The chants were thunderous and powerful, pressing against the walls of the hallway with their urgency. I couldn’t hear my own voice in the mass of sound, but I knew I was contributing to the audible force by the vibrations and slight burning I felt in my throat.
I didn’t know these people, aside from the two women on either side of me whose voices, I assumed, were joining my own, even though I couldn’t hear them specifically. One of the women sat strong and proud in her red scooter, her foot hitting my leg every now and again to convey to me that she was still beside me since my blindness prevented me from seeing her. The arm of the other woman kept brushing mine, and I knew she was nervous. I sent her reassuring smiles even though I was nervous myself, but we knew we were doing the right thing. Although the word “arrested” is scary, the word “inequality” is scarier.
“Don’t cut Medicaid! Save our liberty!” we chanted, a tumultuous wave of sound.
The voices lifted me up with their intensity, buoying me into a current of security despite the fact that police officers were going to escort us out of the Dirksen Senate Office Building at any moment. We were all friends in a movement: some of us visibly disabled, some of us invisibly disabled, others not disabled at all, but everyone understanding the life-threatening severity. Some of us had just come from the hospital, masks on our faces. We were fighters together because we did not want to experience what would happen if we did nothing.
In the fight for civil rights for people with disabilities and all minorities, doing nothing is not an option. The smiles and laughs that I shared with the two women with whom I got arrested represented a true moment of golden happiness as we waited to be released by the Capitol Police. This joy was multiplied the following day when we learned that the bill we had been protesting had died. As justice triumphed that day, I knew I wanted my life to center around striving toward inclusion, working toward equal opportunity for the diverse tapestry that is humanity.
I have also recently been considering the possibility that we as a movement will not always win the individual battles. Sometimes harmful bills will pass, and the microaggressions and the countless isms (sexism, racism, ableism) will reveal just how strong they are in molding beliefs in today’s world. During those times, it is just important for all of us as activists to come together to strategize and plan for our next steps, and to support one another as we pick up the pieces from the inequality, which we are yet again facing. But we know that we were built to survive, and we will.
Whether my future finds me passionately advocating for a case in the front of a courtroom, or working tirelessly to pass critical bills, my career will involve minorities empowering one another in a collective intersectional chorus of voices to do what is right. It is time for society to stop turning its back on the ones who can make it stronger.