The Access to Power Fellowship is offered by JOIN for Justice in partnership with Sins Invalid, National Council on Independent Living, and Detroit Disability Power. These three leading disability organizations bring deep expertise in disability justice, disability organizing, intersections of ableism and racism, and more. They are partners in planning the curriculum, and will lead many of the Fellowship training. Keep reading to learn more about each organization and their team members who will be leading their work on the Access to Power Fellowship.
Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and LGBTQ / gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized. Led by disabled people of color, Sins Invalid’s performance work explores the themes of sexuality, embodiment and the disabled body, developing provocative work where paradigms of “normal” and “sexy” are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all bodies and communities. Sins Invalid is committed to social and economic justice for all people with disabilities – in lockdowns, in shelters, on the streets, visibly disabled, invisibly disabled, sensory minority, environmentally injured, psychiatric survivors – moving beyond individual legal rights to collective human rights.
Patty Berne, Executive Director/Artistic Director: Patty co-founded Sins Invalid with Leroy Moore in 2006, and has been the driving force and creative vision behind our project for the past 12 years. The caliber of Sins Invalid’s work is largely attributable to Patty’s artistry and analysis. Her professional background includes offering mental health support to survivors of violence and advocating for LGBTQI and disability perspectives within the field of reproductive genetic technologies. Her training in clinical psychology focused on trauma and healing for survivors of interpersonal and state violence. Patty’s experiences as a Japanese-Haitian queer disabled woman provides grounding for her work creating “liberated zones” for marginalized voices. She is widely recognized for her work to establish the framework and practice of disability justice.
Nomy Lamm, Creative Director: Nomy began performing with Sins Invalid in 2008, and since then has been on the Artistic Core (2008-2010), directed the Artists in Residence Program (2010), and has worked as staff since 2013. Nomy is a multi-media artist, musician, writer and performer who teaches voice lessons and offers creative coaching focused on helping students move through fear and self-judgement to take up space and find equilibrium in radical authenticity (nomyteaches.com). She is an ordained Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess), holds a BA in Multimedia Art and Political Economy from The Evergreen State College, and has an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University. She lives on occupied Squaxin/Nisqually/Chehalis land in Olympia, WA with her partner Lisa, their dogs Dandelion and Momma, and their cat Calendula.
Mordecai Cohen Ettinger, Director of Development: Mordecai has over 20 years experience as a multi-sector social justice activist and organizer, holistic healer, radical scholar, and educator. In addition to his work at Sins Invalid, Mordecai is Founding Director of Health Justice Commons. Mordecai co-founded the TGI Justice Project, served as an Interim Co-Director at Justice Now, and as Interim Executive Director at Caduceus Outreach Services, a radical mental health organization. He is adjunct faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His field is critical science, technology, and medicine studies. Mordecai’s research spans environmental health and toxicology, to the workings of the Medical Industrial Complex, to the neurobiology of the social nervous system, and its implications with regard to collective and historical trauma, healing, resilience and social change. Schooled by years of movement work, and trained in Somatic Experiencing, Reiki, and Cranial Sacral therapy, he has studied with Dr. Peter Levine, biophysicist and founder of Somatic Experiencing and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He is the author of the forthcoming book, We All Hold Up the Sky: Lessons in Health Justice for the 21st Century. Finally, Mordecai is queer/ gender non-binary. He is a survivor of radiation poisoning and what is designated by the UN to be medical torture. He’s here for transforming the Medical Industrial Complex for our futures to be possible.
Detroit Disability Power’s mission is to leverage and build the organizing power of the disability community to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Metro Detroit. We are a diverse community coming together across visible and hidden disabilities, race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship and economic status to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Metro Detroit.
Dessa Cosma, Founding Director: Dessa is a long-time social justice organizer, fortunate to spend her career working for reproductive, racial, LGBTQ, economic and disability justice. In 2014, Dessa graduated with a Master of Social Justice Degree from Marygrove College. At that time, she was the Michigan Program Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership, training hundreds of activists, candidates, and campaign managers across the state. She then became the Executive Director of the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, which she helped to start in collaboration with some of Detroit’s most dedicated economic and racial justice champions. In many ways, but particularly as part of Allies for Change and the Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL), Dessa has been fortunate to learn from and be mentored by trainers, authors, professors, activists, artists, and thought leaders committed to racial justice, dismantling white supremacy, and creating equity. In 2018, Dessa started Detroit Disability Power to grow the organizing power of the disability community and to continue bridging the gap between the disability community and larger social justice movements. She has a particular interest in disability focused political work that is grounded in anti-racism and economic justice. In addition to organizing, Dessa also enjoys facilitating trainings, gardening, cooking and reading. She lives in Detroit with her partner and their amazing cat.
National Council on Independent Living
The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.
Cara Liebowitz, Development Coordinator: Cara handles the National Council on Independent Living’s grant writing, fundraising, and organizational partnerships, including sponsorships, exhibiting, and advertising for NCIL’s Annual Conference. Cara has nearly a decade of experience in the disability rights movement, with a particular focus on issues of education and media representation. Her work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, including the Washington Post, Uncanny Magazine, and Everyday Feminism. She has spoken at over 30 conferences and events on a wide variety of disability rights topics.
Sheryl Grossman, Community Living Advocate: Sheryl has spent the last 24 years working to improve the quality of life of disabled people with a focus over the last decade on multiple minority group issues and the unique needs of those with rare and pre-existing conditions. In addition to her paid work, Sheryl also founded an international support group for people with Bloom Syndrome, Bloom’s Connect, in 1996 and continues to facilitate the group today. In all of her spare time, Sheryl has served as the Board Chair for Yad HaChazakah, the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, for the last 2 years.
We also want to thank our funders for supporting this Fellowship!