Amena Brown: Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of HER With Amena Brown. I am Amena Brown, and y'all, I am so excited about today's episode. I know y'all probably think I say that after every episode, but really, I'm excited about today's episode. I am excited to welcome disabled activist, media maker, research consultant, founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project: an online community dedicated to creating sharing and amplifying disability media and culture. My guest today is Alice Wong. I always clap, Alice. Thank you for joining us.
Alice Wong: Well, thank you for having me. I'm delighted.
Amena Brown: As Alice and I were just chitchatting before I started recording this, we almost jumped into a whole... I was like, let me just press record.
Alice Wong: We just got right into it. As [inaudible 00:01:38], people just knew.
Amena Brown: That's so right. And actually, I was introduced to you on Twitter, Alice. That's how I started following you and learning more about Disability Visibility Project, and I really have been... I don't know if it's still considered lurking on Twitter, but we used to use that term for other online things when you just like were on there in a message board or whatever, and you're not talking there, but you're reading everything.
Amena Brown: I've been lurking through a lot of your Twitter threads and different Twitter conversations and Twitter parties that you've been having, and just have learnt so much from you Alice. So, I'm really honored to have you.
Alice Wong: Well, I lurked as well. And as you know, Twitter can be a real dumpster fire. There's horrible... the trolling, the harassment. But on the flip side, this is where I learn a lot from a lot of people, I'm constantly amazed by the amount of vapor in terms of education, of wisdom, people are just telling the truth in their own words. It's such a perfect medium that I'm just constantly learning, I'm just struck, it's such amazing. Just like you, I think I have found and followed lots of interesting people. And I think it's still, there's a lot of value, despite all the things that are not so great about it.
Amena Brown: That's true. Because there are quite a few things that we're like, oh gosh, that's terrible about Twitter. But I have to say, one of the opportunities that we have on a platform like Twitter is we have an opportunity to choose the people that we follow. It's not the same as how like Facebook was, when you've added a person and now there's a mutual connection between you. Sometimes you might be following people, they may not even be following you back or even know who you are at all, but you're getting a chance to get this window into some things that you could learn from them.
Amena Brown: And I think too, and we'll talk about this more when we get to hear more about some of the online community that you've been building. But I think a part of it that's been good for me is putting myself in a posture to listen, especially if I am sitting from a privileged place. Getting a chance to just listen, it's not time for me to talk, it's not a conversation for me to add to, it's not my conversation. It's for me to read, listen, learn, support; do those things.
Amena Brown: I really appreciate you Alice, and I'm glad you're on the podcast to tell us all the things. I'm hoping I won't keep you here for three hours, and you're like, listen-
Alice Wong: Listen, I like you, but I don't like lying to you.
Amena Brown: Right, to be clear.
Alice Wong: Listen, I got to hydrate.
Amena Brown: That's right. Hydration is important. That is right.
Alice Wong: But you always do a followup one.
Amena Brown: That's true. I'll see how far I get, Alice. And if it gets to where it's getting long here, I may just have do a followup with you.
Alice Wong: Restrain yourself.
Amena Brown: Thank you, I will. I'm gonna work on it. I'm gonna work on it girl.
Alice Wong: And I will do as well. I will try.
Amena Brown: I'd love to ask you to an origin story. One of the things that I find really inspiring about you as a leader and as a creative is, I start reading your bio and I've already gone to five different links of things that you've made or created or co-created or spearheaded. You are a very prolific person. When you think about young Alice, do you have moments you can think of when you were young that you're like, I started out being a creative person earlier on in life?
Alice Wong: Well, at one stage it's just stories. In kindergarten, I remember we had a project for... our teacher had all these sort of wallpaper samples, that we were supposed to create a book out of these wallpaper samples as our cover for our book. There was this really beautiful piece of wallpaper that was like silvery aqua blue, that had these waves, that I remember in my eyes it's like... I was inspired by that cover because I thought I'm gonna write a book about fish.
Alice Wong: And I just made these illustrations. That was where I figured that gem of writing and creating some things using colors and design, I think that that's where I started. But I think at the heart of it, I've always been really into writing, into stuff like telling my own story, speaking of stories. And I think a lot of this happened because as a disabled child, there were a lot of times growing up where I couldn't participate with a lot of the other kids. I didn't play at the playground that recess. There were a lot of activities, and I grew up in the 70s and 80s, that sort of all the access issues.
Alice Wong: So, I was really off on the sidelines. And nobody thought it was wrong for this to happen. Even I didn't even realize it was a problem. I was always that way. So, I had a lot of time in my hands. And there were a lot of times that I just had my imagination. That was my friend. And I think that that's one of the biggest assets in terms of growing up disabled in a non-disabled world. Having that perspective and that imagination and time to really think and have creativity in terms of imagining what else it could be.
Alice Wong: So, I think I found that I'm a creative person, but not really too sure. I guess other people would have to... people who saw me would have to say like just their two cents.
Amena Brown: I love that, because I think it's some of the phrasing that you use I think was really interesting, when you talked about part of you having an imagination as a disabled child was giving you this ability to imagine what could be. And I think the more we talk about your work as an activist and as a creator, there's so much of that showing up in your work that a part of how what you're doing is showing up in the world. It's creating things, it's thinking about what could be, and making those things, so that there are more spaces in the world where the way we imagine it could be, could actually be. Which is really powerful, right?
Alice Wong: Yeah. And I think as a kid, I've always been a real nerd. I loved science fiction. I think libraries were really my home. Books were, I think, a form of escape, a form of liberation for me. I felt so alive, so engaged into reading. And it didn't matter that I couldn't go on a camping trip or it didn't matter that I was left out of this activity, because due to my imagination, due to reading, I could go anywhere. And actually, it was incredibly radical and liberatory. Books like the Chronicles of Narnia, Octavia Butler-
Amena Brown: Yes, Octavia, yes.
Alice Wong: My mind noted, like in high school, when I discovered, I was like OMG! That was life changing to me. Books really open your world and worlds, multiverses. And I think [inaudible 00:10:43] for so many people, that was like a gateway. And I'm always indebted I think to science fiction and fantasy writers, to really give us a sense of like, there is the real world, but if we don't think about what can be, it will never happen. That's why I loved Star Trek, there's just this hope, this sense of optimism, something to look forward to or something to be fighting for.
Amena Brown: Yeah. Let me ask you this. Would you say that being a reader, growing up, inspired you to also become a writer? Because that's a part of my story too, that I grew up a very introverted kid. Still today I sometimes go to public functions and think that I might enjoy reading a book better than being there talking to people. There was something about just my mom and my grandma both being people who loved to read, and so there were a lot of those trips to the library and getting the max amount of books that I could check out, and seeing how quickly I could get them read between then and when you had to check them back in.
Amena Brown: And I realize now, although I don't know if I knew this as a child, but I realize now there was something about the reading that made me want to become a writer, because I looked at just the power of what a writer could do. One of my favorite series was the true show and adventure books. I'm so glad they're back in print now, because for a while, they went out of print. But I loved those books. Just that someone could think not just of one story, but could write a book that had like 76 different endings, that made want to try writing. Was that your story too? That it's the reading that led you to also want to write.
Alice Wong: Absolutely. I think just the huge spectrum of storytelling that was out there. I don't know about you, but I did these summer reading programs at the library where you're... That was just part of my summers, growing up, just really loving... I really love Beatrix Potter. Her illustrations, they came alive. Just having these visuals, like the [Tonica 00:13:27] awards, those are awards for like children's books, just the illustrations. And I remember as a kid just how nerdy I am, going to all the Tonica that are award winners. And just seeing the different illustrations, because I thought, oh my gosh! I feel like this one, I'm gonna like all of that award winners. Just the power of words plus images, really came alive. And of course, that response, whatever, was going on in my little brain.
Amena Brown: Whenever I would pick a book and then pick it up and see that Caldecott seal on the front, I felt like I was winning something, like I was winning some award somewhere. I just thought, oh yes, this makes this book even more special. I was already looking forward to reading it, and now it's like a Caldecott. Oh, I'm so glad I can share this nerdiness with you Alice, because I love those Caldecott books.
Alice Wong: Me too. There was something really amazingly that they truly was. I thought like, here's what I [inaudible 00:14:46] where it's about... I believe a fish. The way they just used the images, it didn't need that much text, but they just told a story in such a graphic nature. I guess that is like a different way to tell a story. It's like graphic novels, the animation topics, these are all just so many different ways to help people to express themselves, which is really wonderful.
Amena Brown: So wonderful. Oh my gosh, Alice, yes. I can talk to you about all the book things. I'm like, yes, I can remember one summer I lived with my grandmother when my mom was in basic training for the army, and my school had a summer competition: if you worm like a hundred books over the summer, you'd get the t-shirt that had like the little bookworm graphic on the front, "You can tell me anything."
Alice Wong: Yeah, game on. It's on, right?
Amena Brown: Yes, totally. So, you have not only written, but you also took on the role of editor for the book Resistance and Hope. It's essays by disabled people; crip wisdom for the people. Can you talk about what was the process, or maybe the difference in the process between writing and editing? Like going from the role of writer, to now going into editing.
Amena Brown: Because to be an editor... and you'll tell me if this is true, because I've never done this, but in my mind, it seems like it's part curation of bringing the different voices together, of sort of doing that corralling part, and also the actual editing process of like going through all the words and everything. Talk more about, what was that transition like between being a writer and going into being editor? And why was it important to you to release Resistance and Hope?
Alice Wong: I think I'll first talk a little bit about the origins of this anthology. Like a lot of people, the election day of 2016, it was scary, horrible, soul-crushing, and I was independent personally. I knew exactly about the future, of what this administration would bring, despite a lot of people saying, "You never know, just give this person a chance." I'm like, "No. Marginalized communities have been insulted throughout the entire election." That if you weren't listening to them, this is what we have now. Because people didn't listen to black women, people didn't listen to disabled people, people didn't listen to the LGBTQ community.
Alice Wong: I was, like a lot of people, just feeling at a loss about like, what now? And then I realized, you know what? Disabled people are just resilient, creative survivors. And it was really interesting to see the word resistance pop up much more in 2016, and like everybody is resisting this, resisting that. And I realized that there are disabled people who are out there doing some work every day way before this election. And why aren't these voices part of this larger narrative, or this larger conversation?
Alice Wong: And I really thought about, why did we do what we do? And I think that for me, personally, despite all the horror and the distress and trauma, and the real opposite of pain of living and fighting oppression, that we continue this work because we have hope. Then I thought, resistance and hope, resistance and hope, there is something interesting there to observe. What is the relationship between these two? And I really wanted to center it within a disabled lens. So, I thought, what can I do as an individual as a response to this administration and its response to this topic, whatever it is?
Alice Wong: And I've wrote a few things in the past. What's another way I can be creative and challenge myself? I've never done it before. I decided to self publish and edit an anthology. And I thought this could be really a gift to the world. This is something that I think I could do that really showcases the people of my community. It's something that I can release, and have it as a tool or as a resource or reference to say, this is where we are now, this is where we wanna be, and these are some people that you should be reading and following.
Alice Wong: So, I thought, let me see what I can do. This is gonna be interesting. I thought about creativity, the idea to always push yourself, to do something that you've never done before. And I learned a lot, just too much stuff what's involved in self-publishing. It isn't an e-book, and it was a great learning process. And I think as an editor, it's all about who do you wanna include and feature? Like the generational aspect that you said, I think that's almost just like casting. Once you cast your cast, it creates your products.
Alice Wong: Just like you, in terms of us knowing each other on Twitter, the majority of people that I... if I did just a bit of essay for this anthology, are people that I follow and learn from and deeply appreciate on Twitter. Some of these folks I've never met in my entire life, and I just DM them and I'm like, "Hey, I really appreciate your Twitter threads these last few months. They're just so full of wisdom." And I was like, "Did you have any interest in writing a book for this?"
Alice Wong: That to me was really exciting, in terms of just putting myself out there and just approaching folks, and really interesting cross-section of people that I personally find amazing in terms of just truth tellers, people who I consider are bad asses in just every different field. I was very interested in all, but I wanted mostly marginalized disabled people. So it might be most of disabled people, or just queer disabled people, trans disabled people.
Alice Wong: And basically it was very intentional of having pretty much a majority of the contributors to be a disabled person of color, because I really wanted that to be just the default. And I didn't even use the word [interjectional 00:23:21], because I feel like that word is almost overused, I think that's appropriated. I just wanted it to be what it is, that's it. The takeaway from that, this is gonna be vital, and I want that to be an example for other folks.
Alice Wong: But yeah, it's been really fun, and I think to be editor I learnt a lot. I'm really bad at grammar, so I hired a copy editor to do that. So, that's the way things stand. It was really helpful to delegate, but it's really like... A lot of work of editing is really just having the right combination of essays. And I couldn't be more pleased with what each contributor offered in terms of just what they decided to write about. And just the trust you have to have with your contributors, I think that to me was very interesting. That if you have this trust and faith that your writers will pull through, they usually do. There's just a thrill to be able to have this.
Alice Wong: And I made a point to make sure that this anthology is free, and to make it accessible. Just have it as a form access that a lot of people don't think about.
Amena Brown: That's so good. And we're talking about curation. I kind of want to also talk about podcasts in here, because as you were talking about curating the voices and contributors that were in the anthology... And I loved the phrase that you used in there, the fact that this was majority voices who were disabled people of color, that you wanted that to be the default. And I was like, "Oh yes, Alice."
Amena Brown: When I heard you use that phrasing, I loved that so much, because we want the default to be centering the voices who are most marginalized. That should be our default. That we center those stories, that we elevate those leaders and voices. You also have a podcast. You are so prolific, Alice. I'm out here looking at my calendar like, I need to make more things, because Alice is out here making some things-
Alice Wong: Hey, you know what, it's not a competition. I feel like it's been a lot, but I think I've tried to make space work for me in terms of if I'm not gonna be able to do something, that's okay. I think that's the kind of thing as creators, you and I probably both go through. It's this sense of obligation or this sense of like...
Alice Wong: I feel like we have to forgive ourselves and try to restructure our work in a way that's optimal for us. Because, otherwise, we do have some control over our workflow. For example, when I first started out my podcasts, I assumed that maybe I did it a lot, because I think I did like my first few pods, and I was like, that is way too much for me. I've learned from this. I did reach a more doable. Over a year ago, I decided to do two episodes a month, which is already a lot I think, but I'm one of those people that have a podcast that's [inaudible 00:27:40]. It's just me and some audio producers that I've worked with.
Alice Wong: And I think this is where having that consistency is good for the audience, it is good for me, but doing it in a way that there's something for me to feel like I'm constantly under pressure. I don't know about you, but I'm in it for the long run. It's totally true that some podcasts have a lifespan. It could be sometimes that I'm going through a thing, and that's totally okay. But if I start something, I think I wanna try to carry it through, as long as it gives me joy. That's about like, I wanna love to do this. I don't wanna feel like it's a burden or feel stressed.
Alice Wong: So, I think I'll try to make it as... even if it might be in a way that's atypical, like... I don't know about you Amena, but I plan my episodes really way in advance. I actually interview folks... For example, if I interview somebody in April, their episode won't come out until months later, because I tend to have that wiggle room. So, my podcast isn't gonna be topical, in terms of like the latest thing, the latest conversation. Some podcasts are gonna be like that, but mine are gonna be about these evergreen topics and things that are always going to be interesting, I think. That's how I could have made my choices to really fit with my own abilities, my own strengths. I just [inaudible 00:29:45] for these. How about you? I'm curious about your process.
Amena Brown: Yeah. It's such a good reminder hearing you talk about this Alice, because I am such a, like type A personality. I'm very much like, sets more goals than can realistically be accomplished in the time that I decided to complete them. I'm very much that person. I'm in the middle of a season of life, of really learning the lesson that you articulated so well, that we have to forgive ourselves and give ourselves a lot more grace, and just not feel like everything has to be super urgent. With my podcast, this is my third podcast. My sister-in-law and I have a podcast called Here For The Donuts. That's what I started-
Alice Wong: You know what, the minute I saw that I knew it was yours, because I'm such a donut lover.
Amena Brown: Yes.
Alice Wong: Can we talk about donuts after this?
Amena Brown: Yes, please. Oh my gosh, because donuts are just so amazing. Clearly, that's how much I love them, that my sister-in-law and I were like, we should just start recording this. That's what we do on the podcast. We eat donuts and talk about what we like to call inappropriate things, but they're super appropriate; super appropriate and great. To some people they're probably inappropriate, but not to us, we don't care, whatever it is.
Amena Brown: That's kind of what got me into it. But because my sister-in-law is a midwife, and mom of five kids, and I'm a traveling performing artist who has time. It's like we just have to record as we have time. So, some years we were putting out a bunch of episodes, and then some years it was like a ghost town, nobody knows what happens. But we agreed at that point, we're gonna record this for fun, we're gonna record this as we can. We're not gonna turn this into a machine.
Amena Brown: And then I did a limited edition podcast for my last book, How to Fix a Broken Record. And then I was like, "Oh, there was only 10 episodes. I need to do this more." Now, my current podcast, I'm just in line with you so much in values, because I wanted to have a podcast that can center the voices of women of color. Women of color telling their stories, telling their experiences, personally, professionally. Just whatever women of color wanna say, that this could be a place where I could just galvanize that kind of conversation.
Amena Brown: So, I decided... This podcast comes out twice a year. It's a spring season and a fall season, because I'd be tired.
Alice Wong: I'd be tired too. And I think that's what's great. It's that this media have to be whatever you want it to be. We're not all gonna be like, "I have these professional producers, advertisers, that are gonna be on platforms." No, we're gonna be our own individual creative figures, and just putting the work out there. I think that's already an accomplishment in itself.
Amena Brown: Yeah. I have so many questions about podcasting I'm trying to ask you. I wanna know, what was it about the podcast medium that made you want to create there? Because we have a lot of options now as creatives of how we can put our work out, which in a way I love, because it's created a lot more accessibility to the things that we make. Now it's like, if I have a poem, I put out. The 50 people who are there in the audience don't have to be the only people that get a chance to see it or hear it. Now I have a way to share it in some different places.
Amena Brown: But what was it about podcasting that made you want to use it as a medium? And then what's your process like as far as curating who you interview, or the topics that you decide to talk about? Tell me more about that.
Alice Wong: I think of [inaudible 00:34:05] audio content is inaccessible for some people and also sounds are privilege-y. But with ability, I think that there is something about the intimacy of radio podcasting that's very unique. You hear people's voices, I think sometimes there's a lot of patches that happen during your conversation with somebody, there's a lot of unexpected things that can happen. There's a lot of discovery, it's such an adventure.
Alice Wong: You just as an interviewer prepare as much as you can, but also let it go. Letting the interviewee be the guide, and you're just a listener. Really, making sure that the spotlight is on the interviewee, and just guiding the conversation. I think that to me is why I... What I find important is that my podcast is not a vehicle for me. It is a vehicle for the community that I'm a part of; the multiple communities that I'm a part of. I think it's not the same for everybody's philosophy, but that's kind of my philosophy.
Alice Wong: And I think there is the intimacy, I think that's really... and I think one thing that I love about recording conversations is that hearing the laughter. You could have a Q&A, but you can't write this is laughter. There's a lot of these kind of other noises that people make that I think also express emotions, that is another way of expression. And I think that adds a lot to the overall story, and also for the audience too. I think it is something different, just as if it is a video series, I feel like to be able to see us, versus hear us, versus read a transcript.
Alice Wong: I think there's all these different ways of expressing ourselves, and I think podcast is just another... is one of many modes. And I think it's just that you have to test them out.
Amena Brown: Yeah. And be open to seeing what it's gonna become. That's kind of my experience podcasting so far too, is that it sort of took me some episodes to figure out, what do I want this to feel like? And I had interviewed people in other settings, but what's the frame of how I want to interview people here? And as we were talking about before we started recording, there's the prep work of looking into who it is that you're interviewing, and how to make the interview feel warm. And I'm curious. I feel like that's a part of which maybe I'm just a nosy person, honestly.
Alice Wong: It's true. I think at the heart of... I think every time I feel creativity, I think it's my curiosity. And I create it with interest in learning more. And I think that's what is really exciting. Is that you could do the prep work, but you could also have a lot of questions that just... ways of really just giving space. Which I think is another act of love, I think, which we show for each other. It's an act of solidarity, it's an act of love to get the answers, just giving space.
Amena Brown: I love that phrasing. I've heard the phrasing 'holding space'. But when you said giving space, just now, that has even different implications from holding space. Because to give space is something very different. And I love that phrasing.
Alice Wong: I think that also speaks to our privilege and our power. As media makers, we do have choices that we can make in terms of who we invite, to what we wanna talk about. And I think that's a very deliberate choice of who we wanna give space to, that I think everybody of us, whether it's just politicians or just whatever work they do, I think we all actually have that capacity, whether we realize it or not.
Amena Brown: Yeah. Disability Visibility is your podcast. Disability Visibility is also an online community. I want you to tell me more about that. Tell our listeners more about that, because you are the director and founder of Disability Visibility as an online community. What was the moment that inspired you to create this online community?
Alice Wong: Thank you for asking. It's kind of funny, it's been... We're gonna reach almost five years since I founded the Disability Visibility project, which started in 2014. This was really at first an oral history partnership with StoryCorps. I don't know if you're familiar with StoryCorps.
Amena Brown: Yes, familiar.
Alice Wong: They're a national oral history non-profits, and they draw all their stories from various communities and most of the participants have a choice of having their oral histories archived at the Library of Congress.
Alice Wong: I went to one of their events, and they talked about partnerships with various communities. And I went up to them and said, "Have you ever done one with the disability community?" Then they said, no, we haven't. And I was like, "Huh?" At that time... To back it up, in 2014, the Americans With Disabilities Act was gonna turn 25; 25th anniversary in the year 2015. So, the [inaudible 00:41:30] was really curious in terms of just finding different ways to mark this kind of landmark anniversary and landmark law.
Alice Wong: And at that time I was just an individual person just wondering what could I do? I wasn't really affiliated with any organization. Even at that I time I don't think I even identified as an activist, with a capital A, but I wanted to do something. I thought, why don't I create a 20-year oral history campaign where I encourage people with disability to tell their stories at StoryCorps?
Alice Wong: It first started off as that, and I used social media to really get the word out. That's where the I'd like to be a proponent really happened, and I just stumbled. I think I really started there because of so many people want to tell their stories. There is such a void if we think about disability history. Is that even taught in high schools? No, it's not. How many people have dated major moments in disability history? Other than FDR or Helen Keller or Stevie Wonder, how many people have dated major people with disability history?
Alice Wong: This was a way I think of honoring ourselves, and to say this is history now if we make it. This is the zeitgeist of where the disability really is now. The idea is not just the big names, but really the stories of everyday people. Because I feel like we all are creating history, whether we realize it or not. And I think that's another thing, that we don't value our own history until later on. And for so long, for so many marginalized communities, our stories are not told by us. They're told by historians or other people that just use our work or just use our words like they see us through their lives.
Alice Wong: So, I wanted to just as a way to tell our stories in our own words, and able to be really active, participatory, empowering, kind of experience. And I'm proud to say that as of this year, we have over 100 oral histories recorded. And I do believe that majority of them are at the Library of Congress, so that anybody can go in there, or any other leader centuries later, they're gonna be there for all time. And that to me is important. And it wouldn't have happened without people wanting to do it. It didn't even matter if I had a great idea. But if it wasn't something that resonated strongly with the disability community, it would have never be what it is today.
Alice Wong: I'm just trying to say how much gratitude I have in terms of just the way it's been received and the way that people just seem to really appreciate it.
Amena Brown: Yeah. Wow! I love that. I love the idea of the importance of preserving the oral history, and hearing more disabled history. That's such a powerful thing.
Amena Brown: You also are the creator of the hashtag #CripTheVote, yes? I want to, just in hearing more about Disability Visibility started out as this, put this word out there to get more oral histories from the disabled community. Which that ask, in and of itself, creates more community. Which is just amazing to hear. You also talk a lot about the importance of civic engagement, and use this hashtag #CripTheVote to encourage more discussion about civic engagement in the disabled community.
Amena Brown: Tell me more about what has been your experience as you are leading and initiating these types of conversations among the disabled community. Why is it important? And I'm asking you a question I know a little bit the answer to from my own experience, but I think we're in a time that we're understanding the importance of civic engagement and understanding the importance of resistance. I just wanna hear your perspective, why is it important to you that the disabled community is engaged in the process of government and in activism?
Alice Wong: I feel like there's a lot of things to say about this, because just like every issue is a government issue, I think of every political issue as a disability issue. And I don't think that a lot of non-disabled people do not understand that disabled people are part of every single community. Every single issue to be seen as a disability issue.
Alice Wong: The fact that we, like many other communities have been left out, excluded, and face multiple barriers in terms of not just voting but other forms of political participation. There's a history of outright oppression and discrimination... actual barriers, physical and policy barriers. Some of the decisions, people with disability often do not even have the choice of living in a community. I think people kind of forget that. Disabled kids were segregated to foster homes.
Alice Wong: So, it's come a long way, but I felt we're anywhere near parity in terms of the power that we deserve, political power, as a community of voters. Also political representation. And I think that was really important that the people we elect, the people who are at the major positions of power need to reflect all of us. And we are not there yet, but this is the way to get started in terms of just encouraging people to say, yes, we all have a stake in this. And yes, apathy is a huge problem.
Alice Wong: I myself [inaudible 00:50:00] they'd be like, it's too hard. What is the point? Sometimes it does feel like everything is corrupt and the system is broken, that the system does not work for us; which is actually true in some respect. At the same time we have to think about what are the tools in front of us? Well, for some people voting is still one of the most basic things they could use. For those who can't vote or are ineligible to vote... Let's not forget there are people who still, whether it's because they're in prison or others who are disenfranchised from voting. Voting is not the only thing, but it is something that a lot of people have access to.
Alice Wong: There's also just being involved in your social community. Just showing up to meetings, or whether you wanna serve on a committee. I think even online activism is incredibly powerful. I do feel like Twitter and... social media really is like, whatever I find myself the most comfortable in, that's where I feel most alive, the most active, because I feel like there's a way of sparking conversations through hashtags through Twitter threads to really reach people in ways that traditional forms ordinarily cannot.
Alice Wong: And I think they're complementary. It's not either/or. I don't think one is better than the other. I think there's value in all types of activism. And I'm just using what is at my tips, at my disposal. Really totally savvy way to really talk about these things in a very complex media, so that other people can see it. Other people can join in and listen and just learn. And I think to have it out there is really something really important.
Alice Wong: #CripTheVote really started with my two friends, two partners, Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan. We were just three friends who, we've never met in person. They're both based in New York, and we're just really good friends online. And I think again it speaks to the times we live in, where online friendships are just as real, just as potent as the people we talk to in front of us. And if a lot of disabled people who either can't get out of their house, who are sick, or just... this is the world that we are part of, that this is how we find each other, this is how we connect, and it's really been a form of access just for a lot of people.
Alice Wong: So, giving a voice for just people that throughout history are interested in politics, we follow the elections. Because we thought that since it was founded right before the 26th... They started 26th, they were like just [inaudible 00:54:01]. None of them were really talking about disability. And here we were like, why are we always left out? You never see... you rarely see a person's platform, a candidate's platform talking about the disability community. You rarely see us as a community that is important by a candidate. Why is that?
Alice Wong: And I think this is another really interesting question, because why aren't we being considered when we think about all the diverse communities? There's diversity such as the buzzwords that everybody is just trying to chase, they're trying to look loved, and very often, the disability community is just an afterthought. It's not like [inaudible 00:55:00] until somebody says, "Hey, what about us?" Then they'd be like, "Oh, okay. Of course."
Alice Wong: There's something interesting about that, that there's such an even odd [inaudible 00:55:16]. And I think part of what's great about Twitter is that you can get off like this. You can tell stories, and that's the actual power. Sometimes it is for the creative community, but it's also about marginalized communities. And I think that having a hashtag is... it belongs to everyone. We use it for our threads, we like to be in debates and conventions during election years. It's for everyone to use to talk about disability issues.
Alice Wong: And that's exciting too, that it [inaudible 00:56:10]. Here's what I pray, that that's... every time I see people using it, I was like wow, it feels good. I think that's really gratifying about using hashtags and so it really becomes the space in itself. A place for people to converge and to meet.
Amena Brown: There are so many powerful things that you just said. The part about interviewing people for your podcast is like I wanna have a little notebook here to decide where I could scribble my stuff, but then the whole recording would like [Krkrkr 00:57:01] because I'll be over here writing things. But I thought it was so powerful the way you gave us the both ends there, because if we're going to effect change, I think there can be this temptation to be like, "Oh, well, the only way we effect change is to do it this way, or the only way to effect change is if we do it that way." And just effecting change is accessible to all of us, and there are ways and steps that we can take, things that we can do that can help us all as a community work together.
Alice Wong: Yeah. And I think this is why I like activism is redefined. Because I think sometimes there are some activists that are, there's one way to do this, or just to be an activist you have to put your body on the line and sacrifice this and... No, that's not true. And I think that actually drives people away from wanting to get involved, because they've got this very specific idea, because the images and stories we see about activists and activism is somewhat [inaudible 00:58:23], right?
Amena Brown: Yeah.
Alice Wong: So, it's not just about these rallies and marches, wearing these signs and pussy hats. I really believe that even sharing information is a form of activism. You don't have to be affiliated with anybody to be an activist. You can just do stuff on your own, just do it quietly. You don't need a megaphone. You don't need to even identify as an activist to be an activist.
Alice Wong: Even I myself, I think I was really reluctant... I mentioned this earlier, to think of myself as an activist, because I was worried that people would not see me that way or not believe me. And I think that's, again, this really weird kind of orthodoxy that is like, to be a real activist or to do the real work you have to do this. And I think there's a lot of weird sort of ableist ideas too that if you're not going out, if you're not putting the time and energy to be physically in a space, that somehow you're not getting your voice heard. But that's not true. There's a lot of ways to make your voice heard. And I think we all need to really, to be much more mindful and accepting of all kinds of activism.
Amena Brown: A word today from Alice Wong, a word. I put out to social media if anyone wanted to ask you questions, and Damien from Twitter wants to know what is your favorite Ninja Turtle? Super deep questions here Alice.
Alice Wong: Oh, I'm here for it. I love these questions. Well, David, I'm very sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not a fan of the turtles. I do not know the characters as deeply or as lovingly as you do, therefore, I do not have an answer for you. It would be fake of me just to pick one as my favorite. I will not do that to you David. I will not do that to you. That is my answer, and I'm very sorry.
Amena Brown: Listen, all I know is they had Italian names and they ate pizza, but if you ask me to pick out which one was which, I couldn't help. Damien, there's your answer. Alice does not have a favorite Ninja Turtle. I do not have a favorite Ninja Turtle either, so I'm there with you Alice.
Alice Wong: Thank you for asking.
Amena Brown: Yes, thank you for asking Damien, we appreciate that. I wanna ask you the three questions I ask every guest. Question one, what inspires you to create?
Alice Wong: I think what inspires me is the idea of bringing something into the world, something new, something from me, and offering it. I think that's something about creating something and having it out there. And I think part of the idea is, the idea is part of a better world. I don't know if that sounds corny, but it's the idea of contributing and offering something as part of this process of creating a better world or just imagining a better world.
Amena Brown: Yeah. I love that. Question two, what is one thing you've made that you're really proud of?
Alice Wong: I guess I would have to say that currently this podcast has been really really fun. I think it's been just another extension of [inaudible 01:03:25] oral histories, and then I do this podcast. Other forms of media are all right, but a podcast is just another vehicle for storytelling that's really giving new life. I feel like just even the editing process has been really a wonderful exercise for me as a storyteller, as I craft the story. And I feel like it's just been really rewarding, and just a joy. I feel such gratitude to the people that have agreed to be on my podcast, just to hear their times, to hear their stories with me. So, it's a gift for me and it's a gift from me.
Amena Brown: Yeah. Question three, if you could give another woman a She Did That Award, who would it be, and why?
Alice Wong: Well, I'm gonna have to cheat a little, to give a shout out to two women.
Amena Brown: Okay.
Alice Wong: There are two women I gave she-did-that twice: Vilissa Thompson and Imani Barbarin. These two women are people you have got to follow right now. Vilissa and Imani are just two unapologetic proud black disabled women who have just created a lasting impression on the disability community. They really have just been so forceful and just so amazing in terms of talking about representation in the media, talking about race and racism within the disability community, which is long overdue.
Alice Wong: Other people have been doing it, but I feel like Imani and Vilissa are really really the ones. They are typical of [inaudible 01:05:56] their wisdom, their fire, their knowledge is just amazing. So, for anybody who wants to learn more, go to their websites. Imani's blog is crutchesandspice.com, and Vilissa's is rampyourvoice.com. So, be sure to follow them and just support these amazing black disabled women.
Amena Brown: Vilissa and Imani, y'all did that. She Did That Awards for both of you.
Alice Wong: Yeah.
Amena Brown: Alice, you've already given us just so many great people to follow, resources to make sure we look into, and places to support. What can people do when they want to follow you? They want to know more about all of the things that you're doing, tell people where to go.
Alice Wong: If you're a podcast listener [inaudible 01:07:00], just subscribe to Disability Visibility. It is on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify. You can also go to my website disabilityvisibilityproject.com for the latest, such as the various interviews and announcements and all kinds of goodies. And if you're on Twitter, my personal handle is SFdirewolf, D-I-R-E-W-O-L-F, and Disability Visibility is on Twitter @DisVisibility. So, follow it, see you around.
Amena Brown: Say hello people. Follow all the things. Go and check out Resistance and Hope as well. You would just go into a wonderful trove of things. I almost was late to this interview today, just clicking on links between the project website and Alice's information. I was like, "Oh, I have an interview to do." Go to these things.
Amena Brown: Alice, thank you, not only for being on the podcast today, but for everything that you create and put out into the world, for taking that imagination and helping the world become what it really could be. Thank you so much Alice, I really appreciate you.
Alice Wong: Thank you Amena. I've just really enjoyed talking with you, and I feel like these sort of conversations are so important, and I really appreciate it.
Amena Brown: HER With Amena Brown is produced by DJ Opdiggy for Sol Graffiti productions. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, write a review, and share the podcast. Thanks for listening.