By Maria R. Palacios, Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 2019)
Oh my beautiful young disabled people —my precious ones,
I come to you
with hands full of life experience,
and a heart full of love…love for you,
my darling criplings, whose disabled lives are just beginning,
and whose unique beauty
is just sprouting into the force you can become.
Never doubt your personal magnificence
even when the world may fail to see it as such,
instead they will rely too much
on ableist measures of success.
They will lead you to believe you’re less
because you’re disabled.
They will want you to think
that being disabled is bad,
that disability is a dirty word.
They will want to hide you from the world.
Please know that you deserve to be here
even though nobody is telling you that yet.
Don’t believe what the non-disabled world says.
—Don’t believe what it says about your body, about your differences,
about your non-normative mind and your revolutionary being.
Don’t listen to what they say because to them, being
disabled equals being broken
or a token of inspiration to those who are afraid of us.
Don’t believe what they say.
Lean against the murals of our disability rights history
and listen to the heartbeat of the advocacy that led us to this moment we share right now.
Please believe the disabled elders who have been there,
honor the disabled people who came before you,
the ones who survived decades of ableist oppression,
the ones whose scars can teach you
that scars are the beauty marks of our survival.
Lean on the force of our experience
knowing that as disabled people
fighting for equality will always mean
having to go beneath the roots of all other movements
because every movement will leave us behind,
for let’s not forget
that while Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of the bus,
disabled people were not even allowed on the bus.
We’ve been denied a seat at every table
and we’re still fighting to be able
to find ourselves reflected
in the success stories of people like us,
and to see beauty in bodies like ours.
The nondisabled world will assume that you can’t.
The non disabled world will assume that you won’t.
But you will learn that you can.
And you will learn that you will
in your own terms, at your own pace.
You will reach the mountaintop of your own advocacy
and share your own legacy of life-changing truths.
Assume that you can.
Assume that you will.
Assume that you must
be driven by your own passions
and the power of your voice, the power of your vote,
your untold stories of survival.
You, my precious criplings,
you are the ones who will change the world
for other disabled people after the elders are gone,
after the seasons change like they always change.
Don’t be afraid to share your truths and leave your mark.
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are LOVED.