Song for Judy Heumann
Today is the 75th birthday of Judy Heumann, possibly the most successful civil rights activist ever. Wheelchair-bound from childhood, the local school refused her entry as a ‘fire hazard’. Later, after largely home educating, she trained as a teacher at Long Island University but was refused a teaching licence, again as a ‘fire hazard’.
She sued the Board of Education for discrimination then continued to take on Carter’s government and then Nixon’s for refusing to include disabilities discrimination in the Bill of Human Rights (Rehabilitation Act of 1973).
She personally led the sit-in at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Orders were given that no food or medication would be allowed in to the disabled protesters, but the Black Panthers and Salvation Army organised daily deliveries of hot food and medicine. It became the longest sit-in at a federal building to date with 125 to 150 disabled people refusing to leave for a total of 28 days. By the time the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was signed, promising education to all disabled children, the protests had spread to 10 US cities.
This song is the story of that struggle, also shown in the Oscar nominated documentary ‘Crip Camp’, a summer camp where her politicisation began.
She is still a fearless campaigner and advocate for disabled rights, visiting Shanghai in 2017, documenting which subway stops were truly wheelchair accessible while pushing the Chinese govn to introduce more disabled rights legislation.
Happy birthday, Judy! You’re fucking amazing!