Sunday, November 28, 2010

RIP Laura Hershey

Disability activist, poet and writer Laura Hershey passed away Friday after a sudden illness. She is survived by her daughter Shannon and her partner Robin Stephens.

Tributes are pouring in from many in the disability community who saw Laura as a teacher and mentor, as well as a pivotal figure who stood up for others. She had a rare and precious insight into disability issues and was able to convey that in her prolific writings.

Her writings and activism also reached many outside the disability community. She was published in the Huffington Post as well as many other major news outlets, magazines, books of poems and online. She protested against the Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethons, saying that "0ther organizations have found ways to fund-raise without demeaning the people they are trying to serve."

Read more: Laura Hershey, 48, championed disability rights - The Denver Post
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Laura recently did a series of videos on YouTube as part of the It's Our Story series. In this one she speaks about disability and how it's a civil rights issue.

Laura was also a poet who recently wrote about the adoption of her teenage daughter . A book of poetry called Spark Before Dark is to be published by Finishing Line Press. Her well known poem You Get Proud by Practicing speaks to the journey toward self empowerment in the face of ableism and reflects her humanitarianism. Rest in peace, Laura and thank you for your tireless work for others and the legacy you leave.

It is sunlight
When you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
Including yourself.
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
Or lies.
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.

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