Statement from the Lead On Network on the Orlando Shooting

We at the Lead On Network are devastated and saddened by the horrible events at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday morning. Reports state that 49 people were killed and 53 are injured. It is being called the deadliest shooting in American history.   We at the Lead On Network agree whole heartedly with President Obama that this “was an act of terror and an act of hate.”

Regardless of the specific motivations of the killer, what is clear is his choice of target: the LGBTQ+ community. In cities across the country, June is a month for Pride; it is a time for celebration and solidarity. In the movement toward inclusion and tolerance, LGBTQ+ nightclubs have a standing history as a place of safety, affirmation, and empowerment. Unfortunately, on Sunday, one man decided that 103 people in Orlando were not worthy of respect, were not worthy of their humanity, and were not worthy of their lives.

Extremist beliefs have been and continue to be used to justify hate crimes, and this kind of violence — a hate-motivated attack against LGBTQ individuals — is far too common. It has become so ubiquitous that more than 54% of LGBTQ individuals say they’re concerned about being the victim of a hate crime. Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and violence-laden sentiments are a common part of American culture. We see it in people’s homes, on the streets, in schools, and sadly in our economic and political institutions.

This recurring pattern of devaluing and dehumanizing people who are LGBTQ+ or Latinos, like those who were enjoying their night out at Pulse in Orlando, or any other marginalized group,  is the heart of America’s problem.  As Americans, we cannot say that we care for the rights of any individuals unless we speak out against hatred, bigotry, and discrimination in all its forms; unless we work to assure justice for all people, and unless we recognize the value of every person’s life.

Violence is the legacy of intolerance, and the status quo is unacceptable.

At this time of crisis, we recognize that the divisive impact of all forms of bigotry and prejudice, and affirm and celebrate human diversity. We are all in this together.

Lastly, while we share in the grief of a nation at this preventable loss of life, let us continue to reshape our nation and take action to create a space that is steeped in the core values of inclusion, tolerance and love.

Let us continue to gather and to celebrate our true selves remembering the words of Harvey Milk, that all people “regardless of sexual orientation or identity deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

Let us demand action to avert such acts of horror as took place this Sunday, and call on policymakers to address access to the tools of such violence, such as the acquisition of a weapon that lets someone shoot large numbers of people. Our task must also be to organize against any policymakers that have used hate as a platform and who continue to take the concerns of the gun lobby more seriously than that of the American people. We must also call on them, and all Americans, to examine and take action against the underlying issues of intolerance, discrimination, and hate that not only exist but have been amplified in our political, economic, and social systems.

One of our favorite intersectional leaders, Danielle Moodie-Mills said it best,

“It’s not enough for us to be outraged today and ignore the fact that we have the power to stop this type of carnage and disrespect.

Our power is our voice.

Our power is our vote.

Together we win.”

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6 Reasons Why You Hate NC’s Anti-Trans Legislation

By now you have likely heard of the recent legislation passed in North Carolina causing a backlash from the LGBT Community as well as many other allies in the civil rights community. North Carolina’s HB2 is controversial not only for the fact that it was designed specifically to reverse protections granted to the trans community to have access to bathrooms without persecution, but also because it was passed in a special session that seems to have had no other goal than to disenfranchise this group.

It is not just happenstance that most of the civil rights community has spoken against this law, but here are some reasons the disability community should find it exceptionally distasteful:

  1. Insult to injury – HB2 has been offered by the North Carolina Legislature as a means of protecting the rights of North Carolinians, from being discriminated against by its transgender citizens, making HB2, likely the most significant piece of discriminatory legislation shrouded in righteousness since the inclusion of the Jesse Helms Box in the American s with Disabilities Act. (Another banner day for North Carolina.)
  1. Scumbag LegislatorScumbag Steve - Promises equal rights to NC Citizens, Decides rights for LGBT folk is discrimination The references to HB2 are also all titles that a common sense person would never consider changing, much less pay attention to like “Wage and Hour” or “Multiple Occupancy Bathroom facilities” Though the obvious goal of the bill is to protect North Carolinians from Transgender Citizens this important closed door issue wasn’t so important that they needed to be honest in the title.
  1. Crabs in a Barrel – HB2 does not apply to people using bathrooms (1) For custodial purposes, for maintenance or inspection purposes, to render medical assistance, or to accompany a person needing assistance. This deference being paid to caregivers is definitely a testament to the work of disability advocates, but it seems to assume that the disability community will be satisfied with discrimination of others as long as they can have their PA or caregiver. Not only is this a blatant attempt to create a hierarchy of civil rights and access among the civil rights communities, it makes one wonder if the North Carolina Legislature is even aware of the LGBT population that also consider themselves people with disabilities.
  1. Systematic Discrimination – In another parallel with civil rights and specifically disability rights legislation, HB2 addresses all Agencies, boards, offices, departments, and institutions of the executive branch, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System. Much like the Rehab Act or the ADA, North Carolina seeks to make this discriminatory law a part of the state culture and general norms. By making this policy a part of schooling it means that not only will be we discriminating we will be teaching future generations to hate as well. Even state and county contractors may not be compelled to act decently by the details of their contracts meaning this will be a cemented part of the North Carolina employment culture as well.
  1. quitting - some people wish they knew how [image 2 cowboys from Brokeback mountain]Why Can’t We Quit You – Not only has NC passed this crap legislation they have made it exceptionally difficult for it to be undone or even challenged. HB2 has a provisions saying that it “supersedes and preempts” any other law or legislation and that “no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.” This should bring rage to any of us that watched the ADA, Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act be sapped of their efficacy but legislation like this gets to sit on a pedestal.
  1. You Shall Not PassGandalf the Grey shouting You shall not pass!In addition to addressing the right of trans individuals to use the
    bathrooms of choice at school, it addresses the issue of bathrooms at work by not only removing access to bathrooms but also employment. HB2 removed many of the ordinances that could protect LGBT North Carolina Citizens from being fired because of their identity. As if matters could not get even worse, HB2 has the capacity to unravel protections that have been enacted to protect any marginalized groups in North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer notes specifically that the law affects “how people can pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap [sic], sending those claims through the federal system instead of state courts. The law also means a city or county cannot set a minimum wage standard for private employers.”

The choice that the North Carolina Legislature has made is a bad choice and should not be supported by anyone who believes in inclusion or equality. Considering the importance of access to the disability community, such a blatant restriction on public facilities should raise an ADAPT sized rally of red flags, but it also points to the short memory of the North Carolina legislature. We have all seen these restrictions before placed upon lunch counters, water fountains, schools and ultimately the workplace as well. They represent the most heinous discriminatory practices that have been utilized to marginalize any American that fits into the box of the other. Like those other cases, these restrictions are being placed upon citizens of the state. These are not strangers these are not criminals, these are not immigrants. North Carolina is seeking the restrict their trans citizens from using facilities  and participating in an employment system that the Trans community in North Carolina has paid for. They have paid with their personal investment in their homes, their dedication to their community, but most importantly with their tax dollars, and have as much a right to the usage of these facilities as any other citizen of the State.

If you are a member of the disability community you have 6 reasons listed above to cause you to foam at the mouth about HB2, but in reality you only need one: In one of his most famous quotes, Martin Luther King Jr. compares justice to a well made shirt (and if you are wondering it was Jesus’s shirt). When crucified, Jesus clothes were split among his guards, but his shirt could not be split because it was woven out of one piece, so instead of tearing it (which would ruin the shirt) the guards placed bets on it to see who would get the garment. Normally we use this quote to denote how if we unravel or tear a part of a garment we will ruin it, in the same way that if we unravel or tear a part of our freedom we will ruin that as well.  This quite also points to another truth that is as true today as it was in MLK’s time. Much like those guards, we are competing to see who will have possession of our freedom. We must take this game seriously if we are going to win because rest assured, everyone is vying to take that garment of freedom – of destiny– away.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



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Black #Disability History: Bobby Coward, Advocate

Bobby CowardIt is still hard to believe that it has been more than a year since the passing of Bobby Coward. A mainstay in the DC. Disability advocacy scene, Bobby Coward was a tireless advocate for wheelchair-equipped taxicabs, wheelchair lifts on public buses and wheelchair access to public housing and especially increasing the quality of life for all individuals with disabilities. He served as the Executive Director of Direct Action but was probably best known (and feared) as the head of Capitol Area ADAPT. With a significant focus on transit policy, Bobby was a key voice in the discussion of accessible transportation, and in a major city like DC, he was a force that did not allow individuals with disabilities to be ignored in the conversation.

As we have mentioned before, Bobby epitomized constant vigilance, and for a significant time was the name when considering disability advocates that were also members of the Black Community. Though serious about our work and engagement, Bobby still always had time for the growing parade of young people seeking to learn more about their place in the disability movement.

To learn more about Bobby, interrogate any of our colleagues at @NationalADAPT or read his obituary here.


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Black #Disability History: Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, Inspired Teacher

Martha Louise Morrow Foxx (Oct. 9, 1902 – 1985)

“She developed in all her students’ self-reliance so that they could eagerly look forward to the time when they could support themselves out in the world”

A young african american woman with glasses in a white knee-length dress in a garden

Image: Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, a young African American woman with glasses in a white knee-length dress in a garden

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Martha Louise Morrow became partially sighted in infancy. An avid student studied at Governor Morehead School for the Blind, followed by Overbrook School for the Blind in 1917, after her family moved to Philadelphia. She graduated in 1927 and began college at Temple University. However, after only one year, she moved to Mississippi to work at the Piney Woods Country Life School.

The Piney Woods School was founded in 1909 by Laurence C. Jones in rural Rankin County, Mississippi, which had an eighty percent illiteracy rate, as a place to teach young black men and women how to be good workers.  Jones taught students about agriculture, carpentry, dairy farming and construction. But with the arrival of Martha Louise Morrow,  the Mississippi Blind School for Negroes was founded on the campus. Prior to this time, there was no formal education for black, blind students in the state of Mississippi.

Martha Louise Morrow was hired in April 1929. Less than a month later She was responsible for the 24/7 care of 10 blind students  – their personal care, medical attention, residential needs, and educational services. She was teacher, headmistress, nurse, cook, principal, everything.  She ensured they were afforded the same experiences as their sighted counterparts, and were held to the same expectations, including completing assigned chores and job assignments.

Knowledgeable music, Morrow was asked to help organize a blind quartet known as the Cotton Blossom Singers, to gain financial support and fundraise for the school. After their graduation, those youth would become the nucleus of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

She married Alexander Foxx in 1937.

From Wikipedia: “Foxx’s teaching philosophy embraced a very modern dynamic of learning outside the walls of the classroom and of incorporating nature into lessons. She often took the children into the surrounding woods to hunt for plums and to pick wild berries. Ernestine Archie, a graduate of the school’s first class of 1934, recalled Foxx’s determination that the visually handicapped students be allowed to enjoy outings just as the sighted students did and that their senses of touch, taste, sound and smell made up for the deficiency in sight.”

Because of her philosophy, tenacity, and extraordinary work, as an innovative educator and trail-blazing teacher,  Martha Louise Morrow Fox laid a foundation for the education of black, blind students in Mississippi that leaves a legacy to this day.

You can read more about her here:

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Black #Disability History: Daymond John, Entrepreneur

Daymond Garfield John (Feb. 23, 1969 – )

“My mother always said, ‘It takes the same energy to think small as it does to think big, so dream big and think bigger.”

Image: Daymond John; a bald African American man in a dark suit, white shirt and silver tie

Image: Daymond John; a bald African American man in a dark suit, white shirt and silver tie

Daymond John might be most familiar to folks as one of the investors on Shark Tank, but in addition, he is an entrepreneur, author and founder/president/CEO of the clothing line FUBU.

John’s progress in school was uneven. He would excel in math and science, yet would struggle with reading. “Literally, I couldn’t spell the word ‘because’ for 4 or 5 years. I wouldn’t know how to spell my middle name, Garfield. When I read a book, I got tired.” He had severe dyslexia, a learning disability.

John credits his high school’s cooperative program, where students worked full-time one week and went to school the next with fostering his entrepreneurial spirit. Skilled in creative and analytical thinking, he focused on his strengths, eventually founding the urban apparel company he named FUBU (For Us By Us). It all started in 1992 with John sewing simple tie-top hats out of his childhood home for $10 apiece. Today, the brand is worth over $6 billion.

You can read about Daymond John and his dyslexia here:

You can read about how Daymond John started FUBU here:

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Black #Disability History: Leroy F. Moore Jr., Poet, Krip-Hop Artist, and Community Historian

Leroy F. Moore Jr. (1967 – )

Leroy F. Moore Jr. is an African American writer, poet, activist, and community historian. He was born with cerebral palsy to an activist family in New York, and from the beginning has been aware of and advocated with reference and reverence to both of his identities, as a black man, and as a man with a disability.

He is notable for the creation of Krip Hop – a movement that uses hip-hop music as a means of expression for people with a disability.

Image: Leroy Moore, arms crossed

Image: Leroy Moore, arms crossed

Krip-Hop Nation came from my experiences as a young Black disabled boy growing up in the late 1970’s and 80’s in a White suburb of Connecticut. Always being the only Black disabled youth in almost everything I did from special education to being mainstreamed, from playing with White non-disabled kids in my neighborhood to my early days in activism with my parents, to my many years of volunteering in disability non-profits to college classes In all of these experiences I always had the same question: Where were the other people who looked like me as a Black disabled young man? With this continuous question of race and disability along with my love of poetry and music, I started to question the arena of music and performance around the representation of musicians with disabilities, especially disabled musicians of color.

Since the 1990s, Moore has written the column “Illin-N-Chillin” for POOR Magazine. Moore is also a co-founder & community relations point person with Sins Invalid: a San Francisco performance arts collective on disability and sexuality that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized from social discourse. Additionally, he currently serves as the Chair of the Black Disability Studies Committee for the National Black Disability Coalition.

You can read more about Leroy Moore here:

You can read more about Krip-Hop here:

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