRC GED shock torture.
While we are fighting for justice #RememberAndre. and all the disproportionately Autistic survivors of color.
For Emmett and Mamie Till, Elsie and Henrietta Lack, and Cheryl and Andre McCollins, in heartbroken gratitude for their sacrifice.
About the Judge Rotenberg Center and ADAPT's latest action to end the torture:
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