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Roland Johnson’s Commissioner Award

On September 15, 1995, Bob Williams, Commissioner on Developmental Disabilities, presented the Commissioner’s Award in honor of Roland Johnson.

I first met Roland Johnson in the mid-1980’s at the Regional Self-Advocacy Conference in New Jersey. By then, Roand had been out of Pennhurst for several years. But like Harriet Tubman, Roalnd Johnson kept going back, kept going back to places like Pennhurst to inspire people; to teach people about both their human and civil rights. And together with other leaders like Steve Dorsey and Pam Bard, Roland helped found and lead a group know aptly as “Speaking For Ourselves.” Speaking For Ourselves is indeed, a passionalte voice for freedom in our country.

Roland was a brother. We lost him last year. With him, we lost a hugely passionate and determined Black man who knew what justice is truly all about. We lost Roland, but he left a legacy and a charge which we must ponder by making our own today. Many of us look to him and will contunue to look to him as aa leader who always sought out simple justice in everything he said and did. His death is not only a personal loss to those of us who knew him, nor a loss simply to the self-advocacy movement. It is a loss to all people seeking that same simple justice.

— Bob Williams, September 15, 1995, Washington, D. C.