The other night, I read in my friend Jesse-the-K’s online journal that Cheryl Marie Wade had died. The name didn’t ring a bell immediately, but Jesse’s quoted description of her as “the ultimate gnarly performer” made me realize that I knew who Wade was.
In 1999, Laurie organized a panel on Queer Sex and Disability at Creating Change, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conference, which was held in Oakland, California that year. Cheryl Marie Wade was one of the panelists; neither Laurie nor I had ever seen her before, but someone had recommended her work to Laurie.
She blew us both out of the water. She could make her hands dance like nobody’s business, and while her hands were dancing, her voice was telling unashamed, unflinching truth. This video is 11 minutes long; don’t start it if you don’t have 11 minutes, because you won’t want to stop before the end. Not all of it is Wade, but her work stitches the whole piece together.
I can’t find anything on the Web about how or where Wade died, except for one mention that it was peaceful. I also can’t find very much about her life. I did learn that she was the founder of Wry Crips, an amazing disabled women’s theater group, which was still around two years ago.
I’ll have to content myself with finding the few clips and poems scattered around the Web, thinking back to 1999, and remembering those eloquent hands, hard-edged brain, and compassionate heart.