Saturday, February 20, 2010

Advocacy Requires Action

click the above image to watch a founder of this movement in action!

It's one thing to be upset about the derogatory use of the r-word and it's quite another to get up off our butts and DO something about it. I have the good fortune of knowing many advocates for people with developmental disabilities who have shown the courage to take a stand and make a difference. This post will focus on the MANY amazing things that are happening about the r-word campaign.

I am a member of the OZ Squad. We are an elite group of active, compassionate bloggers dedicated to educating the public about Down syndrome. This is a group of men and women from all walks of life who put our differences aside to come together to advocate for our kids with Ds and stand up against bullies. In our latest mission a letter has been written to Sarah Palin to ask her to stand up to all people, regardless of political affiliation who use the r-word. Please visit this post and sign the letter by leaving a comment HERE.

This year will be the 2nd year that our community has held a campaign to Spread the Word to End the R-Word. I am so blessed to be working with amazing friends like Cathy, Ellen, Robin and many others who have worked to make our events absolutely outstanding. I cannot believe how much our campaign has expanded from last year. Needless to say, we have been VERY busy.

In Champaign County, IL the Spread the Word (STW) Campaign is a joint effort of the Down Syndrome Network (DSN), C-U Autism group, the Junior League of Champaign Urbana, Best Buddies, and UIUC professional teaching organization EPSILON DELTA. In our county we have 12 schools participating including middle and high schools, Parkland College and the University of IL at Champaign/Urbana (UIUC). We are hanging hundreds of large, full color, beautiful posters county-wide and are setting up lunchtime tables in the schools to take the r-word pledge. Our group has ordered over 400 STW shirts and raised money for Special Olympics. We offered t-shirts for free to principals and coaches and many have taken us up on the offer. We have a facebook page called Champaign County IL Spread the Word to End the R-Word with nearly 200 members. We have been thrilled to have self advocates participate in the campaign by planning to help pass out buttons, stickers, and take pledges on 03.03.10. Self advocates are the heart and soul of this campaign. A group of adults with developmental disabilities have a theater company called the Prompting Theater. They will be kicking off the campaign on UIUC campus with a performance. A professional improv group has signed on to help us coordinate a flash mob to promote the campaign. We are working with Governor Quinn’s office on issuing an official state proclamation and declaring Spread the Word to End the R-Word Day for IL on 03.03.10. We have been assured that they “don’t think there will be any problem with issuing the proclamation, but [they] probably won’t know for certain until a little bit closer to the date.” So, keep your fingers crossed!

Lastly, the DSN has purchased a billboard through Adams Outdoor who have given it to us for a steal. The best part is that it will be up in our community for a year in different locations. It will be reused for 2-3 years for the campaign! I haven't been able to post this until today as it is a surprise to Mark who has been out of town interviewing for his DREAM job. He's flying home this afternoon and I'm driving us right to it! You will recognize the little girl on the billboard and the photo taken by my dear friend Donita Jacobson of Donita Jacobson Photography

The thinking behind this billboard is if you are someone who uses the word, you're more likely to know what the r-word is. Most people who are in the special needs community know what it is and many others are also aware. The recent discussion/debate in the media has brought this word and the campaign into the national spotlight (which helped us decide not to print the word retard on the image). An argument that we frequently hear is that people don't mean a real person with a developmental disability when they use the r-word as a synonym for stupid, clumsy, worthless, etc. This billboard gives us all a REAL person who IS affected. A person who's family hurts when people say the r-word and who deserves respect. A beautiful, happy little girl who has a smile that melts hearts. The goal of the STW campaign is to ask people to choose to stop saying the r-word, making it taboo by social consensus. Our hope is that this non-combative request will spark discussion, get people to think, and change minds. We realize that there are many who do not use the r-word themselves and are unaware of the problem. They might not have a clue what the r-word is and think the billboard is too ambiguous. We are hoping that they will be curious about the billboard, go to the website and then take the pledge.

So, without further ado, here it is! (it will be this blog's header for a while as well)
these 2 are poor quality cell phone shots as Mark has the camera

The 1st location is on Neil headed south towards Savoy, directly across the street from Culver's. After a month it will move around to different spots in our community.


Molly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molly said...

oh and the photo? SO CUTE!

Molly said...

blargh! I deleted my comment. How? idk. But what it said was that I am making the R word pledge and posting their badge on my facebook! my friends know how I feel about the r word but a little reminder never hurts.

JRS said...

Thanks Molli! ---Jen

Bethany said...

That is freakin awesome Jen! We don't have billboards here. :(

TUC said...

Love it! Wish we had one in my city!