Stacey Park Milbern: AAPI Heritage Month

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You may recognize the image below from Google Doodles last week. If you didn’t click on it, no fear, Worldwide Speech is here!

This Google Doodle was in remembrance of Stacey Park Milbern, an advocate for disability justice, LGBTQIA+, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) rights. Stacey’s advocacy highlights a topic we’ve talked about quite often: Intersectionality. While Stacey herself had muscular dystrophy, she also identified as queer and AAPI. What I love the most about Stacey is that she didn’t separate the intersections she represented. Her goal seemed to be to link all the crossroads together for better representation of those who identify as disabled, queer, and/or AAPI.

In the US, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is held during the month of May to honor the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders to our country’s history. Stacey Park Milbern was a perfect representation of the contributions not only of Asian and Pacific American advocacy but for disability justice and the LGBTQIA+ community.

What I personally love the most about Stacey is that she represents to term intersectionality perfectly. She didn’t only identify as AAPI, she also identified herself as disabled and queer. Stacey’s work represents the entanglement of her 3 identities and how they affect one another. What’s even more admirable is that she didn’t stop at her own intersections. She worked with people who were homeless at the height of the pandemic, low-income families, and those with intellectual disabilities.

“The disability community has a longstanding distrust of the medical system, yet we have to navigate it every day, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color whose pain is not taken seriously, is not believed, and historically have experienced resource and healthcare deprivation. It is well documented that Black people in the United States experience more illness, worse health care outcomes, and premature death, compared to white people. Doctors take an oath to treat all patients equally, yet we know this is not the case. This is why there has to be checks and balances on hospitals and nursing homes.”

Stacey Park Milbern, Press Conference with the California Care Rationing Coalition.

Who is Stacey Park Milbern?

Stacey Park Milbern was born on May 19, 1987, in Seoul, South Korea where she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. She grew up in North Carolina in a conservative family, which was difficult considering she identified as queer. This fueled the fire for Stacey to move out to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most accessible areas in the US as well as a hub for disability advocates. [1]

Milbern was drawn to the disabilities justice movement, with the hope of amplifying the voices of underrepresented populations such as people of color, sexual orientation, and genders. [1]

Stacey’s role in disability justice… and more!

After moving to California in 2011, Stacey quickly became part of the disabilities justice movement. Not too long passed before she was at the forefront of the movement, catching the eye of President Obama who appointed Stacey to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2014. [1]

One of Stacey’s projects was speaking out against plans to replace and repeal the affordable care act which involved large cuts to funding for disabled individuals, including attendant support. She used her voice to amplify others with similar experiences to her own. She specifically wrote that having an attendant was the only way she was able to go to work each day. [1]

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milbern and her friends sought to help those who were homeless stay safe. They created a group called, the “Disability Justice Culture Club” to create kits of crucial supplies to distribute in Oakland. [1]

Remembrance

While taking care of others was her passion, she had to take care of herself as well. During the pandemic, Stacey was awaiting surgical removal of kidney cancer. On May 19, 2020, Stacey’s 33rd birthday, she tragically passed away due to complications in her kidney surgery. [1]

Although I am not a member of the AAPI, as a member of the disabled community, I truly admire all of her work. When you don’t live with a disability you don’t get a full understanding of just how hard it is for us to fit into an abled society. You don’t realize how much pain, both emotionally and physically, we go through to accomplish our goals in the way that Stacey did. It’s monumental that a public figure represents multiple intersections and how they affect outward experiences. Stacey was not just AAPI. She was not just queer. She was not just disabled. She was a beautiful mess of all three and more.

You are missed but never forgotten.

Digital artwork of Stacey smiling in front of a large seashell with rays of sunshine illuminating the sky. She is wearing glasses, sparkly hair jewelry, hoop earrings, and her trach is depicted as a necklace with a small moon dangling from it. Purple and orange sea horses, coral, plants, bubbles, and ocean waves are around her. Her shirt is pink and reads, “it is our light that lights the world.”
Image from @snakes.n.roses

Additional Resources

  1. Disability Pride through the words of Stacey Park Milbern
  2. DVP Interview: Stacey Park Milbern Remembered
  3. The story behind Asian Pacific American Heritage, and why it’s celebrated in May

References

  1. Google Doodle honors Stacey Park Milbern, champion of disability justice movement

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