As we embark on Black History Month, we want to take a moment to shine a light on four remarkable individuals whose tireless efforts and unwavering commitment have left an unforgettable mark on the fight for justice and equality. Fannie Lou Hamer, Brad Lomax, Barbara Jordan, and Lois Curtis have each played a significant role in advocating for civil rights and inclusion.
A Voice for Voting Rights and Equality
Fannie Lou Hamer, born in 1917, was a fearless civil rights activist known for her pivotal role in the fight against voter suppression and racial injustice. She had polio as a child and suffered permanent injury as a result of being beaten when arrested for her activism. Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, challenging the discriminatory practices that blocked African Americans from participating in the democratic process. Her relentless pursuit of equality and justice set the stage for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, marking a crucial step toward a more inclusive and representative democracy. Hamer’s legacy resonates with Sunrise Community’s mission, emphasizing the importance of advocacy and empowerment for historically marginalized people.
Breaking Barriers in the Disability Rights Movement
Brad Lomax, a key figure in the disability rights movement, dedicated his life to dismantling barriers and challenging societal norms. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Lomax played a crucial role in the 504 Sit-in, a landmark protest that led to the implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – a groundbreaking piece of legislation prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. His resilience made way for increased accessibility and inclusivity, aligning with Sunrise Community’s mission to create a society where everyone can thrive and participate fully in their communities regardless of ability.
A Trailblazer in Politics and Advocacy
Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first Southern African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, was a trailblazer in every sense. In 1973, Jordan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and used a cane and, later, a wheelchair to aid in mobility. A powerful speaker and advocate for civil rights, Jordan tirelessly fought for equality, leaving a lasting impact on American politics.
Pioneering Advocate for Disability Rights
Lois Curtis, an artist and activist with intellectual and developmental disabilities, became a symbol of the fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities. In the landmark Supreme Court case Olmstead v. L.C., Curtis argued against the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities, advocating for community-based services and support. Her victory affirmed the rights of individuals with disabilities to live independently. Similarly, much of Sunrise’s early growth can be attributed to assisting state agencies with deinstitutionalization efforts.
In celebrating Black History Month, we pay homage to these extraordinary individuals whose legacies continue to inspire so many across the nation. Their contributions have paved the way for a more inclusive, just, and equitable society, reflecting our dedication to empowering and supporting individuals of all backgrounds and abilities.