The Arkansas Alliance of Disability Advocates hosted its annual Pie Day event at the Arkansas State Capitol on Monday, March 14. An estimated 165 self-advocates, parents, family members, supporters and allies gathered in the Rotunda to remind policymakers that “people with disabilities deserve a piece of the pie.”
The purpose of the event is to give people with disabilities an opportunity to educate lawmakers and to advocate for the supports they need to live and work independently in their communities. Pie Day also serves as a training opportunity for self-advocates to develop relationships with their elected officials, and to talk to them about the issues that matter most to them.
After two years of virtual events, one of the biggest draws of the event was the opportunity for in-person fellowship. And what’s Pie Day without pie? Piles of delicious hand-held apple and peach pies were graciously provided and served by the student chefs of the UA-Pulaski Technical College 3D Program.
The day’s events began with a press conference in the Rotunda. Speakers included Arkansas Alliance for Disability Advocacy Director Ally Thomlinson, Disability Rights Arkansas Executive Director Tom Masseau, State Rep. Reginald Murdock, and a number of disability advocates, self-advocacy leaders, family members, and allies. Self-advocate Tanner Maxwell presented the annual Advocacy Takes Action award to the Freeman Family of Forrest City, who were on hand to accept recognition for their outstanding achievements in disability advocacy.
Following the press conference, pie, advocacy and networking, advocates gathered in the Rotunda for a rally, where State Reps. Julie Mayberry and Denise Ennett took the podium, along with self-advocates and family members. Self-advocates Michael Thornton and Eric Treat led the crowd in chanting, “Nothing about us without us!”
Several members of the Arkansas General Assembly were on hand for the day’s events, as were several members of the local media. Click HERE to view the article from THV11. Disability service providers and advocacy groups provided information about programs and services to those in attendance.
Pie Day is an event dedicated to the collective power of people with disabilities. Alliance Director Ally Thomlinson stated: “This event is the perfect place to allow everyone to use their advocacy skills, demonstrate leadership in their communities, and help elected officials understand how they can best represent the interests of Arkansans with disabilities.”
If the turnout at this year’s event is any indication, the disability community in Arkansas is strong, and policymakers are listening. As DRA Executive Director Tom Masseau noted in his remarks: “Today’s event and the rally following are a reminder to all policymakers that Arkansans with disabilities are tired of settling for leftovers. Arkansans with disabilities want a piece of the pie every day. We need to remind policymakers that people with disabilities matter.”