Community

Illustrated portrait of Alice Wong and Ashanti Fortson, with a purple, pink, mauve, and blue color palette. Wong is an Asian American woman wearing a dark blue jacket and a pink-and-lavender chevron-patterned scarf, as well as a mask over her nose with a tube for her Bi-Pap machine. Fortson is an Afro-Mexican person wearing light yellow star earrings, large and round pink glasses, and a dark blue knit shawl with accents in bright pink. Clouds swirl in front of the figures, and stars are visible in the night sky behind them. Shooting stars with bright pink trails are scattered throughout the portrait. Near the bottom of the image, embellished text reads “Alice and Ashanti,” and the text “#CommunityAsHome” is underneath.

What I have always been hoping to accomplish is the creation of community.

Community is magic. Community is power. Community is resistance.

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Asking for help is a wonderful way to build community & engage in meaningful collaboration. In asking for help you also uplift others who want to show up for you.

Just a reminder that asking for help is a contribution
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of abstracted and colorful patterns that hearken to Islamic geometric tilework, which radiate from the center of the image in an overlapping pattern of triangles, stars, teardrops, and 4-and-5-sided polygons. Many of the tile panels have intricate linework inside of them, depicting more floral or geometric patterning. The tiles are colored with varying shades of yellow, blue, and orange. At the center of the pattern is a starburst, and seven outstretched arms reach from the bottom of the starburst and up toward the center of it, where the text is laid. The seven arms each belong to different people of varying skin tones ranging from light to deep brown, and the hands have varying features and accessories on them, such as rings, bracelets, nail polish, finger splints, and a wristwatch. The text at the center of the image, which all the arms are reaching toward and up lifting, reads: “The beauty of my community is being able to lift up the voices of others like me, and to be a voice for others like me, because for so long, I thought I was the only disabled Muslim around.” Towards the bottom of the illustration, the name “Iman” is written in capital letters.
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of abstracted and colorful patterns that hearken to Islamic geometric tilework, which radiate from the center of the image in an overlapping pattern of triangles, stars, teardrops, and 4-and-5-sided polygons. Many of the tile panels have intricate linework inside of them, depicting more floral or geometric patterning. The tiles are colored with varying shades of yellow, blue, and orange. At the center of the pattern is a starburst, and seven outstretched arms reach from the bottom of the starburst and up toward the center of it, where the text is laid. The seven arms each belong to different people of varying skin tones ranging from light to deep brown, and the hands have varying features and accessories on them, such as rings, bracelets, nail polish, finger splints, and a wristwatch. The text at the center of the image, which all the arms are reaching toward and up lifting, reads: “The beauty of my community is being able to lift up the voices of others like me, and to be a voice for others like me, because for so long, I thought I was the only disabled Muslim around.” Towards the bottom of the illustration, the name “Iman” is written in capital letters.

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project

Disability’s no longer just a diagnosis; it’s a community.

Liz Jackson: Designing for Inclusivity
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of an abstracted plant growing and weaving through the page. The main flower is large and circular, with white-and-pin pinwheel stripes and swirly detailing throughout. The stem of the plant is very flowy and swirly in its shape, taking an ornamental approach. Each of the plant’s leaves is an illustrated vignette contained in a tulip shape. The first vignette is of two feminine-presenting people close together, with gentle expressions, focused on their faces. One has dark skin and dark curly hair, while the other has light brown skin and is wearing hijab. The second vignette is of three hands reaching out towards each other tenderly. The hands are each different shades of brown. The third vignette is a silhouetted illustration of a group of three people holding hands, viewed from behind. Two of the people are standing, and the third person uses a wheelchair. The color palette throughout the overall illustration is soft and gentle, mainly using pinks, purples, and browns. Light-colored sparkles fill the white space around the plant and vignettes. To the side of the main flower, hand-lettered text reads, “Finding dispersed community has made all the difference in the journey of me attempting to remake meaning, embrace fun and find hope as an adult.” At the bottom of the illustration, the name “Pavi” is written in gently swooping letters.
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of an abstracted plant growing and weaving through the page. The main flower is large and circular, with white-and-pin pinwheel stripes and swirly detailing throughout. The stem of the plant is very flowy and swirly in its shape, taking an ornamental approach. Each of the plant’s leaves is an illustrated vignette contained in a tulip shape. The first vignette is of two feminine-presenting people close together, with gentle expressions, focused on their faces. One has dark skin and dark curly hair, while the other has light brown skin and is wearing hijab. The second vignette is of three hands reaching out towards each other tenderly. The hands are each different shades of brown. The third vignette is a silhouetted illustration of a group of three people holding hands, viewed from behind. Two of the people are standing, and the third person uses a wheelchair. The color palette throughout the overall illustration is soft and gentle, mainly using pinks, purples, and browns. Light-colored sparkles fill the white space around the plant and vignettes. To the side of the main flower, hand-lettered text reads, “Finding dispersed community has made all the difference in the journey of me attempting to remake meaning, embrace fun and find hope as an adult.” At the bottom of the illustration, the name “Pavi” is written in gently swooping letters.

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project

The women who manage the network say that because the project is based on mutual aid, and because they’re working as private citizens and not as part of any organization, this allows them to work more dynamically and creatively in response to the changing needs.

The need that led them to interrupt their lives and devote themselves to volunteer work – and the fact that now they can’t stop without neglecting thousands of people – is an indictment of sorts against the welfare system and the government’s order of priorities.

…she realized for the first time that there is no address for these problems. “I heard about a family from the Congo that hadn’t eaten for five days. Four people heard about them before me, and nobody stopped for a moment to buy food for them. Everyone thought there was someone whose job it is to take care of such cases. Everyone thought that there’s a welfare state here that supports its weak communities.”

Like Cantor, Beck also slowly internalized the fact there was nowhere to transfer the responsibility. “I realized that we have no ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to depend on, that responsibility for the survival of entire communities lies with us, the citizens,” she relays. “I didn’t come from this background, and this period has taught me a very important lesson about the welfare systems that devastate entire populations.”

They just wanted to help a few hungry Israelis. They ended up replacing Israel’s welfare system – Israel News – Haaretz.com
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of a group of four people standing and sitting next to each other. Their names are written at the bottom of the illustration, below each of them from left to right: Hannah Morphy-Walsh, CB Mako, Pauline Vetuna, and Gemma Mahadeo. Hannah has light skin and semi-long dark brown hair, and is standing and smiling bashfully with their arms folded in front of them. Hannah is wearing a periwinkle button-up shirt on top of a dark camisole, mint-colored shorts, and a couple of bandaids on their legs. CB has light brown skin and short dyed-orange hair, and is standing and smiling broadly at the camera. They’re wearing a smiley-face necklace, black pants, and a black T-shirt with white text that reads, “The Future Is Accessible” in capital letters. Pauline has dark brown skin and very curly black hair, and is sitting in their wheelchair and smiling at the camera. They’re wearing a dark blue knit turtleneck, gray track pants with white and orange stripes, and a large gray fanny pack with a pair of gloves attached. They have their arms folded on top of their bum bag. Gemma has light brown skin and long, wavy dark brown hair. Gemma is standing with their arms crossed, and is smiling broadly at the camera. They’re wearing a slightly flowy, pastel blue dress, a muted green ruched jacket with pink accents, and a necklace that depicts a low-battery symbol. Around and between the four figures, multicolored cartoon sparkles, leaves, and flowers fill the space. At the top of the illustration, a hand-written quote reads, “If home is where our disabilities are not stigmatized, where ableism is not tolerated, where access and allyship is love, and where all of our identities can find inclusion and rest–– then, this community truly is home.”
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of a group of four people standing and sitting next to each other. Their names are written at the bottom of the illustration, below each of them from left to right: Hannah Morphy-Walsh, CB Mako, Pauline Vetuna, and Gemma Mahadeo. Hannah has light skin and semi-long dark brown hair, and is standing and smiling bashfully with their arms folded in front of them. Hannah is wearing a periwinkle button-up shirt on top of a dark camisole, mint-colored shorts, and a couple of bandaids on their legs. CB has light brown skin and short dyed-orange hair, and is standing and smiling broadly at the camera. They’re wearing a smiley-face necklace, black pants, and a black T-shirt with white text that reads, “The Future Is Accessible” in capital letters. Pauline has dark brown skin and very curly black hair, and is sitting in their wheelchair and smiling at the camera. They’re wearing a dark blue knit turtleneck, gray track pants with white and orange stripes, and a large gray fanny pack with a pair of gloves attached. They have their arms folded on top of their bum bag. Gemma has light brown skin and long, wavy dark brown hair. Gemma is standing with their arms crossed, and is smiling broadly at the camera. They’re wearing a slightly flowy, pastel blue dress, a muted green ruched jacket with pink accents, and a necklace that depicts a low-battery symbol. Around and between the four figures, multicolored cartoon sparkles, leaves, and flowers fill the space. At the top of the illustration, a hand-written quote reads, “If home is where our disabilities are not stigmatized, where ableism is not tolerated, where access and allyship is love, and where all of our identities can find inclusion and rest–– then, this community truly is home.”

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project
Rainbow woven cloth evoking our diversity and interdependence

“Mutual aid is recognizing first of all our neighbors and the root problems in our communities,” Cantor says. “It’s about openly opposing the systems of racism, class discrimination and large retailers. Mutual aid requires that we look at those among us who are privileged and those who aren’t, and to ask how we achieve control of the resources and distribute them so as to advance justice in our communities. What makes our actions acts of resistance is that we’re operating in the direction of dismantling oppressive mechanisms by means of showing radical empathy. It’s political.

Cantor says: “Today, we’re demonstrating and creating a mutual aid alternative by ourselves. Everyone is excited about how people come together to help each other – to the point that we fail to understand that these difficulties shouldn’t even exist. We favor mutual help, but also target the root causes that brought about the lack of equality to begin with.” She adds that helping one another is “not just a matter of packing and handing out food.”

They just wanted to help a few hungry Israelis. They ended up replacing Israel’s welfare system – Israel News – Haaretz.com

Self-care is birthed by and through community care.

Talila A. Lewis
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson from the point-of-view of a person using a wheelchair, looking down towards their legs and feet. The person is wearing a navy-blue skirt and shiny black shoes. The illustration includes a frame of branches, leaves, and light blue flowers that weave behind and in front of the person and their wheelchair. The flowers frame a hand-lettered quote near the top of the image, which reads: “When I’m very sick, my community carries me. It’s a beautiful and tender thing to be cared for so intimately.” At the bottom of the illustration, a rectangular yellow plaque made of branches contains the name “Rebel” in capital letters.
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson from the point-of-view of a person using a wheelchair, looking down towards their legs and feet. The person is wearing a navy-blue skirt and shiny black shoes. The illustration includes a frame of branches, leaves, and light blue flowers that weave behind and in front of the person and their wheelchair. The flowers frame a hand-lettered quote near the top of the image, which reads: “When I’m very sick, my community carries me. It’s a beautiful and tender thing to be cared for so intimately.” At the bottom of the illustration, a rectangular yellow plaque made of branches contains the name “Rebel” in capital letters.

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project

What is mutual aid?

“Solidarity, not charity.”

Why is a spoon share helpful?

  • Interdependence, understanding and support
  • Gives opportunity to help & care for other in on our own terms and within our own capacities
  • Direct support in a community within a community
  • It’s much easier to practice asking, offering, receiving, and declining among people who “get it”!

Source: Collective Community Care: Dreaming of Futures in Autistic Mutual Aid

Autistic people have built many niche communities from the ground up—both out of necessity and because our interests and modes of being are, well, weird.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity (p. 218)
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of a distant lighthouse directing its beam toward the viewer and illuminating a short-haired figure sitting alone in a small canoe. We are looking at the figure from behind. They are gripping the sides of the boat and eagerly looking towards the lighthouse and shoreline. The waters around them are relatively calm and the parts of the image that are not being illuminated by the lighthouse are a dark, deep purple and blue. Above the horizon line of the ocean, the sky is dark and cloudy, and going up the image, the clouds transition to a view of rolling ocean waves. In these stormy waves, the same figure is in their canoe to the left of the image, but they look tiny against the rest of the ocean. Between the visual transition of the clouds to the waves, there is a large blue gray cloud shape that serves as a text bubble. Inside the cloud shape it reads: “When I found the autistic community, it was like finally coming home after 23 long years at sea. Often you don’t realize how lonely and frightened you’ve been the whole time, until you find your people. -CADENCE”
An illustration by Ashanti Fortson of a distant lighthouse directing its beam toward the viewer and illuminating a short-haired figure sitting alone in a small canoe. We are looking at the figure from behind. They are gripping the sides of the boat and eagerly looking towards the lighthouse and shoreline. The waters around them are relatively calm and the parts of the image that are not being illuminated by the lighthouse are a dark, deep purple and blue. Above the horizon line of the ocean, the sky is dark and cloudy, and going up the image, the clouds transition to a view of rolling ocean waves. In these stormy waves, the same figure is in their canoe to the left of the image, but they look tiny against the rest of the ocean. Between the visual transition of the clouds to the waves, there is a large blue gray cloud shape that serves as a text bubble. Inside the cloud shape it reads: “When I found the autistic community, it was like finally coming home after 23 long years at sea. Often you don’t realize how lonely and frightened you’ve been the whole time, until you find your people. -CADENCE”

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project

Increasingly, autistic communities have been exposed to ideas of disability justice, interdependence, access intimacy, collective/community care, and mutual aid. Care collectives, spoon shares, and other community care groups by and for disabled people, racialized people, LGBTQ2IA+ people (and people at this intersection) are growing in number. Is there a future for autistic spaces to also act as spaces of intentional mutual aid?

Moving from a rights-based perspective to a justice-based one necessitates a look at our care systems and re-envisioning how our communities function to ensure no one is left behind.

Collective Community Care: Dreaming of Futures in Autistic Mutual Aid, Autscape: 2020 Presentations

With “solidarity, not charity” as their guiding principle, these mutual aid groups aimed to lighten that burden and fill the gap in services left by the government

‘Solidarity, not charity’: Mutual aid groups are filling gaps in Texas’ crisis response | Grist
An illustration of Pauline Vetuna and Ruby Allegra having coffee together and smiling at each other. Pauline has dark brown skin and very curly black hair, and is wearing a turquoise-colored button-up shirt on top of a light blue sweater, as well as an olive-green bum bag. Pauline holds a spoon above their cup of coffee. Ruby is a white person with fair skin, slightly curly dyed-pink hair, freckles on their face, and a septum piercing. Ruby is wearing thick clear-framed glasses, dark purple pants, a purple long-sleeve shirt with white stripes, and a black T-shirt with collaged imagery and slogans from anti-racism and anti-imperialism protests. They’re holding their coffee mug with both hands, as if raising it to take a sip. They’re buckled into their mobility device, and their elbow rests on the armrest. The headrest and control-stick of their mobility device are also visible. On the table in front of Ruby, there’s a small dish with a spoon inside, and Ruby’s sketchbook and pen. Above and behind the two figures, different sheets of paper sit on the white background. Four sheets have text and drawings on them. The drawings across the sheets are sparkles, a watering can and growing plants, houses, and the sun and clouds in the sky. The text on the sheets reads, “What is also beautiful and exciting is the opportunity to co-create together the kind of spaces we want to see but have been denied in the world as it currently is.” At the bottom of the illustration, a large pencil draws a line from the edge of the table. Above it are the names “Pauline Vetuna” and “Ruby Allegra,” separated by a sparkle.
An illustration of Pauline Vetuna and Ruby Allegra having coffee together and smiling at each other. Pauline has dark brown skin and very curly black hair, and is wearing a turquoise-colored button-up shirt on top of a light blue sweater, as well as an olive-green bum bag. Pauline holds a spoon above their cup of coffee. Ruby is a white person with fair skin, slightly curly dyed-pink hair, freckles on their face, and a septum piercing. Ruby is wearing thick clear-framed glasses, dark purple pants, a purple long-sleeve shirt with white stripes, and a black T-shirt with collaged imagery and slogans from anti-racism and anti-imperialism protests. They’re holding their coffee mug with both hands, as if raising it to take a sip. They’re buckled into their mobility device, and their elbow rests on the armrest. The headrest and control-stick of their mobility device are also visible. On the table in front of Ruby, there’s a small dish with a spoon inside, and Ruby’s sketchbook and pen. Above and behind the two figures, different sheets of paper sit on the white background. Four sheets have text and drawings on them. The drawings across the sheets are sparkles, a watering can and growing plants, houses, and the sun and clouds in the sky. The text on the sheets reads, “What is also beautiful and exciting is the opportunity to co-create together the kind of spaces we want to see but have been denied in the world as it currently is.” At the bottom of the illustration, a large pencil draws a line from the edge of the table. Above it are the names “Pauline Vetuna” and “Ruby Allegra,” separated by a sparkle.

Image Credit: Ashanti Fortson, Community As Home – Portraits – Disability Visibility Project

…the central tension of punk rock: it was built on individualism and an anti-hero ethos, yet expressed itself as a community. The motivation for punk was individualistic artistic expression, but the glue for the subculture was the experience of finding like-minded misfits.

We accept you, one of us?: punk rock, community, and individualism in an uncertain era, 1974-1985

The lyrics referred to the way many people viewed fans of punk rock (who often endured stares, slurs and assaults at the time), but they could just have easily been about people diagnosed with mental illnesses, who are frequently looked down upon as crazy, violent and unintelligent.

A long-standing and influential theory regarding disability is the “social model,” initially advanced by Mike Oliver. The social model argues that “disability” does not reside within individuals, but is actually created by a mismatch between social structures and individual capacities. These structures can include obvious physical barriers (such as stairs, which could make it impossible for people in wheelchairs to enter a school or workplace by themselves), but can also include intolerant social attitudes which make it very difficult for people who don’t act in a manner that is considered “acceptable” to participate socially or avail themselves of community resources.

British human right activist Liz Sayce has specifically extended the social model to explain much of the disability that is experienced by people diagnosed with mental illnesses, and has argued for the establishment of “inclusive communities” to facilitate greater community participation among these individuals.

Punk Rock and the Dream of the Accepting Community | Psychology Today

As soon as I said, “Hello, this is exactly who I am”, I found the most beautiful community of people.

yungblud
@yungblud

you only lose, when you stop getting up. 🖤🖤🖤 (link in bio)

♬ original sound – yungblud
@yungblud

we are yungblud. this is OUR message. 🖤 #bhc #yungblud @tiktok_uk

♬ original sound – yungblud

But, do you know what?

I found you!

I love you.

I love all of you out there.

And this is why I’m so proud to belong here.

Because this family is about spreading love.

yungblud

You are with us.

Look at the people around you.

You finally belong somewhere.

yungblud

This isn’t just a story that disabled children will love; it’s a story about what is possible when we fight for ourselves and each other. It is a story about how tenacity, strength, the power of community, and the willingness to fight for what matters can start a revolution.

ROLLING WARRIOR: THE INCREDIBLE, SOMETIMES AWKWARD, TRUE STORY OF A REBEL GIRL ON WHEELS WHO HELPED SPARK A REVOLUTION 

Further reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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