This is week two of four by guest blogger, para-athlete Dorian Taylor, for Black History Month. They are chronicling #disabledblackhistorymonth, sharing interesting and inspiring stories of badass individuals you should know about, so we’ll be doing a weekly round-up of their shout-outs all month. Check out these mini bios, and feel free to share names or stories of those who inspire you for #blackhistorymonth and #disabledblackhistorymonth in the comments.
by Dorian Taylor
These next days I'm going to switch it up a bit. I'm going to be mentioning people you've probably heard about, but their disabilities are often written out of history. When I started this project, it was really about educating myself and finding the disabilities that were hidden from history, and now I'm discovering people I would have never heard about had I not taken on this project. People I no doubt owe my survival to.
(Picture is of Maua she has a short afro and a purple shirt. Her face is covered in a smile.)
Maua Ajanaker (Yvonne Flowers) [I will refer her by the name she chose. I believe when people change their names to African names we often ignore that choice if at all possible.] Maua is the founder of Salsa Soul Sister, the Women's Center at Medgar Evers Community College, in the occupational therapy program at York College. She spoke very openly about access intimacy and intersectionality in the 60s and 70s. She was very open about the correlation between black liberation and queer liberation, and she would also lead disability workshops at every single Festival. She had lupus. Chronic illness is a disability.
(Black and white picture of Wilma Rudolph, she is smiling and has 3 gold medals in her hands.)
Wilma Rudolph is a polio survivor and had post polio syndrome. She was told she would never walk again. Her mother trained all her older brothers and sisters to massage her legs, and eventually she would use a wheelchair and braces—until one day when she was 8 years old, her mother caught her playing basketball barefoot in high school. She would eventually go on to medal at the Olympics, winning bronze in 1956, and then 3 gold medals in Rome in 1960. She was only able to run until she was 22, then she retired and became a track coach. She passed away in 1994. Wilma Rudolph's life was no doubt shaped by the disability that she had, and it should not be written out of history. We should celebrate the whole person. Hiding a person's disability from their history is not celebrating the whole person. Thank you Wilma.
Richard Pryor was pretty vocal about everything, including his struggles with addiction, trauma and MS. I've included his picture with this meme because this is been one of my favorite quotes when I'm struggling.
(Photo is a picture of Richard Pryor in black and white. He's wearing a white jacket, standing with the microphone, and white letters read: If I thought about it, I could be bitter, but I don't feel like being bitter. Being bitter makes you immobile and there's too much that still I want to do.)
(Photo is of Marsha P Johnson, she's wearing a tan shirt, has earrings in and a very short afro.)
Marsha P Johnson was neurodivergent and HIV positive. Marshall Johnson is one of the people credited for throwing the first brick in the Stonewall riots. She founded STAR along with Sylvia Rivera, and pushed for inclusion of transgender rights since jump. During the AIDS pandemic, she started the AIDS coalition to unleash power. She was murdered in 1992. Her murder remains unsolved. New York City Police Department refuses to change her cause of death from suicide to murder. She should be remembered for the whole person that she was. Her death is a stark reminder of the way we discard trans people. Say her name, say her name.
(Photo is a black and white picture of Rev. Cecil Ivory. He is sitting in a wheelchair with a cane across the shoulder. The suit is light colored.)
Rev. Cecil Ivory was head of the Rockville South Carolina NAACP, and was responsible for organizing multiple Rockville sit-ins. In 1961 at McCrory's Five and Dime lunch counter, he organized a wheelchair sit-in. He claimed he never broke any laws because he never actually sat in their seats.
(Photo is a black and white picture of Mr. Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, he's wearing a suit and a bolo style wide brimmed hat. He is standing on his peg leg with his back leg kicked back and his front hand forward in a dancing pose. He's got a huge smile on his face.)
Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates. Dancing since the age of 5, Clayton lost his leg in a cotton gin accident at the age of 12. By 15, he was so good at dancing again he was creating legs with special tips that would give him a unique sound while tap dancing, and had several different colors made to match his outfits. By 20 he was dancing on Broadway. He toured vaudeville circuits in Australia, where he was discovered by then columnist Ed Sullivan. He performed with The Ed Sullivan Show 20 plus times. He toured with Louis Armstrong. In 1951, he opened up the Peg Leg Bates Country Club in Kerhonsken, BY along side his wife, making them the first Black Country Club owners in Ulster County in the Catskill mountains.
(Photo is of Claudia Gordon. She is a brown skin black woman, she's wearing a tan dress with a black belt on. She is leaning with her head slightly to the right she is signing.)
We introduce deaf and disabled Black History Month with Claudia Gordon. She was the first black deaf lawyer in the US, and the first deaf graduate from American Law University. She has advocated for the deaf and disabled through helping with emergency preparedness, her work with the National Council on disability, and National Coalition on disabled rights. She worked for the Environment Administration as a disability advisor for the Office of Public Engagement.