Archive for September, 2009


The issue of disability rights is often either ignored within the larger human rights dialogue or treated with outright hostility. Too often events are either held in inaccessible locations, or the way space is used, in otherwise accessible locations, rendered inaccessible. Additionally, often individual attempts at participation are greeted with out right hostility and ridicule by many individuals who consider themselves to be advocates of (more worthy?) human rights causes. If we are to build a strong movement that is truly democratic, truly representative and truly uses all the resources, skills and expertise of our community, it must be fully inclusive. if inclusion is not a collective responsibility it is delegated to the individual to assure her own participation, to adjust to the larger constructs, rather than have the community make the adjustments and accommodations. Often participation is totally impossible. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW IF YOUR EVENT IS DIS-ABILITY FRIENDLY AND ACCESSIBLE– IF WE AREN’T THERE, IT ISN’T!!!!

Attached is a guide book, published by the City of Los Angeles, for making events accessible. I would add that

1. Progressive communities need to begin (BEGIN!!!) the dialogue on inclusion.

2.All events have a designated accessibility coordinator to make sure aisles remain clear and unblocked and to support people with dis-abilities, should problems arise.

3. Ridicule and humiliation of people with dis-abilities be treated like all hate speech, and that appropriate action be taken to assure events are not hostile environments.

4. Where “special” entrances are necessary, specific signage and staffing must be provided so that people with dis-abilities have the agency to come and go with the same liberty as all other participants, not having to wait until someone becomes available to assist them.

My biggest pet peeve, are otherwise accessible venues where the stage is not accessible. IT IS A VERY STRONG REMINDER– “YOU ARE WELCOME TO BE HERE, BUT WE DON’T FEEL THAT YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY!”

-Emma Rosenthal

Cafe Intifada

Read Full Post »

Cafe Intifada Commentary:

This article is part of a new thread on this blog: Something about intifada- What’s in a name?  It is an examination of the contextual aspect of language, the war against language in the context of imperialism, colonialism and oppression, and the demonization of a language, a culture and a people.

Intifada simply means “to shake off.”   In popular terms, it refers to the overthrow of a brutal occupation.  So, for example, in Arabic,  “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” would be translated as “Intifada Warsaw.”

And yet, the organization that hosts this blog, as well as any other organization or group or individual that uses the term “intifada” is accused of anything from being anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and even terrorist or extremist.

In the article that follows, a public school principal was fired  for wearing a t-shirt that said “Intifada”. and her case against the school district dismissed on the grounds that an employer has the RIGHT to control the speech of its employees.

Two important points!

1. In this “free” country, are we to accept that our constitutional rights are abandoned during the large portion of our lives when we sell our labor to an employer?  An employer, who has the constitutional right to then take our surplus labor and “speak freely” with those dollars in the form of advertising, campaign contributions, etc.?


2. Given that THIS employee is an educational worker, what does this say about the free flow of ideas essential in a democracy? What model to we provide the children when adults are dismissed of their duties in an academic setting, for merely expressing an idea?

Emma Rosenthal

Cafe Intifada!




Published: September 1, 2009

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled against the founding principal of an Arabic-language school who sued the city, claiming that her rights were violated when she was fired in 2007 for defending the word “intifada” on a T-shirt.

The principal, Debbie Almontaser, had argued in her suit that the city violated her First Amendment rights when it fired her for explaining in a newspaper interview that the word had nonviolent origins. Judge Sidney H. Stein, who dismissed the case in Federal District Court in Manhattan, rejected her claims, saying that Ms. Almontaser made her statements in the course of her duties as an administrator — not “as a citizen on a matter of public concern” — and that employers have some rights to control their employees’ words and actions.

Ms. Almontaser participated in an interview “pursuant to her official duties as acting interim principal” of the school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the court ruled. “This speech is not protected by the First Amendment.”

The controversy over Ms. Almontaser’s statements began in August 2007, when she wasquestioned by The New York Post about T-shirts that bore the phrase “Intifada NYC.” The shirts were sold by the group Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, and had no relation to the school. But when Ms. Almontaser defended the meaning of the phrase as literally meaning “shaking off” instead of something more violent, the Education Department was besieged by complaints, and Ms. Almontaser was asked to resign.

Shortly afterward, Ms. Almontaser filed her lawsuit against the Education Department, the chancellor and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, saying that they not only violated her right to free speech but also “conspired to deny her the opportunity to regain her position as principal.”

Alan Levine, a lawyer for Ms. Almontaser, did not immediately respond to a phone message on Tuesday night. In a statement, Paul Marks, a lawyer representing the city in the case, said he was pleased by the dismissal.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: