A Speech for the Bay Area Day of Mourning 2016 : “Remembering Disabled People Murdered by their Caregivers” by Sara Maria Acevedo

 This is a re-post of the speech the brilliant Sara M. Acevedo delivered at the 2106 Bay Area Vigil for Disabled People Murdered by Families, Caregivers and the Police. This post originally appeared on the blog, Neurowitching.

March 6, 2016 Sara M. Acevedo

Even in the context of a vigil, where collective mourning is not only invited but also encouraged, it is difficult to talk about death – especially the death of those in our communities whose lives have been taken violently. In many spiritual traditions, we are often called to think about death as a ‘natural’ process and even as an inherent part of life; some anthropological accounts speak of communities for whom death entails both a rite of passage into the world of spirit and the begining of life in a ‘better place’.  What happens, however, when death takes the form of a violent strike against our socially undervalued lives? Is that too a ‘natural’ part of life? A natural part of our lives?  Many in Western capitalist societies think so. Beginning with medical professionals and their detached life-expectancy prognostics, to the ways in which mainstream cultures of ‘health’ ‘well-being’ and ‘productivity’ perceive us – and sometimes even within our own families, death seems like a better way…out. Out of where or what? We wonder. It is also true that we’ve come a long way from the era of the Disability Rights Movement – at least in terms of righfully demanding society’s recognition of our full humanity and of our basic freedoms and liberties – We have come to assert and to demonstrate that our participation in mainstream social contexts is as valuable as is any other human contribution devoid of systematically imposed barriers (wether those are physical , attitudinal, material or ideological ones). What we are fighting for today is for due recognition of our valued cotributions to the weaving of the cultural fabric – including our forms of celebration, our pride parades, our gatherings; the reclamation of our own histories via performance art, dance, oral narrative, and scholarship among other chanels. And, in doing so, we have also found rich mutual cultural recognition. We have come to learn that many of the social barriers that weigh on us, are barriers that others, whose identities intersect at the croassroads of  race, gender expression, sexual orientation, nationality and ethnicity, carry as well  – we have in fact discovered that the social weigh of identities construed as ‘less’ within social hierarchies of privilege and whiteness weigh doubtlestly heavier on racially profiled bodies –

Experiences of Life and Death at the intersections of shared oppression have taught us to recognize one another within large crowds and to remain united across social divisions  – A smile, a silent gaze across the room, and a nudge of the head are all strategies of resistance if we think that death factors in our everyday, as much as recognition across difference factors in our survival.

Sara Acevedo speaking at the Bay Area Vigil, 2016.

Sara Acevedo speaking at the Bay Area Vigil, 2016.

Sara M. Acevedo is a Neurodivergent Mestiza Educator, Activist Scholar and Disability Justice Advocate.

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