Photo: 8 people standing, or sitting, behind a green banner with white writing saying, LIVING IN 3D in the middle and VITA at either end. People carrying banner: David White, Vita's Rights Group President; Ann LeBlanc, Vita's Rights Group Facilitator; Dave Hingsburger Vita Director; Joe Jobes Vita Volunteer; Angela Bakker, Vita Rights Group Facilitator; Domenic Pisante, Vita's Self Esteem Instructor; Maria Traccitti, Vita Member and Pauolo Zago, Vita Rights Group Treasurer.
Well, we're ready to go. We were all excited to be there in Chicago. We'd definitely bonded by then. The car ride. The beer in the hotel on arrival. The eLevated train and the walk to the gathering area - we were a group. Everyone was ready to march. Everyone wanted to experience the thrill of being there and proclaiming our unity with the Disability Community and our pride in participating. For four of us, the whole thing was a bit more personal. I'd talked to each of the others, in the march, who have disabilities and each talked personally and profoundly about what it meant to be 'out' and 'proud' about being a person with a disability.
We've heard of the long march to freedom.
It's a long walk to personhood too.
The idea of incorporating disability, appropriately, into sense of self, still is a radical concept. Understanding and accepting one's difference is not quite the same as celebrating it. And we were here to celebrate.
No where did we see the typical sentiment, the sentiment that oppresses, the sentiment that begs, the sentiment that lies and deceives, the sentiment that hurts the speaker and thrills the hearer:
We Are Just Like You
Balderdash is just 'nice speak' for 'Bullshit.'
We marched with others, all different, all celebrating that difference. People in chairs and people in walkers, people in vans and people with canes, people with Down Syndrome, people with different differences. A community, together, and on the streets.
The sidewalks were not full of people cheering, there were few who came to see us make our way down the street. But it didn't matter. It didn't matter that they weren't there. It mattered only that we were. Maria and Paulo handed out our 'Words Hit' cards to everyone they saw. Managing over 600 in just under a couple of hours. They took our purpose in being there seriously and worked hard. David carried the banner the full way and spent time looking at how it was all done - he wants it to happen in Toronto.
At the gathering in Daley Square there were tents set up and we all chatted together. I was amazed at the range of people who came. The acceptance between people and the underlying sense of togetherness. People recognized people. I ran into people I'd seen elsewhere in the world! We were here together. At one point Joe and I sat, alone, at the Vita table handing out cards and chatting with passersby. Everyone else was off doing their own investigation of the square.
Joe said, "It's like watching the birth of something very new."
I said, "An idea."