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Don’t Overlook This Unacceptable Overlap: Disability Day of Mourning

Since 2012, many have looked to March 1st to offer a safe space for mourning, acknowledgment, and recognition of loved ones, friends, and acquaintances with disabilities taken from this earth far too soon. Unfortunately, interfamilial murder of those with disabilities is not a new issue and dates back much farther than 2012. As the annual Disability Day of Mourning becomes more well known and recognized, we’ve seen and heard countless stories of tragedies that deserve to be shared, dating back decades if not centuries. Vigils and events have recognized the loss of those with disabilities since the early 2000s, exemplifying the need for a dedicated day of mourning and recognition for this cause.

In an effort to commemorate the loss of disabled individuals who have been murdered by their own family and caregivers, Disability Day of Mourning shines as a beacon of hope for those wanting to share their stories, honor their lost loved ones, and contribute to a safer world for disabled people.

There is no room for overlap.

When it comes to something as serious as filicide - the murdering of one’s own child - and the loss of a vulnerable population, there is simply no room for celebration or recognition of less severe issues and causes. This is especially true for causes that directly conflict with the mission and purpose of Disability Day of Mourning, including World Music Therapy Day, also recognized on March 1st each year.

You might be wondering how something like World Music Therapy Day, and the celebration of music therapy’s impact on the world, directly conflicts with Disability Day of Mourning and all it stands for.

Simply put, music therapy is offered to those more fortunate than the disabled individuals denied proper therapies or treatment and murdered by their families. While some of our counterparts with disabilities are provided access to various therapies, including music, others are unsupported, neglected, and suffer at the hands of their own support systems.

The music therapy industry is not blameless.

While it may seem like a simply unfortunate overlap, recognizing both causes on the same day is not just a simple inconvenience, it’s an insensitive initiative by those who created it. Launched by the World Federation of Music Therapy (W.F.M.T.) in 2016, World Music Therapy Day was chosen to take place on the same day as Disability Day of Mourning, pulling a specific audience of people in two directions.

Since music therapy is often offered to those struggling with the implications of their own disability in some capacity, you can imagine that there’s quite a bit of overlap between the audiences of these two events.

Unfortunately, discrimination is not uncommon in the music therapy industry. Traditionally offered to those more fortunate, including those in better financial standings with better access to proper healthcare, treatment plans, and opportunities for therapy, music therapy is discriminatory in more than a few ways, making this conflict even more relevant.

Given the nature of music therapy and the limited accessibility of the practice as a resource for disabled individuals, it’s no surprise that a vast majority of music therapists and workers in the music therapy industry exemplify what it means to be discriminatory. While not every individual in this field is ableist, classist, etc., most are and have no problem actively expressing such discrimination in their offices, online, and beyond.

An author, music therapist, artist, and advocate for those with autism, shares on Twitter: “I have no hope for the music therapy field to reform past the ableism, white supremacy, queerphobia, and classism. Individual [music therapists] might, but as a profession, there are too many privileged people working so hard to refrain from growth. And these are the folks who sit in power.” (another music therapist on Twitter)

This blatant discrimination across the music therapy industry is just one of the many reasons World Music Therapy Day is an inconsiderate observance on March 1st, creating conflict among the disabled community and their families/loved ones.

We ask only for space to mourn.

While oversights can be forgiven when corrected, the continuation of World Music Therapy Day being observed on March 1st, the Disability Day of Mourning since 2012, cannot be accepted or allowed to continue. Not only is the overlap insensitive, but it also takes away from those in therapeutic industries - like music therapists - to participate in the Disability Day of Mourning despite their probable familiarity with the cause.

In order to enable and encourage everybody connected to this cause to spend time mourning and recognizing the reason for Disability Day of Mourning, it cannot be in direct conflict and competition with World Music Therapy Day. To continue celebrating music therapy on March 1st each year would be an irresponsible, disrespectful, and unacceptable act by the music therapy community, including the World Federation of Music Therapy.

This is a call for change.

Change is possible, and we’re demanding it happen soon. A change in the date of observation for World Music Therapy Day would not only allow Disability Day of Mourning to receive deserved time for recognition in the spotlight but also allow those near to the cause in the music therapy communities to participate in their own way as opposed to being torn between two causes. Instead of taking up space on a day when the disabled and disabled-adjacent community are making an active effort to mourn and remember their loved ones, shift your celebration to a more respectful date on the calendar to reflect the kindness you wish to exemplify. Doing so would allow for more recognition of both causes while prioritizing respectfulness towards the disabled community.

-Ana-Alicia Lopez, MM, MT-BC & Christopher Howard, MBA

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