I was in Times Square yesterday.
Well, not literally ...
I clicked on a link that hooked me up with one of the Times Square cameras. I had been informed that for an hour that camera would film one of the big screen billboards as it dedicated an hour, from 10 to 11 AM, to Down Syndrome Awareness. Joe and I both had our coats on because we were just to go out but we both wanted to see a bit of the campaign. Several minutes later our coats were sloughed off as we were both entranced by the images.
Picture after picture after picture of people with Down Syndrome in relationship to their families, to their community and to their world flashed by. Several were stunningly beautiful images, one with a young boy, running, with his arms wide open, through a corn field, was simply art. Every now and then a fact would appear about Down Syndrome or people with Down Syndrome. Informative, yes, but it was the pictures that told the tale.
Not that it matters to anyone, I suppose, but I think that the organisations serving people with Down Syndrome do an awful lot right. They seem not to be afraid of the 'identity' of those they serve even as they focus on the 'personhood' of those they serve. The message that 'difference is difference' but 'the same is the same' is a difficult one to navigate but they do it so well.
And it's so important to get that one right.
Fear and denial of difference speaks only to shame. You get absolutely ZERO sense of shame from most parents with Down Syndrome who are active in the movement. You get ZERO sense of tolerance for discrimination either. I watched the pictures as they flashed by. I considered, first, the moments that were captured and how they came to be - loving families taking loving photos of kids that are fully and completely loved. Pictures like parents have, sometimes by the bushelful, the world over. I considered, second, the paper that must have been signed releasing these pictures to be shown on a screen in Times Square, filmed by a Times Square camera and broadcast around the world.
An act of love as an act of activism.
Disability Pride is still a young movement. It's still finding it's feet. When I speak of it in lectures, to disability professionals mostly, I get quizzical looks. More than once I've been asked, 'Why would anyone be proud of being disabled?' This from people who understand every other pride movement that could be mentioned. So, we've a way to go.
I congratulate whoever came up with the Times Square broadcast. I congratulate the thousands of people with Down Syndrome, the parents of people with Down Syndrome, and the organisations that serve both - you've got it going on.
From the tee shirts for kids: Am I rockin' this extra chromosome or what? To the tee shirts for adults: My kid has more chromosomes than your kid. There is a sense of fun, of pride and of defiance.
We were almost late to where we were going, but I didn't care. What I saw on this end was worth the apology on that end.