February is Black History Month! We will be highlighting impactful Black disability activists and advocates throughout the month.
Today we will highlight a Bay Area Black Disability activist, Brad Lomax.
Lomax became a key figure in the disability rights movement when he joined more than 100 people in 1977 in occupying the fourth-floor offices of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the San Francisco Federal Building. Their goal was to persuade the government to enforce a long-ignored section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The demonstration, known as the 504 Sit-in, would last for almost a month, making it the longest peaceful occupation of a federal building in the nation’s history. Lomax, accompanied by an attendant, Chuck Jackson, not only helped lead the protest; he also gained the support of their fellow Black Panthers, a group that had advocated armed self-defense while also providing social services to the Black community; the Panthers agreed to bring hot meals and other provisions to the building daily.
“Without the presence of Brad Lomax and Chuck Jackson, the Black Panthers would not have fed the 504 participants occupying the H.E.W. building,” Corbett O’Toole, who took part in the demonstration, wrote in an unpublished memoir. “Without that food, the sit-in would have collapsed.” With the support of the Black Panthers and Brad Lomax, the sit in was a great success leading to a significant expansion of rights for people with disabilities across the nation.
Wishing you all a happy Black History Month!
Director, Disability Resource Center