In 1967, a Black disabled leader was born into an independent thinking and radical Black family. My mother was very independent and blazed new grounds on how to rise her children. My father, an ex football player and Black Panther, who worked with Push, rainbow Coalition and was a revolutionary. Our family saw him going to house meetings and groups he helped start for Black youth, and his involvement in the Black Panther Party. My mother dragged me to disabled meetings, school's PTA's and protests on many issues.
In my early days I tagged along with my father at house meetings on issues concerning the Black community. Many youth at that time witnessed our elders doing everything under the sun in the community; children programs, home schooling, opening up stores, providing in-home-support services to elders, community doctor's office etc. This all took place by people coming together at friends houses over some soul food to lay out what needed to be done and how to raise funds for the work. What happened?
Very slowly my father and others got involved with organizations outside the Black community and found the concept of receiving money outside the community from the government and white foundations to do work in the Black community. In my view this was the downfall of the extraordinary work youth like myself saw in my community. The first element that was scraped was the environment my elders met in. Slowly the structure of house meetings became ridge and people had to fit into this strange uniform that restricted our progress, conversation and created an hierarchy with president, vice president, treasury and secretary. All-of-a-sudden people had their hands out for a piece of the money that flowed in from outside of the community and the work we, youth, saw every day by many was cut back drastically and the house meetings were no longer popular in the community. You would of think my generation would learn from what we viewed when we was younger? Just like my father, I got involved with my community and activist groups. Carrying what my mother showed me by attending all of those white disabled groups and that was learn from them but always remember you cant relay on them to carry out your agenda. She used to say to me. Just like what I saw in those house meetings I saw in many new groups today including Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization, DAMO, that got together to work on their own agenda. The same thing has happen to these groups compare to the groups my generation grew up in. Much incredible work was done in the early days of these groups and it was a family affair until outside pressure began to influence the group. However in these days the amount of time between a loose collective group to a structure official uniform of non-profits is very short and this is unfortunate.
The tight straight jacket of non-profits most of the times suck the creativity, friendships, vision and dedication of the group who started out with thinking and working from their hearts but on the other hand in our capitalist society very few of us can or will work for free. So where is the middle stage? How much some of us would love to turned back the clock to my youth, seeing our communities totally ours without strings attach to foundations, the red tape and paper work and hierarchy of non-profits! But we must charge onward into the future to find out new models of community activist work that has a mixture of the two models mentioned above or is it time to come up with a whole new model.
Today, after five years of building Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization we've felt the straight jacket of fitting a collective group with strong like family ties into a cold, informal and culturally insensitive non-profit structure in the last two years. This has turned my stomach inside out so much that I'm taking time off and really answering the question, are non-profits the way for activists\revolutionaries like myself? Just think about it, every group that turns into a non-profit has to go down the same avenue. About the time we have come out of this tunnel in getting our non-profit status, do we have our same vision and individuality and commitment to our community or are we too wrapped up in bureaucracy culture of the non-profit machine? Is this diversity? Hopefully we know by now that there has to be another way to continue to do our work as activists!