At about 4 o'clock yesterday, in the car, I took off the black armband. The week of telling people about Brent Martin was now over for me. I had just finished doing a day long lecture in Barrie and had been gratified that of the 60 who attended 10 ro 12 were wearing black armbands. Some had obviously picked an idea up from Belinda's guest blog this week and were wearing black scrunchies, but what mattered was that they were there and they were wearing the armband.
Though I told the whole audience about the black armband and about Brent's horrific death, I spoke to a few personally. People who cared and people who wanted to make a difference. People who were thinking about what was next for them, how they could personally make a difference in the lives of those they cared for. So it was with a sense of a little sadness that I took the armband off. I knew that, like those I spoke to, I would be thinking about what more can be done and, though it was little, was glad that I had done at least some little thing in protest of violence against people with disabilities.
Joe turned the car automatically towards home. I asked if we could break the routine and go up to the mall and have a tea at Teopia, a favourite place of mine - a place I don't get to often enough. Joe simply nodded and headed up towards the mall. Normally I help Joe by pushing myself as he is pushing me, I try to take some of the weight off, but Joe said, "Just relax, I'll get you there," and pushed me along.
At Teopia I noticed they had a type of White Tea that I've never tried before so I ordered that and Joe got a 'kick ass' black tea. We sat at a table in the mall and watched people flow by. She came at me from behind so I was quite startled, when a voice said, "Are you Dave Hingsburger?" I said that I was and she took a chair opposite us.
She was wearing a black armband.
I wished I hadn't taken mine off.
She told me that she worked in a group home nearby and was on her way to work - she'd stopped into the mall to pick up something for one of the residents. She didn't have long because she didn't want to keep them waiting but she did want to say that she'd had a powerful week because of the black armband. She told me that the first day she wore it at the group home, those who lived there asked her about it.
She told them.
Then they told her.
About what it was like for them. The stares. The taunts. The everyday social brutality that they experience. A door was opened and they walked through it. For a week they've been talking about Brent, about themselves. "They've always known," she said, "that what was happening to them is wrong. But this is the first time they knew that someone cared about it." She brushed a tear away, "They know it matters to me now."
She ended by saying that her relationship to those she care for is forever altered, forever deepened. She thanked me again for starting the campaign.
When I got back in the car I put the black armband on. The day wasn't over.
Wow...what a powerful moment. You HAD to be in Teopia. How awesome you were "in position" for this wonderful connection.
All week long I felt as if that was the missing component for me. I connected with people briefly during the week who were Brent's "brothers and sisters" by even closer relationship than me, but they didn't ask. I wish now that I had waved my arm in the air and made them notice so that I could tell them. But I can still tell them, and I will. THAT's what's next for me!
I too, felt sad when I took off my armband last night, and undid the stitches that transformed it from an armband to a headband. I felt as if I was almost desecrating a sacred object. But when I wear it in my hair I will think of Brent. I will never forget his name, and what he symbolizes, or who he was personally; a kind and gentle person who crossed the path of people in the grip of evil; people who themselves need tranformation.
To all the people with disabilities we should more often, and more explicitly, show our love and our interest in who they really are. It will be so easy to do, and we'll get a spontaneous response.
In this way we might make up a bit for all the abuse, the brutality and the agression disabled, innocent people have to suffer from.
I am starting this as a personal action right now, and shall continue with it for the rest of my life.
Because you' ve changed me too Dave.
I must praise your gift of writing in a way our hearts are moved greatly.
I'm glad I found your blog, and thankful for what you are doing.
Dave, I would never have heard of this tragedy if you had not written about it. Thank you.
I read the previous posts and am so heartened by the support on this issue, save that one phone call.
My black armband came off last night, too, with the same sense of sadness. From now on it will be hanging from the mirror of my car where I will see it and be reminded every day - because the band may be off of my arm, but that doesn't mean it's over...
Thank you Dave - for the black armband that is now a part of my life. It needed to be there.
An idea came to me this morning after I posted my first comment.
What if this time every year, at the start of the same week in which we learned about and mourned Brent this year (January 11th), we consciously commemorate him and others who've experienced abuse, by talking about it, raising awareness, talking about bullying and teaching people who experience it how to get help?
Hmmm. It sounds like what you do most of the time, Dave.
Wonderful. What she said is so sad - "...this is the first time they knew that someone cared about it".
Thanks Dave.from p.t.
Belinda, I like the idea of an annual week of rememberance and protest regarding violence against people with disabilities. I think that we could do some cool stuff with planning. Let's talk over tea.
Wheelchair princess, I've tried to email you about your offer to help with a webpage but the email keeps bouncing back. Either the address is wrong or there is a problem at your end. Could you give me the address again? Thanks.
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