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Reframing History and Reimagining Our Future

June 18, 2013

Photo of Ki'TayKi’tay Davidson is a student at American University completing a joint MPA/BA in Public Administration and  Law and Society. More importantly, he is a social justice advocate attempting to be a pioneer of possibility.  His focus is on the incubation of social innovation specific to the realm of international disability policy. Within this pursuit, he focuses on community integration, social entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.

Outside of academia, Ki’tay is an active member of the AU Debate Society and Disability Rights Coalition. He has a strong commitment to racial justice and queer advocacy and has worked extensively on AU’s campus to create a more inclusive environment for people of color and the LGBTQ community. He regularly leads workshops at local universities and high schools in the D.C area on the disability rights movement, ableism and social justice in relation to disability rights. Post-college, Ki’tay will pursue a career in disability policy and social enterprise.

Ki’tay is completing his Youth in Development (YIDFA) internship at Handicap International, which is an independent and impartial aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. In this blog post, Ki’tay reflects upon issues of diversity and inclusion within the disability community and his reactions to a component of the training and orientation provided to YIDFA interns when they first arrived in Washington, DC. Click on the category for YIDA to find other blog posts by various YIDFA interns about their experiences in DC this summer.

Reframing History and Reimagining Our Future

 “To unmask the ideology is one thing, but to shift it is totally different.”

Undoubtedly, the emerging generation of disability rights advocates is impressive. There is an unseen sense of pride, intelligence, and unapologetic fervor to promote equal access and opportunities. Surely, being raised in the generation post the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided us immeasurable access to opportunities and experiences unseen by our predecessors. As such, we have acted upon these opportunities.  Because of my elders and those who came before me, our impact, talent, and future potential is incredible. With that being said, when I reflect on the disability rights movement and its’ development, I am troubled.

Inclusion has been a struggle for our community.

We have continuously colonized our history, erasing our advocates of color, our advocates with invisible disabilities, our advocates from various socio-economic classes, our advocates from the LGBTQI community, our advocates who are indigenous, undocumented and a plethora of other identities. In essence, we have forgotten the beauty and diversity of our own community. The misrepresentation of our community hurts everyone–not just the vulnerable. Certainly, policies that fail to represent the needs of  all or advocacy that ignores intersectionality facilitates exclusion, poverty, and oppression (to name a few). However, it also hurts those with institutional power by reentrenching the system we are trying to fight against. It hurts our legitimacy and demolishes our ability to fight the bigger cause and the larger issue–the injustice experienced by all people.

Inclusion is still a struggle in our community.

As a young disability advocate, I see growth from our previous predecessors. However, our growth is  not sufficient.  We are unjustifiably exclusive and disengaged from the experiences of others.  And we have perpetuated this exclusion with contempt and pride.

“To unmask the ideology is one thing, but to shift it is totally different.”

Myself and my generation, was privileged to not have to fully “unmask” the idealogy of ableism. But, it is our obligation to make a shift of not just acknowledgment, but inclusion of all. It starts with me. Inclusive advocacy must be lived to be reflected in our work.  Today, I reflect on my actions and my heart. Am I embodying inclusion? Am I conscious, aware and loving? Do my actions encourage others to grow and ask questions or am I critical and impatient? Justice must be embodied by each of us. In that, I can’t facilitate loving and empowering environments when I am unwilling to acknowledge the needs and experiences of others. For me, this is a continuous process and one that I reflect and ask others to hold me accountable to.

Perhaps, the biggest challenge is overcoming our ideology of a meritocracy. Surely, we have fought and many of us are proud of where we are today. Yet, there are many others who have not been given access to our experiences and opportunities.  This is not to say we can’t be proud of ourselves and our accomplishments, but it is to say that our fight is not done and that our work must be more far reaching, more inclusive and more empowering.

I am hopeful, though. My Youth in Development (YIDFA) orientation ended with a session on marginalized groups within the disability community. We heard speakers from the indigenous community, refugee community and LGBTQI community.  By the end, I was much more informed and my consciousness was raised. People are doing better, USICD is an example of that change.  I am determined to do better, to be better and to demand better. Simple advocacy for the privileged isn’t and shouldn’t be enough.

Let’s reimage and reform our community to reflect the beauty that it is.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenni Mechem permalink
    June 19, 2013 2:12 pm

    Awesome! So proud & inspired to see a young person taking on these challenges and making the connections between all these issues. And getting an MBA will give Ki’tay the credibility and tools to make a difference by promoting true economic justice and inclusion. Equality under the law and inclusive attitudes & cultural norms, while important, mean little without economic and political empowerment for people who have been “othered” by mainstream society.

  2. Diane One permalink
    June 21, 2013 9:57 pm

    Brave and bold commitment! Starting with self is the real start (set point)-starting any place else excludes self from being a responsible part of the circle, thus leaving one outside the problem and solution arena and narrowing and subtracting an essential human voice.

    What one intentionally engages today will bring new realities to life in the present and plant seeds for tomorrow. These new realities are limitless when we allow the hearts of our soul to speak love, acceptance, respect, and appreciation. We thrive today because of the seeds planted by those who came before us. As we grow our seeds and cultivate the world’s garden, how exciting it will be for all to live in a new garden; a garden that has produced a new genre of plants, people, policies, and ways of being, a garden that sustains life for all, and a garden that is designed to never stop producing luscious fruits for us to savor. Let us all allow a garden to be our teacher for inclusion, creativity, light, strength, togetherness, empowerment, sharing, etc.

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