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Three Disability Rights Songs to Honor the 30th Anniversary of the ADA

Five years ago, the Council posted 31 monthly segments describing critical events leading to passage of the ADA.

This year, the Council has asked Jeff Moyer, troubadour of disability rights, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA by selecting three original songs. We invite you to read his memories and listen to his music.

Introductory Remarks by Jeff Moyer

During the summer of 2020 as we wrestle with the recognition of ghastly and subtle racism, we stop and recognize a great civil rights commemoration, the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.

A friend recently reflected that disability rights are civil rights.

However, it took Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Developmental Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the mighty Americans with Disabilities Act to continue to lay down the quilted protections which give people with disabilities civil rights parity with our brothers and sisters who are not disabled.

 Civil rights songs from the sixties are embedded in our collective memory. However, there are also songs that speak specifically to our disability rights history.

My name is Jeff Moyer. Twenty-five years ago, Judy Heumann, one of the true lights of the disability rights world, dubbed me the "troubadour of the disability rights movement."

Now that we are celebrating the ADA's thirty year anniversary, I thought it would  be a good time to reintroduce three songs and the soaring oratory of Mr. Dart, through this wonderful website of the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.

 I am humbled to say that my songs have been woven through the fabric of our history. Music has documented and hastened social change since long before the Civil Rights Era over 60 years ago.  Here are three songs which are part of the soundtrack for our Disability Rights history.

Song #1: "ADA Anthem" released on July 26, 1990

Thanks to the intercession of the late Justin Dart Jr., I was invited to play my song, "The ADA Anthem", on the day of the signing. It was premiered at the U.S. Senate reception for the Congressional and disability rights community leaders who brought the ADA to fruition. I taught the song to the audience in that stately Senate chamber after Senators Kennedy, McCain, and Harkin spoke.

Justin Dart Jr. died June 22, 2002. I was honored to be invited to play "The ADA Anthem" in 2012 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, when Mr. Dart's battered wheelchair became part of their permanent collection.

The ADA Anthem

In the Disability Rights Movement
Are the streams of constant change.
For the worse and for the better,
In flux it had remained.
But to move it with decision
Toward human dignity,
We gathered as one,
There was work to be done
For we held only part of the key.

ADA, we stand as one to see it through.
ADA, civil rights, overdue.

But to shape new legislation,
Based on laws as then in place,
Bringing power to the people
Whose lives these things embrace.
We formed a coalition -
And the system surely moved.
We gather today,
Now with ADA,
The balance has improved.

ADA, we stand as one to see it through.
ADA, civil rights, overdue.

And for those labeled, "disabled,"
The change will be perceived 
A freer step across this land
On the road to liberty.
So we'll celebrate this action,
The law that's ours today.
A journey we share,
As together we care,
As we work for the ADA.

ADA, we stand as one to see it through.
ADA, civil rights, overdue.
Civil rights so very long overdue!

Copyright 1990 Jeff Moyer

Song #2: "Hold On!" from the 504 Demonstration in San Francisco, 1977

Hold On
Civil rights were knocking at our door,
But Carter wouldn't stand on 504.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.
After four years of delay,
We came to claim the ground we'd gained.
We had our eye on the prize. Hold on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

A movement standing strong and tight
With one dream to win - our civil rights.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

For 26 days unafraid
One hundred fifty people with (and without) disabilities they stayed.
They had their eye on the prize. They held on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

Thirty-eight years have rolled on past that door
But we still must fight for 504.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

We won't stop until the battle's won
And enforcement of the law's begun
Keep your eye on the prize,
Hold on.
Hold on, hold on,
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

Civil rights were knocking at our door,
But Carter wouldn't stand on 504.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize. Hold on.

Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eye on the prize.
Keep your eye on the prize.
Keep your eye on the prize.
Hold on.

Words by Jeff Moyer 1977.
Traditional song adapted for the Civil Rights Movement by Alice Keeley.

In 1977 I was at the San Francisco Federal Building with my guitar during the historic 504 demonstration. That 26-day sit-in by 150 demonstrators with and without severe disabilities, successfully pressured President Jimmy Carter to have his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano promulgate the long-overdue regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is the Disability Rights foundation upon which the ADA was built.

My adaptation of "Hold On!", or "Eyes on the Prize", became the anthem for the 26-day sit-in, that resulted in the signing of the Section 504 Regulations. The song became the theme song for a multi-part BBC documentary on the U.S. Disability Rights Movement, entitled, "We Won't Go Away." The entire documentary can be viewed on this important website of the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities, with its vast treasure trove of historic videos and other critical content.

In 2015, I played "Hold On!" at the 25th anniversary of the ADA at the Ed Roberts Campus, Berkeley, California. We were celebrating the ADA's twenty-fifth anniversary and the grand opening of an exhibit on 504, produced by the Paul K. Longmore Center, San Francisco State University.

Song #3: "The Power to Prevail" released on July 26, 2000

In 1997 I was commissioned by the Shepherd Center, a non-profit rehabilitation center promoting advocacy in Atlanta, Georgia, to write a song for the tenth anniversary of the ADA. I was told that the title should be "The Power to Prevail," and that passing the torch needed to be referenced. Torches would be moving cross-country from Berkeley and Denver, two primary places of origin of the disability rights movement to Washington D.C., arriving on the ADA's 10th anniversary, July 26, 2000.  I performed this song at several venues in Washington, D.C. on the tenth anniversary of the ADA.

The Power to Prevail

We have the power to prevail
We have the power to succeed
We have the strength that life imparts
We have green lights a running start
And we have everything we need.
Yes, it's within us every one
And when all's been said and done,
We take each step along the way
Through what we do and what we say,
We have the power to prevail!

We have the power to prevail
And we've been growing through the years
We've found the courage and the heart
To take a stand and play a part
And we've been tempered by our tears.
We have the right to pass or fail,
To pass it on and tell the tale,
We have the tools here in our hands
By our own work the law's command
We have the power to prevail.

And we prevail when we are facing
Barriers along the way
And we prevail when we find courage
To live well another day.
For there is nothing that can weaken
This strength of purpose that we feel,
And with each victory great and small
As we've responded to the call
We have the power to prevail.

We have the power to prevail,
Every woman, child, man,
We have the rights that are insured
Hard won, focus unblurred
It fills our hearts and cross this land
As that great flame of truth is seen
A burning beacon bright and clean
The torch is passed from hand to hand
A light of hope to every land,
We have the power to prevail. (3 times)

Copyright 1997 Jeff Moyer

Justin Dart Commentary

The ADA Restoration Act

In 2006, when The ADA Restoration Act Bus Tour was wending its way across the United States, I created a CD for their use containing the soaring oratory of the late Justin Dart Jr., along with several of my disability rights songs, including the three discussed here. I had recorded Mr. Dart's oratory in 1999 for TASH's twenty-fifth year anniversary album. The album project, which I produced for The ADA Restoration Act Bus Tour, was entitled Solidarity Forever! It is now on this venerable website, in the disability rights collection of The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, and the National Constitution Center.

Leadership - Oratory by Justin Dart

You have provided cutting edge leadership, initiatives that have given millions of Americans with disabilities the potential to move out of institutions, out of poverty and off of welfare to productivity and community, from independent living, IDEA, and deinstitutionalization to supportive employment, supportive living, assistive technology, self-advocacy and the historic ADA. You have led the way. Your passionate principles and creativity have enlarged the lives of millions of people like me. I thank you. I congratulate on your courageous leadership. You are the real patriots of today.

Americans Hunger - Oratory by Justin Dart

Americans hunger for a positive agenda, a vision based on shared values, common sense, and a record of practical solutions. You have created the foundations of that agenda. Let us refine it and communicate it to America.

I propose a revolution of empowerment, a revolution that will empower all 21st century Americans to live their God-given potential for self-determination, productivity, and quality of life.

Our Vision - Oratory by Justin Dart

Our vision, America's task now is to go forward, to keep the promise of justice for all. Envision America for all. Envision education for all. Envision health care, jobs, and communities for all. We are not going to be second class citizens anymore. We will live free and equal in our communities. We envision freedom, dignity and life for all. We will fight to the end of time for equal access to the American Dream.

A Revolution of One - Oratory by Justin Dart

Absolutely don't wait for anyone. You don't need a title or an invitation to make history. You can be a revolution of one today. Speak out. Reach out. Mobilize. If you can motivate, if you can activate, if you can educate just a handful of those beautiful Americans who are now spectators in the struggle, we can win. Unity is power. Let us overwhelm fear and fallacy with our vision of an America that empowers all. Solidarity Forever.

Solidarity Forever - Oratory by Justin Dart

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This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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