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Black, Disabled, and Proud: Modern Influencers and Historic Figures

by Marta Elena Cortez-Neavel |

We know it's important to pair actions with words – especially when advocating for racial equality and disability rights. In an effort to engage in meaningful activism, we're making a commitment to use our platform to share more #blackdisabledlivesmatter content (in addition to our usual disability advocacy).

To start, here's our list of exceptional Black and disabled influencers. Are we missing someone who stands out for their advocacy and activism? See details on how you can suggest an addition to this list below.

Haben Girma

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.

Image via habengirma.com

Dr. Shawn Robinson

Author, Language & Literacy Scholar (? - 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)

You may know Lil Wayne as one of the most influential artists of our time, but did you know he also lives with epilepsy, a neurological condition characterized by recurring seizures?

Image via Ramona Rosales, Rolling Stone.

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.

David Banner

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.

Image via Instagram

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.

Image via Essence

Don Galloway

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.

Image via Washington Post

Would you like to suggest a black disability rights advocate for us to add to this list? Email us at hello@abiliteeadaptivewear.com, including "Blog Suggestion" as the subject line.

Special thanks to BlackDisabledandProud.org, who originally compiled a more extensive list.

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