A Look Back At DAMO (Disabilities Advocates of Minorities Organization from 1998-2002 By Co-Founder, Gary N Gray
Hey Bay Area remember Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization DAMO, from 1998-2002? Well co-founder, Gary Norris Gray looks back and tells what DAMO meant to him and the Bay Area.
DAMO has many meanings in many different cultures. In Korean it was a very popular television miniseries and in Asia it translated to an undercover female detective in the historical Joseon Dynasty. DAMO also means Tea Lady in Korean. In the Philippines the word DAMO in Tagalog means grass. DAMO is also an historical town in northeastern Somalia, but for African American disabled residents DAMO would mean freedom, justice, and equality in the disabled American world.
In 1972 four white disabled residents at the University of California, Berkeley started a movement for disabled Americans. These four young college students wanted to go to college without being segregated and discriminated against. They would create an organization as we know today as The Center for Independent Living. This organization would assist disabled residents with legal aid, housing, employment, and attendants to help them in their residents.
This movement that spread throughout America, creating baby CIL's all over this nation. Disabled folk became visible, vocal, and political. This new, late 1970's-early 80's political movement lacked disabled people of color in leadership roles.
DAMO would try to correct this omission with its founders Gary Norris Gray (pictured below) and Leroy F Moore Jr. in 1998-2002. This group would be a place where one could express all of their thoughts, dreams, and wishes, a place where they could create new political action and thoughts without being criticized or demeaned. A place where the Black/Brown point of view was expressed and explored with monthly meetings. DAMO also created an artistic arm called New Voice: Disabled Artists & Poets of Color.
DAMO was the answer that the disabled movement refused to recognized or discuss. Black and other disabled people of color Americans were invisible to the disabled movement yet an ever growing force, DAMO would change that with poetry, song, and political speaking.
DAMO released a new wave of disabled activist, a new set of hungry young disabled fighters for freedom, justice and equality that would not take no as an answer and not wait for the disabled community for assistance.
DAMO helped started a new political wave of disabled activist with color in the late 90's. DAMO lasted five years and we can see our work today cause there are more National organizations like National Black Disability Coalition, National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities and many many Black disabled authors, artists and bloggers and as we, Leroy Moore and I are elders now we hope that Black youth , youth of color with disabilities will continue to build on what we try to lay down from 1998-2002.
Gary Norris Gray - Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email Glcgray@gmail.com
©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod
El Cerrito, California