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Lecture & Performance Series on Disability Justice

Disabled activist Lydia Brown (COL ’15) has organized a Lecture & Performance Series on Disability Justice for the 2014-2015 academic year. The impetus behind the series is to promote critical discussions and dialogue about disability as a diversity and social justice issue, especially in ways that connect disability to other movements for social justice and marginalized communities through an intersectional lens.

Access Information: All events are free and open to the public. ASL interpretation will be provided at all events. Guests are asked to refrain from wearing scented/perfumed products for the safety and comfort of attendees with chemical sensitivities, allergies, or sensory aversions. No flash photography is permitted. For any other reasonable accommodation requests, contact Lydia Brown in advance of the event, by email at lydia@autistichoya.com or by voice call or text message to (202) 618-0187.

DisAbused: Rethinking the Presumption of Caregiver Benevolence

Talk by autistic rights activist Kassiane A. Sibley
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
7:00pm to 8:30pm
White Gravenor Room 201-B

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Photograph of Kassiane Sibley, biracial light-skinned person with head tilted at camera.

Presented with the generous sponsorship of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Georgetown University for Social Justice: Research, Teaching & Service, and Corp Philanthropy, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

Much of the conversation about disability centers not around disabled people, but around the caregivers amd family members of disabled individuals. The narrative paints caregivers as universally benevolent, kind, patient saints on earth. This presentation by noted autistic disability rights activist Kassiane Sibley explores the unsettling realities of abuse of disabled people by family and professional caregivers, how we came to this place, and what we can do to reverse the trend.

Those of us who are disabled frequently find ourselves in the position of needing to depend heavily on others in order to navigate our lives. When those we depend upon for our lives and our access to society instead choose to betray that trust, our communities are often far too swift to discount any reports of neglect or abuse on their part, due to the widespread assumption that those who invest their time and energy in providing services for the disabled must therefore be trustworthy, benevolent people, and any lapses on their part should be forgiven due to the “burden” of providing for us. When our lives are framed as burdens on those around us, and our caregivers lauded as heroes simply for attending to our atypical access needs, our own lives and experiences are too easily erased, reduced to mere props in the stories of those who provide for us.

Society’s need to believe in the inherent nobility of those who serve disabled people in a support role must not take precedence over our own needs for personal safety and simple human dignity. Drawing on her own lived experiences, and the stories of our disability community, Ms. Sibley will help us deconstruct and dismantle our preconceptions about the caregiver-client relationship. By disabusing ourselves of the notion that our caregivers are inherently benevolent, and examining these relationships with a more critical eye, we can work together to create a safer world for us all.

Kassiane A. Sibley was diagnosed Autistic in 1986 and began advocating for Autistic people in 1999, progressing to broader neurodiversity & Disability Rights activism as the years go by & the scope of the problem becomes more clear. Kassiane has presented on a wide variety of issues at local, national, and international autism events and writes fiery passionate harsh truth on the Radical Neurodivergence Speaking blog. In addition to securing civil rights for all people, Ms. Sibley is working towards a neuroscience degree with the goal of doing respectful quality of life research & introducing researchers to the neurodiversity paradigm.


Krip Hop Nation presents Broken Bodies, PBP: Police Brutality Profiling

Spoken Word & Hip Hop Performance by Leroy Moore and Prinz D
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
7:00pm to 9:00pm
Walsh 495

Talk by Leroy Moore & Facilitated Discussion by Leaders in Education About Diversity (LEAD)
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
5:00pm to 7:00pm
Walsh 495

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Photo of Leroy Moore, a Black physically disabled man, wearing a dapper purple vest and black evening suit.

Presented with the generous sponsorship of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Georgetown University for Social Justice: Research, Teaching & Service, Leaders in Education About Diversity, Student of Color Alliance, the Black Student Alliance, the Black House, the George Washington University Department of English, and Corp Philanthropy, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

Krip-Hop Nation Presents Broken Bodies: PBP, Police Brutality Profiling Presentation will consist of film, Hip-Hop Songs by artists with disabilities, & audio recordings by Hip-Hop artists with disabilities, parents, advocates, and representatives of organizations will share their stories of cases of police brutality in a mixture of songs, stories, pictures of love ones and short trailer of an upcoming documentary, Where is Hope. Krip-Hop Nation Presents Broken Bodies: PBP, Police Brutality Profiling Presentation will be a multi media presentation with a mixture of lecture, visual/film and audio components with a lecture highlighting this issue mainly through Hip–Hop artists with disabilities and supporters below questions and will share other stories and solutions toward this issue. This multi media presentation is a collaboration between campaigns for justice of disabled love ones who were killed in acts of police abuse/violence. This presentation was created by Leroy Moore founder of Krip-Hop Nation and Emmitt Thrower who is a retired NYPD cop who has a disability and is a filmmaker and artist and founder of Wabi Sabi Productions. The main objective is to place the issue of police brutality and profiling against people with disabilities on the platform of the cultural/Hip-Hop arena, academia, political arena, media, in the Black\Brown, disabled, activist & general communities and to look and take apart the popular one answer by law enforcement, more training, and to offer community/people with disabilities options.

Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a Black writer, poet, hip-hop\music lover, community activist and feminist with a physical disability. He has been sharing his perspective on identity, race & disability for the last thirteen years or so. His work began in London, England where he discovered a Black Disabled Movement which help led to the creation of his lecture series; ‘On the Outskirts: Race & Disability. Leroy is Co-founder of the Sins Invalid performance project and its Community Relations Director. Leroy is also a contributing writer and performer for many Sins Invalid shows. He is also the creator of Krip-Hop Nation (Hip-Hop artists with disabilities and other disabled musicians from around the world) and produced Krip-Hop Mixtape Series. With Binki wio of Germany and Lady MJ of the UK started what is now known as Mees With Disabilities, an international movement.

Leroy formed one of the first organizations for people of color with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay area that lasted five years. He is founding member and current Chair of the Black Disability Studies Working Group with the National Black Disability Coalition. Leroy was Co Host of a radio show in San Francisco at KPOO 89.5 FM, Berkeley at KPFA 94.1 FM. He has studied, worked and lectured in the field of race and disability concerning blues, hip-hop, and social justice issues in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa. Leroy is one of the leading voices around police brutality and wrongful incarceration of people with disabilities and has studied, worked and lectured in the field of race and disability concerning blues, hip-hop, and social justice issues in the US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands. Leroy currently writing a Krip-Hop book with Professor Terry Rowden and working on his poetry/lyrics book, The Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics. Leroy has won many awards for his advocacy from the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council under Willie L. Brown to the Local Hero Award in 2002 from Public Television Station, KQED in San Francisco.

Leroy has interviewed hip-hop\soul\blues\jazz artists with disabilities; the Blind Boys of Alabama, Jazz elder Jimmy Scott, Hip-Hop star, Wonder Mike of the Sugar Hill Gang, DJ Quad of LA, Paraplegic MC of Chicago, Rob DA Noize Temple of New York to name a few. Leroy has a poetry CD, entitled Black Disabled Man with a Big Mouth & A High I.Q. and has put out his second poetry CD entitled The Black Kripple Delivers Krip Love Mixtape. Leroy is a longtime columnist, one of the first columns on race & disability that started in the early 90’s at Poor Magazine in San Francisco www.poormagazine.org, Illin-N-Chillin.


Human Rights Aren’t For Us: Disability & Legalized Abuse

Panel Discussion with Disability Rights Advocates
Deepa Goraya (Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs)
Jennifer Msumba (former resident of the Judge Rotenberg Center)
Shain Mahaffey Neumeier (Disability Rights New York)
Tuesday, 28 October 2014
6:00pm to 7:30pm
Walsh 499

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Photo of Deepa Goraya

Photograph of Jennifer Msumba

Photo of Shain Neumeier

Presented with the generous sponsorship of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Georgetown University for Social Justice: Research, Teaching & Service, Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Georgetown University Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, Student of Color Alliance, GUSA Fund (Georgetown University Student Association), and Corp Philanthropy, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

While living at a residential institution for people with severe behavioral challenges, Jennifer Msumba was repeatedly tied down and subjected to powerful and painful electric shocks as part of a terrifying behavioral modification program. People with disabilities have been institutionalized, incarcerated, and abused behind the walls of such prisons for centuries. In the United States, despite a robust deinstitutionalization movement in the 1970’s that sought to transition people with cognitive disabilities or mental illnesses into community-based settings, thousands of disabled people continue to languish in institutional settings. Internationally, disabled people suffer in institutions designed to serve as little more than human warehouses, yet few human rights organizations that don’t focus exclusively on disability issues have taken a strong stance on advocating for the end of these abusive systems. Three panelists, all of whom have disabilities, will speak to the history of institutionalizing disabled people, subjecting neurologically and physically atypical people to torture in the name of treatment, and advocating for the end of inhumane, coercive, and abusive interventions. Most importantly, they challenge the cultural and social norms as well as the legal and policy structures that enable the large-scale control and abuse of people with disabilities.

Deepa Goraya is a staff attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the Disability Rights Project, and a founding board member and current Board Vice Chairperson of the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective. A 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Goraya’s work focuses primarily on website accessibility to blind persons who use screen readers, employment discrimination based on disability, equal access to public accommodations, and a variety of other disability rights issues. Her other legal interests are in education, particularly special education, and international disability rights. She has experience at the federal and state level with extensive internships for former Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT); the former Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy at the White House; the U.S. Department of Justice Disability Rights Section; the Burton Blatt Institute in Washington, DC; the ACLU of Southern California; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

In her final year of law school, while attending UCLA Law as a visiting student, Deepa also participated in a Public Policy Advocacy clinic, where she worked on education reform research and recommendations for juvenile hall in Los Angeles, and a project on general relief for the homeless. Deepa has served as Membership Coordinator and then Co-Vice President of the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities from 2010-2012 and has been actively involved in the National Federation of the Blind (a civil rights advocacy group) as a leader and member for the past few years. She was also a Young Lawyers Division scholar for the 2013-2014 bar year, and is now Vice-Chair for the YLD’s Minorities in the Profession Committee.

Jennifer Msumba is an autistic adult who survived seven years of abuse in the name of treatment at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. She now lives at a program in Florida and is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Rotenberg for medical malpractice.

Shain M. Neumeier is a staff attorney at Disability Rights New York. As an autistic person and a survivor of involuntary treatment, Shain has a strong interest in combating abuse, neglect and coercive interventions as used on youth and people with disabilities, particularly in institutional settings. Shain has pursued this interest by working to seek justice for victims of abuse in residential behavioral modification facilities for youth through civil litigation; advocating for state- and nationwide bans on aversive behavioral interventions for people with disabilities; and, most recently, assisting with investigations into abuse and neglect in schools and residential facilities as part of DRNY’s Protection and Advocacy for People with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) program.

How Mass Incarceration Was Won: Indiscriminate Imprisonment of Disabled, Deaf, Black & Poor People for Profit

Talk by Talila A. Lewis
Founder, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD)
10 November 2014
6:00pm to 8:00pm
Edward B. Bunn S.J. Intercultural Center (ICC) 107

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Photograph of Talila Lewis

Presented with the generous sponsorship of GU Signs, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Georgetown University for Social Justice: Research, Teaching & Service, and Corp Philanthropy, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

In recent years, there has been a concerted national effort to raise awareness about and bring an end to end mass incarceration of People of Color and poor people. Despite the fact that disabled and deaf people make up a large percent of the United States incarcerated population, there has been very little national discussion about the impact of mass incarceration on disabled people–particularly disabled poor people and disabled People of Color. There has been an alarming increase in reports of police brutality against disabled and deaf people, and statistics revealing that students with disabilities are disproportionately among those youth caught up in what has recently been dubbed the “school to prison pipeline.” Not surprisingly, we have simultaneously seen a marked increase in exonerations of people with disabilities, raising grave concerns related to law enforcement’s disability cultural competence and public policy that criminalizes people with disabilities. This presentation will draw connections between disabled, deaf, black and poor people’s experiences with mass incarceration, focusing in particular, on people with intersecting identities. Discussion will center around disabled and deaf people’s experiences with police brutality; the school to prison pipeline; wrongful arrests and convictions; disproportionately harsh punishment for alleged crimes or violations of regulations in court and prison contexts, respectively; and lack of access that leads to higher recidivism rates for these historically misunderstood and underserved populations. We will end by discussing action that can be taken to combat mass incarceration and to ensure that disabled and deaf people have equal access to the justice system.

Talila A. Lewis is the Founder of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to legal system for deaf and disabled people. HEARD primarily focuses on correcting and preventing deaf wrongful convictions, ending deaf and disabled prisoner abuse, decreasing recidivism rates for deaf returned citizens, and on increasing representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions. Talila is the only person in the nation who has worked on multiple deaf wrongful conviction cases and advocated with & for hundreds of disabled and deaf prisoners. Talila worked closely with Al Jazeera America producers for more than two years on the documentary, “Deaf In Prison,” and spearheaded a “Know Your Deaf Rights” campaign with the American Civil Liberties Union and Marlee Matlin to curtail police brutality against deaf people. Talila regularly trains congresspersons and attorneys about Deaf and Disability Cultures; and leads the Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign which works to ensure that hundreds of thousands of deaf and disabled prisoners and their family members have access to accessible telecommunications in jails and prisons. Talila writes extensively about discrimination against deaf and disabled people within the justice, legal and corrections systems & actively resists institutional oppression that perpetuates this status quo.

Talila is a visiting professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and a graduate of American University Washington College of Law. Talila has received awards for from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the American Association for People with Disabilities, EBONY Magazine, the Nation Institute, American University and the American Bar Association, among others.

Critical Intersectionalities with(in) Disability, Sexuality, and Feminism

Panel Discussion with Scholars & Activists
Julia Watts Belser, Julia Sanders, Karen Nakamura, & Ilana Alazzeh
2 December 2014
6:00pm to 8:00pm
White Gravenor 405

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Presented with the generous sponsorship of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Georgetown University for Social Justice: Research, Teaching & Service, the Autism Women’s Network, the Georgetown University Women’s Center, and Corp Philanthropy, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

Each of these panelists, who are scholars or activists or both, will speak to different aspects of how critical disability theories complicate ideas about bodies, and (a)sex(uality) with/in feminist, queer, and sexuality studies perspectives. The panelists will speak to the myriad ways in which disability theories challenge, undermine, and shift compulsory ablenormativity in feminism, in queer & trans studies/activism, in women’s studies, in sexuality studies, and so on. They will address the impact and urgency of bringing disability perspectives to academia and activism for social justice, and how critical disability theories connect back to real lives and lived experience.

Julia Watts Belser works in Jewish Studies, with a focus in Talmud, rabbinic literature, and Jewish ethics. Her research brings ancient texts into conversation with disability studies, queer theory, feminist thought, and environmental ethics. Her work focuses on classical Jewish responses to drought and disaster, portrayals of sexual violence in rabbinic responses to enslavement and empire, as well as gender, disability, and the dissident body in late antiquity. An ordained rabbi, Professor Belser also writes queer feminist Jewish theology and brings disability culture into conversation with Jewish tradition. Before joining the Theology Department at Georgetown, Professor Belser held a research fellowship in Women’s Studies and Religion at Harvard Divinity School and taught in the Religious Studies Department at Missouri State University. She serves on the board of the Society for Jewish Ethics and holds leadership positions in the American Academy of Religion. She is also a board member of Nehirim, a national community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and allies.

Julia Sanders is a white, fat, queer, disabled, survivor, artist and activist with a slow walk and a sexy disability accent. Right now, she does not have the energy for grad school, reading the comments, or having an important-sounding job. She does have energy for healing from trauma, continuing to unlearn and challenge what white supremacy has taught her, helping her mind and body to talk to each other, slowing down, and eating ice cream. She dreams of getting involved in sex education for disabled youth, using her body to make art, and building tender and grounded community with you, among other things.

Karen Nakamura is Associate Professor of Anthropology and East Asian Studies at Yale University, in New Haven, CT. A cultural and visual anthropologist, her research focuses on disability and minority social movements in contemporary Japan. Her ethnography about sign language, identity, and deaf social movements, Deaf in Japan, was published by Cornell University Press in 2006. More recently, Nakamura has been engaged in a new project on the comparative politics of severe physical and psychiatric disabilities in the United States and Japan. While her main focus is disabilities and minorities, she also works on issues surrounding gender and sexuality.

Ilana Alazzeh is producer, video-editor and writer for the Service Employees International Union. Radical interfaith feminist multiracial Muslim involved with Occupy, founder of Muslims Against Homophobia and LGBT Hate, Immigrant Stories and Ask An American Muslim. Has been invited to the White House and State Department several times. Featured in Washington Post, NPR, State Department Blog, RT America and frequent guest on Huffington Post Live. She has given lectures at Georgetown University, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, Gettysburg College, Rhode Island College, American University, Deerfield Academy and UMASS Amherst on Islam, interfaith activism, community organizing, religion and science, and gender and sexuality. Alumnae of Smith College, Harvard Kennedy School, Central University of Tibetan Studies in India and Ewha Womans University in South Korea.


Flexibility & Its Discontents: Rethinking Disability in Academic Spaces

An Evening with Scholars & Activists Margaret Price & Stephanie Kerschbaum
2 March 2015
7:00pm to 8:30pm
Walsh 495

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Margaret Price photoStephanie Kerschbaum photo

Presented with the generous sponsorship of Leaders in Education About Diversity (LEAD), Georgetown University Department of English, Lannan Center for Poetics & Social Practice, the Doyle Program: Engaging Difference (Film & Culture Series), the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship, and the Academic Resource Center, with media partner Disability Solidarity.

What does it mean to create access in institutional spaces? In architecture and education, “universal design” has been put forth as one important strategy. Price and Kerschbaum will elaborate–but complicate–universal design approaches to “disability access in higher education” by touching on examples of their own scholarship and activism in the academy. Ultimately, they aim to create a participatory environment in which attendees imagine more accessible possibilities for the institutional spaces they inhabit and help build.

Stephanie L. Kerschbaum is an assistant professor of English at the University of Delaware. Her book, Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference, was recently awarded the 2015 Advancement of Knowledge Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication. She has published on disability disclosure and access in venues including Profession, Academe, Kairos, and Rhetoric Review. The recipient of a 2014-2015 American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women, she is currently at work with Margaret Price on a collaborative interview study of disabled faculty.

Margaret Price is an associate professor of English at Spelman College, where she teaches rhetoric, composition, and creative nonfiction. Her areas of specialization include disability studies, qualitative research methodologies, and digital accessibility. Her book Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life (University of Michigan Press) won the Outstanding Book Award from CCCC. Reviews, annotations and commentary have appeared in College Composition and Communication; the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database; Disability Studies Quarterly; the Social Science Research Network; and Composition Forum. She holds a PhD in rhetoric/composition from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, and a BA from Amherst College.