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@DisClothingCo is an artist and activist from the United States. She created a project called “Disability is an intersection”, focusing on disabled women of colour. I fell in love with her illustrations and decided to ask her a few questions. You can find her artworks and a link to her online shop at the end of the interview.
Introductions first: who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I am a Disabled wheelchair user, Xicana artist, and activist from Southern California. I was born in central Mexico and I moved to the United States when I was younger with my parents so I’m also a first generation migrant. I go by my twitter handle @HijaDe2Madre, which roughly translates to “Daughter of your Mother”. It’s a phrase used by Latinx parents to express disappointment in their children. However, my parents usually used it as a term of endearment when I did or said something that was mischievously funny or embarrassing (usually to them). And i recently created the @DisClothingCo account.
What is the situation of disabled women of colour in your community?
I live near a border town, where two countries and many cultures and communities converge and live. However, I have often felt a disconnect between the communities I am a part of. For example, when I go to a space that is for Xicanxs or people of color I am sometimes the only person with a (disclosed) disability and when I go to a space for Disabled folks, I’m usually one of the few Xicana or woman of color. So the issues that someone like me (a Disabled woman of color) may face that are both charged by my race AND disability are not addressed or given much attention even if they are brought up (usually by me). A lot of people don’t even know what Disablism/Ableism is or how embedded it is in our society and how it hurts people within their communities. It is sometimes difficult because I feel like I am forced to put a big part of my identity on the back burner. So even though the difficulties you may go through are intersectional, your community isn’t.
Before going into Xicanx Studies I went to school for Art History. I have always loved the connection between society and art and believed that art is a critique or commentary on society by the artist. However, I became disillusioned because the art world seemed really inaccessible and sometimes elitist. So I decided to go back to school and started studying Xicanx/Indigenous history and with it came learning about social movements and the role of protest art. This is around the time where I began creating my own pieces for rallies, marches, or just offerings of solidarity. It started super small with just a group of friends and I coming together and making signs. I found it amazing that even though we were all united for the same march, our signs and messages were all different. Through art we were able to speak our truths and emotions with the supplies that were available to us, weather it was a piece of lined paper and permanent marker or a 10 foot banner and paints from the dollar store.
When it comes to online activism I wasn’t very active on Twitter until I ran across the #AbleismExists hashtag. I think that was the first time that something online made me say “I can’t believe other people go through this too! I thought it was just me!” That was also when I discovered the Disabled community online. Social media has been so important because it is accessible and can reach so many people! People sometimes hate on social activism online and call it “lazy” but they don’t realize how disablist that is. Not everyone has the ability to go to a march or a coalition meeting or attend higher education due to ableism, inaccessibility and/or chronic illness (again this isn’t common knowledge because Disabled people’s perspectives are often not amplified). Social media is such an important tool and gives people a sense of community even when they don’t have physical access to one. So when starting Dissent Clothing I thought of the amazing Disabled Black women on Twitter such as Anita Cameron, Imani Barbarin and Vilissa Thompson who are putting in so much work for their communities and continuing Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s work of intersectionality.. I wanted to show my respect towards their labor, so the first designs that I published were of Black Disabled women. After brainstorming a few more designs ideas I just kept going and pretty soon almost all my designs had sold. I just want to let Disabled women of color know they aren’t alone and that their voices matter, that there IS a community out there for them. I also want to let everyone else know that we exist and that we WILL be included in conversations of social justice and civil rights.
As of now I’m working on new designs for my “Disability is an Intersection” series, I want as many people as possible to feel like they see themselves in my work. As for the future, a friend and mentor of mine and I are linking up for a new art project centered around Disability. I’m really excited about working with someone that has been there for me since day one of my journey of self love and disability justice. Can’t wait for what is to come!
Visit Dissent Clothing shop.
Andrea Pregel is an inclusion professional with experience in disability, development, education, gender and health across Europe and Asia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Research from the University of Turin (Italy), and an Erasmus Mundus MA/Mgr in Special and Inclusive Education from the University of Roehampton in London (UK), the University of Oslo (Norway) and Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). He is Co-founder and President of the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI), and works as Programme Advisor for Social Inclusion and Disability at Sightsavers International.