“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past week, George Martin and Allison Hammond of The Arcadia Institute, along with Jill Angell (Program Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo) and Josh Stephens (Chair of the Regional Interagency Consumer Council (RICC)) took a trip to be with people from communities in Georgia. We were guests of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). The purpose of the trip was to share the Community Participation Initiative with people in Georgia. (A report of the trip will be in a future blog.)
While we were in Atlanta, Dottie Adam of the GCDD, took us to visit the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor until his death in 1968. The church, now part of the National Parks Service, is a memorial to Dr. King. It is a very moving tribute to the man who worked his entire life on behalf of those who were marginalized, disregarded and discriminated against. One cannot help but be inspired to work toward the inclusion of people with disabilities in real community life just as Dr. King and his followers championed desegregation.
The Arcadia Institute and its partners in Building a Community of Belonging continue to work toward connecting individual gifts of people with disabilities to the community for the very reason Dr. King was talking about in the quote above. We cannot be the strongest community possible when we marginalize people with disabilities by separating them into special programs or places. We need everyone participating in and contributing to our community; otherwise, we are truly missing valuable pieces of ourselves. As Ryan McGraw, former Community Participation Initiative Assistant once said, “A person with a disability is just like everyone else. They want to live it up. They want to live their lives with the same joys as everyone else.”