Due to water damage, our building is closed for repairs. We are continuing all our operations remotely and from a temporary office space until further notice.

March 1, 2021: Chicago Observes National Disability Day of Mourning


March 1, 2021 | by Amber Smock

Chicago Observes National Disability Day of Mourning

March 1, 2021

Access Living friends and allies:

Today, March 1, is the National Disability Day of Mourning. Each year, we pause to honor the memories of people with disabilities murdered by their families and caregivers. Here in Chicago, we’d like to amplify the leadership of local disability leaders holding a gathering today. The Chicago celebration will also include remembrance of those who have died of Covid-19 as well as due to police violence. Read on for more.

Chicago Disability Community Commemorates Lives of Disabled Filicide, COVID-19, and Police Violence Victims

For Immediate Release
Local Contact: Timotheus Gordon, Jr.
Email: chicagolanddpocc@gmail.com

CHICAGO, IL – As part of a nationwide Day of Mourning, disability rights and disability justice advocates in the Chicagoland area will be holding a vigil on Monday, March 1st to honor the lives of disabled people murdered by their families and caretakers. The vigil is supported by the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), UIC Disability Cultural Center, Coalition of Autistic and Neurodivergent Students (CANS), Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition (Chicagoland DPOCC), and the Autism Program of Illinois (TAP).

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people while advancing the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism, has compiled a list of over 1300 reported murders of people with disabilities by relatives or caregivers over the last 40 years. The total number of killings is likely higher than the amount which is reported in the news. This problem is made worse by irresponsible news coverage which presents these murders as the sympathetic acts of loving and desperate parents, by a justice system which often gives a lighter sentence to a parent who kills a disabled child, and by the dangerous cultural prejudice that says a disabled life is not worth living.

ASAN held the first Day of Mourning in 2012 as a response to the murder of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old autistic man from California, by his mother. ASAN has continued to organize the event each year, partnering with other disability rights groups including Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, ADAPT, and the American Association of People with Disabilities. Day of Mourning is a national event, with 30-40 participating cities each year.

Little public attention is paid to the disabled victims of these violent acts. Media coverage and public discourse about such killings frequently justify them as “understandable” and sometimes “merciful,” rather than appropriately condemning these crimes and those who commit them. The national day of mourning is a time for the disability community to commemorate the many lives cut short. By honoring disabled victims of murder and celebrating the lives that they lived, these vigils send a message that disability is not a justification for violence.

The Chicago vigil will be held virtually. The event is free and open to the public; doors open at 5:30 pm. The vigil will begin at 6:00pm; it will consist of a brief background of the purpose behind Disability Community Day of Mourning, reading of names of disabled victims of murders in 2020-21, and a section where people could speak out and reflect on the vigil in an open mic format. We will also remember people with disabilities who died of COVID-19 and as a result of police violence in 2020-21, along with leaders in the disability community that we have lost in that time frame.

To register for the event, visit go.uic.edu.

Live captioning and ASL interpreters will be provided. If you need any other accommodations, contact Timotheus Gordon Jr. at chicagolanddpoc@gmail.com.

Please share with other interested advocates.