Update: After I published this article I was told that the event will be held open as long as possible to allow me to try and raise the money needed to make this happen. I have mixed emotions about this turn of events. kç
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
This year I wanted to facilitate an Intersected Black Caucus. I called in favors. I reached out to two wonderful disabled voices in our community who were powerful. I shamelessly begged for sponsors and grants. I worked hard. It wasn't hard enough. I failed my co presenters. I failed to meet a deadline that came too soon. So many things happened at once that overwhelmed me and I just was unable to meet that stupid deadline. I asked the deadline be extended. I was told it was, but then I was told I failed to meet the original deadline. Donors and sponsors dragged their feet, not unusual, but in this case deadly. I have had my cry about what could have happened this year. Now I have to get back to trying to focus on doing some critical offline life things by the end of this week. I said to myself that life sometimes doesn't work in our favor. It wasn't meant to be.
But then I realized there was never any real intent for this thing to happen. Everything worked against such a thing happening. I remembered that people like me, and topics like disabled people being shot dead, or the impact of riots in Ferguson on disabled people, don't make good optics at conferences. Smiling, optimistic, happy disabled minorities discussing how they conquered this or achieved that is what works. Those folk are also in the demographic that makes paying for the privilege of having a voice heard possible. See the more connected you are, the more things happen to allow things like conference presentations to happen. Not my friends. My colleagues. Not those voices who need to be heard but won't be. I wanted a grown, Black disabled man to speak for my disabled son. To voice the world as he lives it as a Black mother's son. To rap that, to sing that, to speak that life. Because my son right now cannot type well enough to speak about it. I cannot speak for him. Only someone who lives what he lives can do so. But my colleagues and I find ourselves in the unusual position of having to pay the black tax within our own activist community.
I am not a political creature. I don't navigate whatever this world of nonprofits and good donor optics wants and needs well. I only know we needed to be heard. We won't be. And at this point I am debating whether that conference has anything to offer me or my son. I have disabled colleagues who aren't Black. I'm helping them try and raise the money they need to have their voices heard. Maybe people out there in internet land will help. Maybe the optics are more pleasant than Black disabled male highly educated speakers are.
What I have learned from this is money talks, and social justice walks. Your voice only matters if you have the cash to make it heard. Going forward, I will remember this lesson. I cannot make myself white or spend money I need for my son's care on the dream of presenting his case to everyone. I can only insure I apologize to those people who expressed an interest in attending such a caucus. I can find a way to make this thing work some other way outside the conference event environment. Because that is what being Black means when you don't have a disposable income to pay for the privilege of having a voice. You don't give up. You just find a space where that doesn't matter and you speak up there. Like this space. Blogging is still free.
What I am asking everyone who reads this to do is to at least help the other disabled activists presenting at TASH this December. I have no voice for my son. At least let them speak for those they represent. My son is sick tonight I don't feel like looking up the link but there is a fundraiser out there for the disabled disability rights activists trying to get their voices heard. Help them. My son's dream, a dream I volunteered too much time to, the dream of the Black disabled young man, is deferred. Don't silence other voices trying to speak. Don't forsake them to the altar of better donations and pleasant optics.