REAL COMMUNITIES: How Disability Work is Social Justice Work

When the Society for Disability Studies (SDS) held its conference in Downtown Atlanta this past summer, it presented a strong opportunity for GCDD’s Real Communities initiative to promote its mission for inclusive communities.

Real Communities partnered with the SDS to organize and facilitate a Disability and Social Justice Summit the day before the opening of the conference. The daylong gathering would intentionally bring people with and without disabilities who are active in disability advocacy and others who are involved with social justice movements. Workshops deepened a collective understanding of how disability fits into social justice work and how other struggles for justice are intricately connected to disability justice. The four main topics of discussion were: Incarceration and Institutionalization, Food Justice, Youth Organizing and Sexuality and Reproductive Justice.

Issues like mass incarceration and its relationship to disabilities and how special education feeds the school to prison pipeline were discussed in the incarceration workshop.

Dorinda Tatum, a facilitator of one of the mass incarceration workshops, was glad this topic brought attention to the community. “It was an open conversation about how mass incarceration affects marginalized communities,” she said. “There is a high population of people with disabilities in the judicial system, among other populations. People were informed of these issues, and we hope they get involved in advocacy to bring attention to it so there can be a change.” Tatum is a Real Communities organizer for Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

In the Food Justice workshop, links between food justice and disabilities demonstrated how it could be harder for people living in poverty, including people with disabilities, to gain access to nutritious food. An example of bridging this gap is already present in Mixed Greens, a Real Communities initiative launched in partnership with Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah, GA. The market serves as a building block to create a means of developing a more welcoming neighborhood, as well as provide opportunities for connections and contributions for people with and without disabilities.

The idea behind this summit was to create action steps and motivate the audience to advocate for inclusive and integrated communities where these resources are not available. “Keep doing what I am doing already; educate people, myself, friends and family. Speak up in my local grocery store,” said one participant about the takeaways from the Food Justice workshop.

The Summit, a first of its kind, served as the opening to many future opportunities to explore ideas and, perhaps even more importantly, turn these concepts into action within communities to build a more inclusive Georgia.

For more information about the Disability and Social Justice Summit or to visit the notes and graphics generated at the Summit, visit: _and_Social_Justice_Summit_Wikia

Summit Panelists and Facilitators:
• Plenary Panel: What is Disability Justice and Why Do We Need It? – Panelists: Basmat Ahmed, Jess St. Louis, Leroy Moore, Akemi Nishida, Margaret Price, and a written statement from Patty Berne
• Incarceration and Institutionalization – Facilitators: Dorinda Tatum, Kathryn Hamoudah, Liat Ben-Moshe, Lesa Hope
• Youth Organizing – Facilitators: Sukie Glick, Michelle Nario-Redmond
• Food Justice – Facilitators: Jessica Mathis, Johnny Smith, Barry Helmey, Teri Schell, Christopher Schell
• Sexuality and Reproductive Justice – Facilitators: Charone Pagett, Robin Wilson-Beattie, Ryan Lee Cartwright, Bethany Stevens
• Graphic Facilitation: Brittany Curry

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