Now is the Time..disabled people ain't got Nothing to Lose

root - Posted on 15 April 2002

Disabled people of color fight back through organizing and advocating for civil and human rights

by Isabel Estrada/PoorNewsNetwork

"If they don't come to us, we'll go to them. Mainstream media, you're going to
get your ass picketed. We ain't got nothing to lose!" This was David Aldape's message to the members of mainstream media who did not trouble themselves to attend the Disability Advocates for Minorities Organization (DAMO) press conference at the ILWU building on Ninth and Howard streets.

DAMO was founded by now Executive Director Leroy Moore 5 years ago
because he was fed up with working for disabled people's organizations
that focused mainly on Caucasians. They made no concessions to
minorities even though, while disabled people in general do not receive the
rights they deserve, those who are poor or of color suffer the most.

During the conference Leroy carries with him Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr.'s book Why We Can't Wait. The reasons he and others cannot wait are
many. Though the unemployment rate for disabled people in general is
60-70%, for disabled communities of color it is up to 90%. Leroy spoke
of a disabled youth who died after being beat up for no reason on his way
home. And then there are cases like that of Idris Stelley who was shot
by a police officer in the Metreon after his girlfriend had called them
for help. They are "no longer going to tolerate" the lack of initiative
on the national, state and local levels to make specific policies and
programs for disabled people of color in accordance with the American
Disabilities Act.

DAMO's aims include educating people about what it means to be disabled,
providing a public space for disabled people and advocating for rights
and services. Their new campaign BOSC will be focusing directly on San
Francisco, going into the Inner Mission, Excelsior, Bayview and Fillmore

Interim President David Aldape has plenty of experience in getting what
he wants. In 1992 he halted the construction of a COSTCO because they
wouldn't hire the neighborhood Latinos because many of them had tattoos
on their necks. Instead they were advertising in places outside of the
city. Finally, after being picketed and after Aldape threatened them
with graffitiing the entire building, they acquiesced. He was also able
to stop construction on the Mission Police station on Valencia and 17th
until they hired some Latino workers. He knew that that jail was being
built for our people and so he figured we deserved to get some jobs out of it.

After becoming disabled, Aldape, who suffered two heart attacks, had ten
bypasses and a stroke in 1997 that paralyzed the right half of his body,
decided to focus his organization ALIANZA, formerly for Latinos in general, specifically on those who are disabled. He came to see that "one of the biggest issues facing the Latino community is illegal immigrants and their inability to qualify for services." In one case a 25-year-old illegal immigrant fell 10 stories in an accident that occurred while washing windows. He is now disabled and cannot get the appropriate care.

Jean Lin of Asian and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities spoke of how in
the Asian community disability is "not spoken of." She pledged her
support to DAMO and stated that it is time for people with disabilities
to "live our own lives the way that we want."

Next Spoke Diana Lee of the Sickle Cell Community Health Network. She
came to support DAMO and also with the idea of establishing a Center for
Disabled Children of Color. Sickle Cell Anemia is an incurable genetic
disease that mostly affects people of color. What happens is any type of
strain on the body, like temperature change or stress, can cause the red
blood cells to sickle. This then causes blockage in the blood which
means that oxygen will not be distributed correctly. Lack of oxygen to
parts of the body causes extreme pain and can eventually cause organ
damage which can then lead to death. Lee stressed the need for all
disabilities to get equal support and coverage.

Rarely do we see African-American, Latino, and Asian communities coming
together for one cause. However people with disabilities simply cannot
wait any longer. They are discriminated against by non-disabled people
from within and from outside of their own communities. As Diana Lee put
it, "Don‚t discuss or dismiss us. We know what we need. Engage us, talk
to us, hear our struggles."

If you're interested in supportng DAMO and it's goals please check out these
- Discussion about the future of Disabled people of color. Where to go
from here. San Francisco Main Library Saturday, Feb. 16th 1-4

For More Information Call: 510 649-8438
- The Dis-Ebonics tour, with Disabled, African ˆAmerican poets Leroy Moore
and Samuel Irving

For More Information E-mail:


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