Freedom and Justice For All

Last month Georgia advocates celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Olmstead vs. LC/EW United States Supreme Court case; in which all people with disabilities won the right to lives integrated in community with long term care services delivered at home instead of an institutional setting. Georgia ADAPT honored this landmark decision by organizing and marching for four long days of sweltering heat and brutal sun. The Long Road Home campaign brought advocates from all over the state together in unified directive for public awareness which took marchers from the old capitol in Milledgeville to Central State Hospital and its cemetery, caravan passed Brook Run, then to Shepherd Center for a march down Peachtree Street to the new capitol in Atlanta, culmination in visit with the Governor's office, and a final party at City Hall to honor Lois Clark and Elaine Wilson for what they had done for us all. I joined the marchers on their final leg of journey for what Mark Johnson termed would be "a celebration or a confrontation." Upon arrival at the capitol, Carol Jones told me 'it could get ugly. There may be arrests.'

As I went in to join the group I passed by many old friends from various factions of the disability advocating community including Mark Dyer, Bernard Baker, Kate Gainer, Jerilyn and Mike Leverett, and their now grown up daughter Victoria, Beth and Natalie Tumlin, Renee Peak, Leonard Roscoe, and their son Nigiel. Families were here represented, representing hundreds who had for years been on waiting lists awaiting community based in home services. These were people that were on the frontlines everyday, whose lives were now a quest, a struggle to see all people with disabilities entitled to choice in their own lives.

The governor was out of town as he so often conveniently is when we desire dialogue with him. Even though he would not hear our concerns on this day, we know where he will be from July 16-21, and many who were here at the capitol in honor of the Olmstead decision, would be in Seattle, Washington then for the National Governor's Association annual meeting. National ADAPT would be there to greet all the governors and to ask them all- why do you continue to perpetuate nursing home bias in the states of our nation when it is clear that the people you are suppose to represent want choice and alternative to the legislation which allows us to be locked up and away from our families, children, and communities. We have done no grave crime, committed no grave injustice. We do not deserve sentence of callous authority which has no regard for people and our need, want for integration.

We were granted meeting with Trey Childress of the Governors staff and 3 other representatives on a 3rd floor conference room where they could hear our grievances and jot down notes for those who would later take heed of our delegation. Mark Johnson fired shot across their bow, letting them know we were upset and we meant business. They listened to our story and spoke words we had all heard before, and then promised a later meeting with the Governor. They did take time from their schedules to make appearance at a gathering Georgia ADAPT was hosting to honor Lois Clark and Elaine Wilson for setting the foundation and legal precedence to sue States for violating people's civil rights.

It has been 5 years, more should have been done. People are dying. The Long Road Home campaign was to remind the Governor and his staff, the people of Georgia, and the nation that it is not okay to condemn people to years of nightmarish existence in nursing homes or mental institutions. It is not okay to expect us to be okay with it. And so things must change and now is the time for those things to change. It had gone on long enough without anybody saying or doing anything about it. Too many people have already suffered too much and there is no good reason to allow people to suffer any longer.

Governor Perdue take notice. We will see you and the rest of the governors in Seattle. So long as any of you continues to ignore our agenda and continues to shrug us off in any way, then wherever you gather in mass number or even alone, watch for us for we are determined to free our people. We have message for you from millions across the nation and that message is -Free us, let us go, we deserve more than harsh existence and state funded incarceration. We deserve choice imperative, sunshine, clean air, the sound of children and birds at play. We deserve the choice to do what we want with the lives we are blessed to have. No matter what others or you think about our quality in life; we deserve what we think of life based on qualities decided by those of us who live our lives, in our bodies according to our own situations and circumstance. You may not be able to understand because you do not yet need the assistance of others and that is fine. Those of us who do need the help of others, deserve to get that help where we determine and in the way that best enables us to lives of health and happiness.

Should it be that one day you too will need the assistance of others (and that day will come), then you will be glad for what we are doing now and will benefit from the experience of those of us who have already walked this road. Should it be that your children, spouse, sibling, or parent may need the services being established because of our efforts, then you too will be glad that day for what we do now; for you will not have to suffer indignities or struggle where we have dared to fight, where many have been arrested or died seeking justice.

On that day when you or a family member needs what we have set up as choice for all, you will praise us and thank God that others have determined effort; that many had battled when many accepted 'that's just the way it is.' Hopefully soon you will side with our efforts and come to understand that what we do is for the freedom of every future posterity, every child born American at later date. Perhaps even what we accomplish here will set precedence for every other country of the world, and perhaps they will follow in suit to take care the needs of the whole population, and people everywhere will forever be free of life in institutional setting. Praise God, let it be so…