When people think about the Civil Rights Movement, they often picture Martin Luther King Jr., tear gas and violence in the streets. But another historic piece of the movement eludes most people, all but the disabled.
HolLynn D’Lil of Graton is hell-bent on fixing that with “Becoming Real in 24 Days,” her new book about 10-city protest that brought to light another population in need of equal rights. The so-called “504 Sit In” was a precursor of the activism that brought about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 25th anniversary today.
To honor the occasion, an interactive, multimedia exhibit has been mounted in Berkeley that runs through Dec. 8 at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St. D’Lil will be part of it and will appear at the free reception from 2-4:30 p.m. today.
D’Lil’s book gives her first-hand account of the demonstration that began April 5, 1977. On that day, more than 150 San Francisco protesters occupied the fourth floor of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s regional office and stayed there for 3½ weeks.
D’Lil had approached Ms. Magazine about covering the event and, armed with a Nikon camera, arrived with plans to take photographs and chronicle the demonstration. Resolute in her wheelchair, D’Lil soon joined others in disrupting business by refusing to leave. A passage in her book best captures the protest that preceded the takeover:
“What I recall about that first rally was the hope that floated through the crowd like a drug: WE CAN make a difference … the speakers’ words rocked over me like a tsunami, tossing me into a new level of awareness and self-regard.”
Each day of the demonstration, D’Lil drove from Sonoma and then returned to take care of her children, Chelsea and Trusten.
By day 24 of the 26-day demonstration, the Carter Administration signed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 without language that would have that weakened it, requiring recipients of federal funds to provide equal access to people with disabilities. The language contained in Section 504 laid the groundwork for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which extends protection to employment, state and local governments and privately-funded public accommodations.
During that seminal experience, D’Lil was galvanized by the people who surrounded her — the blind, the deaf, those in wheelchairs and crutches and canes.
“I began to understand that my limitations were not due to my disability but to the limitations imposed upon us by our society,” she said.
D’Lil was 22 when a car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She accepted the confines of her wheelchair and her life until she met others who weren’t taking their fate so passively.
“A victory like that, when it’s about your whole personhood, can change your life,” she explained. “I think in a way, it’s the start of an addiction. You want more victories for the disenfranchised.”
Now 70, D’Lil said the protest helped her find her voice. She began testing it by learning to set herself free.
“I was raised by alcoholics, so I was a survivor of that environment,” she said. “I was told I had no value, that I didn’t matter.”
Soon she was able to find the courage to leave a marriage that wasn’t serving her or her children. Today, she continues to fight for the disenfranchised, firing off protest letters when she identifies inequality. Her next letter will take an inaccessible business to task, the Nimble & Finn’s Ice Cream Shop in the Guerneville Bank Club.
Cookbooks by John Ash
“American Game Cooking” by John Ash and Sid Goldstein (1991): It concentrates on farm-raised game birds and meats likely found in grocery stores — wild boar, buffalo, duck, goose, quail and venison, with generic wine pairings. Running Press published a second edition in 1993.
“From the Earth to the Table” by John Ash and Sid Goldstein (1995): This cookbook summarized Ash’s philosophy and the cooking style inspired by his long-time association with the now-defunct Fetzer Vineyard’s Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center. It won 1996 IACP awards for Best American Cookbook and Julia Child Cookbook of the Year. First Chronicle Books published a revised edition in 2007.
“John Ash Cooking One-on-One” by John Ash with Amy Mintzer (2004): Ash reduced his cooking instruction to some simple principals — flavor-boosters, basic cooking techniques and main ingredients. It won a 2005 James Beard Award.
“Culinary Birds” by John Ash with James O. Fraioli (2013): This book features more than 170 ways to enjoy poultry. It won a 2014 James Beard Award.
“Cooking Wild” by John Ash and James O. Fraioli (2016, Running Press): This cookbook circles back to Ash’s first tome while enlarging the scope of wild foods to include vegetables and fruits, grains and seafood.