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Crip Camp and Principles of Disability Justice

kyhong's picture

I was captivated by the documentary, and I wanted to begin with the most glaring difference between Camp Jened and institutions such as Willowbrook State School: joy. Unlike many depictions of disabled people, who are seen as monsters or recluses, the campers were constantly cracking jokes, playing games and music, forming romantic relationships, and overall unabashedly living fulfilling lives that they couldn't imagine back home.

Looking back at the ten principles of disability justice, I believe that the documentary highlighted each part.

Intersectionality: Camp Jened proudly brought in disabled people from different backgrounds to not only have fun with each other and form long-lasting relationships but also to learn from each other and advocate for disability rights.
Leadership of the Most Impacted: Rather than focusing on nondisabled voices, the documentary centers on disabled activists and emphasizes that they were the primary reason behind disability legislation, not the politicians in Washington.
Anti-Capitalist Politics: This principle was a bit more subtle in the documentary but present nonetheless (emphasis on collaboration and societal uplifting vs. competition over accessible resources).
Cross-Movement Solidarity: During the 504 Sit-in, deaf people offered vital alternative communication systems when the FBI cut off phone lines. The Black Panther Party, through Brad Lomax, and the LGBTQ+ provided food and other crucial supplies to protestors. All who stood behind the goal of an equitable and accessible society.
Recognizing Wholeness: The documentary showed that despite nondisabled perceptions, each disabled person has their unique experiences, and people like Denise Sherer Jacobson were sexually active and formed romantic bonds, demolishing the idea that disabled people cannot experience love and other moments in life that society thinks are restricted to nondisabled folks.
Sustainability: This also was more of the background of the documentary through the interactions between disabled people and the general uplifting of each other.
Commitment to Cross-Disability Solidarity: Protests such as the 504 Sit-in succeeded because of the active participation of different disabled folks.
Interdependence: This was the ultimate goal of Camp Jened and other organizations such as the Center for Independent Living, which promoted the idea of disabled people working with other disabled folks to create collaborative solutions to help navigate the world according to their visions.
Collective Access: Activists such as Judith Heumann and Kitty Cone strived for institutional changes that would benefit every member of the disabled community and recognized that each disabled person has their set of needs.
Collective Liberation: Disabled activists recognize that the disability movement will only succeed when every person's demands are included. Also, at Camp Jened, everyone was able to voice their thoughts, whether it be on their next meal or their anger towards their oppression.