From the JFA Moderator:
Laura Hershey, Poet, Writer, and Activist Dies
It is with great sadness that I report the death of Laura Hershey. Laura died on November 26th after a short illness. A poet, writer, and activist, Laura Hershey's life has enriched our world and her absence is deeply felt. Her partner, Robin, and daughter Shannon will remain in my heart during this difficult time.
From Jessica Lehman fellow disability rights activist:
Laura was at the cutting edge of disability rights, recognizing and exploring intersections of disability and sexuality, gender, race, class, gender identity, and more. Through her powerful, loving, and thought-provoking words, she changed the way many of us think and helped us explore and develop new ideas. Laura contributed so very much to the disability rights movement, in part through her own works, and in part through supporting dozens (hundreds?) of others to be more effective activists.
With love and peace to Robin, Shannon, and all who were touched by Laura's life.
Here are a couple of Laura's incredible poems. For those who didn't have the chance to know Laura, I hope they at least have a chance to appreciate her powerful work.
You can also read more at www.laurahershey.com
You Get Proud by Practicing
by Laura Hershey
If you are not proud
For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop
To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing
With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.
You can get proud.
You do not need
A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
To be proud.
You do not need
A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.
You do not need
To be able to walk, or see, or hear,
Or use big, complicated words,
Or do any of those things that you just can’t do
To be proud. A caseworker
Cannot make you proud,
Or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud by practicing.
There are many many ways to get proud.
You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,
Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried
You can show
Something you’ve made
To someone you respect
And be happy with it no matter
What they say.
You can say
What you think, though you know
Other people do not think the same way, and you can
keep saying it, even if they tell you
You are crazy.
You can add your voice
All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
Power makes you proud, and power
Comes in many fine forms
Supple and rich as butterfly wings.
It is music
when you practice opening your mouth
And liking what you hear
Because it is the sound of your own
It is sunlight
When you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
Translating the Crip
Copyright 2010 by Laura Hershey
November 12, 2010
Can I translate myself to you?
Do I need to?
Do I want to?
When I say crip I mean flesh-proof power, flash mob sticks and wheels in busy intersections, model mock.
When I say disability I mean all the brilliant ways we get through the planned fractures of the world.
When I say living in America today I mean thriving and unwelcome, the irony of the only possible time and place.
When I say cure I mean erase. I mean eradicate the miracle of error.
When I say safe I mean no pill, no certified agency, no danger to myself court order, no supervisory setting, no nurse, can protect or defend or save me, if you deny me power.
When I say public transportation I mean we all pay, we all ride, we all wait. As long as necessary.
When I say basic rights I mean difficult curries, a fancy-knotted scarf, a vegetable garden. I mean picking up a friend at the airport. I mean two blocks or a continent with switches or sensors or lightweight titanium, well-maintained and fully-funded. I mean shut up about charity, the GNP, pulling my own weight, and measuring my carbon footprint. I mean only embrace guaranteed can deliver real equality.
When I say high-quality personal assistance services I mean her sure hands earning honorably, and me eating and shitting without anyone's permission.
When I say nondisabled I mean all your precious tricks.
When I say nondisabled privilege I mean members-only thought processes, and the violence of stairs.
By dancing I mean of course dancing. We dance without coordination or hearing, because music wells through walls. You're invited, but don't do us any favors.
When I say sexy I mean our beautiful crip bodies, broken or bent, and whole. I mean drooling from habit and lust. I mean slow, slow.
When I say family I mean all the ways we need each other, beyond your hardening itch and paternal property rights, our encumbering love and ripping losses. I mean everything ripples.
When I say normal I don't really mean anything.
When I say sunset, rich cheese, promise, breeze, or iambic pentameter, I mean exactly the same things you mean.
Or, when I say sunset I mean swirling orange nightmare. When I say rich cheese I mean the best food I can still eat, or else I mean poverty and cholesterol. When I say promise I mean my survival depends on crossed digits. When I say breeze I mean finally requited desire. When I say iambic pentameter, I mean my heart's own nameless rhythm.
When I say tell the truth I mean complicate. Cry when it's no longer funny.
When I say crip solidarity I mean the grad school exam and the invisible man. I mean signed executive meetings, fighting for every SSI cent.
When I say challenges to crip solidarity I mean the colors missing from grant applications, the songs absent from laws. I mean that for all my complaints and victories, I am still sometimes more white than crip.
When I say anything I know the risk: You will accuse me of courage. I know your language all too well, steeped in its syntax of overcoming adversity and limited resources. When I say courage I mean you sitting next to me, talking, both of us refusing to compare or hate ourselves.
When I say ally I mean I'll get back to you. And you better be there.
We love you, Laura.