During the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was working on a grant project that involved posting information on an electronic bulletin board (the old BBS you may remember, pre-internet). My area on the BBS, you’ll be surprised to hear, involved information about self-directed attendant services.
Robin Stevens from Atlantis called me one day in the Winter of 1990 and said she had been reading some of my postings on the BBS and that ADAPT was focusing on this issue and that I should come to their next gathering in Baltimore. I swear she didn’t say “action”, “protest”, or “demonstration” or anything like that. Anyway, Robin and I talked for a bit and she said that the folks of ADAPT were like-minded with me and that I would like meeting everyone at the event or gathering. I agreed to come in the spring.
So in the spring, Atlantis vans came down I-70 on the way to Baltimore. We put up a banner in the hotel where they were staying and generally welcomed ADAPT with Budweiser and fellowship in Lawrence, KS. I was familiar with ADAPT and the transit actions, but I still didn’t connect that with what I would shortly be attending.
I got to Baltimore in my jeans and sport coat; I still thought it would be some sort of training or workshop. As soon as I arrived at the motel, I knew things would be different.
The motel where we were staying was set up where the doors opened out directly into the parking lot. People had their doors opened, music was boom-boxing; I think there might have been a keg…. This is where I also first met Lucy Guin.
When supper time rolled around I was in Babs and Mike’s room visiting, when I asked what would be the deal with eats, everyone through down money on the bed and we figured out communal food. It felt so warm and sharing and welcoming to a new, shy guy who didn’t know anyone.
The morning of the first day rolls out and we lined up to march…very cool, this was no conference. We get to Social Security headquarters and Wade talks with us a bit and then hands me a radio. I ask, “what do I do with this?”.
He answers, “push the button and talk when something happens.”
I was assigned to stay by the front entrance of the building. You’ve probably seen a picture of the “jail” we built there. The police marched up in parade dress uniforms, snapped on their blue gloves and came up and with their tough cop glare threatened to arrest us!
I really freaked, got on the radio: “Wade, Wade, the police are here with these weird blue gloves and they are going to arrest us.”
He said, “Great, hang in there”.
Since I was brand new, the old timers that were there kept things cool and really shared their solidarity! The police gave me two more warnings, told me we were under arrest and then preceded to turn around and march away down the hill.
During this action, they brought in bulldozers to build a road (ADAPT WAY) out of the parking lots we blocked; we “sat-in” in the middle of a major road blocking off the interstate highway and so on…Incredible!
When I got home from the action, I told my friends that this had been the greatest and coolest experience of my life and that “we have got to do this here at home”. Kansas ADAPT was born and I never looked back.
Free our people!