Black Chicagoans with Disabilities, Candace Marie & Timotheus Gordon Jr. Stand Solid in The Windy City

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 29 December 2015

As we see over and over police terror against our people in almost every major city in the USA, almost every time the activism, journalism and concerns of people with disabilities are left out.  If you know my journalism than you would know that I try to get the words, images, cultural expression and activism of Black disabled people who have been effected one way or another by police brutality.  Some journalist/activist swoop down into cities of the latest high profile police shooting  however very few even have the thought about the disabled community and having an activists, cultural worker or a local bloggers with a disability share how police brutality affects the disabled community.


I reached out to two Black disabled activists in Chicago to share what they feel what is going down there from the police shooting of Laquan McDonald to Spike Lees new film Chi-Raq and more.  Both  Candace Marie and Timotheus Gordon Jr. are in their mid twenties, are born and raised in Chicago and both are of course activists and involved with Access Living, an independent Living Center in Chicago.  


A while back I interviewed Timotheus Gordon Jr. aka Black Autist, a Black autistic activist/journalist about police brutality, journalism and activism when it comes the Black community and now today Gordon continues to says it straight out:

Chicago is on fire right now, and as an autistic self-advocate and media junkie, I have a front row seat in the display of turmoil and newfound activism in the city. Part of me is enjoying the discussions that have been unfolding in the last four months. For starters, we have the great debate on Spike Lee's new film "Chi-Raq".  I am ecstatic that someone is attempting to educate the world about the bloodshed in Chicago. However, I doubt if I would actually spend money to watch it in theaters, because I don't endorse the underlying notion that the male and female genitalia are the reasons why Chicagoans are acting a fool. It is a copout; I don't think violence can be solved by celibacy alone and having (consensual) sex is not really why gangs are killing each other, innocent people are killed, police appearing to have the license to kill without sound reasoning.”

Candace Marie has a high profile online and a friend told me that she has a history of working with youth with disabilities and police brutality cases so I perked up and got in touch with her online.  She has been active in the budget battles of special education where the head of Special Ed stepped down in Chicago Public Schools, CPS, over the last few months cps has threatened to implement cuts in special education that is going in right now.  Candace called me after leaving a meeting on the budget cuts to special education where activist are seeing one story and CPS is telling a totally different story. She told me,

“A education newspaper in Chicago called Catalyst reported After a “thorough review” of planned cuts to special education services, Chicago Public Schools officials announced during Thanksgiving break that the district would restore dozens of positions and bring total staffing to a level higher than last year.”  Candace goes on to say  "That may be true for some but it's not the full picture.  The reality in the classes is another story and that everybody is scrambling to deal with lay offs of many teachers, clinicians, and paraprofessionals!”


The special education cuts in Chicago is linked to the bigger picture of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.  Candace told me that people in McDonalds community and school knew he had a mental health disability and matter-of-fact its getting hard to track the history of his education in the media because some wants to keep it hidden.

As a young Black disabled advocate, Candace, has witnessed and saw discrimination because of disability for example, when she first joined the disability youth advocacy group they were advocating against a nursing home for children with disabilities. Come to find out that the nursing homes are still open after killing a large number of kids due to neglect. When she saw the power of speaking out. she became an activist.  


Candace Marie  and Timotheus Gordon Jr. both agree that the Disability Movement has a lot of successes and have a foundation of seeing people with disabilities stand upthat says laws, polices, cultural, and history includes PWDS. Both have seen people with disabilities but most are not a-part of the disability rights movement at protests of the police killing of Laquan McDonald. 


We all know that Chicago has been on the news and activists are not settling until justice is done for the cover ups that the police department and government officials have done. Laquan McDonald, Stepson Watts, Rakia Boyd all Black and had disabilities and other should not die in vain in not only the city of Chicago but throughout the state of Illinois.  Gordon told me his thoughts of what is going on and what it means to him as a Black disabled young man.


“My Activism has been on the rise since November 2015. We have been fighting against the Illinois budget war, public housing inaccessibility, and a broken public school system since (at least) the beginning of Governor Rauner's term. But with the Fight for 15 and the release of the Laquan McDonald tape, I believe more people of Chicago are starting to fight for their rights and call for the end of the scandalous Mayor Rahm Emanuel era. The wide-scale protests rivals that of the string of Baltimore actions in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's murder.

Not so fast! Don't think Chicago is all of sudden turning into a complete, united place yet. The city still sweeps a group of important citizens under the rug: people with disabilities. How come we can mobilize and fight against the wrongful death of Laquan McDonald but not the dissolution of special education in public schools? I would go further: where is the Black community when it comes to issues among people with disabilities, such as the special education cuts? How come the Black community choose to holler when the police kill our own, but remain quiet as a mouse when people with disabilities yearn to participate in the same community? I do know why there's such a disconnect between the African-American community in Chicago at large and black people with disabilities. However, if they continue to ignore Black people with disabilities needs and exclude them, then surely the at-large community will remain split into factions: "cool" black people vs "those people over there". Inclusion of people with disabilities in movements and actions can help solve some of the major issues in the city and in ethnic communities within Chicago.


Especially now with Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name as a Black woman with a disability, Marie gives her perspective.

As a Black Women with a disability I think Say her Name is important. Its a perfect movement for the time that we are in. All the elements from our past are blending in with tools of our present. Social Media has really put our stories on front Street. In our society Black women are devalued and expected to just get over stuff. The layers of misrepresentation through media and propaganda of only showing certain sides of women.  We as people have a lot of layers and identities which include disability and the Say Her Name campaign  sheds light that women of color deal with police brutality as well.  


Now the latest police shooting, Saturday,  December 26th/16 in Chicago of a Black young man with mental health disabilities, Quintonio LaGrier, 19 year old has once again uncover the usual conversation over the mental health police crisis training in Chicago and the need to fund it again.  I asked Marie is police training enough.

No its not enough. We as a community have to stop being in fear of one an other. We need to learn how to provide care for one another without relying solely on police. We barely have any mental health support. Those that do exist are at capacity.


Marie believe whole heartily that there should be youth programs across all areas for Black and Brown youth with disabilities. She goes on to say.

Our community (talking about my Black community) dont embrace disability identity much. We need spaces to support our young peoples growth. When I discovered I wasnt the only person in the city of Chicago with disability my confidence level boosted up tremendously. If we had more spaces for youth of color with disabilities in all youth development programs our futures would be so much brighter.    

Candace shared with me an recent report entitled 2013 Disability Status Report Illinois from Cornell University that have shed a picture of disability in that state and in almost every category Blacks make up a huge percentage of the disability community and therefore make up a  large percentage of people living in poverty and so on.  One of Candace’s 2016 goals is to reach out to Black organizations to put the issues of what Black disabled Chicagoans are facing including police brutality on their agenda and to create a bridge between Black organizations/leaders and the disability community in Chicago led by Black disabled activists. 

As we get ready for a new year, Candace, the organizer of Advance Youth Leadership Power, who has been mentoring  Timotheus Gordon Jr. both are planning a forum around police and people with disabilities sometime in the Spring of 2016.  Please stay intouch with Access Living, an Independent Living Center in Chicago, where Candace works at 

And follow Timotheus Gordon Jr. an his blog

By Leroy F Moore Jr.


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