Audacious & Creative Disability Justice In A Parade
- Editor’s Note
- What Is The Solstice Parade
- Disability Justice Ensemble Inspiration
- Ensemble Description
- The Audacity Award
- Advocacy Tips
- Image Descriptions
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”~Harriet Tubman
As we near the end of National Disability Pride Month (July) we celebrate one of our own, Anisa Proda! Anisa is a Bold Blind Beauty Ambassador and phenomenal advocate who is proud of her disability identity. Earlier in the month in recognition of the Summer Solstice, Anisa took her advocacy to a uniquely creative level which earned her the Audicity Award. This article is one example of how A.I.R. (Access, Inclusion, and Represention) work together to increase connection among us. Well done and congratulations Anisa! ~Steph
What is the Fremont Solstice Parade?
Fremont Solstice Parade happens every year in Seattle during the Summer Solstice in June. It has been going on since 1989 except for during the Covid pandemic given the enormous size of its crowds. It is a magnificent event where the art-makers and art lovers join forces to create beautiful works, performances, teach one another artistic skills and help logistically by offering their labor as this event is entirely men-powered. The whole Freemont artistic neighborhood block its car traffic and people march to exhibit their art or to view the parade as it passes along.
I got engaged just by coincidence. I have been looking for a place such has Freemont Art Council which is welcoming and is a safe space for social artists to experiment in different disciplines. My friend introduced me to this organization as I joined his improv class. I shared with the manager of the organization that I had been consulting museums on how to make the art spaces, performances, and policy smore accessible and inclusive for individuals with disabilities. They showed a high interest to develop more inclusive activities and were welcoming my recommendations. They invited me to become a member and Solstice Parade was the big event coming soon which would be my opportunity to get engaged.
What was the inspiration for your disability justice ensemble?
I take pride on my disability identity, and I want the nondisabled world to have a realistic sense of what disability is. First of all, disability is not a static concept; it evolves as everything else. It is not neither pitch black nor sparkly. There is a whole spectrum in between that we fill in every day by moving around positions based on where we are, what we do and how we feel.
I wanted to show nondisabled people how to see disability through different lenses. To begin with this sounds great as it represents diverse perspective, however not always are these perspectives realistic. For instance, sometimes disability is seen as horrible, tragic, other times somebody who does not have any information about disabilities sees it with indifference. In other cases, a number of people view disabled people as supermen, heroes, inspiring for very minor actions we might perform. We receive trophies that we have not been looking for nor do they help us.
To tell this in my view I decided to create an ensemble that speaks in a metaphorical way.
Can you describe your total look for the parade?
I designed an outfit made out of eye glass frames of distinct colors. The whole bottom part of the dress was covered in eyeglass frames and their arms arranged in patterns in a multicolor fashion. The top part is decorated with gaps and the sleeves have black dotted Braille writing. The different colored lenses represent the different viewpoints of how disability is perceived in our society. I also wore a mask which has multicolored elements from nature such as sticks, leaves, fruit, and the mask also was built upon an eyeglass frame. One of my eyes was naked and the other was fully covered with a nature element. With this I wanted to show what I wish I could see.
I also hold a white cane as I am blind person and I transformed it into a magic want by decorating it with pearls and gems and bright colors. The concept idea was mine, but I had a tremendous help from the Fremont Art Council management team. They collaborated with me closely to do the physical part of the artwork and to make sure that my idea comes into life authentically.
All of us started this project with an open mind. We called for participants who would join me marching in the parade. They wore black garments, black eyeglasses, and solidarity white canes. During the performance I touch them with my magic wand and they turn inside out the garments to show the colorful side and the positivity. So, this project showed women solidarity as well.
How did it feel to win the Audacity Award?
This award was given for the first time this year. They wanted to recognize my active participation in an event that is heavily visual. This parade requires a lot of engagement physically and emotionally as we are walking for about 2 miles among thousands of people, in an extremely high sensory overload. For somebody who is a first-timer parade participant, without light perception, this was audacious. So, the organizers were happy to celebrate that the parade is being expanded beyond the visual because the Paraders can do visual arts in non-visual ways. That’s what I tried to do.
It was highly creative to use a parade to send a message about disability justice.
Do you have any tips for others who may be looking at different advocacy opportunities or outlets?
I would say that it is important to think that there is no limit into artmaking so let us use this opportunity to free our imagination and express what we want to say out loud. Maybe we want to say something that we are not able to say in words, or we lack means of communication for that particular message. One of the things I wanted to say is that the white cane is not ugly, is not to be shamed of and I turned it into a magic wand and was proudly waving it up high.
Then find supportive groups that do not shrink your thoughts and you can work together to put the ideas into action.
Like what you’ve read and want to chat about it? Join us in the Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group.
- Photo & Video credit: Fremont Arts Council Media/Press
- The header photo shows Anisa and 3 women marching with her in the parade.
- Posing for the camera: Anisa and the 3 women are posing for the camera in costume with their white canes.
- Solo photo of Anisa posing & smiling for the camera.
- Closeup photo of Anisa having colorful eyeshadow applied.
- The ladies smile & pose is another shot of Anisa with the 3 women posing for the camera. They are laughing and having a good time.
- Serious Business: In this shot we see Anisa with two of the women looking focused as she walks with her white cane (magic wand)