Seventy two year-old activist with cerebral palsy, Sybil Feldman, died on Thursday, November 21st due to respiratory complications following a long bout with pneumonia. She spent 23 years living in the Fernald School, an institution for people with disabilities known for human rights abuses and not providing actual education. She fought to live independently and eventually moved into her own apartment where she employed personal care assistants (PCA) to assist her with daily tasks. However, until the day she died she could tell you exactly how many days she'd spent in the institution and that she hated every second of it.
In the ‘90s, Ms. Feldman became active with the nonviolent, direct action, disability rights group ADAPT and earned the nickname “ Sybil Disobedience”. Her estimated six arrests occurred at actions in places as geographically diverse as Washington DC, Chicago, and Orlando.
She testified at hearings and public meetings to make people aware of the need for community-based services and an end to the institutional bias which forces many people with disabilities into nursing homes who neither need nor want to be there. Due to the way long-term-care funding is allocated . In 1992, Ms. Feldman even camped out overnight in protest against Fernald’s very existence, this after having spent the day on a 14-mile freedom march there from Old North Church in Boston with 20 other like-minded activists.
The memorial gathering and celebration of Sybil Feldman’s life will be held this Friday, January 4, 2013 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Assembly Hall of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615, located at 26 West Street in Boston (Downtown Crossing area). Light refreshments will be provided. In honor of her passing the Sybil Feldman Activist Fund is currently being established. Money donated to the fund will enable more activists to attend actions with fewer economic barriers. Anyone wishing to donate should contact the Boston Center for Independent Living.