On October 5th, 2012, self-advocates from Community Access Unlimited and the New American Movement joined other self-advocates, friends, family and direct care staff to participate in New Jersey’s Second Annual Disability Pride Parade. Sponsored by the Alliance Center for Independence, the Disability Pride Parade is designated as a celebration and promotion of the belief that having a disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. Through the support of other statewide disability organizations, this parade aims to increase inclusion for people with disabilities in their communities while confronting common stereotypes. In order to demonstrate the capabilities of people with disabilities, entertainers, poets, dancers, musicians and speakers were invited to display their own unique talents and share stories during the after-party.
The parade began at 9:30 am as parade participants gathered around the statehouse in Trenton, NJ. Volunteers feverishly circled the entrance of the statehouse as a means to hand out banners, pins, fliers and other promotional materials. While parade goers were preparing to begin their walk, Officer of Senator Barbara Buono ignited the enthusiasm of the crowd through a brief introduction. Shortly after, Parade Marshals Barbara Coppens and Bob Fesel blew a horn to commence the parade. The duration of the walk was characterized by loud cheers, laughter, and conversation as parade goers made their way to the after-party at East Lafayette Street.
There, everyone was initially greeted by a Color Guard Presentation from Trenton Central High JROTC, which transitioned into singing the National Anthem and a brief welcome from the Mistresses of Ceremonies. Before the showcase of people with disabilities and their talents, Mayor of Trenton, Tony Mack, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, Jennifer Velez and NJ’s U.S. Senator, Robert Menendez, took the stage one after the other to address the audience about the importance of disability pride and to make note of the Disability Employment Month.
The highlight of the presentations that ensued after these speeches was the level of interaction that each presenter encouraged. Many parade goers joined the presenters when requested as people went up front to dance and sing along. It was truly a great representation of pride for people with disabilities and many from Community Access Unlimited and the New American Movement made it a point to display their joyousness and esteem with the crowd.