TikTok creator Imani Barbarin has made a name for herself as a witty and vocal advocate for the disabled community, and she won’t stop now even though COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed. “I want to make sure that disabled people feel like they have the ability to not take shit from anyone," she tells me in a recent interview. "Especially with eugenics and harmful ableism, we need to start taking responsibility for one another because that is the core of moving into this new era of time.”
Barbarin, who goes by CrutchesAndSpice on TikTok, often discusses the sometimes deadly ramifications that some health care laws, as well as COVID guidelines, have on people with disabilities. If there's one thing the pandemic showed, it's that we do not have enough systems in place to handle the rise of infectious diseases, and Barbarin will take on the responsibility to vocalise the disability community's concerns with how restrictions didn't necessarily protect the vulnerable — and how their loosening is a form of ableism. “I've always been talking about disability," she says. "I take this platform as a huge responsibility to represent my community correctly. If it means being that buffer between a disabled person and ableism, I'm okay with that.”
But Barbarin and her page aren't one-dimensional. While she hosts nuanced conversations about ableism and racism, she also engages with her community on pop culture. Many of the comments on her videos include recommendation for what she should read or watch next. And within five minutes of meeting her, it's clear Barbarin loves fashion and TV shows, and tells me about her favourite online stores as we fangirl over the Steven Madden Abraham creeper boots I’m wearing. Barbarin herself is dazzling in a bright purple suit.
Barbarin is reclaiming her joy, which includes watching disabled people “do their damn thing,” as she puts it, going into detail about the disabled burlesque scene she recently discovered, Jillian Mercado on The L Word, and Lolo Spencer on The Sex Lives of College Girls. And while Barbarin is still advocating against what that means for disabled people, she is also ready to dive more into joy, art, and creating space where her community can just have fun.
Watch our interview with her below: