Last Sunday was a day of pride, celebration, disability awareness and education for people with disabilities as well as allies as hundreds gathered again in Montclair for the 2nd Annual Montclair Disability Pride Parade.
There were speakers and performers with disabilities as well as Council members and the Superintendent of Schools speaking about the need for services and full inclusion in our schools and in the community as a whole. Representatives from local organizations came to join and support the parade including AAPI Montclair, OUT Montclair, Montclair NAACP, Montclair Civil Rights Commission, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair Public Library, Montclair Film as well as local religious organizations.
The parade was sponsored by The Montclair Friday Group — a group of over 350 parents with children with disabilities providing advocacy and support — along with the Montclair State University Disability Caucus and the People With Disabilities Advisory Council to the Town of Montclair.
“The disability pride parade gave me a chance to be an autistic cane user with no shame or fear,” said Nico Cooperman. “I hope every disabled person who feels isolated gets a chance to go to such an event and know they’re not alone.”
One of the speakers, Maria Linietsky, college student and Montclair High School graduate, had this to say about the event.
“I loved that this event emphasized pride, because that’s pretty radical when it comes to mainstream disability narratives. Many people think that disabled people’s lives are grim and joyless, or that the only way we can lead fulfilling lives is by ‘overcoming’ our disabilities. This event, on the other hand, was a joyful celebration of who we already are — our vibrant culture, our heritage, our strength, and our self-love. That’s why I centered my poem around the idea of autistic joy — I wanted to remind people that our identities are not based in suffering. This is the point of Pride Parades in general.”
“As the mom of a teen daughter who has autism, I really appreciated the feeling of acceptance while walking and standing to hear speeches at this and last year’s parades,” said Annika Cioffi. “The best part for me was hearing poems, songs, thoughts and opinions from people of all ages and with differing disabilities, not just autism. It was a learning opportunity.”
Another one of the speakers was Edward Grimes, who goes by “El Rampador,” and runs a non-profit organization Sativacross.org which promotes wheelchair access throughout the state.
“Keep your wheelchairs home” is his ableist protest song that was played throughout the march to make people aware of wheelchair inaccessibility, especially in police stations and other buildings.
“I loved participating in the parade and rally,” said Grimes. “It was very emotional for me to hear the young presenters speak about their struggles with being accepted for who they are when they have so many wonderful abilities. It was also very moving to have a positive event around disability when there is so much suffering with the disability population.”
Photos: Norman Rosenblum