Monday, February 20, 2006

'Black Disability Studies' in TU Faculty Herald

For my Temple University colleagues, I invite you to read the very engaging and timely article that appeared in this week's Faculty Herald in honor of Black History Month.

Joshua Lukin, "Black Disability Studies," Temple University Faculty Herald, 36
(4):6 - 10.

I am in communication with the author, a lecturer in the Department of English here at Temple University, in the hopes of securing an electronic copy that I might be able to share with you. Otherwise, make sure to skim through your Faculty Herald, past the longwinded reprinting of testimony offered by Temple University faculty before the General Assembly's House Select Committee on Student Academic Freedom (January 9 & 10, 2006) for Josh's juicy insights [center fold, no less!] And I offer to send photocopies to the first 20 readers who contact me with a snailmail address.

Josh Lukin was inspired to write the article after attending a panel session at the recent 121st Modern Language Association Annual Convention, Washington DC., December 29, 2005. The panel on "Black Disability Issues" was arranged by the MLA Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession. The panel included Anna Mollow from the University of California--Berkeley, Eden Osucha from Duke University, and Jennifer James from George Washington University in DC. Robert McRuer from George Washington University served as the moderator. Although much of the article is based on papers and commentary at the panel session, to retrieve a firmer basis for Black Disability Studies, Joshua makes extensive use of oral history interviews that have recently been published through the University of California at Berkeley.

The first of the interviews that Josh quotes is with Bay Area disability activist and leader Ms. Johnnie Lacy. Born in Huttig, Arkansas in 1937, Johnnie moved with her family to California in 1947. While an undergraduate student in the nursing program at Chico State University she contracted polio. Transferring to San Francisco State University, Ms. Lacy discovered how difficult it was going to be for her to pursue her dream of becoming a speech therapist. The Education faculty closed ranks against her, insisting that the area schools would not be able to accommodate her. To add insult to injury, she was prevented from participating in her class graduation in 1960. Ms. Lacy continued to live and work in Berkeley during the 1960s and able to observe the origins of the Independent Living Movement. The oral history interview with Ms. Lacy is now archived at at the UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library and available in the Digital Collection entitled 'The Disability Rights Movement and the Independent Living Movement' .

In the oral history transcript and video, Ms. Johnny Lacy speaks about the differences between the way that African-American community as a whole have tended to view 'disability' and its connection to 'race,' and the ways that African-Americans with disabilities viewed these connections. Johnnie Lacy is now the executive director of Community Resources for Independent Living in Hayward, California.

References: Johnnie Lacy, "Director, Community Resources for Independent Living: An African-American Woman's Perspective on the Independent Living Movement in the Bay Area, 1960s-1980s," an oral history conducted in 1998 by David Landes, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2000. Available from the Online Archive of California. For a contrasting perspective on the MLA panel, see Malcolm A. Kline, "Disabled by Definition," campusreportonline.net, Accuracy in Academia's online news service, January 17, 2006.

Additional Resources on the 'Academic Bill of Rights': If you are really interested in learning more about Horowitz's efforts here in Pennsylvania, the Temple Association of University Professors (TAUP) offers a useful collection of resources on their website. A more entertaining, albeit polemical, place to start is Michael Berube's blog, where he has been engaging in a multimedia assault on with David Horowitz's anti-intellectual agenda and blog. As Penny has noted in her posts, Prof. Berube is a tenured cultural studies critic at The Pennsylvania State University and an excellent Disability Studies scholar to boot. One wonders, however, why his opinions on conservative efforts to force states to protect/limit academic freedom (depending on your perspective) generate so much more blog-buzz than his equally heated rants about the difference that would not be spoken out loud - "disability" - in Hurricane Katrina coverage. Perhaps Joshua Lukin's Faculty Herald article will help to generate some much-needed attention to the double marginalization of disabled Black Americans. Watch this space for the developments!

Update 4/19/06: We have posted Josh Lukin's original article our the main Disability Studies Program website. Enjoy!