Sometimes I think it is best to just stop talking and listen to the advocates with lived experience around us. That is what I am going to do for this blog today.
Last year, during a conversation in preparation for the Disability Policy Seminar, Liz Weintraub, host of Tuesdays with Liz, asked Majolyn, a junior at Hostos Community College, if she had seen the movie Crip Camp, a Disability Revolution. Crip Camp is the story of campers with disabilities in the early 70’s who became empowered to change the world and help start the disability rights movement. Before she could even finish the sentence, Majolyn was telling Liz about Crip Camp, Judy Heumann, civil rights, being an advocate, and the 504 sit-ins. Majolyn wasn’t even born in the 1970’s and Liz was only a small child, but Majolyn was so excited she was literally bouncing up and down! And Majolyn wanted to meet Judy Heumann. That is how it started. (Keep reading to find out how it ends!)
Liz: Hi Majolyn. I am super super excited about the 23rd with Judy Heumann. Are you?
Majolyn: Yes, I am. I am very excited to meet her because she inspired a lot of people with disabilities as an advocate. She is one of those advocates, you know. I want to learn about her. I am so excited to meet Judy Heumann because I have been watching her movie Crip Camp and I learned a lot about her.
Liz: Why did you want to invite Judy to this call? What made you think about her?
Majolyn: I was thinking about her because she was in this movie Crip Camp, and I watched it a couple of times on Netflix and I learned that she fought for civil rights of people with disabilities and Section 504 …I want to learn about her and what she did when she was in camp and stuff. I am so excited Liz! I am so excited to meet her because I want to be a better advocate for my people in the Bronx in New York and advocate for others… I want to advocate for them and help them and my story to be heard on my program.
Liz: When you saw the film, Crip Camp, what do you want people to get out of that movie?
Majolyn: That she said that she is not sick, and I am not sick. And a lot of people with disabilities think like normal people, people with disabilities like autism and with learning disabilities like myself I am not sick. I am able to go to college. I could go to college as an advocate or anything I want to put my mind to.
Liz: I love that! I think we all can. I think that Judy is a great person to look up to. What do you think the students will gain from talking to Judy?
Majolyn: Gain confidence in themselves and do not be scared. Just be yourself in college and throughout the semester. Every student with disabilities could do it. They could do it! And I am one of those students right now. I am almost finishing college in a year and a half, and I am happy that I am a junior at Hostos and I am grateful, that I want to graduate as an advocate or anything I put my mind to.
Liz: Great. Thank you. As I said, I am super excited about the 23rd and I am super excited that it was your idea, and you should be super proud of yourself.
Majolyn: Thank you, Liz. Yes, I am so proud of myself.
Change happens when we listen and learn from the advocates around us.
Because Majolyn asked the question, Judy Heumann is now joining Liz and Majolyn on September 23 at 2:00 Eastern Time for a special Emerging Advocates meeting to talk about advocacy, how we got here, where we are going, and the disability civil right movement. This call is especially for students and people with disabilities, though all are welcome. The event is free but registration is required; you can register by clicking here.
If you want to watch Crip Camp before the call, you can find it on Netflix. There is also a Viewers Guide to Crip Camp if you are interested.
About the blog authors: Liz Weintraub is the Senior Policy Specialist at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the host of Tuesdays with Liz. Majolyn Nunez is a junior at Hostos Community College and applied for and was chosen to be a 2021 Think College Policy Advocate, working on policy issues with Think College and AUCD and attending the Disability Policy Seminar. Denise Rozell is director of Policy Innovation at AUCD. Denise works primarily on issues affecting youth in post-secondary education, employment and independent living and was the co-director for the PROMISE Technical Assistance Center (Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income).