In his recent work, Black on Both Sides, critical scholar C. Riley Snorton (2017) offers an analysis “particularly attentive to the possibilities of valorizing—without necessarily redeeming—different ways of knowing and being” in the world. Fundamentally, his work is invested in “reviving and inventing strategies for inhabiting unlivable worlds.” The Lighthouse attends, similarly, to propose sets of relation and being between blackness and disability from slavery to the present. This collection also, foundationally, seeks language and strategies for addressing a more present state of things. Namely, it intends towards a love wide enough to pull us to the center. Who, amongst us, has been left unattended in the world? Or to rephrase this more blackly: How can we make our lives—as Black, disabled, neurodiverse, living under conditions of scarcity and debility—more legible in the world, by better attending to one another and by our own design? Listening closely, still, to Toni Morrison’s old and ever-present warning (1975) about the distractive nature of white supremacy, here lies the metaphor of the collection’s namesake: Black disabled life is a lighthouse—historically, a rippling warning outward, and now, a beacon calling us home to the shoreline in these times of urgency. This collection is our work, our reason for being.
This edited collection, supported by Duke University Press, brings together critical essays that connect the subjects of blackness, disability, and state violence within the US and Canada. Since the American Revolution, the US and Canada have been bound by a histories of enslavement, forced migrations of free and enslaved Black populations, and dispersal throughout the Atlantic world. As Canadian poet M. NourbeSe Philip reminds in her astrological choreopoem Black with Holes (1998), “You cannot talk about space/ As it relates to Black people/ To African people/ Without talking about movement/ Or moving through space/ And once you talk about moving through space/ As it relates to Africans/ Then you must confront the forces/ That prohibit or restrict that moving.”
For Black peoples in the US and Canada, the border historically served as a site of oscillating violence that both seduced and betrayed Black families fleeing northward for a better life. Over the last century, Black Canadians and Black Americans have similarly experienced exponential increases in state violence and incarceration within their communities. These experiences affirm the persistence and transnationality of anti-Black violence produced by settler colonialism in Canada and the US. Yet, these Black geographies are seldom discussed in relation to one another. Recently, Canadian activist and scholar Robyn Maynard (2017) published the first book centering the realities of Black Canadian life in the context of state violence. Building, in part, upon this crucial area of scholarship, this collection seeks to bring more fully into conversation, the realities of Black life throughout North America.
Divided into a number of centrally themed areas, this collection begins with a living annotated bibliography paying homage to Black disabled writers and scholars whose work has been both foundational and disruptive within the fields of disability and critical disability studies, and has provided a broader understanding of the experience of disability and anti-blackness in North America.
The editors welcome essays of 3,000-6,000 words on the following themes:
- Disability and enslavement in North America, and theorizing its history to contemporary policies and acts of state violence
- Comparative histories of slavery between the US and Canada and disability. For example, how do the distinct systems of slavery between the US and Canada account for the kinds of anti-blackness that shape the terrain of both nations in the present?
- Enslavement, the body, and the history of industrial capitalism
- Black womanhood, reproductive labor, and Black motherhood as uninterrogated sites of disability, past and present
- “Debility,” capitalism, and anti-blackness
- Disability, institutions, and state violence
- Blackness, disability, and police violence
- Schooling, disability, and anti-blackness
- Motherhood, mental health, and community support
- Black women, gender violence, and mental health
- Blackness and neurodiversity/Blackness as neurodiversity
- Disability and sexual violence
Importantly, the final section addresses the prevalence and great dilemma of disability stigmatization within the workplace, including spaces of Black community organizing, and specifically calls for critical disability trainings and a greater ethics of care within community-based work as one way of addressing lateral violence within grassroots and not for profit organizations. Welcome topics include:
- Organizations, ableism, and change
- Lateral violence, disability, and accountability
- Transformative justice and disability: How can transformative justice practices better attend to the conditions that shape the experiences of disability in the lives of Black people?
- 1st May 2019: Deadline for 500 word abstract proposal
- 1st September 2019: Draft essay due
- 1st March 2020: Final draft due
Rachel Zellars is a lawyer, professor, former executive director, and longtime organizer living in Montreal, QC. Her scholarly work focuses on Black migration through Canada after the Revolution, its connection to the Atlantic world, and the history of gender violence within Black radical traditions. Her community work is focused on gender violence, Black women and children, and accountability. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow in History at the University of Vermont and a visiting scholar at Concordia University.
Gift Tshuma is an activist, music composer, and a motivational speaker, with a background in Sociology and a minor in Law and Society from Concordia University. Over the past decade, he has been heavily involved in advocacy for disability rights and accessibility issues in Montreal. As a co-founding member of a grassroots group: Accessibilize Montreal, he has been involved in numerous initiatives targeting discriminatory infrastructure, both physical and social, that excludes people with diverse bodies and minds from public spaces and stigmatizes them. He currently holds positions at the Office for Students with Disabilities at McGill University and at Centre for Gender Advocacy at Concordia University. Gift carries a wealth of experience in the non-profit, health, public, technical and service sectors; he is committed to social justice issues and in the empowerment of marginalized communities. For the past 5 years, Gift has been working as an Advisor in accessibility and universal design.