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Webinar: Disability, Arts, & Culture

Click here for a transcript of this webinar

Disabled people are creators, innovators, and consumers of arts and culture. Art and activism from the disability community–especially work by disabled people of color– has played a vital role in furthering social justice movements. Yet, the more than 1 billion disabled people around the world are all too often overlooked in creative spaces, excluded from support and funding opportunities. As the 32nd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches in July, it’s an apt time for philanthropy to rethink its approach to inclusive arts and culture funding. 

This webinar will address the need for philanthropy to connect with and uplift disabled artists, and to incorporate a disability lens in arts and culture grantmaking portfolios. Expanding opportunities for disabled artists–from offering inclusive residencies and fellowships, to supporting development of accessible creative spaces, to showcasing works from creatives with disabilities–is essential to meaningfully advance equity and justice. Join Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander in an open, honest dialogue with disabled creatives.

About the Panelists

Headshot of Elizabeth Alexander

Moderator: Elizabeth Alexander, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and member of the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy

Elizabeth Alexander – decorated poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate – is president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education.  Dr. Alexander has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years.  She is Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board.  Dr. Alexander composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, and is author or co-author of fifteen books.  Her book of poems, American Sublime, and her memoir, The Light of the World, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.  Her latest book, released in 2022, is The Trayvon Generation.

Headshot of Lillie Lainoff

Panelist: Lillie Lainoff, author of One for All

Lillie Lainoff is the author of One for All, and received her B.A. in English from Yale University, where she was a varsity fencer and one of the first physically disabled athletes to individually qualify for any NCAA Championship event. She has also won the 2019 LA Review Literary Award for Short Fiction, was a featured Rooted in Rights disability activist, and is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers on Facebook. She received her MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia and lives in Washington, D.C.

Headshot of Day Al-Mohamed and her service dog, Veni.

Panelist: Day Al-Mohamed, author, filmmaker, and disability policy expert

Day Al-Mohamed is an author, filmmaker, and disability policy expert with over 15 years of experience. Currently a Senior Policy Advisor with the Federal government, she is a proven leader in organizational transformation, legislation and regulation development/analysis, and innovative program design. 

A sought-after presenter and moderator, Ms. Al-Mohamed has written two novels: Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, and The Labyrinth’s Archivist. In addition, she has writes short stories, comics, films, and critical essays. She is a regular host on Idobi Radio’s Geek Girl Riot with an audience of 80,000+ listeners and a Founding Member of FWD-Doc (Documentary Filmmakers with Disabilities). However, she is most proud of being invited to teach a workshop on storytelling at the White House in February 2016.  Ms. Al-Mohamed lives in Washington DC with her wife, N.R. Brown and her guide dog, Gamma.

Afro-Latina woman with caramel colored skin smiling at the camera, she is wearing light blue denim shirt, a tan wide brimmed hat and multicolored earrings with a black power fist.

Panelist: Jen White-Johnson, disabled artist, designer, educator, and activist

Jen White-Johnson is a Afro-Latina, disabled artist, designer, educator, and activist, whose visual work explores the intersection of content and caregiving with an emphasis on redesigning ableist visual culture. As an artist-educator with Graves disease and ADHD, her heart-centered and electric approach to disability advocacy bolsters these movements with invaluable currencies: powerful, dynamic art and media that all at once educates, bridges divergent worlds, and builds a future that mirrors her Autistic son’s experience. When her son was diagnosed as Autistic at age 2 she began to examine the absence of black disabled children in digital and literary media, this motivated the release of an advocacy photo zine entitled “KnoxRoxs,” dedicated to her Autistic son. Her activist and advocacy work has been featured in The Washington Post, AfroPunk, New York Times, Teen Vogue,, Crip Camp: The Official Virtual Experience. In 2020 she was selected as an honoree on the Diversability’s D-30 Disability Impact List and was listed on as one of 20 Latina artists to watch in 2021.