Marginalized groups have unique experiences of discrimination and oppression based upon their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and ability. When an individual belongs to more than one group this overlap creates intersectionality. Why does this matter when we talk about disabled rights? Any advocacy that only represents the experiences of just one group of disabled people (i.e., whites or heterosexuals) will fail to achieve equality for all.
“Racism and ableism are often thought of as parallel systems of oppression that work separately to perpetuate social hierarchy. Not only does this way of looking at the world ignore the experiences of people of color with disabilities, but it also fails to examine how race is pathologized in order to create racism.” ~ Isabella Kres-Nash
Respectability.org notes “There are 3.2 million working-age African Americans with disabilities, most of whom face structural barriers to success...The nation must transform itself to advance racial justice and make equitable opportunities a reality. Achieving that reality must begin by improving educational outcomes for students of color with disabilities. For many of the 1,158,862 Black students (K-12) with disabilities in America today, the deck is stacked against them. A key part of that is because, due to structural racism, schools are funded by local property taxes which perpetuates a cycle of poverty.”
To honor Black History month, we would like to share a short list of exceptional Black and disabled influencers.
Legal Scholar, Advocate, Activist (1988 - present)
In addition to many other things, Haben Girma is known as "The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law." Haben believes "disability is an opportunity for innovation" – a belief that lies at the very heart of what we, as a company, do. Haben's book takes readers on a journey through her adventure-filled life, from her volunteer work in Saharan Africa to climbing an iceberg in Alaska, proving that being deafblind need not limit one's interaction with the world. Her story and advocacy also highlight the important work that remains for us to move towards being a more mindful and inclusive society.
Dr. Shawn Robinson
Author, Language & Literacy Scholar (? to present)
Shawn Anthony Robinson, Ph.D. is an accomplished researcher, author, and advocate. His work focuses on the intersection of race and dyslexia, including the impact of literacy and disability on Black identity. He currently serves on the Board of Directors with the International Dyslexia Association and as a Senior Research Associate with the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Follow Dr. Robinson here.
Dwayne Michael Carter – "Lil Wayne"
Rapper, Musician (1982 - present)
Monica A. Coleman
Scholar, Writer, Minister (1974 - present)
Monica Coleman is a contemporary theologian and theology professor in California. Her website describes that "[her] strength comes from the depth of her knowledge base and from her experiences as a community organizer, survivor of sexual violence and as an individual who lives with a mental health challenges," namely depression.
Rapper, Record Producer, Actor, Activist (1974 - present)
David Banner is not only a well-known rapper and music producer, but an activist and philanthropist, too. Banner even produced music for Lil Wayne, also on this list. Banner is known for his experience living with depression, and credits meditation for helping him find his way back to music.
Vilissa K. Thompson
CEO & Founder, Disability Activist, Social Worker (1938 - 2011)
Vilissa Thompson is the CEO & Founder of Ramp Your Voice!, a self-advocacy and empowerment movement for people with disabilities. She is a Disability Rights Consultant, writer, & relentless advocate. As a disabled woman of color herself, Thompson has become a leader in the movement to spread awareness of disabilities and disability rights, especially among the political community. Follow her here.
Disability Advocate, Activist (1938 - 2011)
Don Galloway was a lifelong champion for Black and disabled individuals. Galloway worked at the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley as the director of services for blind people, where he advocated for racial equality and inclusivity within the independent living movement. He also conducted research on racial discrimination and the cultural and political involvement of African Americans in society, and challenged discriminatory laws barring people with disabilities from serving as government employees.
As an unapologetic, impact-driven innovator at the forefront of intersectional disability culture, Andraéa is powering through the world by reworking the fabric of a culture that was not set up to include her. Aiming to leave nobody behind, she’s helping bridge a divide and paving a path for disabled people not only to survive but to thrive. Article Meet the Black Woman advocacting for greater disability visability.
Ericka B. Olujie
Black-owned Deaf business by founder/CEO of Erry B. Shop
Ericka B. Olujie is a black deaf woman, she founded her clothing and accessories in January 2019. She writes, "The purpose of my business is to spread knowledge in Black Deaf culture". Erry B. Shop was selected for one of the “Deaf Women of Color’s Overlooked Gems (Women’s History Month).
Highlighting African Americans with Disabilities in Honor of Black History Month
Want to learn more about Intersectionality and Race? Read The Intersections and Divergences of Disability and Race, From the 504 Sit-In to the Present
Would you like to suggest a black disability rights advocate for us to add to this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Blog Suggestion" as the subject line.
Special thanks to BlackDisabledandProud.org, who originally compiled a more extensive list.