2009 ended with a Micah Fialka-Feldman winning his right to live in an Oakland University dorm. This is a great victory not only for Micah, not only for the disability movement, but for the “beloved community” movement in our country.
Micah distributed this message announcing his win:
The Federal Judge ruled that I can move into the dorm in January 2010. His decision clearly stated that I would be a positive asset to the university. It was the affidavits by my peers and my professors at Oakland University who made it clear that I would continue to be a great OU student and that I should have the right to the full college experience. Even though the case has taken more than two years, I am extremely happy with the decision. I am extremely pleased that the court said that “I am a student” and recognized my educational efforts. I look forward to living in the dorm.
Oakland University has been a pioneer in providing post-secondary educational opportunities to persons with intellectual disabilities, I hope they will continue to do so. This decision is just one step in the process and I hope Oakland recognizes the value at being a leader in post-secondary inclusive opportunities (check out www.Thinkcollege.net).
I really look forward to having people read/listen to their comments on my blog and on facebook. You can check out the articles in the Detroit News by Marisa Schultz, Oakland Press by Jerry Wolffe, and NPR’s Morning Edition with Joseph Shapiro.
I have learned that it is hard to fight battles for justice and inclusion. I also learned that when we create community we can change the world. This struggle will help many other people in colleges across the country. I hope that other students with disabilities continue to dream big and fight for what they believe in.
I could never have done this without the love of my family, the support of friends and as well as my great lawyer Chris Davis from Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service.
Check out my website: www.throughthesamedoor.com
Love and Justice,
Micah’s victory has been covered everywhere from the AP, to Chicago Tribune, to NPR, Free Press, the Detroit News, Oakland Press, Flint Journal, Michigan Radio, Wall Street Journal, and on many blogs and social networking websites.
This blog post frames Micah as a civil rights pioneer “in the same class…as James Meredith, who had to sue to attend and live in the dorms at the University of Mississippi in the 1960’s because he was black.”
CNN selected Micah as one of its “Intriguing people for December 30, 2009″.
Local Detroit Fox2 News did a great interview with Micah’s hard working and skilled lawyer, Chris Davis of Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Inc. You can watch the 3 minute piece here.
Recognizing the Leaders who came before us
In April 1977, seven years before Micah was born, over 100 disabled activists “sat in” at the Federal Building of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in San Francisco– refusing to leave until the rules and regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act were signed. Section 504, modeled on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in federally funded programs.
Nearly four weeks into the sit-in, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano finally endorsed the regulations. The demonstration, led by Judith Heumann still remains the longest sit in of a federal building, and sadly, very few of us know of this event.
Judge Duggan ruled that Micah could live in the dorm based on Section 504. Today we remember those who courageously refused to be silent, who sang, hummed, and signed “We shall not, we shall not be moved!” during that month long sit in. Their demonstration and determination have opened many, many doors since 1977, including Micah’s door to the dorm.