Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Harriet McBryde Johnson's 18th Annual Labor Day Telethon Protest

Harriet McBryde Johnson's annual protest of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Labor Day Telethon -- also known as the Jerry Lewis Telethon -- will honor her by going on without her. (Sadly, Johnson unexpectedly died in June.)

Protesters will gather Monday Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the intersection of King & Market in Charleston, S.C. (Johnson's hometown). Protest organizers say "Harriet's concerns remain as valid this year as last."

Here's what Harriet Johnson sent out a few years ago as a way of explaining the need for the protest each year:

Our message is that people with disabilities want rights and respect, not pity.

Over the years, Jerry Lewis has called us "half persons" and our beloved wheelchairs "steel imprisonments." He told a TV reporter (on camera): "You're a cripple in a wheelchair and you don't want pity? STAY IN YOUR HOUSE!" It goes on and on...

A real charity doesn't insult the people it is supposed to serve. A real charity wouldn't employ a notorious bigot as its spokesman.

But disability prejudice is still considered OK. Need some proof?

This year, Lewis is getting an Emmy (the "prestigious governor's award") for the Telethon. To add insult to insult, the TV Academy announced it on July 26, the 15th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. The ADA's philosophy couldn't be more opposite to what the Telethon represents.