My title revises the title of a video produced by the Bay Area based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in 1997 to commemorate a critical event in American history.1 The occasion for that video was the twentieth anniversary of what has been called "perhaps the single most impressive act of civil disobedience in the United States over the last quarter-century," the twenty-five-day-long sit-in by disability rights activists at HEW's San Francisco office to push (successfully) for assertive enforcement of "Section 504" government regulations prohibiting disability discrimination.2 DREDF named the video "The Power of 504." Inserting the discourse of "Black power" into the discourse of "the power of 504," I mean to do two things: first, to call attention to the historiography of 504 activism as an example of what Chris Bell calls "whitewashed" or "white disability studies"; second, to suggest that in real and almost entirely unrecognized ways, the "power of 504" was enacted as and through a very particular seventies locus of Black power.3

In arguing this, I do not mean to reduce the complex, stubbornly hybrid, multiracial, cross-class, cross-ability culture of the 504 demonstration to a single axis. The "power" of 504, whatever it might be, may also quite productively be characterized as a queer power, a feminist power, a D/deaf power, and so on. What I do hope to do here is mobilize another kind of memory, one which acknowledges an almost forgotten activism in profound engagement at the meeting ground of poverty, urban marginalization, disability and race. At the same time, I hope to raise a set of questions about the writing of the history of this social movement or rather of this specific conjunction of social movements. "[W]hen we [academics] fail to acknowledge the intellectual work of [activist] movements," Laura Briggs has written, "something crucial is lost," and at the same time, as Briggs makes clear, the risks of "self-righteous and obfuscating invocations of 'activism' are real enough."4 If, as Robin D. G. Kelley writes in a line that resonates in Briggs' analysis, "collective social movements are incubators of new knowledge," what kind of new knowledge — and for that matter what kind of incubator — are we to look for in the story of the black power of 504?5

For readers unfamiliar with the history of the event sometimes recorded in the shorthand "of 504," I will provide some background. Since 1920, when the first federal Rehabilitation Act was passed, Congress had at various junctures enacted amendments to the Act's provisions. The 1973 version of the Act included, buried in Section 504 of its Title V, a surprising and little-discussed clause, inserted by quietly activist congressional staffers, that prohibited recipients of federal aid from discriminating against any "otherwise qualified handicapped individual."6 Section 504 was modeled on, and its language directly derived from, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Adding a civil rights provision to a Rehabilitation Act "didn't make a lot of logical sense," notes disability activist Mary Lou Breslin in an oral history done two decades later, "because it should have been its own statute," but "the rehabilitation statute was a quick and dirty vehicle available to make 504 work." Because, as Breslin comments with dry humor, "issues affecting people with disabilities were thought to be understood by bureaucrats who were involved in health, education and welfare, as opposed to peace, freedom and justice," the Department of Health, Education and Welfare was charged with formulating guidelines for implementing the requirement that would then become templates for other federal agencies.7

Roberta Ann Johnson suggests that the government's "paternalistic generosity" in section 504 might actually "have undermined a social movement of the disabled had there not been a four year delay in the signing of the 'regs.'"8 For years HEW stalled, debating internally over the question of what discrimination meant in the context of disability. Jimmy Carter pledged during his presidential campaign to sign and enforce strong regulations, but he failed to follow up on that promise. When the national American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, headed by charismatic Deaf leader Frank Bowe, got wind of federal plans to water down the already compromised regulations, they and other groups began organized to put pressure on the new Carter-appointed secretary of HEW, Joseph Califano. Bowe, ACCD's president Eunice Fiorito, Judith Heumann and the other members of the ACCD board gave Califano an ultimatum: sign a forceful, meaningful version of the intact regulations before April 5, 1977, or ACCD and its associates would take action.

The groups planned sit-ins on that date at HEW headquarters in cities across the U.S. The sit-in, of course, was a civil-rights movement tactic; "it was a way of drawing the parallels between this issue and the civil rights movement of the sixties," organizer Kitty Cone explains.9 Most of the sit-ins on April 7th ended quickly when police starved out the demonstrators, but the occupation of the San Francisco HEW offices lasted for weeks, sustained by the large and deep network of community groups that the organizers had systematically developed. As a New York Times reporter put it in an April 17th article titled "Disabled in San Francisco Vow to Continue Sit-in": "One reason for the success of the occupation has been the staunch militancy and careful organization of the participants."10

Those participants — "an occupation army of cripples," one news broadcast called them — were a "very disparate group, a very wild and divergent community," as activist Corbett O'Toole recalls: "the Mill Valley Moms with a disabled child" next to "the street junkies."11 Within the HEW building during the occupation, Ed Roberts spoke of and to the group: "To see hundreds of people with disabilities roll, sign, using canes, the more severely retarded people for the first time joining us in an incredible struggle, is one that leads me to believe that we're going to win this."12 A transformative community developed in the offices on the fourth floor of the HEW building. "The whole thing was like a living role model," Mary Lou Breslin comments, "living out the purpose that you're trying to embody in those regulations — that purpose was being experienced and exercised in the building itself."13 At the end of the occupation, one activist, Ron Washington, described that community in his expression of regret at leaving the building: "Well, there's some hesitancy because of the relationship that was developed here — the comradeship around political needs and working together to get those needs taken care of."14

In their favor, in addition to this galvanized community, the demonstrators had several advantages: a strong consensus decision-making process, multiple and dispersed leadership, extraordinarily effective strategic planning (particularly the decision to move some of the protesters to Washington D.C. to pressure HEW more directly), and a San Francisco urban culture well-prepared to grasp actions for social justice (headed by mayor Moscone).15 By the time their demonstration finished, on April 28, 1977, Califano signed the Section 504 regulations, and, more importantly, the foundations of a national cross-disability rights movement were laid.

Accounts of the action usually present that coalition as a remarkable, momentary cluster of support built out of the awareness and keen organizing skills of the demonstration's leaders. "[I]t was possible to enlist support from other political organizations that hadn't thought about disability before," Mary Lou Breslin says in her oral history of this network of allies. "A lot of people had individual connections. They were all brought to bear in one form or another, but Kitty [Cone] knew how to think about it as a matrix."16 That matrix included the Butterfly Brigade, "a group of gay men who patrolled city streets on the lookout for gay violence," who smuggled walkie-talkies into the occupied building; Glide Church; local and national labor organizations; members of Delancey Street, the famous grassroots rehab program for substance abusers and former felons, who brought breakfast into the building each day; the Chicano group Mission Rebels, who also provided food; and the Black Panthers, who publicly endorsed the action and provided hot dinners for the duration of the sit-in.17

Cone's skilled organizing and exemplary analysis, like Heumann's leadership and Roberts' eloquence, were critical factors in the action's success. But others also knew how to "think about it as a matrix." The model of "support" from "other movements" obscures some of the ways in which for various participants in the 504 demonstration these movements were not other. By this I mean more than simply the point that disabled queers, disabled radical black activists, disabled Chicanas and so on took part in occupying the fourth floor of the HEW building. Most histories have obscured the extent to which prior disability activism within these "other" movements laid the groundwork for the moment of alliance remembered as "504."18

I focus here on one example, the collaboration between the Black Panthers and disability organizers. In their quantitative study Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999, Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch provide a schema for analysis of this coalition, drawing on D.A. Snow's analysis of how social movements build upon the "frames" created by prior successful movements:

Frames provide meaningful reasons, within the context of a culture, for why a demand made by a social movement should be satisfied.… Earlier movements can be important for subsequent movements if the earlier movement still exists and can provide support to the subsequent movement. This is especially true if an earlier movement can assist in frame extension to the newer movement by propounding the frame extension itself….One instance of this occurred during the HEW sit-in in San Francisco, when the Black Panthers provided food and endorsed the protestors' goals in their newspaper.19

The Panthers did, as I will show, officially propound a "frame extension" from their previous struggles to the arena of disability rights protest.

In addition to providing food, the BPP contributed substantially to the historical record of the 504 action in issues of their newspaper in April and May of 1977. In the pages of the Black Panther the protest was given an individual transformative face by Dennis Billups, described in one BP feature article as "a young blind Black man from San Francisco….one of the active and enthusiastic participants in the ongoing occupation of the HEW offices by handicapped and disabled people fighting for their civil and human rights."20 An interview with Billups by an anonymous Panther reporter resulted in a compelling, lyrical, mysterious transcription of a speech that framed the audience for the 504 demonstration as one composed of black disabled people:

to my brothers and sisters that are Black and that are handicapped: Get out there, we need you. Come here, we need you. Wherever you are, we need you. Get out of your bed, get into your wheelchair. Get out of your crutches, get into your canes. If you can't walk, call somebody, talk to somebody over the telephone; if you can't talk, write; if you can't write use sign language; use any method of communication that is all — all of it is open.

We need to do all we can. We need to show the government that we can have more force than they can ever deal with — and that we can eat more, drink more, love more and pray more than they ever knew was happening….

We shouldn't have to fight for our rights, …they should already be there. But since we have to fight for them we have an infinite amount of strength to walk. The government only has one strength to walk, they only know about the paper and file system….We are all in the light, and we should think of ourselves as being our rights.

From the Black Panther coverage of the congressional hearings held inside the occupied HEW building, we learn that a specific "Minorities Panel, consisting of Margaret Irvine, Bruce Oka, Jane Johnson and a third woman," testified to the congressmen about the "double whammy experienced by handicapped minorities." The BP tells us (approvingly) that when the protesters left the building they were singing "We have overcome." The Black Panther alone records BPP leader Ericka Huggins' dramatic frame extension in her speech at the victory rally when the occupation ended:

I've been thinking since I've been here this morning that the United States has always had its niggers. And they come in all sizes, shapes, colors, classes, and disabilities. The signing of 504, this demonstration, this sit-in, this beautiful thing that has happened these past few weeks, is all to say that the niggers are going to be set free. 21

The Panthers came to this analysis and extended this support for one main reason: because of Bradley Lomax. Lomax was a disabled Panther and a Panther disability rights/independent living movement leader whose work at this juncture began well before the HEW building occupation. For Lomax no frame extensions were necessary. In Lomax's frame, revolutionary black nationalism and disability power had already combined.

"Brad participated in the sit-in from the beginning," remembers Kitty Cone, "and so did this wonderful guy Chuck [Jackson] who came to do Brad's attendant work and then did attendant work for other people" during the course of the occupation.22 When the protesters selected delegates to travel to D.C. to put pressure on President Carter and HEW secretary Califano, Lomax and Jackson were both chosen, and the Black Panther Party paid their way.23 Initially, the presence of Lomax and Jackson, both Panthers, as protestors inside the federal building undoubtedly motivated the Black Panthers to support the action by bringing food. "I don't think we would have had as active participation by the Panthers without Brad," Cone told me in an interview. Corbett O'Toole, who stayed in the building for the duration of the protest, puts it more strongly:

By far the most critical gift given us by our allies was the Black Panthers' commitment to feed each protester in the building one hot meal every day….The Panthers' representative explained that the decision of Panthers Brad Lomax and Chuck Jackson to participate in the sit-in necessitated a Panther response….and that if Lomax and Jackson thought we were worth their dedication, then the Panthers would support all of us. I was a white girl from Boston who'd been carefully taught that all African American males were necessarily/of necessity my enemy. But I understood promises to support each others' struggles. (17)

O'Toole goes on to describe the critical persistence of the Panthers when the FBI initially refused to let them enter the building with the first meal that they brought. "The steadfastness of the Black Panthers to a loosely organized, mostly white group of people fighting for disability rights was moving and profound," writes O'Toole, and on the crucial importance of Lomax and Jackson in guaranteeing that steadfastness, she underscores: "I understand the significance of my statement. Without the presence of Brad Lomax and Chuck Jackson, the Black Panthers would not have fed the 504 participants occupying the HEW building. Without that food, the sit-in would have collapsed" (28).

Coverage of these events in the Black Panther newspaper offers further details. "On Thursday evening," one article reports, "members of the Black Panther Party arrived from Oakland with a dinner of fried chicken, fish, salad, corn, potato salad, rolls, punch, and assorted paper supplies."

The next morning when tensions had heightened — with all telephone service abruptly cut off, and all food denied entry — Panther members saw to it that a sympathetic guard 'discreetly' allowed the breakfast foods they had brought upstairs to the demonstrators. That evening, the Party supplied a delicious meatloaf dinner.24

An accompanying photograph highlighted Lomax's participation in the protest. Its caption read: "BPP member BRAD LOMAX (background) joins colleagues in heated but unproductive discussion with regional HEW official in San Francisco."

But it wasn't just that Brad Lomax had gone inside the building and thereby set the stage for BPP assistance for the demonstration. Because of Lomax, Oakland-based Panthers and Berkeley-based disability rights activists had worked together before. Accounts of BPP alliance with the 504 demonstrators never mention the existence of this previous coalition effort. In 1974, Lomax was working at the Panthers' George Jackson Clinic, which provided free community medical care as part of the BPP "serve the people" programs Huey Newton had defined as a basic "survival kit."25 A memo on the clinic from Henry Smith to BPP leader Huey Newton in April 1974 reported that "Brad Lomax because of his restricted movement is the public relations co-coordinator of the clinic. Also meeting with people to set up functions and relationships with people who can be of a benefit to the clinic."26

Among the people Lomax met with was disability movement leader Ed Roberts, who would soon move from his position as director of Berkeley's Center of Independent Living to become director of California's Department of Rehabilitation. In the summer of 1975, Lomax approached Roberts with a proposal to open a Center for Independent Living in East Oakland under Black Panther sponsorship. As a person with multiple sclerosis and a wheelchair-user, Lomax understood the need for independent living services from inside.27 He also knew that the Berkeley CIL was not effectively reaching and serving disabled people in East Oakland. With Lomax as the pivotal mediator, approaches went both ways. Lomax and other disabled organizers met with Black Panther leaders to persuade them that the raft of BPP community programs should be expanded to include an East Oakland CIL and coordination of transportation and attendant services for disabled people. Donald Galloway, the head of blind services and the Black Caucus at Berkeley's CIL in the mid-seventies, recalls working to build this coalition:

we were in a predominantly black community, the city council was predominantly black, the whole area was predominantly black, and we should have more black people involved in it. The movement was predominantly white in the black community, we needed to reach out to the black community in Oakland, get the Black Panthers involved, and any other group that would like to be involved.28

The BPP did "get involved." With Lomax as one of a two-person staff, the East Oakland CIL opened in a storefront, offering basic peer counseling and attendant referral. It did not last for long. Mary Lester, the receptionist at Berkeley's Center for Independent Living at the time, describes this as a CIL problem — a failure to properly support a branch office:

It [the East Oakland location] was really at a distance, which was one of the problems in terms of its being successful. Also, you know, CIL wasn't at all familiar with that culture or that community and they sort of plunked this thing down and really didn't understand how to make it work very well, so it was fairly short-lived.29

"I felt that throughout my tenure at [Berkeley's] CIL," African American disability activist Johnnie Lacy has commented, "African Americans were definitely being condescended to, most of them with their permission."30 Within this frame, Lomax's plan for a radical, self-determined, community-based disability outreach center for independent living in East Oakland could never be anything but a weak satellite.

Nor did the Black Panthers make "independent living" a central feature in their health-and-freedom struggle. Berkeley CIL's indifference seems to have been matched by the BPP's. Although at least one history of Black Panther organizing claims the East Oakland CIL as the Panthers' own, during the two years in which Lomax's CIL operated, 1975-1977, the Black Panther newspaper never included it in its regular listing of BPP programs.31

In a sense, this neglect on the Panthers' part is surprising, for as Alondra Nelson has demonstrated, health activism had by 1972 "become so central to the BPP's overall vision that it was included in the updated version of its Ten-Point Platform" (124). The new sixth point began "WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE" and demanded "health facilities, which will not only treat for illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventative medical programs to guarantee our future survival."32 (Late-disabled ex-Panther Kiilu Nyesha jokes that the earlier version of the BPP platform had not dealt with health care issues because "we were too young."33 )

The revised Ten-Point Platform reflects an evolution in Panther politics, "a declining capacity to articulate revolutionary demands," as Daniel Perlstein puts it, "and a growing capacity to foster grassroots activism."34 By the early seventies, Nelson writes, the BPP

had become frustrated by the arrests, surveillance, deception, and harassment that comprised the FBI's counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) and resolved to change the violent tactics that had defined it in the public mind. Sickle cell anemia proved to be a peculiarly appropriate instrument for this transformation, since it allowed the party to transfer its radical critique of American society to the biomedical arena intact.

In Panther sickle-cell work, health advocacy and radical analysis of U.S. racism dovetailed explicitly. A 1971 article in The Black Panther argued that "Sickle-cell is as crippling, as painful and as deadly as leukemia, muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis,"

all of which diseases primarily affect white people. Yet sickle-cell anemia has not received the attention or consideration from public agencies that these ideas have. This is a clear indication of the racist and genocidal policies of this government.35

But BPP programs extended well beyond the sickle cell campaign. In the early and mid seventies Oakland Panther programs included not only the George L. Jackson free clinic but also transportation services for the elderly; The Black Panther published a critique of nursing homes, "Ghettos for the Elderly."36 Seventies Panther health activism shared with the disability rights movement the "characteristic political strategies" of the period, as Nelson shows, including "the valuing and development of lay knowledge and challenges to the epistemological authority of biomedical knowledge" (103). CIL seems an obvious extension of these kinds of grassroots initiatives.

Partly, the East Oakland CIL's failure to thrive can be attributed to the troubled situation of the Panthers in general at this time. In November 1977, Elaine Brown resigned from party leadership. Huey Newton was on trial for murder. Ericka Huggins, the next highest-ranking Panther, was being sued for return of welfare monies. In 1969 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had directed his agents to "eradicate" the Panthers' "serve the people" programs.37 David Hilliard said that as early as 1974 all of the East Bay BPP's survival programs except for Oakland's Intercommunal Youth Institute/Liberation School had been shut down, though Alondra Nelson notes that an issue of Coevolution Quarterly guest-edited by the BPP in fall 1974 describes a free ambulance program as well as the medical clinic and sickle cell research projects.38

But BPP leaders' ableism may also have played a part in the quick demise of the East Oakland CIL. In Black Panther coverage of the HEW occupation a general lack of disability consciousness shows up in a variety of ways. An April 23 1977 article entitled "Hearings, Support Rally Highlight Handicapped Protest" picks up the rhetoric of "poignancy" used in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 16 in a piece called "Emotional Plea for Handicapped." The Chronicle article described the 504 protest as "the nation's most poignant civil rights demonstration, that of the disabled, blind, deaf, and retarded." The Black Panther followed suit, referring to the occupation as "this most poignant of all building takeovers." The language of feeling deployed here condescends to the demonstrators, relegating them to the realm of the moving or the touching rather than of the militant or the demanding. (This is particularly apparent in the Chronicle's use of the word "Plea," with its ring of the tin cup of the pathetically deserving beggar.) One cannot imagine the Panthers hoping that the word "poignant" would be attached to one of their own direct actions. Brad Lomax himself was subject to condescending coverage in the Black Panther, which inexplicably described him as "a Black Panther Party member victimized by multiple sclerosis" only moments after quoting Cece Weeks' rejection of victim status, "You know, for the first time in my life, I'm proud to be handicapped."39

"Bradley Lomax was a quiet Oakland resident who was a member of the Black Panthers," begins a short posthumous biography posted on a Disability Memorial website.40 Quiet within the disability archive, Lomax is all but silent in the Panther archive.41 The one document which seems to relate to him specifically in the Huey Newton papers in Stanford's manuscript collection, labelled "Report on Brad to Huey, n.d./ Joan & Ellis," has been removed from the records for confidentiality reasons.42 Since many controversial documents in these files — suspicions of informants, accounts of sexual and medical histories — are not closed to the public, it is hard to imagine why this memo is concealed.

Quietly, the work that Brad Lomax did combining independent living politics and the complex activism of the BPP lay the groundwork for the 504 action and then, through his participation there, ensured that the demonstration could continue. Alondra Nelson has debunked "two commonplace presumptions about black power social movements of the seventies." The first, as she describes it, is the idea that these movements "represented the degeneration of the civil rights protest tradition, rather than a continuation of a longer freedom struggle which had waxed and waned ideologically from separatist to integrationist, nationalist to accomodationist, for generations." The second is the idea that black power social movements provided models for seventies health activism and patients' rights advocacy, "but were not directly concerned with these issues themselves" (12). But Brad Lomax's black freedom struggle was profoundly concerned with (though never limited to) disability rights activism.

As I dwell on Lomax's matrix of political actions and affiliations, I want to emphasize the limits of my argument. I want neither to underestimate the leadership of 504 organizers such as Cone and Heumann nor to overestimate the disability consciousness of the BPP. Michael Fultz, who edited the Black Panther at the time and who was the spokesman for Panther endorsement of the occupation, offers a balanced account of the Party's involvement. Disability issues, he writes, "were addressed on an individual basis through our health clinics in addition to the Sickle Cell Anemia campaigns," but "[a]ctivism on behalf or in support of the disabled was seldom high on our agenda."43

Nor, for that matter, was Brad Lomax the sole or even necessarily the main influence on BPP participation in the 504 action. Black disability activist and scholar Leroy Moore recounts a conversation with BPP leader Elaine Brown in which he asked her about her memories of the HEW occupation. According to Moore, Brown simply did not remember Lomax, but she spoke about the strong effect Ed Roberts had on the Left in the Bay Area.44 The account of Center for Independent Living worker Donald Galloway in a recent oral history treats Lomax less as an equal organizer in these events than as a kind of calling card or pretext for organizing:

Well, there was a severely disabled man in the Black Panther Party named Brad, and Brad was our linkage to the Black Panthers. Ed made linkages at the top level with the Black Panthers to get permission to come and be involved with them. We would have Brad….Ed made a decision that he wanted us to get more involved with the Black Panthers and with Oakland. That was our first entry to the black community in Oakland, was through the Black Panther Party. So we would go to some of their meetings and explain our programs. Because Brad, one of their members, had a severe disability, we were quite accepted (81).

In this account Lomax seems to be quite passive: "we would have Brad." It is no doubt also the case that Brad Lomax "had" Ed Roberts and the CIL — and that questions of who "has" who cluster around one who "has" a "severe" disability as we think through the conjunction of severe disability and militant activism (or severe activism and militant disability).

Despite — no, because of — these demurrals, Lomax's matrix offers a significant opportunity for thinking about and within collective social movements. An "incubator" of new knowledge, we might say, returning self-consciously to Robin Kelley's figure, since the incubator marks a site where both the potentialities and the vulnerabilities of the (social) body, its promise and its instabilities, are fully held in focus. Instead of understanding the Panthers as in solidarity with the disability rights movement at the moment of "504" — solidarity implying clear-cut relations between social bodies, political agents and cultural identities that are fully formed, perpetually intact, active in ways we can easily track — we might instead find here a model of what Diane Nelson calls being in fluidarity. Laura Briggs calls Nelson's fluidarity "a practice and theory of identity-in-formation"; Nelson writes that the practice of fluidarity as an alternative to solidarity calls for "giv[ing] up solid bodies" and for acknowledging "that bodies and body politics are not clearly demarcated entities in the world but instead are wounded," "stumped identities," "open, bewildered, and political."45 The neologism "fluidarity" has emerged in analysis of transnational alliance, but as Nelson's recourse to the language of wounds and stumps suggests, disability politics, often unacknowledged, haunt this analysis. Disability movements worldwide may offer particularly rich, complex and matter-of-fact models of fluidarity in action.

What if we replace the familiar public image of the severely able Black Panther, emblematized by the famous photograph of Huey Newton in the wicker chair, with the image of Brad Lomax wheeling his chair out of the HEW building at the end of the 504 occupation — or better yet of the interdependent team of Lomax and Chuck Jackson, whose activism consisted in part of assisting people in the building with intimate personal care?46 We come to a better understanding of the fluid and intricate dynamics of alliance that comprised the "power of 504" when we place a disabled Black Panther and a Black Panther caregiver at the center both of Panther and of American disability history.

Endnotes

  1. See the web page put up by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund for the 504 Sit-In 20th anniversary: http://www.dredf.org/504/504home.html.


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  2. Randy Shaw, The Activist's Handbook: A Primer (Berkeley, 2001): 235.


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  3. Chris Bell, "Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal," in Lennard Davis, ed. The Disability Studies Reader, Second Edition (New York, 2006).


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  4. Laura Briggs, "Activisms and Epistemologies: Problems for Transnationalisms," Social Text (Winter 2008, 26): 79, 81.


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  5. Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston, 2002): 8.


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  6. Richard Scotch provides a thorough discussion of the development of section 504 in From Good Will to Civil Rights: Transforming Federal Disability Policy (Philadelphia, 2001), to which the oral histories in the University of California's Bancroft Library "Disability Rights and Independent Living" series provide a critical supplement, particularly those of Judith Heumann and Mary Lou Breslin. See also Joseph P. Shapiro, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (New York, 1994): 64-65.


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  7. Breslin oral history, Bancroft Library, 117.


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  8. Roberta Ann Johnson, "Mobilizing the Disabled," in Jo Freeman, ed. Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies (N.Y., 1983): 95.


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  9. Cone oral history, Bancroft Library, 118. On the history of the sit-in see Shaw; Sharon Barnartt and Richard Scotch, Disability Protests: Contentious Politics 1970-1999 (Washington, D.C., 2001):160-191; Frieda Zames and Doris Zames Fleischer, The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation (Philadelphia, 2001); Paul K. Longmore, Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability (Philadelphia, 2003): 105-111; and here again the Bancroft oral histories are a key source, especially, in addition to Cone's, Breslin's and Corbett O'Toole's.


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  10. "Disabled in San Francisco Vow to Continue Sit-in," New York Times (Sunday April 17, 1977).


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  11. "We Shall Not Be Moved." Audiotape produced for the twentieth anniversary of the 504 demonstration. Available from DREDF.


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  12. Ed Roberts, testimony in the congressional hearings held inside the occupied federal building, April 15, 1977, transcribed in "Voices of 504," The Independent (Summer 1977). Reprinted online at http://www.dredf.org/504/histvce.html.


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  13. Breslin oral history 123.


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  14. "Handicapped Win Demands: End HEW Occupation," The Black Panther (Sat. May 7 1977): 6. The most vivid and sharply analytic account of this community that I have found is in Corbett O'Toole's as yet unpublished "Stories of Witness and Celebration."


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  15. William Roth's unpublished paper "Disability and the Body Politic" well describes the nexus of social movements in the Bay Area within which the disability rights movement took form.


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  16. Breslin oral history 135.


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  17. Johnson, "Mobilizing the Disabled," 87; Shaw, 240; Zames Fleisher and Zames, 54; Longmore, 107; Barnartt and Scotch, 166; Shapiro, 67; and the brief treatment in the introduction to the special disability history issue of Radical Historian (Winter 2006:2) by editors Teresa Meade and David Serlin. The BPP endorsement was announced by Michael Fultz, who wrote informally to me of his memories of the occupation: "As the editor of the BPP newspaper at the time, I had a fair amount of interaction with various aspects of the Bay Area Left, and I was involved in coordinating bringing hot lunches and/or dinners to the occupation participants. The 'speech' was purely ad hoc - - Elaine Brown, who fully supported the occupation and in the final analysis 'authorized' the BPP involvement, could not attend and asked me to step in. The speech was, shall we say, extemporaneous! The occupation was memorable, for me, because of the sprit of the participants - a sprit which was clearly tied to the self-awareness among a group of disabled individuals - - 'crips,' was one of the names they proudly called themselves (and indeed it was with a sense of pride they called themselves nicknames only one disabled person could call another, and only under certain conditions) - - taking action on their own behalf."


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  18. Take, for example, the queer history of the S.F. 504 demonstration and the disability rights movement of the seventies. The traces of this history can be barely discerned in newsletters produced by Berkeley's groundbreaking Center for Independent Living. The tracks are largely covered. The late Scott Leubking, in the course of writing what would still be, for its time in the 1970s, an unusually frank article on disability and sexuality in CIL's The Independent, agreed to mask his homosexuality by referring to his sexual partners as female, not male (personal communication to the author). When the public documents of the disability rights and independent living movements of this period acknowledge queer/disability intersections, they do so guardedly, as in this tortuous poem published in "The CIL Staff-Membership News" in November 1976: "I think the strange, the crazed, the queer/Will have their holiday this year,/ I think for just a little while/ There will be pity for the wild.// I think in places known and gay,/ In secret clubs and private bars,/ The damned will serenade the damned/ With frantic drums and wild guitars.// I think for some uncertain reason,/ Mercy will be shown this season/To the lovely and misfit,/To the brilliant and deformed 舒// I think they will be housed and warmed/And fed and comforted awhile/Before, with such a tender smile/ The earth destroys her crooked child." T. Williams, "I think the strange, the crazed, the queer," CIL Staff-Membership News (No. 2 Nov. 76): 2. Corbett O'Toole's unpublished retrospective memoir of CIL and 504 organizing, which will flesh out this history, has a very different tone, empowered and exuberant: "The early days of Berkeley CIL were like one big queer city." As in many social justice movements, O'Toole writes, "queers were key planners, organizers, and volunteers when the organization had no money." Structuring her essay around affectionate memories of literal wild parties, O'Toole underscores the festive, sociable and improvisational project that took place in this nexus of movements. "Stories of Witness," 1. Robert McRuer's recent critique of the limits of 504 organizing in his "Bad Education: Queer Bonds, Crip Bonds, and the Limits of Tolerance" (lecture delivered at the Queer Bonds Conference, U.C. Berkeley, February 20, 2009) needs to be supplemented with acknowledgement of these more radical and generous queer aspects of the 504 experience and its politics on the ground. Other histories of identity politics bear on 504 organizing as well. Deaf activists played key roles by communicating press releases to the street through the windows after phone lines were cut off by the police. The leadership by women organizers of the protest is a part of feminist history of the Bay Area in the seventies, as Meade and Serlin point out (2). And so on.


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  19. Barnartt and Scotch, 18, 23-24. Snow's work on frames includes D.A. Snow, E.B. Rochford, S.K. Worder and R.D. Benford, "Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization and Movement Participation," American Sociological Review 51 (August): 464-81, and D.A. Snow and R.D. Benford, "Master Frames and Cycles of Protest," in A.D. Morris and C.M. Mueller, eds. Frontiers in Social Movement Theory (New Haven, 1992):133-55.


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  20. He was mistakenly identified as Dennis Phillips; references to him in later articles would correct the error.


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  21. Huggins uses this inflammatory word quite differently from the version of frame extension to which McWhorter objects: "the increasingly prevalent attempts by whites to fashion "nigger" into a reference to people of all races who display inappropriate behavior, weak character, and slovenly speech. The most memorable recent example was Senator Robert Byrd's controversial remark that 'I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time.' Now, it would be lovely if 'nigger' really did shed any association with a particular race, becoming synonymous with 'wastrel' or 'asshole.' But in our moment, alas, this use of 'nigger' makes me cringe. What I hear in 'white nigger' is 'white person who is so disreputable as to compare with the worst among even black people.' The subtle implication is that the lowly black person is the lowliest person of all." John McWhorter, "The Uses of Ugliness," The New Republic Online 1/03/02. I want to register the distress the word causes — like the word "cripple" as Corbett O'Toole used it above — but for reasons of historical accuracy I have decided not to censor or euphemize these words. In each case the speakers were putting them to transformative use.


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  22. Kitty Cone, interview with the author.


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  23. Kitty Cone, interview.


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  24. "Powerful Protest By Handicapped at H.E.W. — Rights for Disabled At Issue, B.P.P. Lends Support," The Black Panther (Sat. Apr 16 1977): 4.


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  25. "Serve the people" is a phrase derived from Mao; the BPP announced the start of "serve the people" programs in 1968. David Hilliard described the "survival kit" idea: "survival pending revolution…an activity that strengthens us for the coming fight." See Alondra Nelson, "Black Power, Biomedicine, and the Politics of Knowledge," Ph.D. thesis, NYU 2003: 115-124. Nelson's work is a rich resource on the subject of BPP health activism. .


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  26. Dr. Huey P. Newton/Black Panther Party Records, Stanford University, Series 2 Box 17 Folder 7.


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  27. Donald Galloway's oral history in the Bancroft library notes that Brad Lomax received services through CIL: Brad…had one of these disabilities where his joints would be stiff and his whole body would be rigid. We would go and provide him with attendant care and transportation because we had a small transportation system going. We had a fleet of vans going out to the community" (81).


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  28. Donald Galloway, oral history, Bancroft library.


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  29. Mary Lester, oral history in Bancroft, 91.


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  30. Johnnie Lacy, oral history in Bancroft, 104.


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  31. The Black Panther Research Project at Stanford includes the "East Oakland Center for Independent Living" in its "List of Panther Community Programs, 1966-1982." An internal Panther list of Party Members as of Feb. 15, 1979 lists Brad Lomax under "EOC [Educational Opportunities Corporation]/Programs," with no further comment. Dr. Huey P. Newton/Black Panther Party Records, Series 2 Box 4 Folder 6.


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  32. This platform, reprinted in this version in every issue of the Black Panther newspaper after March 1972, is analyzed by Nelson, 124.


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  33. "Pushing Limits: The Black Panthers and Disability," Radio Broadcast with Leroy Moore, Kiilu Nayasha and Malcolm Samuels, Feb 2004, KPFA. But of course the disability rights demonstrators who occupied the HEW building were on the whole very young too.


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  34. Daniel Perlstein, "Minds Stayed on Freedom: Politics and Pedagogy in the African American Freedom Struggle," Radical Teacher 69 (23-28): 26.


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  35. Quoted in Nelson, 150.


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  36. "Nursing Homes — Ghettos for the Elderly," The Black Panther (Sat. Mar 13, 1976).


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  37. Nelson, 201.


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  38. David Hilliard and Lewis Cole, This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party (Boston, 1993): 383.


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  39. "Handicapped Win Demands: End H.E.W. Occupation," 6.


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  40. http://disweb.org.cda/memorials/Memory_p1.html#L. The entry, posted by Ken Stein, was not written by him. I have been unable to determine its author.


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  41. "Disabled bodies are political," William Roth has written in his account of the developing Bay Area disability rights movement and its relation to other social movements at the time: "political in demanding changes to the discourse that constructs disability, political in demanding changes to the structures…that in some measure create disability and make [it] unnecessarily burdensome, political in calling for a stop to some change by representing human embodiment in the face of 'progress.'" In this way, Roth argues, "disabled bodies have the virtues and necessities of rebellion." If, as Roth claims, Brad Lomax's body was "inherently political," Lomax himself made politics out of it. Roth writes that "the same power that subdued the 60s subdued the disabled body, sometimes even killing it as by poverty, starvation, lack of health care, pressures toward suicide." But at the same time, Roth notes, "power's gaze was often elsewhere." On Huey Newton, for instance, not Brad Lomax, whose death made no headlines. Roth, "The Body Politic," unpublished talk given at the Society for Disability Studies 2000 (Chicago). My thanks to Corbett O'Toole for this reference.


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  42. HPN/BPP Records at Stanford, Series 2 Box 4 Folder 19. "Joan" is Joan Kelley, who was administrator of BPP survival programs at the time.


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  43. Michael Fultz, personal communication to the author.


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  44. Leroy Moore, personal communication to the author.


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  45. Diane Nelson, A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatamala (Berkeley, 1999): 37, 348. Briggs, 92. Nelson cites Mark Driscoll's unpublished work as the source of the term "fluidarity."


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  46. Compare Kathleen Cleaver on women in the BPP: "ask yourself, where did the image of the Black Panthers you have in your head come from? Did you read those articles planted by the FBI in the newspaper? Did you listen to the newscasters who announced what they decided was significant, usually, how many Panthers got arrested or killed? How many photographs of women Panthers have you seen? Think about this: how many newspaper photographers were women?" Cleaver, "Women, Power, and Revolution," in Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, eds. Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy (New York, 2001): 125-126.


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Copyright (c) 2011 Susan Schweik



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