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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Members Participate in White House Event on Civil Rights in America

In order to celebrate and honor African American History Month, the White House held an event on February 27 titled Civil Rights in America. Three NCIL members had the honor of being a part of this celebration. Dara Baldwin, Co-Chair of NCIL’s ADA / Civil Rights Subcommittee, was part of the planning committee and served as moderator for the event’s first panel. The following NCIL Board Members shared their knowledge and experience as panelists:

  • Stan Holbrook (NCIL Diversity Committee Chair and President / CEO of Three Rivers CIL)
  • Cliff Perez (NCIL Region II Representative and Systems Advocate at the ILC of the Hudson Valley, Inc.)

NCIL Members At White House Event on Civil RightsThe event was organized by Claudia Gordon of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement. Ms. Gordon’s portfolio in the Office of Public Engagement is concentrated on the disability rights community.

The event started with a welcome from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. She welcomed the audience to the White House and reiterated President Obama’s strong commitment to disability issues and rights. She also complimented Claudia Gordon’s exemplary work in her position and her interaction with the disability rights community.

There were also speeches welcoming attendees from Jeff Rosen, Chairman of the National Council on Disability (NCD), and Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Both spoke about their experiences as persons with disabilities and their connection to the civil rights and disability rights movements.

There were three panels that were presented on Thursday, Perspectives on the Civil and Disability Rights Movements, Exploring Intersectional Identities in the Quest for Social, Cultural and Economic Justice, and Mentorship: Making the Dream Real for African American Youths with Disabilities

The first panel was moderated by Dara Baldwin and panelists included Cliff Perez, Stan Holbrook, Chai Feldblum (Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), and Jennifer Bellamy (Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union).

The partnership between the civil and disability rights movements has been intertwined through the work of people of diverse backgrounds. There are many parallels between these movements, and these parallels continue to bring our community’s issues and concerns forth within the broader civil rights movement. In the true spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the disability community thrives on our collective brother/sisterhood. Yet many think that there is a lack of diversity within the disability rights movement.

The rich history of this connection was discussed on this panel. NCIL members Stan Holbrook and Cliff Perez shared their experiences being involved in both movements, past and present. Commissioner Feldblum added intriguing observations about this relationship based on her work creating the ADA along with other civil rights leaders. Jennifer Bellamy provided an update on the work that the ACLU has continued in the area of disability rights issues.

At the end of the discussion, each panel member was asked to list steps to be taken to continue this work. NCIL hopes that by working to connect the civil and disability rights movements, we will continue to strengthen our solidarity. NCIL commits to lead this work through our Diversity Committee.

The struggle continues for all people in the areas of voting rights, education, housing, employment, the budget crisis, healthcare, mental health, hate and violent crimes, veterans, transportation, and acceptance. This panel provided a vision of a roadmap for change that includes increasing and broadening the Dream of a King.

For more information, please contact: Dara Baldwin, Co-Chair of the NCIL ADA / Civil Rights Subcommittee, at daraldb18@gmail.com.

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