Championing our Communities: An Open Letter

Ki’tay Davidson

Ki’tay Davidson is being honored as a Champion of Change for embodying the next generation of leadership within the disability community and his commitment to the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It is our duty to fight, it is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” – Assata Shakur

 In a world where our environments are not designed to affirm diversity or natural human variation, people with disabilities are relegated to the sidelines and treated as though our existence is burdensome and inconvenient.  Disabilities are often viewed as an “epidemic” or “illness” that requires “curing”.  When individuals are told they should have been prevented or cured, how does that affect one’s perceived worth in society? How does that perpetuate exclusive environments?  Undoubtedly, our society is designed for the able-bodied population and only this state of being has been normalized as “correct” and “ideal.”

 However, when I reflect on the disability rights movement I am overwhelmed and in awe.  The injustices of our society are institutional and it is easy to become complacent, fatigued or entitled; but our community’s ability to disrupt the dominant narrative by advocating unrelentingly is incredible.

Nevertheless, I challenge the extent to which we place the responsibility for advocacy on those designated as leaders or “champions.”  Advocacy is not just a task for charismatic individuals or high profile community organizers.  Advocacy is for all of us; advocacy is a way of life. It is a natural response to the injustices and inequality in the world.  While you and I may not have sole responsibility for these inequities that does not alter its reality. 

 As such, today I am thankful.  I am thankful for every ally and individual working, struggling and fighting to make this world a better place--thankful to any and everybody who realizes that this world is bigger than themselves, and who channels that awareness to “level the playing field.” These are people who can acknowledge their privilege and opportunity, and consciously and intentionally use their existence to transform communities. Change--radical change-- requires that we challenge the institutions and discourse that perpetuate oppression.  It requires that we challenge ourselves.

 I may have earned a prestigious award, but today it is not really about me.  It is about the community and I am simply a singular representative of thousands of people who give their hearts and their time to living a life of transformation.

 “Radical simply means grasping at the root.”

 I have always loved this quote and today it still rings true.  Thank you for grabbing at the root, for being champions of your community. Thank you to all the champions who came before me, to those I have met, and to those who I have yet to meet.  Thanks to those champions who have encouraged, listened, affirmed, fought and loved, alongside our beautiful community.  Together, we have made change and will continue to make change.  There are many chains that need to be broken. We all know it.  I support you and welcome you to hold me accountable as we hold all of ourselves accountable to facilitating inclusive and loving environments for all.

 Lead on.

Ki’tay Davidson is a social justice advocate and innovationist.

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