2004 – Seattle – Jerry Costley

Jerry Costley reads his narrative

Twenty-two of DRAC’s members (an all-time high) traveled to Seattle to take on the National Governor’s Association. Joining with our brothers and sisters from ADAPT, we came with just one demand – sign a resolution urging Congress to pass MiCASSA and Money Follows the Person legislation. Day one we got pumped up at a training offered by none other than Shell Trap—the guru of organizing, then at a massive rally at Pike’s Market.

Day two it was off to the hotel where the Governor’s were meeting. In our usual fashion we blocked off traffic and generally gummed up the works. The police were out in force, and while everything was cordial, it was clear that they didn’t quite know what to expect from us and were prepared for anything, as evidenced by the gas masks hanging from their belts. However, they attempted to be nice—they gave out free bottled water. Still, after several hours things were getting a little tense and there was talk of possible arrests. Then, miraculously, Governor Rendell from the great state of Pennsylvania appeared and committed to introduce our resolution for a vote from the Governor’s. We won!

Day three we held a press conference to announce our assessment of the ten worst states in terms of failing to offer decent community alternatives to nursing home incarceration. We also marched on the regional HUD offices, but this turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic. The regional director came down as soon as he heard we were there and agreed to pass on our demands to Alphonso Jackson—the national HUD secretary. That was it! All our demands were met in record time—ADAPTS power and reputation continue to grow and DRAC is a vital part of it.

Day four we strategized for the national group and reported on individual state efforts. That afternoon there was a solemn ceremony where John Hoffman’s ashes were scattered into the ocean. At the same time, our own Ricki Landers took to the skies parasailing. It was an exciting adventure for her and she took off from the back of a boat in the middle of the bay, soared hundreds of feet in the air, and somehow managed to land safely back on the boat.

Of course, the other highlight of the trip was our surprise birthday bash honoring Barbara Toomer for her 75th birthday, for her founding role in ADAPT, for her lifetime of selfless service to the cause and our members. Jim Glozier produced a video with highlights of Barbara’s life and testimonials from many who know her best. Bob Kafka presented her with the Grandma ADAPT “piggy bank” gift. Flowers, cake, a beautiful song honoring Barbara and the evening and Action were complete. Barbara, we love you, we honor you, and we thank you for your service to us!

I have just a few personal thoughts and memories about the Seattle Action. Several years prior to the action I took my three boys to Seattle as a family vacation—my oldest son was into Nirvana and this was the birthplace of Kurt Cobain! When we arrived, I was taken back to powerful memories of a wonderful family time and place I never thought I would ever see again.

Most actions are very spiritual experiences for me, but this particular action was almost bookmarked between two very powerful spiritual experiences. We started off with a Native American ceremony. Frank Lazano lit sage and sprinkled ashes against the background of the beautiful Seattle harbor. Various speakers also reminded us of why we were there. The other bookend of these spiritual experiences was sprinkling John Hoffman’s ashes into the ocean. I remember John’s powerful voice at the Philadelphia to Washington march. It was a beautiful moment to honor his request to scatter his ashes at an action. I was reminded once again of the profound impact ADAPT has, not just on the policy makers but on each of us who are adopted into a 500 member family.

My second memory or impression was with the power of ADAPT—both in our actions, which were perfectly planned and executed, but also in winning allies to our cause. It was really a combination of—our actions, the news media attention and Governor Rendell’s support of our cause that got an important resolution passed in favor of MiCASSA. I was not just impressed with the collective power of ADAPT; what I saw was a pride and sense of individual power in the eyes of each member of ADAPT. I knew that with society’s prejudices and repressive attitudes towards individuals with disabilities that the pride wouldn’t be there without ADAPT.

ADAPT’s successes can’t be measured alone in resolutions or even legislations passed. ADAPT’s legacy encompasses changes in the life of each member who participates in and individually drinks of the pride and power that ADAPT imparts. It was on this action that I first began to understand the concept of disability pride.

While I was on vacation with my sons, we took the last of our savings and went parasailing; a truly memorable experience. While watching others parasail on the bay Ricki said she wished she could parasail. ADAPT has taught me that few things are impossible. I remembered that we took off from and landed on the deck of the boat, so I told Ricki that I was certain she could parasail. Arrangements were made and it was another great personal moment when I saw Ricki take off and fly over the bay.

Finally, there was Barbara’s 75th birthday party. Like so many others I love Barbara. I am in awe of her insight and savvy when it comes to understanding people, strategizing and negotiating. She has been a mentor to me. While it is fitting that we honor our dead—our fallen heroes, it is imperative that we also honor our living heroes. The video of highlights from her life was very moving. It was wonderful to see the tremendous outpouring of love and admiration for Barbara, who has been a pillar in our movement for so many years.

Maybe it was just that I was still relatively new to actions and was impressionable, but for all these reasons the Seattle action will always be memorable to me. Now Seattle has two powerful sets of memories for me—an earlier one with my sons and a later one with my ADAPT family.