The Disability Pride Madison Summertime Gathering will be held Saturday, July 31, 1-4 p.m. at the Tenney Park Shelter on Madison’s near east side and it will be a smaller affair than usual this year. This will be the first in-person gathering for the organization since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. They are excited and cautious in their plans to gather again and looking forward to reconnecting with each other in the community.
“In the past, we’ve had the Disability Pride Festival and we’ve been really excited to put that on,” said Kate Moran, a board member of Disability Madison. “And it’s been growing every year until, of course, last year, when COVID came. People with disabilities are some of the hardest hit by these things. It was terrifying last year. We were sitting in our houses, and everyone was saying we were the most at risk. Everyone was being super careful and trying to take care of everyone else, and we did some great mutual aid things where people who were less immunocompromised helped others, who had more limitations. So, in a way our group was able to grow in what we did to something more than just celebrating.”
When the year started, the group didn’t think they would be able to gather or hold their annual festival. Instead, they held virtual workshops on writing and cartooning for people with disabilities. As guidelines and protocols shifted, they decided to move forward with their idea to gather and fellowship together in a smaller fashion.
“As things began to get more open, there were many of us who really just wanted to gather and wanted to see each other,” Moran said. “I mean, part of what’s so amazing and affirming about Disability Pride is you’re not the only one. It’s just really affirming to connect with people who maybe have all other kinds of differences that you share the same disability experience or different disability experiences that we share.”
Moran reminisced on a moment at a previous Disability Pride Festival where she noticed someone else who was club-footed and limped the same way she did after walking for too long. At that moment, she realized she was marching in unison with her own people. This year, the event is called a gathering and people are allowed to bring their own food to the park. Everyone is excited to see each other, but they are also aware of the need to keep people safe during these times.
“I mean, it’s scary freedom, because the Delta variant is coming,” said Moran. “So, we’re not really sure if it’s really freedom, or if it’s just a little break for a breath. But I just want to hear how other people feel about this. My partner and I both have disabilities that cause us to be immunosuppressed, so we really haven’t been out and about. I’m just wondering, how are other people coping. I’ve had to pull out all kinds of skills I didn’t know I had to keep it together.”
There is a lot to look forward to for folks who are ready and excited to be in community after a long year in the house. Unfortunately, there will be no shuttles this year for the festival. There will be limited parking for those who are disabled, and this is an issue they deal with whenever they gather.
T.S. Banks was set to perform an open mic at the gathering, but that portion has been canceled due to surging COVID cases.
Disability Pride Madison has showcased the talents of disabled people who are African American, British, and those in the African Diaspora. To check out the Black Disabled Virtual Showcase, click here.
The members at Disability Pride Madison understand the importance of representation in the community of disabled people.
“We know that we are who we can count on. We can’t always count on staff,” said Moran. “We can’t always count on support from agencies or the government. But we know that we can count on each other. We’ve really taken a clue from the Disability Justice movement. And Disability Justice is a new movement that is Way Beyond the ADA (American Disability Act). It’s saying that we’re not just fighting for the rights of straight white men in wheelchairs.
“We’re fighting for the rights of all people with disabilities and that means people who are incarcerated in prisons, people who are incarcerated in nursing homes, people who are incarcerated in Psych facilities,” Moran adds. “We want to make those connections between to show who’s the most vulnerable. And not just lift up the rights of privileged people with disabilities, but to lift up the rights of all people with disabilities.”
To learn more about Disability Pride Madison, click here.