This past week has been incredibly empowering. I had the chance to attend the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference, along with many of my fellow interns. This conference involved legislative advocacy, engaging speakers, interactive workshops, as well as a march, rally, and protest. The way I remember it best is in moments:
Listening to the Opening Plenary of the conference and seeing the excitement on everyone's face. This conference was not a requirement for anyone who attended; it was a privilege.
Lining up to start marching and seeing there are people here from nearly every state, from New York to California.
Watching my fellow interns proudly carrying their signs and leading the cry:
"What do we want?"
"When do we want it?"
Chanting my favorite protest alongside my friends, "We're here! We're loud! Disabled and Proud!" as we rounded the corner and saw the Capitol Building.
Watching Mark Derry organize a protest. If you haven't met him or seen him with his megaphone, you're missing out. It is a sight to see.
Standing in front of the Capitol building and listening to Senator Harkin, Kelly Buckland, Mark Perriello, Marca Bristo, Amber Smock, Collen Starkloff, and many others speak about the significance of the disability rights and independent living movement.
Going to a workshop and hearing Marca Bristo, Amber Smock, Judy Heumann, and Mary Margaret Moore tell us about their history as part of the movement and why female leaders are so important.
Learning from AAPD's very own Mark Perriello and Jason Mida about how to run for office.
Sitting in a room with the youth of the disability rights movement, knowing that we are the next leaders of the movement, and we're well on our way in that journey.
Sitting beside my mentor, Yoshiko Dart, and listening to disability advocates talk with such respect and love about her husband, Justin Dart, one of the foremost leaders of the disability rights movement.
Smiling at my roommate Jess's excitement about pushing Justin's wheelchair and famous cowboy hat to the Capitol. She did us all proud.
Standing in front American Hotel and Lodging Association and protesting their obstruction of the ADA. The fight continues, everyday.
These are my memories of this week. I'm never going to forget my first NCIL Conference and given how amazing this week has been, I bet you it won't be my last.