by Lizz Schumer
Stephen Hawking once said, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m as famous for my wheelchair and disabilities as I am for my discoveries.” And it’s true that Hawking’s face is as recognizable as his science; as is Einstein’s, as is Ben Franklin’s. But would anyone know Einstein without his characteristically crazy hair, or Ben without his bald head and pocket watch? We’re quick to dismiss those we think can’t hold talent beneath their wheelchairs, behind their speech impediment or within their non-mainstream bodies, because they don’t fit our idea of what a scientist, an artist, a dancer looks like. That’s the society we live in. That’s wrong.
As a writer, a reporter and an editor, I’ve always wanted to be judged on my work, not my persona. As a woman with an invisible disability, I have had the infinite luxury of making that choice. When I was first diagnosed, I crouched behind “normal” like a shield, hiding my disease like a brand under a bandage. But it oozed and prickled, and as time went on, I decided the opportunity for advocacy was greater than the luxury of invisibility; because choosing to remain in the shadows can feel like an arrogant cowardice.
On Friday, March 6th, from 7-9 p.m. the Museum of disABILITY History will host an evening reading and panel of disabled writers or writers who cover disability; to read from their work and discuss the “Crip Lit” culture, what it means to them, and how it empowers writers of difference. On the panel will be poet and disability scholar Lisa Cunningham; teaching artist and performer Maggie Parks from Spotlight Theater; writer, disability activist and mother Sally Bittner Bonn and Beth Geyer, a disability arts educator, writer and artistic director of Unique Productions.
On Saturday, March 7th, from 1-3 p.m., we will open the mic to local and regional disability writers who want to share their own writing, their own stories and their own contribution to “crip culture.” We’re inviting writers, poets, novelists, and academics who are willing to share a little piece of themselves to show that normal is no virtue, because normal doesn’t exist. Join me to talk about where we sit, where we stand, where we exist within our own society and the larger context. Let’s start a conversation; let’s contribute to the movement.
Join me at the Museum of disABILITY History. Friday, March 6 7-9 p.m. and Saturday, March 7 1-3 p.m.
Lizz Schumer is a writer, editor and artist living and working in Buffalo, N.Y. She is the editor in chief of The Sun newspaper, a cocktail columnist for The Buffalo News and teaches writing at Niagara University and National Geographic student expeditions. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” (2013) explores the impact of environmental elements on a person’s psychological development, as well as the role of home in one’s spiritual revelation. A Pushcart Prize-nominated writer, her work has appeared at Salon.com, seriouseats.com, Buffalo.com, Wordgathering, Minerva Rising, Limn Literary & Arts Journal, the Rampalian, Connotation Press, Block Club, Manifest Station and many others. She can be found at lizzschumer.com,facebook.com/authorlizzschumer or @eschumer.