ResourcesCOVID-19 Call 5 Disabled: Not a Burden
A fifth TLC community conversation between Syrus Marcus Ware and Eli Clare on resistance to ableism, anti-Black racism, misogyny, fatphobia, and classism.
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ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATION SERVICES, LLC
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This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings
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>> Hi, everyone. My name is Katja. I’m one of four interpreters today. I’m here with Alexia, and we are both members of a collect call [speaking Spanish].
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> [Speaking Spanish]. We work based on a framework called Language Justice, and it is the idea that all ‑‑ includes the idea that all of us have a basic right to communicate, understand and be understood in the language you feel most comfortable in.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> Today, we have the capacity to facilitate this meeting in three languages, English, Spanish, and ASL, but we’d also take this moment to honor other languages present in this meeting and on this land in the present and in the past, especially languages who have been invisible‑ized or disappeared in violent ways.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> Language justice is the responsibility of everyone in this space, and there are three ways in which you can help us out and make this space inclusive for everyone.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> First of all, we ask you to speak ‑‑ to keep a moderate pace so the interpreters can catch up and interpret. However, if you see us with a panicked face and doing this, then that means whoever is speaking should slow down a little bit.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> If it’s hard to hear you maybe because there’s an issue with your mic or sounds or whatever, you will see us do this. That means that you need to speak up or maybe move your mic a little closer so we can hear you.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> Finally, we ask you to only speak one person at a time and mute yourself when it’s not your turn to speak so it’s easier for everyone, including the interpreters to hear the people who are actually speaking.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> And finally, so far, we’ve been providing consecutive interpretation, but now we’re going to switch to simultaneously. So if you’re interested in listening in Spanish, I’m about to post the number and the access code to our Spanish interpreting line ‑‑ interpretation line in the chat box again.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> And this is everything from our side. Once again, we’re really grateful and honored to be able to support this space and these really important conversations in these difficult times. Thank you so much.
>> [Speaking Spanish].
>> Thank you, Alexia and Katja. It’s important to make this space as accessible as possible. So we’re going to continue to do that through the next few virtual gatherings. We’re also for the first time am going forward providing in real time captioning, which is what you’ll see at the bottom of the screen.
I also want to share a couple words from our ‑‑ the disability project founder TLC Sebastian Margaret. This call is the ‑‑ one of many calls we’ve had in the past centering different marginalized communities that are particularly impacted by the effects of COVID‑19. And it highlights some of the wisdom and solutions that are being spear headed by those various communities. We also had a virtual vigil in the past. You can find all of the past recordings of our virtual gatherings in our website and we’ll post it also in the comments section. And this call in particular places disability justice as essential value and politic of trans liberation. Disability justice holds access as a necessary practice for disrupting isolation and ensuring the participation and leadership of disabled folks. Access is meaningful when it includes a commitment to the radical deeply transformative demands of disability justice.
Disability justice charges us to identify, interrupt, and disrupt all forms of supremacy including Ableism, antiblack racism, misogyny, fat phobia, classism, and more.
By committing to building accessible spaces, we’re implementing a commitment to have critical conversations together.
So my name is Xoai. I am the digital media coordinator of Transgender Law Center, and I’ll be moderating this call today. We have two folks from the advisory board of the Disability Project housed at TLC.
I’m going to ask them to introduce themselves now. Syrus, would you like to go first?
>> SYRUS: Hi, yes, I’m Syrus Marcus Ware. I use he/him/his pronouns. I’m an artist and activist, just finishing a Ph.D., and I’m so happy to join you today.
>> Happy to have you, Syrus. And Eli?
>> ELI: This is Eli Clare. I am an activist and writer for a long time for disability, justice.
>> So I’m super excited for this call. I know that it’s going to be really juicy. And I also know that there’s been a lot of tension and intense emotions that are involved when we talk about disability justice, disabled communities, especially trans disabled folks. I want to make room for all those difficult feelings. I encourage both of you to speak freely and express yourself as you feel is necessary. I just want to start off and ask how you’re doing today?
What space ‑‑ head space you’re in today? Syrus? How are you feeling?
>> SYRUS: Thank you so much for asking.
Today, I’m well. I suppose I’m, like, vacillating wildly between two states, one being fine and relatively productive, and the other being sleepy most of the time. For me, I’m somebody who I’m disabled and have two autoimmune diseases and so napping during the day is not unusual. But now it feels like a serious nap. It’s like a really intense nap that must happen. So I’m going back and forth between two states of productivity. And yeah, today is an okay day.
I live in Toronto in the north part of the island. It’s cold here today. There was snow in some parts of Toronto. I’m happy to be inside and warm. Yes.
>> Yeah. We all have our sort of coping mechanisms in this time, and a serious nap sounds very needed. I might take one later today [chuckling].
I want to also give Eli a chance to talk about how you’re feeling.
>> ELI: I am okay today. Like Syrus, I find myself swinging wildly between different emotions. Sometimes I’m okay, sometimes I’m full of anxiety. Sometimes I’m heartbroken and full of grief. I know that many of us here in the States are dealing with a loss of really important autistic, queer artist, activist, writers that are important have died over the weekend under conditions none of us are clear about. So heartbroken and grief still is one of my states of being.
And I come to this call from Vermont territory. And early spring here was just lovely.
>> Let’s definitely have a moment of silence for the folks that we know and the folks that we have yet to know who we’re losing in this time.
[Moment of silence].
>> I also want to, before we move forward, remind folks that this is live, so if you have any emotions of your own, feelings, if you have comments, questions for us, we’ll have some time for Q&A later on. You can throw those in the comments, and we’ll be monitoring those for later.
I see a couple other folk whose are in our community are joining.
So thanks for sharing how you’re doing today.
I know that one thing that’s been on folks’ mind is that the coronavirus has exposed what’s already existed, which is rampant Ableism all across every sector of society.
And while disabled communities have been dealing with that Ableism since forever, folks who are non‑disabled are only recently having to grapple with some of the ways that spaces are inaccessible and having to grapple with slowing down.
So I’m curious, Eli, you spoke about this a little bit, but I’m curious for the both of you what you’re noticing in your communities. How is the coronavirus impacting the disabled folks in your life and in your communities? Eli, you spoke a bit about it already. Do you want to expand a bit on that?
>> ANNA: I’m so sorry to interrupt. This is your tech person. I just want to add that there’s a lag between the captions being shown on Facebook and what we’re able to see on our Zoom.
So what I’m going to do is end this live and then switch to screen sharing, which should hopefully make it so that people are more able to see the captions.
So bear with us. We’ll be back on shortly.
>> ANNA: Okay, folks. I ended the live stream, so we’re live right now, but I’m going to get us back up in a few moments. I did that because people were reporting that they couldn’t see the captions.
But on our end, we could.
I just think it’s not an issue of anyone doing anything wrong.
It’s that when we were syncing from Zoom to Facebook, there’s a lag already, and that lag was made worse with the captioning as in the captions were not showing up synced to the video.
So hopefully in screen sharing, this will ‑‑ they will show up and they will be more prominent.
>> SYRUS: So we’ll go with that.
>> ANNA: So give me two or three minutes to get us back on.
>> Thanks, Anna.
>> What we talked about yesterday about having me start, but I’m fine if, Eli, you’d rather start. Just checking about the agenda.
>> ANNA: I believe we are live.
>> Hi, everyone. Welcome back. Thank you for your patience. One of the things that we’re adjusting to is that digital spaces are ‑‑ also have the potential for technical difficulties. So we had to end the last live in order to make sure that the live captioning was not lagged so that we can maintain the accessibility of the space.
So if you have friends who are looking for the new link, please send them this live.
I was about to just hand the mic over to Syrus. I’m curious, Syrus, what you’re noticing in terms of how disabled communities in your life are being impacted by the coronavirus.
>> SYRUS: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, I would say, you know, that black, Deaf, disabled people, we are incredible.
We have survived so, so, so much.
We have fought back against systemic violence, oppression, and we built these vast communities that are rooted in love and in justice.
And those bonds we built amongst ourselves, the strengths within our communities are being put to the test right now amid COVID‑19.
While we are inside, targeted policing of black people continues and is rampant.
What we’ve seen a lot ‑‑ I’m based here in the north part of the island, and there’s a lot of targeted policemen in particular of black people oft with fatal results.
Just a couple of days ago, a week and a half ago, a young black mad person named Campbell was killed by the Toronto police. In Winnipeg, just west of where I am, an indigenous woman named Hudson was killed by the police.
There’s murderous intent in the policing system, and that continues while we shelter in place.
So all of the sort of inequalities and procedures put in place now of having the police roaming the streets to make sure we’re all physical distancing is actually going to ‑‑ already detrimentally affecting black and indigenous communities who are already targets of the police.
That’s what they’re looking for during these searches, stop and question processes ‑‑ it’s ‑‑ that’s why they’re criticized for their antiblack carding program, where they ask you for your information even if you’re not doing anything.
That’s happening outside while we’re all inside.
And then at the same time, we’re seeing reports of dramatic things, like black people being handcuffed while they’re actually doing a support work for folks on the streets during the COVID‑19.
There’s a black doctor who was handcuffed while administering COVID tests.
He was stopped, arrested, and handcuffed.
So definitely, what we’re seeing is that blackness, indigeneity is still under attack.
Black and indigenous Deaf and disabled folks continue to be under attack in this moment.
And then of course there’s just the generalized Ableism of the pandemic, the choosing of who gets what services.
We’ve seen sort of a century and a half of the current medical industrial complex.
It’s woefully antiblack and anti-indigenous medical care that has shaped itself into the system that we have today here in Toronto, socialized health care.
In the states, we have privatized health care.
Regardless, the medical complex is set up in a particular way.
There are huge issues with it. Some of the violence, the Ableism that’s built into the very foundation of the complex, it is being put to the test right now as you see them make decisions about who gets to survive this and who doesn’t.
But at the same time, my communities are rejoicing and thriving because we’re seeing this as a moment for ‑‑ this is a possibility where we might come out of this pandemic with a completely different world.
We are planting new seeds to grow a forest that would look completely different when we come out of this than the current late, racist, capitalist system we’re living in right now.
This is revolutionary times.
We can dramatically change the world in 18 months.
So looking at some of the things ‑‑ I’m an abolitionist for 25 years.
And I never thought I would see the day when they would just start opening the doors.
We always said it was a simple as just opening the doors.
And of course putting things in place for people when they get out.
But literally, just opening the doors, that’s what we’ve been seeing around the world as places are emptied because of COVID‑19.
Seeing other things like that start to manifest, you know, the idea of a universal basic income being spread around in so many different places.
All of these possibilities that we’re dreaming about that we’ve been trying to prefigure in our politics are now coming to be potentials.
So I think we’re also ‑‑ in my community, we’re sort of rejoicing as well because we’re seeing the possibility for some widespread social change that might, just might, result in all of us having the right determination and all of us getting to be free.
And us finally overturning capitalism and destroying the medicalized Ableism that comes with it.
I’m both disheartened by looking at the targeted policing, but also perhaps hopeful because of what might come of this. Thank you.
>> Thank you so much, Syrus. It makes me think a lot about the ways that some folks have, you know, documented forms of violence and disabled communities have so long been targets of violence disproportionately without reports of it or without media coverage.
So I think folks should keep that in mind.
I also want to remind all of us to ‑‑ since the live has restarted, that we should be speaking a little slower in order for interpretation in Spanish and ASL and the live captioning to be done so that ‑‑ the space continues to be accessible and accurate for folk whose are on different phone lines.
Eli, I’d love to hear from you what you’re experiencing and what your communities are experiencing from COVID‑19.
>> ELI: Thank you for all of that. Particularly your sense that this could easily be a revolutionary moment that will come out of this with a different, more just world where people are experiencing liberation.
For me, this feels ‑‑ and to a lot of us, both my disability community and in the trans communities, I mean this both feels like a really new moment with a lot of potential and also very old moment for us in terms of being considered disposable and burdensome in the ways you named really well.
When I talk about disposable and burdensome, I’m thinking of the disabled, Deaf, people thinking of black indigenous and people of color and thinking of poor people and thinking immigrants and thinking of everyone who is living in various kinds of for sites in nursing homes, transgender folks. Living under conditions where we’re seen as disposable and burdensome is so, so familiar.
And it feels so much like we’re dealing with two risks. One of those risks is the viral risk.
We’re consuming the talk about how we’re all in this together and the virus doesn’t discriminate.
What risk is the viral risk that there’s a second risk that is systemic institutional and targets various marginalized communities. And there’s so much disparity in thinking of the health care disparities that people are experiencing right now.
So it feels like a very old moment.
But it’s also a moment of slowing everything down, of non‑disabled people becoming aware of the freedoms, accessibility taken away. It’s a moment when people are becoming to get a glimpse of what physical distancing and social isolation feels like.
It’s something that all of us disabled, black, mad, Deaf people know all too well.
I think it’s also a time when the survivor skills that many of us have are skills that everyone needs and everyone begins to pay attention to, thinking that the interdependence in the disability community and also having to live in deep, deep isolation. The value placed on access, thinking of all the creative problem solving that disabled people possess of just making do and figuring out and being really creative solvers.
Those skills and experiences are things that the non‑disabled world, community needs. Rather than being disposable, disabled people need to be known as essential.
We have always been essential, and we are essential in this moment, and we are essential for whatever is to come after this moment.
>> Thank you, Eli. Everything you’re saying is so important. Everything that both of you are saying is speaking to the folks outside the word despair. It gives me pause because of the profound unfairness of it all, that so many non‑disabled people only have to reckon now with some of the struggles that disabled folks have been experiencing, but also trying to heal from and demanding better ‑‑ demanding justice, demanding better treatment for so long to no avail. And I want to make some space for some of those frustrations, tensions.
Some of the ‑‑ I’d love to hear some of the ways that ‑‑ all of the ways that the coronavirus is impacting your communities, is making you feel and making your people feel.
Syrus, would you like to go first?
>> SYRUS: Yeah, I’m sure.
As you said, all of these things we know, we know that we’ve asked to be able to Zoom into conferences and told no, it’s too complicated.
We know that we’ve asked, you know, is it possible for me to do part of my job from home because of chronic pain? Because of whatever and it’s hard to come in?
We’re told no, it’s too difficult.
We know there’s these so‑called accommodations that we were told were not possible to try to figure out when disabled people are asking for them.
And now, of course, everyone is surprisingly figuring them out quite quickly.
We’ve known that. A lot of disabled, mad, sick folks have been writing about online. There’s been brilliant thinking on this, you know.
People have been writing about that for a last few weeks that how is it that just now you’re suddenly able to figure out that I can use the keynote from Zoom, actually?
I think there’s a lot of ‑‑ rightfully so, a lot of frustrated folks who it just shows what is considered valuable and considered important.
I really think that in my community, we’re feeling ‑‑ I think that there’s a way that ‑‑ one of the things ‑‑ I’ll say, one of the things I’m very frustrated about is for those of us who experience autoimmune issues ‑‑ I have two diseases ‑‑ we had to take this seriously quickly.
When they first started saying, hey, you know, there’s this virus.
Hey, there’s ‑‑ you need to be careful, we were already shutting the doors and staying in.
And watching non‑disabled folks continue to travel, continue to plan events, continue to gather in groups was such a slap in the face because it’s saying we don’t really care what happens to you, for those of us already shut in.
So sort of hearing people be frustrated now that they’ve been inside maybe 13 days, some of us have been inside for 30 days or 45 days. Some of us have always been inside because we live our lives in our beds, in our rooms and homes.
It’s been quite frustrating.
Even if I say ‑‑ I’m so conflicted about all of this. I’m celebrating abolition, celebrating that folks are letting their doors and letting folks out.
But they’re doing it in some cases because they’re concerned about their own survival. Some of us ‑‑ morally, putting people in cages is a terrible idea. They’re doing it because they themselves don’t want to get the virus from the prisoner.
This is a moment where we’re seeing people that are most self‑interested and that can lead to a lot of feelings of frustration and a lot of feelings of hurt.
But having said that, I encourage everyone to check out some of the great writing that’s been done around this because people are letting their feelings out, and I think that the message is starting to be heard, which is good.
>> Thank you, Syrus. I just want to pause for a second to ensure that our captioning is being reflected on Facebook.
If folks would give us a minute, the TLC folks will make sure it’s reflected.
I’m seeing that there’s folks who can’t see it.
>> SYRUS: And yes, I can definitely talk more slowly.
>> Thank you, Syrus.
>> I just want to remind folks that there’s a possibility that you have captions turned off. I’m seeing that for most folks, it’s appearing. So I’m going to continue.
Just also want to reassure everyone that there will be a transcript available after the call and it’s being recorded.
So thank you for your patience.
Eli, I know you spoke a bit about the despair that you’ve been feeling. Do you want to speak more on how the situation is making you feel and how you’re witnessing other folks feeling?
>> ELI: I think that a lot of what’s happening from folks around me and for me is fear.
As well as rage, that the medical ration that’s happening, the triage screen disabled people out of emergency and urgent care if our lives aren’t deemed worth saving.
That is both enraging and terrifying.
I know a dozen people who used ventilators every day who are preparing do emergency care at home right now because they know that if they went to an emergency room, they would be turned away or the ventilators might be confiscated.
It’s terrifying and enraging times in that way.
Some members of the disability community are talking about seeing really clearly, it’s very, very clear right now, there’s this powerful hashtag now I see in indigeneity. There’s a lot of fear and rage, and there’s also some of the peace and hope that some of us learned about. I trust right now isn’t going to go away.
Talking about if stay at home orders are lifted and non‑disabled people go back to their regular lives, don’t you dare forget these lessons. Don’t you dare abandon us. Don’t you dare forget ‑‑ don’t shut us out. Remember the value of remote events.
Remember the value of gathering in public when we can gather. Being queer and trans and disabled do not have access to public spaces.
And queer and trans people have fought for so long to have public space.
And because of lack of access, disabled and sick people often don’t have access to those spaces.
And we’re saying in these conversations, whatever comes after the moment of the pandemic, let’s use it to create more space, to make our public queer and trans spaces actually accessible to all of us.
>> SYRUS: Can I add on to what you’re saying, Eli?
>> ELI: Yes, of course.
>> SYRUS: I wanted to say and in addition to making sure that those public spaces are accessible to not abandon ‑‑ and cherish the online spaces that we’ve co‑created, disabled and non‑disabled together, places like club quarantine, these online dance clubs that you can go to where they’re doing ‑‑ there was a quick rave that happened online. So there’s these things. It’s wonderful to think that the center of organizing the center of the party, center of the community is happening online now out of necessity. So let’s also say don’t you dare forget that because for some of us, we may never be going back outside. We need some of the online spaces to continue and to thrive.
Now that I’ve gone to an online party, I never want to go to a live party.
It’s so much more fun to be in your pajamas at home.
>> ELI: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, I cannot say yes enough to you, Syrus, about that.
>> I’m also so glad, Eli, that you mentioned queer and trans folks. I especially want to highlight, you know, trans disabled wisdom. I know that in spite of all that’s been happening, trans disabled folks have been cultivating wisdom and survival strategies, ways of taking care of one another. How are folks, Eli and Syrus, how are folks displaying those? What kind of wisdom are you witnessing? And either of you can start.
>> SYRUS: I think it’s a beautiful thing. The mutual aid. There’s a mutual aid and collective care Google drive. We can post the link on the transgender page. But where people can get access to resources on mutual aid, that was created in part by
Leah Piepzna‑Samarasinha. I can spell that, P‑i‑e‑p‑z‑n‑a, hyphen, S‑a‑m‑a‑r‑a‑s‑i‑n‑h‑a.
Things like that, that are popping up that people are sharing their brilliance, what they’ve learned about how to survive in this moment.
I’ve seen some really beautiful adaptation of things. Pod mapping chart that rebel Sydney black posted that was originally used for transformative justice work that’s now being adapted to create care webs and to understand who’s in our care web and who we can turn to and be there for us in these moments.
So there’s some amazing resources and support networks that are being built and written about, importantly, written about and talked about, that people can access right now that is exciting.
>> Eli, how about you?
>> ELI: Let me see. I would echo Syrus’ point about mutual aid, about sharing information, about sharing medical information. When I think of trans disabling wisdom, I think particularly about how both the trans communities and disability communities and then all of the voice overlap. Trans disabled people, how we become experts at sharing medical information by creating these medical avenues for distributing and disseminating medical information about what works and what doesn’t.
Who is going to give us care, who to avoid.
And I see some of that communal sharing and gathering of resources, including medical resources, but not exclusively medical resources, happening now in queer and trans disabled spaces.
>> Thank you. I brought the image what Syrus said earlier, which is that we’re planting the seeds for a new forest.
And it just brings me to all of the ways that trans disabled folks are dreaming and creating the knowledge that’s needed for a future that is accessible to all people and not just accessible, that’s also affirming and lifts up the value of all people.
So I would love to hear about some of your dreams and visions. Syrus, you want to go first? I saw a smile.
>> SYRUS: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I guess ‑‑ I’m an activist and I have known that the world needed to change since I was a child.
I’ve been fighting for a revolution since I was a child.
So to me, I’m not going to let this moment pass me by. This is a moment for us to push for widespread changes for us to be free.
What I’m dreaming of is a world where, as they say, the future is accessible. I’m dreaming of a world that is both online and in real life that is accessible for all of us in different ways, even with our access needs and all the things that coming with being multiply disabled, all of that in a community together.
I’m dreaming of a world that does not have capitalism.
A world that is free, finally, from capital, where we all have the resources we need to survive and thrive, where food, stable housing, med support, all of those things are given freely and on demand.
I dream of a world that does not have antiblack racism, that is not rooted in colonialism and imperialism, a world where there is an end of race‑based thinking, in fact, and strong communities who are leaders and self‑determined in living their own self‑determined lives.
I’m imagining a world that has resolved some of the issues with climate change so we’re not under the Anthropocene, so the world has what it needs to revive itself and survive.
When we get rid of the capitalist notion of produce, produce, produce, expand, expand, expand, and how that’s destroying the world, and creating a whole bunch of terrible experiences for those that are most marginalized.
I imagine we come out of this much, much better off.
At the very minimum, a universal basic income for everybody, opening the doors to the prisons and letting people out.
Reforming the education system and reforming the medical system so we all have what we need if there is ‑‑ ever is another crisis, something like this.
I’m hopeful, actually.
I remain hopeful that, you know, whenever I have these moments where I remind myself that we are living in revolutionary times, that revolution is not a one‑time event.
Revolution is something that continues and it’s a process.
I feel excited because I know that we’re on the right road and we’re going to get to a place where we’re all finally free.
And I can’t wait.
I feel like we’re very close right now.
And so I continue to dream about that every day.
>> That’s so beautiful, Syrus. Thank you. Eli, I’m curious of your thoughts.
>> ELI: I don’t have much to add, Syrus. What a dream.
Like, what a series of dreams.
I think I only want to add two thoughts.
The first being that the dreamers among us are really important. I know I’m not good at dreaming, but my dreams are about what I want to say no to rather than what needs to be said yes to.
And so Syrus, people like you who can name those proactive dreams are so important to me.
And the second thing I’ll say is I know I dream of a world where disabled, mad, Deaf, trans people, all people, fat people, immigrants, foreign people, everyone who has been left out in various institutions, where we are seen not as a burden, not as disposable, absolutely essential to the world.
>> Absolutely, I share both of your dreams. And I’m very confident that we will get there with both of your help. I’m very grateful for both of you, for being on and sharing your wisdom today.
I know folks have questions. This is actually our highest attended virtual gathering. Makes total sense with all the brilliance.
There have been tons of comments, so just letting you both know that so many people are sharing love.
I want to invite folks in the audience to share questions, comments. We have a bit of time for that.
I’m seeing a lot of people echoing Eli’s thought that people like Syrus and other dreamers are very important right now.
And also, folks real want an online party [chuckling].
>> SYRUS: Oh, my gosh, can I gush about online parties for a minute?
>> Sure [chuckling].
>> SYRUS: I mean, there was an online play party. There was a dance party. Folks, this is our time. This is our time to thrive.
We know how to use ‑‑ well, I kind of know how to use the technology.
But we know how to do these things from home. This is our moment.
There’s some great online ‑‑ and all of the anxiety about getting up and leaving your home, you don’t have to do that. It’s wonderful. That’s all I wanted to say.
>> Well, maybe we can make one happen in the near future.
I see actually some questions now.
So the first one is ‑‑ first, someone is thankful that folks named fat phobia in this conversation.
And the question is how are you keeping up your pleasure activism while you’re quarantined. Happy face.
>> SYRUS: I mentioned there’s an online play party. So that was great.
And I think, yeah, just trying to figure out the things that give us pleasure and joy.
For me, I’m an extrovert and I love ‑‑ I do actually love people.
So I’ve been doing online calls for people.
There was a group that was very influential to me politically that I used to organize with called the Justice Action Committee, and we haven’t spoken in ten years. And we got together and had an online call and saw each other.
Just finding ways to connect with people and bring that joy back in, you know, it’s been really lovely.
>> Thanks, Syrus. Eli, did you have thoughts on pleasure activism in the time of quarantine?
>> ELI: Hang on here. For me, unlike Syrus, I’m an introvert. And I’m not always sure about humans, even though I adore the community and am really fierce about community building. I’m not always sure about humans. And as someone who can still go outside with a lot of physical distancing, I’m finding so much pleasure in connecting with the natural world of going down to, like, watching early spring emerge, watching the rest of the planet keep going on, reading the news about blackberries and coyotes, walking all over through Yosemite National Park, wildlife critters, those things are giving me so much pleasure, so much solace, so much refuge as the natural world has always given me.
>> Thank you, both. We actually have a great question from ‑‑ I lost the name for a second.
But the question was about how folks can be ‑‑ who are abolitionists can be convinced to end institutionalization in facilities that are so ingrained in our society. The question is from Megan Linton [phonetic].
I know you have thoughts on that, Syrus. Do you want to share some more thoughts on abolition?
>> SYRUS: Yeah. I mean, I think in general one of the ‑‑ I’ve been abolition work for 25 years, and one of my critiques of the movement, I think in general, is that there really hasn’t been enough engagement with disability at all.
So even though there have been these strong voices saying, hey, talk about psychiatric detention. Let’s talk about long term care facilities. Hey, let’s talk about these regional institutions that people are being sent to, there wasn’t really a lot of organizing within prison abolition work organizing the issue.
Unfortunately, they’re a little bit slower in catching up to our issues.
I think right now in this moment, a rapid decarceration where we’re seeing people being led out of prison, there’s a moment to really push for decarceration from long‑term care facilities, psychiatric detention hospitals, places like that as well, in part because of COVID‑19.
But I think that what needs to happen in the phrase where you say convince abolitionists to dream of this is we need to be, I think, infiltrating and becoming part of these abolitionist groups and we need to change the direction because there needs to be more disability justice and disability leadership within abolition organizing.
And that’s something I’ve been pushing for for 25 years because otherwise you have a very sort of white, non‑disabled middle class, well-meaning folks who are doing the folks but we need some people connected to the issue that are behind the work.
That’s what I would say.
>> ELI: Can I add something to that, Syrus?
>> SYRUS: Absolutely.
>> ELI: This is Eli. I think part of what’s important about that infiltration is actually when you’re going to abolition without abolition across all the institutions that do want it. I’m thinking of when some are deinstitutionalized and that’s a moment of great unknowns and some hope and some trepidation. And what happens about the institutionalization was abandoning people to the streets.
And 25 years later, prisons are now functioning partly as the lockdown places for mad control.
So it’s a good example of how you can’t advocate abolition in one kind of institution and not have other institutions become more important, that abolition has to happen across all of the institutions to create the world we’re dreaming of.
>> Thank you, both. I am going to hand off one more question since we’re out of time. But we’re going to do our best to answer the rest of the questions offline when the live is over.
Last question is from Rebecca Lillian. What is the biggest thing folks can do from home to fight Ableism during these times?
>> SYRUS: What people can do during this time f I think if you are non‑disabled and you’re trying to figure out how to support, you should be ‑‑ and if you have the financial resources too, the salary to support some of these fund raisers that are going around to support folks who are feeling the effects of having everything be canceled, you know, support the fund raisers for the good.
Support the fund raisers for black folks, knowing this will get to the folks in those communities.
The other thing you can do is if you’re someone who experiences disability, who is Deaf, mad, part of the sick and disabled communities, you know, and you want to try to address systemic Ableism happening right now, we can really kind of use these moments to gather in our collective care groups to try to overthrow the system and try to plan together how we’re going to do that.
If I’m being bold and I’m saying how are we going to address Ableism, I think part of it has to come through widespread system change.
We can use this moment of quiet incubation to plan, to compare.
And I feel like that’s something that can be useful.
My message is sort of different to disabled and non‑disabled folks. If you’re disabled, you know the revolution is going to be led by disabled and know that we need your support and we probably need financial and emotional support now more than ever. So please do that.
Rest of us, let’s organize together how we’re going to change this thing once and for all.
>> Eli, would you like to add any closing thoughts? Eli, we can’t hear you, if you’re speaking.
>> ELI: I’m here. Just dealing with the tech here. Hang on.
>> No worries.
>> ELI: This is Eli. Having those moments, I just want to say yes to Syrus.
I just want to say yes to everything he said.
I thank him for having someone for your brilliance, tenacity, the activism. The phase of the revolution, the phase it’s coming to, thank you, friend.
>> Thank you, both, for being on today. So much gratitude to both of you and both of your wisdom.
I know that we’ll be continuing to highlight disability justice and disabled community wisdom.
In the meantime, I hope you take care, all the folks watching, and thank you for tuning in. We’ll be having our weekly gathering every Thursday at 5:00 eastern, 2:00 p.m. pacific, so I hope to see you on those as well. Take care, everybody. Thank you.
>> ANNA: Thank you.
[End of event].