Disability Justice Manifesto

by Sulaiman R. Khan

What does utopia mean to you? Is it essential you keep the idea of utopia in mind (and the goal of a utopian world in mind) while you do your work? How can you, or do you, apply the idea of utopia to your work?

To me, Utopia is about liberation, interdependence and love. It’s about ensuring that we have collective liberation, especially disability liberation. Also, utopia to me is having infinite Access Intimacy (as defined by Mia Mingus) and being radical (the “grasping at the root” definition as defined by Auntie Angela Davis).

‘’DIVERSITY should be a given; INCLUSION is our practice; EQUITY is our tool; JUSTICE is our mission; so that LIBERATION is our GOAL.” — Collette Philip and Sulaiman R. Khan.

It is critical to keep the idea of Utopia in mind and the goal of a Utopian world in thought in everything that I do because without hope to achieve this Utopian world, there is nothing really left of us. I apply the idea of Utopia to my work and entire existence by living wholeheartedly in my divinity as a whole and complete person through interdependence and love. I don’t know of any other way to exist.

How can utopia be applied to push your work forward?

Utopia can be applied to push my work forward by ensuring that I am working for something other than myself and creating a world I feel proud to leave behind. Taking my values and applying them to creating Utopia gives me a sense of adventure and community.

What is Disability Justice?

Disability Justice is a framework developed in 2005 by Sins Invalid and other collaborators. It centred on queer, trans, gender non-conforming, Disabled people of colour because ableism goes hand-in-hand with other forms of oppression. There are 10 principles of Disability Justice as defined by Sins Invalid:

  1. INTERSECTIONALITY: “We do not live single issue lives” – Audre Lorde. Ableism, coupled with white supremacy, supported by capitalism, underscored by heteropatriarchy, has rendered the vast majority of the world “invalid.”
  2. LEADERSHIP OF THOSE MOST IMPACTED: “We are led by those who most know these systems.” – Aurora Levins Morales.
  3. ANTI-CAPITALIST POLITIC: In an economy that sees land and humans as components of profit, we are anti-capitalist by the nature of having non-conforming body/minds.
  4. COMMITMENT TO CROSS-MOVEMENT ORGANIZING: Shifting how social justice movements understand disability and contextualize ableism, disability justice lends itself to politics of alliance.
  5. RECOGNIZING WHOLENESS: People have inherent worth outside of commodity relations and capitalist notions of productivity. Each person is full of history and life experience.
  6. SUSTAINABILITY: We pace ourselves, individually and collectively, to be sustained long term. Our embodied experiences guide us toward ongoing justice and liberation.
  7. COMMITMENT TO CROSS-DISABILITY SOLIDARITY: We honor the insights and participation of all of our community members, knowing that isolation undermines collective liberation.
  8. INTERDEPENDENCE: We meet each others’ needs as we build toward liberation, knowing that state solutions inevitably extend into further control over lives.
  9. COLLECTIVE ACCESS: As brown, black and queer-bodied disabled people, we bring flexibility and creative nuance that go beyond able-bodied/minded normativity, to be in community with each other.
  10. COLLECTIVE LIBERATION: No body or mind can be left behind – only mobbing together can we accomplish the revolution we require.

Why is Disability Justice essential to Utopia?

Disability Justice is critical to Utopia because it gives us a foundational framework to ensure that Disabled people are not forgotten or left behind when creating a Utopian world.

“…the framework that individual [Disability] rights are based in is [a] legal framework. Something that one could litigate, and based on individual’s experience of marginalization, discrimination…there’s an assumption that rights are enforceable by the state and defendable by the state…rights can be ‘granted’ and taken away…[Disability] Justice exists outside of any legalistic framework….Justice is about how we live and love and practice everyday interactions. It’s not something that can be taken away.” – Patty Berne, Sins Invalid

Why is joy an essential part of Disability Justice and Utopia building in general?

Joy is a vital part of Disability Justice and Utopia building because where happiness is often given and taken away from us by the oppressor, joy is something that we create from within. Even in a chaotic world and the ridiculousness of humanity, we can create joy within ourselves and our environments; joy fully liberates us and creates accessibility for all of us. No shame, shade, judgment or guilt. Joy is joyful.

I choose to exist in joy, but I can only do so if I embrace my shadows and live wholeheartedly in Interdependence and love. There’s no joy without grief, and there’s no grief without joy. Joy lives through me from my ancestors’ and descendants’ wisdom and richness. I am joy. Joy is me.

How do we make sure we cultivate joy in activist work?

We can make sure we cultivate joy in activist work by the following five things:

  1. Always create Access Intimacy for all of us.
  2. Always do anti-oppression work (especially anti-ableism and anti-racism).
  3. Always create relationships, events, environments, and communities that aim for liberation.
  4. Always exist (and do everything) with interdependence and love, including how you treat yourself.
  5. Always work towards interdependent and loving (collective) liberation.

We must be in tune with our Soma, Bodymind, and inner, outer, and systemic systems. We must understand that cultivating joy is not a linear process but a forest that we protect and maintain together.

What is true accessibility for all, and how can we better foster relationships of reciprocity?

True accessibility for all is about centring those minoritised communities that have traditionally been excluded, having infinite Access Intimacy for everyone, and being regenerative (beyond sustainable) in our existence. For me, to better foster relationships of reciprocity, we must embrace our inner, outer, and systemic systems in full - joy, grief, and our shadows and all. We must be comfortable with it all that impact us: inner (our Soma, Bodymind), outer (our externalities and environments that influence us), and systemic systems (all the systems that we are a part of). We can recognise that we can exist wholeheartedly as we are through interdependence and love.

Hiro Boga said it best: *“There’s room for all of you, and for everything you experience—the grim and the glorious, the wounded, wounding, healing and healed.” *

How can readers apply Utopia?

First and foremost, readers can apply Utopia by always being and staying radical. We must be able to question everything and not be afraid of not knowing the answers. Also, it is critical for all of us to recognise that we are divine as whole and complete people and allow others to live in the same light. Ultimately we must work towards creating joy, Access Intimacy and liberation for all of us.

*“We are not afraid to adopt a revolutionary stance — if, indeed, we wish to be radical in our quest for change — then we must get to the root of our oppression. After all, radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” * – Auntie Angela Davis.