Our friend Stacey Park Milbern lived a vanguard life.
While we never heard her espouse Marxist views on revolutionary vanguardism, she lived her life in struggled collaboration with others, leading the way with new ideas. Rather than incremental change, Stacey would dream of radical transformations where people and the planet are cherished.
She would dream up something that seemed futuristic — say an Oakland home from which disabled BIPOC could live and co-organize. Disability Justice Culture Club is bursting today, offering mutual aid during disaster and pandemic, political education, and the nurtured community building that Stacey centered in her organizing philosophy.
#StaceyTaughtUs that coalition building without community, fighting the man without food for the people, or political work without puppy piles would never attract people. And it was Stacey’s bright magnetism that drew people into her dreams, and brought people back to mend cracked relationships.
Stacey was our first fat ally here at Fat Rose to say yes to a cross-movement organizing campaign, to Close the Camps in July 2019. With her brilliant words, we wove together a theme that #NoBodyIsDisposable — not people in the camps, not disabled bodies, not fat bodies, not anybody. It’s offered the groundwork for more organizing, with Stacey a key ally for much of it.
“All of my ancestors know longing. Longing is often our connection.”Stacey Milbern
When a vanguard leader dies, grief crashes beyond the shores of personal connection. As someone who helped birth Disability Justice, she painted new landscapes of disability activism, birthing a bounty of creative movement dreams for the rest of us. Whether you’ve read her work from afar or imagined ways you would build with her soon, there’s something specifically aching about losing someone who changed your thinking on what you passionately do every day.Your dreams feel connected with hers, forever. Stacey, as our ancestor, may you keep dreaming with us.Stacey Park Milbern died May 19, 2020, on her 33rd birthday.
“When we become ancestors, we will also continue to learn. My ancestors and I are learning and loving. Together.”Stacey Milbern
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Painting by Isicera Dew, Text by Dawn Haney for Fat Rose
[Image Description: A woman of color is shown from head to shoulders, smiling with head tilted. She has short brown hair and glasses. She has a trach in her neck and is wearing a striped shirt. Text on the image includes Stacey Milbern, Fat Rose: Fat Roots and a quote from Stacey, “I wasn’t created to live in fear.”]