Shannell Davis: Disability Advocate and Founder of The Underground, a Self-Advocacy Organization for People of Color

portrait of Shannell in her chair, wearing a dress

 Shannell Davis, of Rochester, can be described as an “advocate’s advocate.”  As a member of People, Inc’s. (a provider agency) AmeriCorps team, she realized there was a need in her community for an advocacy group exclusively for people of color. To respond to this need, she founded The Underground, an advocacy group for black people with developmental disabilities in New York State.

Shannell leads meetings to discuss current events, such as the January riot in Washington and the COVID-19 vaccine, and how they impact the lives of members. During Black History Month, members will explore the expressive work of Blacks in art, poetry and literature, and members will also be encouraged to use journaling as a means of self-expression.

As a valued member of the AmeriCorps team, People, Inc. has offered Shannell a permanent job working in self-advocacy, and she begins that assignment this month. In her new role, Shannell will be responsible for reaching out to advocates throughout New York State, specifically to talk with them about their needs during the pandemic. She will assess their need for food, safety and personal protective equipment, and will provide emotional support to ensure everyone’s wellbeing.

So, what’s next for this dedicated and driven advocate? “Staying involved in self-advocacy will always be a priority for me,” she said. 

Shannell is currently working on a business plan to open a boutique for people with disabilities where they can shop for adaptable clothing.

Shannell can attribute her drive and compassion to her mother, who has been her biggest inspiration. According to Shannell, her mom has shown her that no matter what obstacles or barriers you face, you can push through them to achieve your goals.  And like her mother, Shannell helps other people to reach their goals.

 “I inspire others by just being my authentic self. I try and show people no matter the challenges you may face you can still live an amazing life and achieve anything!” she says.

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