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Image of the Fire Through Dry Grass film promotion poster. Five poets face the camera in front of the Coler nursing home. They are middle aged Black and Latino men who all use wheelchairs..

We hosted a free screening of the vital documentary Fire Through Dry Grass on Jan 10 at 3 pm EST and an interactive panel discussion with the film's Reality Poets along with CLEC lived-experience experts on Jan 17 at noon EST.

Recording of the discussion now available

In Fire Through Dry Grass, Black and Brown disabled artists document their lives on lockdown during Covid, using their poetry and art to underscore the danger and imprisonment they feel. In the face of institutional neglect, they refuse to be abused, confined, and erased. The interactive panel took place one week after the film screening. It shed light on the intersectional experiences of disabled persons of color in institutional settings as well as raised awareness of the impacts of structural racism, systemic poverty, and incarceration. The campaign hopes to engage diverse stakeholders, including nursing home residents, advocates, and policymakers on community living policy reform. Tools related to resident rights will be shared with event attendees. Thank you to those who joined us for this two-part screening and interactive panel discussion.


Francene, a beautiful bald, Black woman, sits in an electric wheelchair and gazes gently forward. She’s wearing a leopard print long sleeve shirt and blue jeans, and sits in front of a full bookshelf.

Francene Benjamin is Coler’s Resident Council President. She came to the US in 2004 from Antigua and Barbuda. After a fall that resulted in a back injury, Francene found out she also needed neck surgery, and multiple medical procedures have left her with limited mobility. She’s passionate about disability justice and often includes what she’s learned about the movement in her work. Her poetry has appeared in Wheeling & Healing: A Poetry Anthology Edited by OPEN DOORS Reality Poets, and she loves to perform at Freestyle Fridays and other gatherings.

El, a Black man with a black beard/goatee, wears a backwards grey and blue snapback cap, a baby blue t-shirt, and gold chains. He looks to the side. (Photo credit: Elias Williams)

AlHassan "El" Abdulfattaah was born and raised in Fort Greene, and spent his childhood between Brooklyn and the Bronx with his parents and siblings, with whom he remains very close. In a case of mistaken identity, El was shot in a drive-by shooting in 2012 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Today, El is a proud member of the OPEN DOORS Reality Poets—an artist collective committed to disability justice, community building and gun violence prevention. He is also a core member of the OPEN DOORS Design Team, using bold graphics to creatively inspire and uplift the community.

Shannon, a white woman with dyed purple/black hair smiles directly to camera. She wears a black scarf and top and pink lipstick.

Shannon Nelson was the first woman to join the OPEN DOORS Reality Poets, was a dental assistant before the swimming pool accident that left her paralyzed. She’s been a quadriplegic for 27 years, and identifies as a wheelchair warrior, disability rights advocate, social justice activist and animal lover. Shannon once escaped from a nursing home in Maine and arrived in New York seeking freedom. She lived in South America for a year while escaping homelessness in the United States. She leads the OPEN DOORS Instagram series, The Movement, which spotlights past and present events in different rights movements that deserve more attention.

Tyree Brown, a Black woman is smiling at the camera. She is wearing a black headband with pearls with her hair tied up, hoop earrings, and a white tshirt.

Tyree Brown is a Lived Experience Expert and Community Advisory Committee member of the Community Living Equity Center. Tyree is a Christian and a visual artist currently living in Maryland. In 2015, she was in a car accident that left her quadriplegic. Art has always been a prominent part of Tyree’s life but everything changed after her injury. She could no longer walk or use her dominant right hand. While in rehabilitation, she learned to adapt in using her left hand to train it how to draw. Learning how to draw with a different hand was new to her and it was often difficult to get the desired outcome; but she kept her religious faith in Jesus.

Theresa, a Black woman with her hair in a bun and cornrows, smiles gently. She’s wearing make-up, pink earrings, and white flowy blouse.

Theresa Williams joined OPEN DOORS in December 2021. She grew up in Ghana. When Theresa was a teenager, she moved to Washington DC and later Queens, NY. In 2003, an illness left her unable to walk. She became an advocate for herself and her friends. She is passionate about disability justice, writing poetry, and reading non-fiction books. Theresa also loves to volunteer and learn. She hopes to become an advocate for people with disabilities and work with the United Nations.


TJ Gordon, a black man with dreds and glasses is smiling at the camera, wearing a button down shirt.

Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon Jr., MFA, MS, is a Lived Experience Expert with the Community Living Equity Center and a research associate at the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Gordon uses his passion for self-advocacy, racial equity, disability culture, and autism acceptance to create webinars, training sessions, and publications on autism and race, inclusion in communities of color, inclusion in higher education and sports, exploration of sexuality in the disability community, coping with COVID-19 pandemic, mental health emergency services, and more. He is also a co-founder of the Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition (Chicagoland DPOCC), a group of disabled people of color in the Chicagoland area that promotes disability pride, self-advocacy, and inclusion in communities of color throughout the Chicagoland area.