Saturday, 28 February 2015

Black History Month: Past and Present

A glass frame, underneath which Martin Luther King's face smiles, reflects the light of the lanterns on the wall. His frame is not alone. Mandela. Parks. Tubman. Smiling in the room of black history. I prowl the room, smiling back at each portrait. Each description of a noble act. Yet as I pass the doorway, something has caught the edges of my peripheral vision. On my next circle I gain a nanosecond's glance along the hall to the other open room. A nanosecond to notice Tanisha Anderson, shot to death by police. A nanosecond for the printed Toronto Star article, "Just 8 per cent of Toronto children under 18 are black, but 41 per cent of kids in care are black."

If you grow up in Toronto, you will spend the majority of your pre-university Februaries learning something about Black History.

I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and "I have a dream." I was inspired by his persistence in the face of house arrest and his home being bombed when boycotting bus segregation in the United States. I was amazed. I read about Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad and saving at least three hundred slaves during nineteen trips. What stuck out to me was that her escape to freedom was not enough. I was amzed. I learned about Rosa Parks and how she didn't recall feeling anger as she stayed in her seat, but rather a determination to gain her rights. I was amazed. I learned about Nelson Mandela, how his advocacy led to his imprisonment and yet how he continued his advocacy beyond his release.I was amazed.

Yet from being appalled at the age of eight with "Why would you make all of them slaves just for their skin colour?" came an awareness at the age of fourteen of how many people with dark skin made CP24's breaking news to an unsatisfied understanding that even without slavery, even when your seat on the bus is not a function of the melanin (skin pigment) in your skin, even where your friends range in skin colour, racism lives. More black persons in Toronto between 2008 and 2012 were carded than live hereAlmost every day a black person is murdered by a person in authority. Now I am not amazed.

It is not enough to acknowledge Black History without acknowledging Black Reality. After all, isn't today's Black Reality tomorrow's Black History?

- FA

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Monday, 23 February 2015

"I promise."

Reading week just finished. During Reading Week, the university is open and you can walk on campus, the lack of jaywalkers on a weekday making you feel time has stopped. You can receive a Facebook message back from one of your two best friends in the sixth grade (seconded to Walt Disney himself as its biggest fan) after half a decade of lost contact, start a two-hour Skype call and eventually research Mickey-Mouse-shaped food on Google and exclaim, "Mickey Mouse Watermelons!" "Mickey Mouse Oreo Cookies!"

You can bus a visit to your high school. Get an idea of how much your ninth-grade Geography teacher loves reading your blog (considering she is the number one fan of chocolate). Receiving advice from your Aerospace-Engineer-turned-Twelfth-Grade-Physics-Teacher on choosing the engineering discipline you want to pursue in your life. Being told by your twelfth-grade Chemistry teacher that you  need to learn to drive. (She has a point.) Discussing with your eleventh-grade Chemistry teacher, the very teacher that invented the word Awetsome, about the negativity against it.

Somehow our conversation led into the increased need for Autism rights. Somehow we discussed just how prevalent negativity to the spectrum is. I have a point. Type Autism onto the Google Search Bar. The first page is mainly about treatment and therapy with a news section centred on treatment and Autism suffering. The top entry is a Scar to our Simbas, Autism Speaks.

For those that know what Autism Speaks is, skip this paragraph. For those that don't know, founded in 2005, Autism Speaks is told to be the largest organization for Autism in the world yet is the largest advocating against us. It holds to the principle that we are burdens to society that should not possess any Autistic qualities whatsoever. For example, its vice-president discussed driving off a bridge with an Autistic girl inside the car their video Autism Every Day. If it sounds like innocent Mufasas to you, do you believe society would not have accepted it? Think again. Because of Autism Speaks, a multitude of famous landmarks - from my very own CN Tower and Nathan Phillips square - light blue for World Autism Day. Because of Autism Speaks, a stretch of downtown streets are closed once a year for their fundraising walk. (I would put a link to this but have nothing better than Autism Speaks Canada and its allies to testify.) Some say Autism Speaks has taken over the United States's conversation about Autism. I am afraid it has some truth.

"That's why you need to keep speaking," the teacher said. He told me how important it was that as a person with Autism I needed to keep speaking for Autism rights, how important it was to show that Autism Speaks wasn't reality. A small, motivating paragraph about standing up. At that moment, then, I promised. I promised that I'd do everything I can to get the real voice of Autism - the voice of us - above Autism Speaks on a Google Search. I promised we would both live to see the day.

How God plans things, I don't know. The next morning #AutismSpeaks10 crowded the twitter feed of @FAAwetsome. Autism Speaks was formed in 2005. It is 10 years after 2005. So Autism Speaks turned 10. What type of birthday is this? I have nothing to thank for the birth of Autism Speaks. I have nothing to thank for the hurt of Autism Speaks from lighting my city's famed needle-shaped landmark blue in the name of our treatment to posting videos in the name of our riddance.

I want you to ask yourselves how it happened. Have we not had enough disability rights movements in the developed world? Does it not bother you that the number-one organization claiming to support the Autism Spectrum is also the number one organization criticized for speaking against it? Does the sound of its propaganda videos dehumanizing us, its walks closing traffic in my city to say that we do not belong in it and blue LED light from the CN Tower and many other iconic landmarks, rushing at three hundred thousand kilometres per second to suggest that we do not even deserve a nanosecond as long as we have Autism, bother you? Does it not bother you that the foible to an inclusive society, a society which thrives on difference, still breathes a life of its own? Or has our society bent its moral to believe what organizations such as Autism Speaks claim, what Autism Speaks has claimed for the past decade?

As Arriving At. Awetsome. turned two months old today, (Now here's a milestone to celebrate.) I declare my promise to the rest of you. I promise to do what it takes to publicly put the voices of those with Autism above the public attention span to Autism Speaks. I promise to do what it takes to educate that Autism is one of those things where one's greatest weakness is one's greatest strength. I promise to do what it takes to eliminate Autism-phobia and Asperger-phobia. I should also go for an Unbreakable Vow (an all-or-nothing promise - literally - in Harry Potter) while I'm at it.

Meanwhile, what did I do when my twitter feed almost overflowed in hashtag-Autism-Speaks-ten? Well, I struggled yesterday against its one-hundred-and-forty character count to declare that "too much damage was caused in . I promise to dedicate myself to prevent .

"." I promise that we will see it.

- FA

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