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Michai Freeman

Systems Change Advocate

She/Her

I was born in Manhattan but spent my formative years living in Brooklyn, New York. After developing a neuromuscular disease at a young age, I was bused two hours from my home to attend a public school for disabled kids who were denied admission at their local school.  This was  at times alienating because the school resided in a neighborhood many Black people would not walk in at night for fear of being beaten. This was my early education in inaccessible public buildings, racism, and the marginalization of Black and disabled children in the public school system (and society). 

In 1989 I came to California to attend the University of California at Berkeley and was able to stay due to initially having attendant services provided by the Residence Program for physically disabled students living in the dormitories. The Residence Program was funded by the Department of Rehabilitation and is the result of Ed Roberts activism to live in Cal dorms (and in the community) like other students, not in Cowell Hospital. I  majored in Middle Eastern Studies and studied abroad in Egypt for one year. I was the first physically disabled student to study in Egypt despite strong opposition from Cal administrators and the Chancellor. I later earned a Master’s Degree from John F. Kennedy University in Holistic Studies with a specialization in Nutrition.

I ran for City Council in 2022 for District 1. I did not win, yet I am humbled by voters who believed in my platform of true affordable  housing for disabled and working class people, police accountability and transparency, and the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the City of Berkeley’s programs and services. I am excited to work with the Center of Independent Living as the Systems Change Advocate to continue  spearheading change for people with different abilities.

How did you get involved with the Independent Living Movement?

I am passionate about independent living and the Independent Living Movement because to be a fully actualized person one must be able to create the life they want but also be vigilant to protect rights hard won. This is a continuous discipline and I am unapologetic in doing my part to ensuring that the Independent Living Movement, and people with disabilities, not just survive but thrive.

A woman in a wheelchair holding a hose.

Michai Freeman

She/Her

Systems Change Advocate

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