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Crip Camp: Second time's the charm

mwernick's picture

This was my second time watching Crip Camp, and I think I got even more out of it this time around. The first time, I was just overwhelmed with information. Why hadn't I learned any of this in school before? How does the movement exist now? What else did this movement accomplish that did not get featured in the film or in curricula? Questions buzzed in my brain for many weeks afterward and I convinced many more people to watch the film just so I could discuss it with someone. 

I am many things, but I am definitely a camp person. My first exposure to anybody with a disability that I can recall was at my summer camp, and I completely understand the ways in which camp can be a life-changing place, particularly when you are around people who do not know you in any other aspect of your life. I think it was Jim LeBrecht in the movie who noted that at Camp Jened, he got to be the cool, popular kid that he never got to be when he was the only disabled person around. I think framing this mainly historical documentary through a camp lens was a great stylistic choice and definitely allowed me to understand and empathize with all of the folks in it on a deeper level. It humanized each and every person in the film, which, as we know, is not very common for disabled people in media.

The second time around, I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed the humor and lightheartedness of the individuals combined with their fierce determination to succeed. I noted the intersectionality within the movement but questioned the lack of class/socioeconomic intersectionality. I noted the heavy presence of women in leadership positions in the movement but acknowledged that all of them were individuals who communicated in our traditionally acceptable way. Just sitting back and getting to watch the film without working overtime to grasp historical plot points was really enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend a re-watch to anyone. 


Serendip Guest's picture

Maya I am also a camp person and your articulation of camp's social scene as a place where you can find yourself among peers who don't know your whole life story really resonated with me. Another reason why camp is such a powerful site of childhood development and exploration is because the hierarchies of children and adults are neutralized and this was emphasized by Jened counselors testimony of what they learned from campers experiences and activism. Leroy Moore Jr, one of the co-founders of Invalid Sins and founder of Krip Hop published a blog in his column titled "My Krip Kamp Story" shortly after the release of Jim LeBrecht's film. In his piece Moore sings praise to his summer camp experience at Camp Harkness and its leader Bev Jackson, a director of United Cerebral Palsy Association. He writes, "I was surprised to see that a Black disabled lady approached us in the waiting room at the UCP center but my mom wasn't surprised... I noticed that her cerebral palsy was more severe than mine but I understood every word she said, that CP speech was like mine!" The summer camp experience isn't universal but the bond between campers long lasting and I was hearted to read about other camps by and for disabled kids.