Sunday, June 01, 2008

"We want to make the statement that Dorothy Dixon will not be forgotten." FRIDA protests violence against women with disabilities

From the Telegraph (Alton, Illinois)

ALTON - They caused quite a scene marching down East Broadway early Saturday afternoon. Some were on foot, in wheelchairs, in vehicles or on motorcycles, with police cars at the front and back of the line. They proudly displayed signs and chanted as they journeyed up the hills of Sering Avenue.

"What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" they yelled.

People along the way stood at their front doors to watch the commotion, while others peeked out of windows. Motorists honked in support and others pulled off to the side of the road to watch.

The group of nearly 30 people had gathered to honor 29-year-old Dorothy Latrice Dixon, who died from her injuries after being shot with a pellet gun, beaten and scalded over several weeks' time. She died in January. Dixon, who had moved to Alton from Quincy, Ill., was six months pregnant and developmentally disabled.

Six people, including two minors, face nine counts each in Madison County Circuit Court in Dixon's death. One of the people facing charges was Dixon's caregiver, who also had the authority to cash Dixon's disability checks. Authorities believe money sparked the abuse.

Dixon suffered her injuries inside her home at 2957 Hillcrest Ave., where she lived with five of the six people responsible for her injuries. A May 14 Madison County coroner's jury ruled the deaths of Dixon and her unborn son as homicides. Dixon also had a 1-year-old son, who was placed in protective custody with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She was unmarried.

Dixon's death hit close to home for the people that gathered Saturday, most of whom are disabled or know someone who is. Members of Chicago-based group Feminist Response in Disability Activism (FRIDA) organized the memorial, procession and moment of silence at Dixon's former home. FRIDA is a "group of radicalized women with disabilities" who represent themselves.

"We felt it was really important when we heard about the life and death of Dorothy Dixon," said FRIDA member Sharon Lamp. "We want to make the statement that Dorothy Dixon will not be forgotten."

The group organized at IMPACT Inc., 2735 E. Broadway, a "self-help, advocacy organization" for people with disabilities. Attendees sat in a large circle, where several people shared poems, stories and their thoughts about Dixon and other disabled people suffering from abuse. They talked about people they knew and mourned for Dixon. One woman commented that disabled people, particularly women, are invisible in society.

Christine Wilk and Amber Smock, FRIDA members who organized Dixon's memorial, said their goal was to make a statement and get people talking. They want change - and they want it now.

The group marched and drove to Dixon's old home on Hillcrest. The current homeowners - Jessie Sr. and Robbin Hicks, and son Jessie Jr., 13 - walked outside to greet the mob of people who stopped in front of their house. Their 12-year-old daughter, McKayla, was not there. The family welcomed the group and participated in the moment of silence.

"I support any of this because I hate to see this happen to any female; it's just wrong," Robbin Hicks said of how Dixon died.

She said she knew Dixon, but not very well.

"I knew who she was and I spoke with her and I played with her baby," Hicks said. Hicks said she had not heard about Dixon's death until after her family had moved into the house. People still stop by the house, she said.

"A lot of people come and look at the house, stop for a second," she said. "Nothing comes out at night; it's pretty peaceful here. (Dorothy's) in a better place."