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Dozens of rainbow-clad people marched, rode, and rolled through Philadelphia on Saturday, waving signs beneath a light drizzle as they took part in Disability PA’s 10th annual Disability Pride Parade.
Anomie Fatale, this year’s Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania USA, said she’s attended the pride event for years, and even performed there as a musician. She was thrilled to be back in person, since the last couple years have been virtual.
“It feels like the world’s coming back … finally seeing everybody out here together for the first time since 2019. It’s a beautiful thing,” Fatale said. “I know we’re still in the pandemic right now. But we’re finding ways to pull through, and that really means a lot because we are really stronger when we’re together.”
Chloe Leon, who said she’d never been to a locally-organized queer disabled event, wanted to celebrate with people who are also intersectionally marginalized.
“[We’re] so excited, incredibly excited,” said Leon, who attended with their partner and another friend. “There are many resources, and we already made friends — like, immediately — so it’s definitely amazing.”
The march culminated with a festival at Thomas Paine Plaza, next to the Municipal Services Building and City Hall. Various tents and stands offered kids’ activities, a COVID vaccine clinic, and health and community-building resources.
Disability Pride PA Vice President Izzy Kaufman helped organize the event.
“I think what inspired it was injustice for people with disabilities, just for the world is really not built for us. There’s a lot of ableism out there,” said Kaufman, who got involved with the group about six years ago. “I think getting together and having fun and just being ourselves is a way of gaining power, and just creating strength.”
Disability Pride PA is also hosting its first Pittsburgh celebration on July 23. Kaufman said there are plans in the future to expand to Central Pa.
The Philly march and festival were part of the city’s Disability Pride Week. Celebrations kicked off Monday with a raising of the flag created by the national group American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT). It’s a U.S. flag that includes the universal access symbol — a person in a wheelchair — made up of stars.
Throughout the week, Disability Pride PA also held a social justice sign-making event, sexual health workshops, and a screening of the film “Then Barbara Met Alan,” which covers the lives of disability activists who helped create the group’s first celebration in 2012.
Saturday’s event brought out some impressive artists; the festival included performances by Philly’s own Dannie Ocean and New York City-based Lachi.
A singer and songwriter, Lachi is the co-founder of Recording Artists and Music Professionals With Disabilities, which defines “disability culture” as a celebration of identity and each person’s inherent and equal worth.
In Philadelphia this weekend, she performed a dance music set of her latest releases, including her upcoming song “Bad Choices.”
“As a blind Black woman in America, I believe it essential to find confidence in one’s full identity and to celebrate one’s full self,” Lachi told Billy Penn. “I once concealed my disability for fear of society’s reaction, but now that I openly identify as a proud blind woman, I am free to honor my truth, pursue my purpose, and hopefully be a role model to those coming after me.”
People like Temple University student and longtime disability advocate Shawn Aleong, who was beyond happy to be at the event with fellow advocates.
“The fact is that people with disabilities deserve the same rights as everyone else,” Aleong said. “So this Disability Pride is to celebrate and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, to let them know that we cannot say a nation for all people and not include everyone.”