Announcing the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative

 A woman pauses her conversation with two other people to smile at the camera.

Northwest Health Foundation is excited to announce the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will convene leaders from across our region to discuss how to ensure the voices and experiences of people with disabilities, particularly people of color with disabilities, are represented by decision-makers. They'll also discuss how disabled people can build collective power in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Over 100 people applied to be a part of the Collaborative, demonstrating the need for investment in this area. We invited 16 of them to meet four times over the course of the next six months.

We sought leaders who expressed an interest in exploring and learning more about Disability Justice, who are already involved in efforts to build power in their communities, and who bring lived experience around intersectional identities and want to be part of a larger conversation about intersectionality. All the Collaborative participants identify as disabled people of color, representing Asian-Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Muslim and Native communities. Our participants also identify in other ways, including queer, transgendered, gender non-conforming, youth, houseless, multi-racial, immigrant, refugee and rural.

The work of this Collaborative will center around Disability Justice, a movement-building liberatory framework created in 2005 by Sins Invalid. Disability Justice centers Black and brown, majority queer disabled people to address the whiteness and single-issue focus of the mainstream disability rights movement. Disability Justice acknowledges that ableism works hand-in-hand with other forms of oppression and stresses that multiply marginalized disabled people get to create movements and organize out of their strengths, vulnerabilities, body/minds and genius. We’ve engaged two established Disability Justice movement leaders, Stacey Milbern and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, to facilitate the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative.

 Stacey Milbern

Stacey Milbern

 Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative will:

  • Discuss visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of disabled people are centered in decision-making;
  • Deepen and collectively build their understanding of disability justice; and
  • Discuss how disability-led organizations can work together in new ways with:
    • Organizations led by communities of color;
    • Existing and new disabled, Deaf, sick and neurodivergent communities and organizations;
    • Leadership programs and funders.

Over the long-term, we hope this effort will influence organizations led by people of color to learn about the Disability Justice framework and apply it to their work. We also hope these leaders will contribute to ensuring our region’s leadership includes disabled people and people who understand, and are committed to, Disability Justice.

This Collaborative is a joint effort supported by Northwest Health Foundation and the Collins Foundation. We are eager to learn from these leaders and share our experiences with other funders and community leaders.

Read more about Northwest Health Foundation's journey to understand and incorporate a disability equity lens in our work on Medium. Stay tuned for updates over the next few months!