Andraéa LaVant on getting the word out about critically-acclaimed documentary 'Crip Camp'
The disability justice activist and founder of LaVant Consulting, Inc. recounts building out the campaign for the powerful Netflix film executive produced by the Obamas
Feb 09, 2021
Today for our Black History Month Creative Excellence series, this week’s guest editor, Storm Smith of BBDO, shines on the light on Andraéa LaVant, founder and president of LaVant Consulting, Inc., which specializes in helping brands “speak disability with confidence.” LaVant has over a decade of experience working on programs that support youth and adults with disabilities and other underserved populations.
Smith describes LaVant as “an absolute Queen. She is the epitome of Black excellence. She lets no barriers stops her. She is a believer in lifting others for those who deserve to be seen and celebrated in our communities. Now it is my turn to honor her on all levels.”
Here, LaVant shares her experience as the impact producer for “Crip Camp,” Netflix’s feature-length documentary executive produced by the Obamas about the free-spirit Camp Jened for teens with disabilities—and the passionate young activists it helped to inspire.
In March 2020, amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and the burgeoning racial unrest that tore back the facade of unity within our country, my business partner and dear friend Stacey Park Milbern and I began what I didn’t know would be the project that would change the trajectory of my career.
We’d been chosen to serve as impact producers for the soon-to-be critically acclaimed Netflix documentary, "Crip Camp," executive produced by President Barack and Mrs. Michelle Obama. As disability justice activists and strategists, we were honored to help elevate the film in a manner that could shine a light on a movement we knew most people were completely oblivious to: the disability rights movement. Moreover, we were thrilled to take on the charge of leading a campaign that would leverage the messaging of the film for social change and amplify the voices of those who are often left out of mainstream disability-focused conversations, namely queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Together, Stacey and I built out plans that would promote understanding of disability as a social justice issue and build across lines of difference, develop emerging leaders, and rejuvenate and reconnect long-time cultural workers and organizers. Developing partnerships with organizations like Color of Change and Adobe, our dreams began to be realized. Little did I know that in mid-May 2020, on her birthday, Stacey would depart this life and become an ancestor.
As such, my team and I became even more committed to seeing the world shift its mindsets to ensure disabled people, primarily disabled BIPOC, are power players in every room. One of the most significant acknowledgements of our work occurred when President Obama popped in as a surprise guest for our summer-long series, "Crip Camp: The Official Virtual Experience." This series brought together nearly 10,000 grassroots advocates and organizers to engage in topics of specific relevance to disabled BIPOC communities, including disability and intersectionality, spirituality, and digital organizing. To have President Obama take time to come chat with us about his commitment to supporting our movement—and even provide an image description for access purposes—was deeply meaningful.
And yet, our work—to dismantle stereotypes and effect change from the inside out—continues. But the fact is, we—disabled BIPOC—are here and we’re not going anywhere.