communities conference

  • Pamela Winchell: The question might be "Would I give up on a regular life in order to pet a dog at all times forever?"
  • Pamela: And the answer is
  • Pamela: Yes
  • Pamela: Of course
  • Pamela: Instantly
  • Pamela: Without regret

Disabled presenters tend to face really intense ableism. One way this plays out is that audiences laugh at us when we talk about serious things.

This happens particularly frequently when:

  • Nondisabled professionals or our parents are also on the panel, or presenting right before or after us.
  • The audience is primarily parents of disabled children/adults.
  • The audience is primarily professionals who work with people with intellectual disabilities.
  • We talk about a desire to be taken seriously.
  • We discuss our objections to being treated like children.
  • We describe being proud of a personal accomplishment.
  • We describe being treated inappropriately by a professional.
  • We describe how we felt as disabled children.

When audiences do this, it’s not nice laughter. It’s a way of asserting power. That laughter means “I don’t have to take you seriously”.

As a disabled presenter, it’s often possible to insist on respect. It’s easier said than done. It gets easier with practice, but the practice often hurts. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

It can help to remind yourself that you know what you’re talking about, and the things you’re saying are important:

  • You’re presenting because you know what you’re talking about.
  • People should take your expertise seriously. When you talk about the things you know, they shouldn’t laugh at you.
  • Your accomplishments are not a joke. People should not laugh or be condescending about them.
  • People who treat you like a baby are doing something wrong. Your desire to be treated in an age-appropriate way is not a joke. People shouldn’t laugh at you for talking about it.

When an audience laughs at you, it can help to make it uncomfortable for them:

  • Don’t smile, and don’t laugh yourself.
  • Wait for the audience to stop laughing. 
  • Wait a second before going on to make it feel awkward. 
  • One option: Ask the audience “Why is that funny?” then continue.
  • Another option: Repeat what you said before people started laughing.

Try to avoid nervous laughter and nervous smiles:

  • It’s taboo for disabled people to talk about disability.
  • Talking about taboo topics can be embarrassing.
  • When we’re talking about embarrassing things, it can be natural to smile or laugh nervously.
  • If you seem embarrassed, the audience is more likely to feel like the topic is embarrassing and laugh to get rid of the embarrassment.
  • If you laugh, the audience is more likely to feel like it’s ok for them to laugh.

Making jokes on purpose:

  • Making jokes can be a way to control what people are laughing about.
  • This can be easier than getting them to not laugh in the first place. 
  • In these contexts, it can be better to avoid self-deprecating humor. 
  • It’s usually better to make jokes about ableism.
  • (This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule though, do what works for you.)

For instance, say you’re giving a talk about educational discrimination:

  • This is self-deprecating: 
  • “I was this ridiculous little kid in third grade. I was so enthusiastic, but I couldn’t even read. I’d hold up the books and pretend. My imaginary friend may have stolen the cookies, but she sure didn’t read for me.”
  • This is making fun of ableism:
  • “My teachers kept assigning me worksheets that I couldn’t do. They kept making me read in front of the class, even though I could never do it. They kept telling me to just do it. And they say we’re the ones who lack empathy and theory of mind.”

Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong:

  • Presenters/panelists with disabilities face intense ableism.
  • It’s going to hurt sometimes.
  • The problem isn’t that your skin is too thin; the problem is that people are hurting you.
  • A thick skin is still worth developing.
  • If an audience laughs at you, it’s their fault, not yours. They shouldn’t act like that.
  • It’s messed up that we have to develop skills at deflecting ableism and insisting on respect. 
  • It’s also worth knowing that these skills exist and can be learned.
  • It gets much easier with practice, but no one succeeds all the time.
  • When a talk goes bad, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t blame yourself for the audience’s ableism.
  • You’re ok, they’re ableist, and the things you have to say are still valuable when they’re not valued.

These are some of the methods I’ve used to deal with audience ableism. There are others. What are yours?

Tl;dr Disabled presenters face a lot of intense ableism. In particular, audiences often laugh at us. Scroll up for some methods for insisting on respect.
Hundreds of US mayors endorse switch to 100% renewable energy by 2035
Leaders from more than 250 cities unanimously back a resolution to reach clean energy goal at the US Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach

Remembering Our Dead: AIDS Quilt Panels of Bisexual People who had passed from AIDS. A ceremony of love and remembrance held during the US Bisexual Conference held in June 1990 in San Francisco CA USA.

AIDS had a profound effect on the bisexual movement. Bi men were stigmatized as spreaders of HIV from homosexuals to the “general population.” In the late 1980s, as awareness of AIDS in women increased, bisexual women began be to stigmatized as spreaders of HIV to lesbians.

These developments spurred discussions about the distinction between sexual behavior and sexual identity (for example, many self-identified bisexual women did not have sex with men, while many self-identified lesbians did). Activists and public health officials alike began to emphasize behavior, not identity, as a risk factor for HIV infection. Many men who had been leaders in the bisexual movement became ill or died, and many other bi men and women turned their attention to AIDS-related activism and service work…

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, students and youth became more active in the bisexual movement. College students began to include bisexuals by name in campus gay and lesbian organizations, with over 100 such groups in existence by the end of the decade…

At the same time, a new “queer movement” had begun to take shape. Young activists, many of whom were involved with the AIDS activist group ACT UP, formed Queer Nation in the summer of 1990 … Parts of the new movement emphasize the inclusion of bisexuals, transgender and other sexual minorities under the queer umbrella; other parts are less welcoming to those who are not exclusively homosexual…

In June 1990, BiPOL organized a US National Bisexual Conference in San Francisco, with over 400 attendees. The conference was comprised of over eighty workshops on a broad range of subjects.

~excerpt from pamphlet “A Brief History of the Bisexual Movement” Liz Highleyman with editorial assistance from M Beer, S Berger, D Berry, W Bryant, A Hamilton and R Ochs, originally published by the Bisexual Resource Center late 1990’s last updates in 2001.

The Capitalist system still faces a crisis of legitimacy, stemming from the [2008] Crash. Now is the time that government took a more active role in restructuring our economy. Now is the time that corporate boardrooms were held accountable for their actions; now is the time that we developed a new model of economic management to replace the failed dogmas of neoliberalism.
                                                                                                                         That is why Labour is looking not just to repair the damage done by austerity, but to transform our economy; with a new and dynamic role for the public sector, particularly where the private sector has so evidently failed.
—  Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Conference Speech
The Black Panther in the 1970’s

Every spring semester the University Library System, in collaboration with Pitt’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), award ten students with the Archival Scholars Research Award (ASRA). This semester, seven of those students are working in Special Collections. Each month, we ask the scholars to submit blog posts demonstrating the discoveries they are making. Enjoy! 

The Black Panther Black Community News Service was hardly a static publication. Its design changed throughout its issuance, not unlike the changes undertaken by the Party itself.

Their most visual iteration is in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This period was marked, in particular, by the colorful multimedia collages and photomanipulations often seen on the front cover, and corresponding artwork on the back covers. Minister of Culture Emory Douglas was most frequently responsible for the original artwork on the back covers, and his work was also frequently seen on the inner pages of The Black Panther.

Left: The front cover of The Black Panther (4/3/1971). Right: The back cover of The Black Panther (6/18/1972)

Other artists in the Party contributed many of the smaller pieces on the innermost pages, and the paper often ran comics from more widely-known professional cartoonists, such as the following:

Left: From The Black Panther (10/4/1969), a reprint of a cartoon by Harlem Renaissance political artist Oliver Harrington Right: From The Black Panther (12/26/1970), a drawing by Brad Brewer about the trial of the New York 21.

As the years progressed, the paper included fewer and fewer pieces in its inner pages. There continued to be photographs accompanying many pieces, though fewer of the earlier multimedia collages. When there was additional artwork, it was almost always an Emory Douglas contribution, but even he was seen less frequently: by 1977, the back covers that were once devoted to his work were more often than not spaces that featured photographs of community events or advertised official Panthers merchandise.

The content itself also pivoted. The early days of The Black Panther focused on housing themes, police brutality, and the exposure of legal and social injustices. These issues continued to be covered, but as the 1970’s progressed, there was a notable shift in tone, and the paper contained more along the lines of community uplift. There was frequent coverage of the programs the Party facilitated, including the children’s breakfast programs, as well as free clinics for sickle cell anemia testing, the Oakland Community School, and conferences. By 1976, each publication included a section entitled ‘This Week In Black History,’ which documented significant events such as Union victories, Civil Rights Protests, and the births and deaths of black leaders and artists. Additionally, while continuing to advertise official Panthers merchandise, the paper regularly featured small black-owned businesses and products.

Left: An advertisement for the Oakland Community School, printed on August 7, 1976. Right: From 2-7-1976, an advertisement for Elaine Brown’s album and a black history film series.

-Maureen Jones, Archival Scholars Research Awardee ‘17

Heading to #NYCC? Keep an eye out for LW admin Maria, who will be trying to photograph as much #librarianstyle as possible Thursday & Saturday!

If Maria asks to take your picture and you agree, please keep in mind that we’ll need the usual LW info from you: your position title or student/other status, type of library/institution where you work (if applicable), and where you’re from (because #metadata).

Did we miss you? We want to see your style! Take a photo and submit anytime:

The thing about being a gay person of faith is that you’re forced to search that much harder for love, answers, and community. When God finally leads you to those things, it makes you grateful you didn’t settle for cheap substitutes.
—  Daniel R., GCN Conference attendee

Status is not some universal scalar that’s neatly comprised of its component factors like a math expression. Different types of communities value different things at different times. Sometimes communities confer lots of status for being able to act in an exemplary way in certain uncommon scenarios. Sometimes the status is conferred for playing a particular, necessary role competently. 

Either way, there’s no universal pecking order and it’s sometimes actively harmful to think of group dynamics using one, because groups don’t work like that

Calling All Abundant, Fat, Plus Sized, Succulent, and Thick Peoples From All Over!  

This year at the Allied Media Conference 2015 (June 18-21 in Detroit, MI) we are coming back together to continue our conversations, share skills, experiences, stories, media, knowledge and strategies to build a more beautiful, body accepting and abundant loving future!

ln this track we will gather, share and celebrate the wisdom and abundance of our bodies. Abundant / thick / fat bodies are the target of so much hate, policing and negativity, even in our organizing communities. How do we unlearn mainstream ideas of what a body should look like and (re)-learn to celebrate the diversity, resilience, wisdom and beauty of all bodies? How can we work together to deconstruct fat stigma and other forms of marginalization while building a stronger inclusive fat community? How can we challenge ourselves to decenter whiteness, capitalism, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism and classism while we explore what it means to be fat?

This track will explore these questions and create spaces to challenge the ongoing ways mainstream media shames and harms abundant bodies. Our goal in our organizing and activism is to create media and practical strategies for resistance, healing and community building. We will broaden the conversation around fat activism by centering this track on the voices of Indigenous, Black, People of Color, Dis/abled, Super-sized, Trans and Queer fat folks. Through workshops, panels and skillshares we will transform mainstream ideas around abundant bodies and create resilient communities utilizing different forms of media such as zines, theater, oral histories, poetry, social media, dance, comics, and art.

We are looking for sessions that speak to but are not limited by the following types of themes and proposals:

Fat Community 101

  • How to love your body
  • Ally building for thin folks and privileged fat folks
  • Body Autonomy and Social Media
  • Anti-racist fat activism for white fat activists
  • Skillshares/tools for surviving and thriving

Bodies, Health and Movement

  • Breaking down the connection between health and weight
  • Body movement / dance / practice for all bodies
  • Fat sexuality
  • Super-sized community members

Fatness at its intersections

  • Fatness and Femme identity
  • Fatness and masculinity
  • Sci-Fi Bodies as fat and queer and People of Color
  • Physical and mental disabilities and fatness
  • History of Indigenous / People of Color / Black / Trans / Dis/ability / Supersize fat activism
  • Tools for young fat folks
  • Breaking down discussions about obesity through race, class, gender and other identities

Fat Visibility

  • Constructing the fat body through collaborative media projects
  • Demystifying media around fat bodies
  • Cyber space/futurity and fat bodies
  • Challenging mainstream media
  • Rethinking Fat Fashion
  • Older fat bodies and visibility
  • Fat bodies and desirability
  • Oral history, poetry and other creative forms of resistance

Proposals are due March 2nd, 2015 at midnight. Submit YOURS by filling out the form linked here. The deadline has been extended to March 5th at midnight.

If you have any questions regarding your proposal or this track, please contact us via on the Abundant Bodies Discussion Page on AMP Talk or at

**Abundant Bodies and the Allied Media Conference is committed to creating a space that allows for access to all community members regardless of economics. We will be fundraising in the near future to make sure we can support all of the session coordinators who need it in order to give as many voices in fat community the platform they deserve.


USA. California. Oakland. March 31, 1972. Black Panther Central Committee Member Ericka Huggins laughs after a Black Community Survival Conference rally. Ericka is the widow of slain Panther John Huggins. She later headed the New Haven branch of the party.

Photograph: Stephen Shames/Polaris

There was an international Digital Communications Conference where I live today, and I didn’t want to pay the $125 admission so I just kinda snuck in???? 

I watched 2 talks and then left; it was all about ham radio / sdr… p neat tho

I love mixing my cottage witchcraft with my intense desire to be a mother and home-maker. And, having grown up in white suburbia, I know that whether I want it to or not, it’s going to become like… Soccer-Mom Witchcraft.

“What’s that? A bake sale to raise funds for your club? Oh, well let me see what money-drawing magics I can pop into the mixer…”

“What’s that pouch in your pocket?” “It’s a spell for communication clarity. Parent-teacher conferences are tonight.”

“Sweetie, I made you a hot-chocolate potion to help you study!”

“Honey, what are you sewing into our daughter’s sports uniform?” “It’s just a sigil for luck and conquest…”