Protests, performances and pride

Disability Pride Day brought seasoned activists, students and professors together.

The cold weather was not enough to keep the Disability Pride Day participants inside; the parade started in the Student Memorial Center, and went down to the George St. and Frederick St. intersection. Photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas Neuville

Alexander Bershtein
Staff Writer

On Monday, April 16, Millersville University hosted Disability Pride Day. It was the climax to the Disability Film Fest, albeit a slight misnomer as the day was not a marathon of films about disability, but a day of activism, informational workshops, concerts and one last movie to end the festivities.

The gloomy morning weather changed the plans for the start of the event, as it was originally supposed to begin at Stayer Hall. Millersville’s Education Department decided to move to the Student Memorial Center’s Multipurpose Room for convenience of its attending students, Lancaster locals, and many disability civil rights activists, such as the Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) organization.

Although the rainy weather caused a debate on whether or not to go outside, many of the disability activists from ADAPT stated they had protested in the snow in the 1980s, and that the weather outside did not compare.

Participants created a word wall, and several pieces of cardboard and unused Disability Film Fest posters were used as components for protest signs. Standing alongside students in single-file lines, professors, locals and activists proceeded through the Student Memorial Center and out to the promenade. As they went down George Street, the protesters chanted, “access is a civil right!” and gave the George Street/Frederick Street intersection some of the longest-lasting traffic it had seen in a while.

However, it would not be much of a protest of activism at Millersville if there was not a set objective for the protesters to achieve and accomplish during the event. During one of the workshops, the members of ADAPT, Kathy Holdsworth, Latoya Maddox, and other experienced activists taught Millersville students how to demand change through their style of protest.

Afterwards, another march came upon the Student Memorial Center during lunch time, and headed for the Galley to block its turnstile entrance, which is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. A few moments later, the protesters stood hand-in-hand blocking the entrance, condiments counter, and exit to the Galley, chanting, “Access for all, or no one eats!”

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Other students entering the area were shocked and confused, as well as the staff in the Galley. Eventually Millersville’s dining services came to negotiate with the demands of a more accessible Galley. 

With the successful protest accomplished events, Disability Pride Day turned back towards its other events to educate Millersville on ending stigma. Later, several musicians with disabilities brought four performances. Anomie Fatale and her band, Great Neck, performed; the two hip-hop artists of 4 Wheel City sung songs of disability pride and for stricter gun laws; Ray Deca performed several remixes and lastly Johnny Crescendo, also known as Alan Holdsworth, performed a couple of his protests songs, including “Choices and Rights” and “Not Dead Yet.”

While Johnny Crescendo was singing and playing his harmonica and guitar, Ray Deca walked out from behind the curtain and began dancing with several Millersville students began joining in thereafter.

The last event of the day was a showing of the documentary film, “Defiant Lives,” directed by Sarah Barton, who later participated in the event via Skype from the comfort of her home in Melbourne, Australia.

The documentary goes over the past century of major Disability Civil Rights protests in the United States, Great Britain and Australia. Johnny Crescendo explained that he wanted people to react to the event, saying, “Clap if you want to clap, cry if you want to cry, laugh if you want to laugh… sleep if you want to sleep.”

However, no one slept as the movie captured the attention of all people in the Multi-Purpose Room, but many applauded throughout several times in the movie. Commentated and explained from the viewpoint of various people with disabilities themselves — such as scholars, survivors of mental institutions, and protesters at the events mentioned — including Crescendo.

At the end of the day, nearly everyone yawned in exhaustion from the events of the day and packed up to head home. Johnny Crescendo happily commented about how he plans to return again to Millersville University during another Disability Film Festival.

“Now that we have seen how this works at Millersville, I think we will return soon,” Crescendo said.