What Crip Camp The Film Has Taught Me as a Person with A Disability.

Throughout our history we have heard of movements that have inspired change and have made a difference. An example of this includes the civil rights movement which fought for equal rights for African Americans and people of color. Another example of a movement that changed the course of history is the women’s liberation movement which fought for equal rights for all women. This history is extremely important and helps us to have not just a better country where everyone is equal but a better world! Chances are you have learned about these movements in your history class and understand what individuals had to do to fight for your rights. However, today I am here to talk about a movement that unfortunately not many people have learned about and that is the disability rights movement.

Recently, I watched the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. The documentary is about young people with disabilities coming together at a summer camp in the 1970s called Camp Jened. At the camp people with disabilities could come together and be their true and authentic selves in a world that at the time wasn’t very welcoming towards them. At the camp they were able to have community with each other and talk about the struggles and exclusion that they were facing. Having that shared community with each other and understanding of what the other person was going through was really powerful for them and because of this the campers developed a really close bond.

These same groups of individuals from Camp Jened and many other people with disabilities decided that they were going to take action to fight for their rights and make a more accessible world! At the time there were not any anti-discrimination laws for people with disabilities. Then in 1972, The Rehabilitation Act was introduced. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity operated by recipients of federal funds. Unfortunately, President Nixon vetoed the bill, and it was not signed into law until 1973. But the most important thing to remember is even though something is signed into law measures must be taken to make sure that people enforce the law. So, for a long period of time no regulations were put out to make sure that these laws were enforced.
Disabled activist decided to do something to make sure that their voices were heard! This led to the 504 sit ins all around the country with the most successful and prominent being in the San Francisco area. The San Francisco sit in was the longest non-violent occupation of a federal building in United States history!

Here’s some lessons that I have learned from the Documentary Crip Camp:

1: Intersectionality Is Important: we all have certain identities that make us who we are. For example, I am a biracial, disabled, woman even though these are three separate things they come together to make me who I am today. We see intersectionality as a big theme in Crip Camp and the documentary makes sure to acknowledge that the disabled community did not do this alone. One of the biggest examples of this is the Black Panther Party helping to make sure that the people that were participating in the sit-in were fed. The Black Panther Party brought breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day to the sit in! When one of the people participating in the sit-in asked one of the members of The Black Panther Party why they were choosing to feed them he replied ‘You are trying to make the world a better place and that’s what we are about. We are about making the world a better place for everybody.” If all our communities were able to work together and find a common good this world would be a better place! We are all stronger when we work together.

2: Anyone Can Make A Difference: Camp Jened had campers from many diverse backgrounds. However, majority of the campers at Camp Jened were young people so being able to have these important conversations with other young people with disabilities was an absolute game changer! Soon these young people realized that using their voice is a powerful tool and it inspired them to go out and make change! An example of this is the 504 Sit-in and Section 504 even helped to inspire other laws such as The Americans with Disabilities Act. Without these conversations at Camp Jened taking place and young people with disabilities becoming empowered to use their voice who knows if section 504 would have even happened? This truly reminds us that no matter how old you are anyone can make a difference!

3: Be Proud Of Who You Are: Having a disability myself, (I have cerebral palsy) this film really moved me. I have heard of The Americans with Disabilities Act and I had been fortunate to grow up and be a part of the generation where there were ramps, elevators, and curb cuts but I never really truly understood the fight that the disability community had to take to fight for those rights until I saw this film for the first time. It made me so proud of my identity and being able to be a part of this incredible community that truly help change the world! I recognize how far we have come as a community and have so much respect for those activists who never gave up! But at the same time, I also recognize that we have so much more left to advocate for. I know I am ready to fight the good fight and make sure my voice is heard my question is who’s with me?

If you would like to watch Crip Camp you can do so at the following links:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFS8SpwioZ4
Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81001496?source=35

3 responses to “What Crip Camp The Film Has Taught Me as a Person with A Disability.”

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