I have dressed up as a lot of things over the years for Halloween but nothing is as frightening as my face as an advocate/activist. My Halloween costumes come off at the end of the day and are just reflective of my mood at that particular moment in time where as my activism isn’t a costume. It’s under the service of everything I wear.
One year I attended a community event dressed as a bag of garbage which consisted of wearing a very large bag with all kinds of paper products stuck around the hole my head went through. I had spend months collecting the cardboard tubing from paper/toilet paper roles which all appeared to be sticking out of a tied off garbage bag.
I was also carrying a black Sharpie in the event I might want to leave a message somewhere with one of those tubes. Using the tubes was my way of stressing how voiceless the marginalized can be and that we are not throw away garbage.
I was attending a function in one of the local community centres which I was very familiar with so I had a few tubes already prepared. I had met with facility management numerous times regarding access problems to no avail. So I did have a few prepared message tubes that I left scatter around the facility more as an awareness raising exercise for the general public rather than the community centre. One, a long tube from paper towels, contained instructions on why the disabled bathroom stall would work so much better if the door opened from the outside. The problem with their design was once you pulled your wheelchair into the stall (the stall door swung inwards) you couldn’t close the door because your wheelchair blocked it.
When I pulled up to the bar to order drinks I facetiously whipped out my Sharpie to use a toilet paper tube with the message “could you lower the bar a little bit” as I stared eye level with the top of the bar table. Twenty years later the irony behind that statement isn’t lost on me. It reverberated on so many levels. To this day I go into places like Original Joe’s to find a restaurant full of raised bar tables with two wheelchair level tables stuck in the back corner I think of that “lowering the bar” tube.
I can wear a lot of costumes and present a lot of faces but the one thing that is most consistent for me is my advocacy face. That’s bred into my DNA and has gone past the costume level. I have been asked if I have ever been given an Aspergers diagnosis due to the bluntness of my responses. It has nothing to do with Aspergers but more due to do with years of frustration wearing a mask of politeness while attending hundreds of committee meetings so we can still be discussing the issues of the 80’s.
Halloween is a time when I should be able to take the day off, don a costume and pretend to be something I’m not. For the last number of years when people ask what I’m going to dress as I tell them I will wear a suit jacket and go as Rick Hansen.
I have spend a lot of years as an advocate/activist. My involvement goes back over generations not years. I have lived most of what some refer to as ancient history. Obtaining the right to have an accessible education system is not “ancient history” to me. The battles and gains fought throughout the 70’s and 80’s need to be recognized. As the new generation of advocates starts to take over they have to recognize their history and that history didn’t begin at their birth.
This isn’t a make believe Halloween day activity. In real life we need to be advocates every day and in every situation, not just when it affects you. Demanding something because it works for you is more about entitlement, maintaining advances made while demanding more improvement because it is best for the whole of the community is advocacy. Are you an advocate or is this your Halloween mask you put on when needed?
And for the record never dress up in something that keeps you from using the toilet when you need to. It may look really cute at the time but it’s not so cute when you’re standing there (sitting in my situation) staring at the toilet while wondering “how the hell do I get out of this bag”.
Just one mans’ opinion…