Self-advocates from across the state gathered in downtown St. Paul last month to celebrate disability rights, human rights and the joy of being together. From the opening sing-a-long to the participatory workshops to the dance to the closing proclamation, the crowd was charged up. “This wasn’t the outdated model of boring workshops, where experts lead and a passive audience nods—and nods off,” said planning team member Brian Jensen. Adults and transition-aged youth with disabilities, as well as allies, took turns teaching and learning, presenting and listening, leading and following.
Clearly, self-advocacy has many faces. Workshops like Brian Heuring’s “I Can Speak for Myself” focused on self-advocacy skills of personal power. Other sessions, like “Theatre for Life,” put on by Self-Advocates Minnesota Southwest Chapter, stressed a different kind of self-advocacy: community involvement and social change. Then there was just plain fun, like the Friday evening dance with band “Sons of the Beach.”
Self-advocate Gail Larson from Bemidji summed up the spirit of this grassroots movement, “Everyone who came was involved. We all came to contribute.”
For more information on the biennial conference, visit www.selfadvocacy.org