Celebrating 40 Years of Disabled Lesbian Activism and Art
Image description: Four photos of disabled lesbians. #1: Color photo of people in a park, some of them holding a giant banner that reads “Honoring Dykes with Disabilities.” #2: Two women playing basketball in wheelchairs. #3: a black woman with glasses and natural hair playing ping pong. #4: Two light-skinned women dancing with AXIS, a physically integrated dance group. One woman in a wheelchair, and the other woman is…it’s hard to describe, but she’s upside-down, with her legs in the air, and her head in the woman’s lap, simulating oral sex.
These images come from Fabled/Asp, an organization that aims to “combine storytelling and filmmaking to document and continue the revolution in queer disability arts, aesthetics, politics and culture.” They’re such a great resource for history, culture, and politics of disabled lesbians.
I’m confused… What’s exactly “disabling” about the natural haired black woman playing ping pong?
According to the article, the “natural haired Black woman” playing ping-pong is “Pandoura Carpenter, Director of the Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theatre.”
…From meeting Dr. Martin Luther King during “70’s Black community organizing and working with urban youth in Rochester, NY; to staffing Woman To Woman bookstore in Denver; to her involvement in many Bay Area communities and social movements, she was an open-hearted and creative Life-affirming force against all prejudice. She was a writer, artist, performer, ally to all oppressed people, and a lifelong jazz devotee. She loved working with children and youth…
Living in Rochester, N.Y. until 1977, she studied history and began to write and perform as a high school student. She was an active member of the young Black generation that created FIGHT Square housing and community groups there. She joined writing groups, performed poetry and reported on the jazz scene for The Communicade Black newspaper.
1980, she was a hub of Feminist activism. She and other women were arrested there for protesting a movie that purported to show the actress being killed. The women’s community rallied support for those arrested, know as “The Blue Bird Five.”
She also worked with the feminist newspaper Big Mama Rag there. In the Bay Area since 1980, she participated in the Oakland Black Writer’s Guild, was an early member of the Mexican Museum, co-founded the Black Lesbian Newsletter, edited the anthology Ordinary Women Extraordinary Lives, supported the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley, directed a play at Brava Theater, and wrote and acted for Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theater.
She was a founding member of Progressives Challenging Anti-Semitism multicultural support group. As a taxi cab driver here, she was known as “Pat” and was loved by many of her regular fares. She has sold her artwork at the Women’s Crafts Fair at Fort Mason.
She was a skilled mediator with Conciliation Forum of Oakland where she taught mediation skills to young people. She was a mediator at East Bay Community Mediation in Berkeley at the time of her death. She was currently working on a book about her cab driving experiences at the North Berkeley Senior Center writing class.
She was a member of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland and a member of Lavender Seniors in Berkeley. Pandoura was a natural coalition builder. In addition to engaging with many African and Caribbean cultures, she embraced her family’s Native American (Powhaten) ancestry and supported Native Rights.
Her advocacy for Black, Jewish, Arab, Native American, Asian and Latino Rights was melded with her concern for Lesbian, Gay and Disability Rights. And, as a large woman, she fought size prejudice daily. She is survived by her life partner, Judy Andreas, goddaughters Lisa Brotz of Denver and Alexis Johnson of Berkeley, her mother Louise Carpenter, sister Pamela Ikpot and son Imoh, brother Mark Carpenter and son Mark, Jr. of Rochester.