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Cow Tipping Press: Changing the Narrative on Disability

Written by Selena Morse ~

This September, I had the great honor of speaking with Cow Tipping Press founder, Bryan Boyce, and teachers, Ade Koleosho (pictured below right) and Alex Junge (pictured below left), to better learn about their experiences in this unique publishing organization that EVERYONE needs to know about! Cow Tipping Press is an inspiring nonprofit located in Minneapolis, MN, actively working to “change the narrative on developmental disability”. Not only is their invigorating work providing opportunities for real authentic social integration, but they are also promoting a true inclusive mindset, modeling “rich human diversity in practice and print.”

How is this achieved, you may ask? Through good ole’ fashioned communal writing and storytelling! In executing thoughtfully curated, creative writing classes, adults and students with developmental disabilities are given a chance to speak for themselves and see their work truly celebrated. During our interview, Bryan shared that the primary purpose of Cow Tipping Press is to provide a platform for adults and students with developmental disabilities to share their own stories, rather than allowing other people to write their stories for them. He said that they have created “a program that’s building creative writing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and then sharing their work with the world because it’s something that doesn’t otherwise happen... or exist. A lot of the folks we work with have literary skills that are unlike anything that’s out there, and everyone’s missing out when those aren’t on our coffee tables and bedside tables, our bookshelves and classroom shelves”.

Listening to Alex and Ade speak during our interview further enforced the palpable disparity and lack of equity that exists in modern day publishing and storytelling. However, at Cow Tipping, this is not the case. Ade expressed during the interview that Cow Tipping Press provided him with the opportunity to share his voice and relish his love for the classroom. “I like creative writing classes” Ade told us, as the classes provided him with a space to speak and write freely while the authenticity of his work would remain unchanged. The integrity of transcribing each individual’s words exactly as they are dictated, is non-negotiable. There is no editing, or overriding, no paraphrasing or summarizing. Participants’ words speak for themselves, as they should.

Bryan Boyce at Cowchella
Bryan Boyce at Cowchella

This inspiring work is already changing the narrative surrounding developmental disabilities and reducing the inequalities and stigmas that many people have faced as a result. In addition to offering creative writing classes, Cow Tipping Press hosted an event last summer called Cowchella. A spin-off of the popular music festival Coachella, Cowchella is now an annual inclusive music festival, packed with fun, for EVERYONE. Reflecting on the event, Bryan shared that “A lot of people connected with us, but it also really worked to prioritize partnering with queer artists and artists of color...bringing together people of marginalized communities and it was a big blast”. In collaborating with often excluded communities, Cow Tipping Press was able to forge new relationships, meaningfully connect, and experience laughter, joy, and fun together in community. No one felt left out.

And yet, there is a great deal of work left to do and many hands needed to help. One ongoing initiative that Alex shared with us during our interview is his mission to end sub-minimum wages in Minnesota. Shockingly, it’s legal to pay someone with a disability less than minimum wage. Alex shared his thoughts on the issue, stating “it’s not right, because we didn’t ask to be disabled, we didn’t ask to be born this way. And that’s not ethical to pay someone less than minimum wage because of disability”. As a teacher and a poet, Alex has found his voice through his work in Cow Tipping Press and has been leveraging his skills and talents to advocate for himself and his peers. Along with sharing stories of his experiences, Alex also shared one of his original poems with us. The following poem was composed during the outbreak of COVID-19 and addresses the complex feelings and reactions of people around the world.

A time | Poem by Alex Junge - Cow Tipping Press

"A time to be together and yet 6 feet apart a time to reflect on matters of the heart a time to sleep in relax or just to play on what really matters we didn’t have a say, people are in trouble but we are safe at home, we are all in this together yet we feel so alone. when will things be normal back to the way it was before. Maybe it will never be that much we cant ignore.
We make injections under guidance in hopes it will leave why when we put science in arms who knows what we'll achieve
freedom from the mask and social distancing seems further away for we have left the gate open for evil to play.
there’s been a lot of craziness oh sure there a lot of, remember what smart’s ashamed of stupid is proud of
a time has come to heal a time has come to hope a time has come to band together and learn how to cope
there was life before a time there will be life after
forever ever now here and ever ever after.”

Publications of Ade’s creative writing

Alex’s experiences in Cow Tipping Press remind EVERYONE that all human beings are deserving of dignity, respect, equity, and opportunity. In a more inclusive world, individuals like Alex would not only be encouraged to share their stories but also appreciated for the positive impact they are making in their communities. “Most people when they say they want to be inclusive, they really mean they just want to tolerate us. Me, Ade, we are human beings just like everybody else and we didn’t choose to be born this way. I like working for Cow Tipping because they treat me like a human being and pay me better than anyone else (in his entire life)”.

These are just a few reasons why New Day Storytelling Advocates is HONORED to feature Cow Tipping Press as a partner non-profit organization. In sharing values of inclusion, equality, and self-advocacy, both New Day Storytelling Advocates and Cow Tipping press seek to promote genuine inclusion that invites everyone to express their authentic selves. It is absolutely vital that we work together as a global community to honor everyone’s authentic voices, practice inclusion, and better understand how we can offer integration opportunities for people of marginalized communities. Cow Tipping Press is demonstrating that change is possible and that individuals like Ade and Alex are trailblazing the way, with pen and paper in hand.

I encourage everyone to learn more about the inspiring work that is being done at Cow Tipping Press by visiting the following websites:

Together, we can change the narrative on disability.

Selena Morse

University student and changemaker Selena Morse cares deeply about the environment and humanitarian rights. She hopes her narrative journeys will continue to inspire empathy, understanding, and positive social impact throughout our world.

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