Sketches Presented to CIL on December 8, 2016
Narrative for True Colors Mural Project’s Proposal for CIL
This is a walk-through of the imagery found in our drawing for the mural on CIL’s North Driveway wall.
In the left section of the mural is Gerald Baptiste reading the story of disability history to the children of today. While some of the children are sitting around Baptiste, one of the children is off to the side building blocks into the shape of the neurodiversity symbol: a rainbow infinity sign. This child is a reflection of Nick and myself as autistic people. Both of us are better at paying attention when we multitask. When we were children, our classes would have story time and we would play off to the side, still paying perfect attention to the story.
The filmstrip is the story that Baptiste tells the children. Each cell represents a different event or figure in disability history. The central metaphor of the mural uses the heart and the circulatory system made of strands of history, iconic and significant disability rights movement moments, and the “roads” leading to full equity in society. We move left to right from the early days of the movement, into the future.
We begin with Helen Keller, born in 1880. Not only was she an important figure for Deaf, Blind, and DeafBlind people, but she campaigned for human rights for all marginalized peoples. On oppression, she stated, “the majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.” The rest of the mural illustrates the struggle of some of those who are “ground down by industrial oppression” fighting for the human rights they deserve.
Next is Thomas Gallaudet, co-founder of the American School for the Deaf and for whom Gallaudet University is named. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a reference picture of Laurent Clare, the other co-founder.
The next panel fast-forwards to 1970, displaying Ed Roberts and the Rolling Quads, disabled student activists who campaigned to make Berkeley more accessible and eventually founded CIL.
Next is a picture of Bradley Lomax in 1974. Lomax was a member of the Black Panthers who had Cerebral Palsy, reached out to Ed Roberts, creating an alliance/intersectionality between the disability rights movement and the Black Panthers. It was important to us to include not only diversity, but intersectionality in order to acknowledge that the movement for disability rights intersects with many other human rights issues. Also from 1974, we have Ed Roberts and Don Galloway, manager of blind services at CIL.
Next, we go to the 1980 San Francisco demonstration in favor of putting lifts on public busses.
Next, 1983 World Institute of Disability in Berkeley 1983 (a precursor of CIL).
The 1988 Protest at Gallaudet University. The university hired a president who wasn’t Deaf and the students felt, rightfully, that they were not being represented or respected. The protest worked and a Dead president was hired. One of the signs reads “we still have a dream,” in reference to Martin Luther King Jr. and the fact that the fight for human rights continues to this day.
1989 saw the founding of ADAPT. ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.
In 1990, the ADA PASSED: The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. As an autistic person who works in retail, I know that I have benefited from the ADA a great deal and I am so grateful to everyone who made it possible.
Next is a photo from the first Disability Pride March in 1990 in Boston.
1990 IDEA passed: education nondiscrimination in public schools.
In the other filmstrip, we have a tribute to disabled workers including veterans and construction workers.
All the filmstrips lead back to a heart, the central nucleus of the community that represents our passion and vitality. Inside the heart is an interpretation of a symbol of Berkeley with four faces representing four different races of people who live in Berkeley, sending the message that Berkeley is in our hearts, in part because of its diversity which allows us to be ourselves.
A mural should be directly tied to its location so we went out of our way to pay tribute to the Bay Area. In addition to the symbol of Berkeley, we included a BART station with people getting off the train, the Bay Bridge and a scene of UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is in the water by the bridge, doing a wheelchair water exercise class.
Some of the other historical figures we included are: Leroy Moore, founder of Krip-Hop Nation, an organization who helps disabled youth express themselves through music and spoken-word poetry; Wheelz, an extreme sports athlete, wearing a t-shirt that says, “Be Your Own Normal”; Frida Kahlo, who made revolutionary artwork based on her experience with disability and is a major influence on our mural as a whole; Stevie Wonder the legendary Blind RnB artist performs with the community around a campfire—fire can represent strength, power, pain and support at the same time, and also remembrance—like a burning candle.
Because we worried that our inclusion of FDR might be read as insensitive to the Japanese-American disabled community, we also included Senator Daniel Inoue, a Japanese-American veteran amputee. We gave a prominent place to Australian Paralympian Madison De Rozario in part because it was important to use to show disabled people in sports, partially because we liked the idea of racing toward human rights, and partially because we wanted to show strong women following their passions. Speaking of which, Judy Heumann is right here, getting off the BART train. Neil Marcus, who asked us at the last critique what we are doing to make history, is featured performing in the center of the composition. We like to think that we are making history by making this mural.
Finally, the banner shows the signs for “nothing about us without us.” The Deaf community has been fighting for the recognition and respect of their language from its inception. Oralism is a prominent issue in the disability community, primarily for Deaf people, but also for nonverbal and semi-verbal non-Deaf people. Because Sign Language is such an important part of the Deaf movement and the disability rights movement as a whole and because it is in danger due to oralism, we felt the need to display it prominently.
“Nothing about us without us,” is a term used by many human rights movements. It means that the community must be actively involved and represented for activism to have any value. This mural, and the movement it represents, cannot exist without members of the disability community…which is why your critiques and input are so important to us! Thank you so much for letting us propose this mural to you and for the advice we have been given from the community so far.