Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

1991 ASL Literature Conference Presentation: Michelle Banks


WOMAN: I WOULD LIKE
TO GIVE A WARM WELCOME
TO MICHELLE BANKS. SHE IS THE DIRECTOR
OF ONYX AT … IN THAT PART OF NEW YORK CITY. DURING THE TALK, SHE
WILL BE TALKING ABOUT IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN
SIGN LANGUAGE IN VISUAL THEATER. NOW, I DON’T WANT
TO GO ON ANY LONGER. I’D LIKE TO GIVE HER
A CHANCE TO START, BUT… [INDISTINCT] SHE DOESN’T WANT YOU
TO NECESSARILY HOLD YOUR
QUESTIONS TILL THE END. IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION,
SHE’LL BE HAPPY TO ANSWER
AT ANY POINT… [DISTORTED AUDIO] …EVERYONE GETS A CHANCE TO
DO THAT AFTER THE DISCUSSION. SO, OK, MICHELLE BANKS.
HERE WE GO. [APPLAUSE] WOMAN: HELLO. THANK YOU.
THANK YOU. MAYBE YOU ARE WONDERING NOW
WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED AFRICAN-AMERICAN SIGN
LANGUAGE LIBERAL ARTS. WELL, I SPOKE TO 3… [INDISTINCT] …HOW THEY FEEL
ABOUT THE LANGUAGE. AND I WANTED…
[INDISTINCT] …PUT ON A PRODUCTION
WITH THE TITLE, “FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE
CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF,” WRITTEN BY NTOZAKE SHANGE. SHE’S A BLACK HEARING WOMAN
WHO WROTE THIS PLAY ABOUT ALL BLACK HEARING WOMEN AND ABOUT THEIR STRUGGLE
TO REDUCE THAT… AND PRESSURE BY SOCIETY… …INFORMATION
OF ALL KINDS. NOW, I’D LIKE TO TALK
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT AFRICAN-AMERICAN
SIGN LANGUAGE. SIGN LANGUAGE WAS
BROUGHT TO AMERICA BY– AND DEAF PEOPLE, UH, METHOD
OF COMMUNICATION WAS… AND BLACK SIGN LANGUAGE IS
THE SAME KIND OF IDEA. WHETHER YOU WANT TO CALL IT
AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
OR BLACK SIGN LANGUAGE IT REALLY IS INTERCHANGEABLE. I HAVE TRAINED OVER
10 SEMINARS WITH ASL, AND THERE ARE SOME
DIFFERENCES, BUT… IT WAS …
BY A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO…LEARNED SIGN LANGUAGE
FROM THE STREET, FROM BLACK DEAF CLUBS,
FROM SOCIAL … BLACK HEARING PEOPLE–THEY WERE
INFLUENCED BY THE FREEDOM AND THE MOVEMENT AND THE WAY
THE PEOPLE JIVED, AND TOOK THAT ON
AND INCORPORATED THAT… HEARING PEOPLE
AND BLACK PEOPLE. AFTER THAT, BLACK PEOPLE
IN GENERAL UNDERSTOOD ABOUT DEAF PEOPLE. OFTEN, SOMEBODY SAYS
THAT OTHER DEAF PEOPLE ARE THE SAME AS
BLACK PEOPLE BECAUSE– BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE ARE SO,
IT’S SUCH A STRONG MINORITY… [INDISTINCT]
THEY’RE, LIKE…
IN GENERAL, WITH ALL BLACK PEOPLE
ABOUT THEIR ISSUES. AND I ASKED THEM,
DO YOU THINK THERE IS SUCH
A THING AS BLACK SIGN LANGUAGE? NOW I’M GONNA ASK YOU THAT. I WANT YOU TO GIVE IT
A LOT OF THOUGHT WHEN WE
COME TO THAT PART. HOLD YOUR THOUGHTS
ON THAT FOR RIGHT NOW. A FRIEND OF MINE,
WHO IS ALSO BLACK, AND IS INVOLVED
AND GOING TO COLLEGE
AND HAS A GOOD JOB, HE’S A PROFESSIONAL… I ASKED–I PUT
THE QUESTION TO HIM. “IS THERE A BLACK
SIGN LANGUAGE?” HE SAID, “NO, NO.”
I SAID, “WHY?” HE SAID THAT BLACK PEOPLE
REALLY DON’T KNOW
THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. WHEN THEY SEE A BLACK
PERSON USE ASL, THEY DON’T HAVE THEIR OWN
BLACK SIGN LANGUAGE BECAUSE THEY’VE BEEN EDUCATED
BY THE WHITE SOCIETY. AND I SAID, “AH, YES, BUT
THEY HAVE A HIDDEN SOCIETY “THAT THEY …
FOR SUPPORTING EACH OTHER FOR THEIR OWN SOCIAL NEEDS.” [INDISTINCT]
…NOT TOGETHER? …OR AFTER-SCHOOL HOURS,
AFTER THE EDUCATION BY THE
WHITE MAJORITY HAS FINISHED. THEY GET TOGETHER,
AND THEY TALK. AND THEY JIVE, AND… …BY THE WHITE SOCIETY. [LAUGHTER] YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS
WHEN I DO THIS. [INDISTINCT] AND MY RESPONSE TO THIS IS… [INDISTINCT] NOW…[INDISTINCT] LANGUAGE
IS SOMETHING I WANT TO KNOW. I’M CURIOUS. WHAT ARE
YOUR IDEAS ABOUT WHAT IS
COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE? SHE’S SAYING COMMUNICATION. ANYTHING ELSE? OH, WELL, YEAH, OK.
ATTITUDE. – UM, PARTS OF THE BODY
[INDISTINCT] FOR DISCUSSION? – WELL, IT HAS RULES.
IT HAS STRUCTURES, RIGHT? [INDISTINCT] – RIGHT. OTHER IDEAS? [INDISTINCT] – MY EXPRESSION OF
LANGUAGE IS SIMPLE– A WAY OF EXPRESSING YOURSELF
THROUGH HANDS, THROUGH SIGN, THROUGH BODY MOVEMENTS,
THROUGH SONG, THROUGH WORDS, THROUGH VOCABULARY,
THROUGH THE WRITTEN WORD, ANY VEHICLE THAT
EXPRESSES YOURSELF… [INDISTINCT] SO, I LOOKED UP …
IN THE DICTIONARY AND FOUND SEVERAL MEANINGS AND I
WANTED TO GIVE THEM TO YOU NOW. [INDISTINCT] BUT I WANT TO TALK TO YOU
ABOUT WHAT THE DEFINITION
OF LANGUAGE IS. …A SYSTEM OF HUMAN
EXPRESSION BY MEANS OF
WORDS IN SPACE OR WRITING; 2–A PARTICULAR SYSTEM OF WORDS
AS USED BY A PEOPLE OR A NATION. 3–ANY SYSTEM OF SIGNS,
MOVEMENT, ET CETERA, USED TO EXPRESS
MEANING OR FEELING. THIS DEFINITION MEANS THAT
THESE ARE…[INDISTINCT] THERE MAY NOT BE ANY RULES, BUT JAMES WOODWARD,
WHO WAS A HEARING MAN, WHO’S DONE A LOT OF RESEARCH
ON THAT KIND OF– [INDISTINCT] BLACK PEOPLE, HAD FOUND THAT
THERE ARE RULES. – YES, AND …BLACK PEOPLE
HAD THEIR OWN FORM OF … – BUT I WOULD LIKE OTHER PEOPLE
TO KNOW ABOUT THAT. I’VE NEVER HEARD OF THAT… – THERE’S ANOTHER BOOK
THAT WAS WRITTEN BY… OH, WHAT WAS HIS NAME? – THE BOOK OF
BLACK DEAF AMERICA. ARE WE THAT DIFFERENT? – THAT’S A VERY POPULAR BOOK, BUT I DON’T KNOW THIS BOOK
THAT HE’S REFERRING TO. I DON’T KNOW
ANYTHING ABOUT IT. OK, NOW, BLACK DEAF PEOPLE
…THE IDEA THAT THERE’S [INDISTINCT]
AND THAT THERE’S RESEARCH FOR. [INDISTINCT] AND I WANT TO LET YOU
KNOW THAT HONESTLY. THE FIRST WORKSHOP
I GAVE ON THIS ISSUE… YOU START TALKING ABOUT–A LOT
OF PEOPLE START TALKING ABOUT… I WANT ALL OF YOU TO … – I FEEL THAT RESEARCH
DOES NEED TO BE DONE REGARDING CULTURAL INFLUENCE… TO KNOW THAT BLACK PEOPLE HAVE
THEIR OWN CULTURE, OF COURSE. AND OF COURSE, THAT CULTURE
IS GONNA AFFECT THEIR LANGUAGE. [INDISTINCT] – WELL, I THINK THAT
WE HAVE A PROBLEM BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY
DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES. THAT PARALLEL
BLACK DEAF CULTURE. SO…IF YOU HOPE TO MAKE
A BROAD STATEMENT ABOUT THAT, YOU WILL THINK ABOUT THAT
CULTURE AND THEN, INTERESTINGLY, WE’RE ALSO PART OF
A LARGER, BROADER CULTURE… [INDISTINCT] …AND WE SAY SOMETIMES… AND I THINK WHAT MICHELLE’S
TRYING TO SAY IS THAT WE NEED TO WORK
TOGETHER TO DO THAT… – NOW, I THINK
I DISAGREE WITH… I THINK WE’RE TOO …
FOR OUR POSITION. …SHOULD LET BLACK PEOPLE
THEMSELVES DO THE RESEARCH. I THINK THEY HAVE
A STRONGER UNDERSTANDING. AND THEY HAVE THE
LANGUAGE THEMSELVES. THE RESEARCH, PROFESSIONAL
RESEARCH–YOU DON’T HAVE ANY… – I AGREE THAT BLACK PEOPLE ARE
…FROM RESEARCH. THAT’S RIGHT. [INDISTINCT] WE’VE HAD MORE INTEREST
ON DEAFNESS, ON BLACK CULTURE. SO I WANT TO KNOW,
“WHERE IS THE RESEARCH? “…BLACK DEAF PERSON
ABOUT BLACK DEAF CULTURE? WHERE ARE THE …?” [INDISTINCT] …IN THIS WORKSHOP. I WANT THE RESEARCH TO HAPPEN. I WANT YOU TO GIVE ME
THE POWER OF YOUR IDEAS
AND YOUR ENTHUSIASM SO THAT I CAN CONTRIBUTE,
BECAUSE I WANT… – OK, WELL…[INDISTINCT] I FEEL THAT … RESEARCH, BUT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE
A KIND OF VARIETY… NOT JUST FOR … I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE… – OK, [INDISTINCT] THAT’S THE REASON
WE HAVE LANGUAGE IS SO THAT ALL THESE
DIFFERENT COUNTRIES– GERMAN OR AFRICAN–
GERMANY OR DIFFERENT
COUNTRIES IN AFRICA ALL THESE DIFFERENT CULTURES
CAN UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. AND THEN DEAF PEOPLE NEED TO
HAVE THAT KIND OF FORUM… [INDISTINCT] NOW I WANT TO SHOW YOU
A VIDEO THAT’S A VERY
RECENT PERFORMANCE. I WANT YOU TO KNOW THE TYPICAL
ONYX…ON BLACK DEAF CULTURE. [INDISTINCT] THERE’S A RULE, A KIND OF RHYTHM
THAT THEY USE THEIR BODIES– WITH WHICH THEY USE
THEIR BODIES. SO I WANT YOU TO TAKE NOTE
OF THESE ELEMENTS. AND NOTICE THE BLACK FEMALE
WOMAN, HOW SHE USES HER HIPS AND HOW SHE USES HER CHEST… AND HER HEAD. OK. AND I WANT YOU
TO NOTICE THE BLACK MAN. HE TENDS TO ROLL HIS SHOULDERS
FORWARD A LITTLE BIT. WALK LIKE THIS AND HOLD
HIS HANDS A CERTAIN WAY. HANDS TEND TO BE
OPEN LIKE THIS. AND SOMETIMES
THEY USE THEIR FEET. I KNOW IT’S EMPHASIZED…
[INDISTINCT] AND OF COURSE
IT’S VERY IMPORTANT. AND SOUND IS INCLUDED, TOO. I KNOW ABOUT DEAF–THAT DEAF
PEOPLE’S SOUNDS ARE RELEVANT. [INDISTINCT]
…AT BLACK PEOPLE IN GENERAL… SO I WANT TO SHOW THE
DEAF VIDEOTAPE NOW. THIS IS A [INDISTINCT]. OH, AND FIRST I WANT TO TALK
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT’S INVOLVED IN THIS. THIS IS ABOUT TOUSSAINT,
WHO IS THE NAME OF A PERSON. UH, ACTUALLY, THERE ARE
2 DIFFERENT NAMES. THE FIRST IS
TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE, WHO WAS A VERY FAMOUS
FRENCH BLACK MAN WHO WAS INVOLVED IN
THE WAR A LONG TIME AGO. AND THERE’S THIS OTHER PERSON,
WHO’S ALSO NAMED TOUSSAINT. JOE. AND HE’S A HOMETOWN BOY. THIS IS EDITED SEGMENT
BEFORE WE’LL BE SHOWING YOU. SO, THERE’S A YOUNG PERSON,
A YOUNG GIRL, WHO HAS A FANTASY
RELATIONSHIP WITH
THE FIRST TOUSSAINT, THE FAMOUS
FRENCH PERSON. AND SHE MEETS HER
IMAGINARY FRIEND. AND THEY WALK TOGETHER
AND TALK TOGETHER AND HAVE A REAL
STRONG RELATIONSHIP, WHERE SHE LOVES THIS
FRIEND THAT SHE HAS, ALTHOUGH HE’S JUST
IN HER FANTASY WORLD. UNTIL SHE MEETS
THE REAL TOUSSAINT, A REAL PERSON SHE …,
SHE DROPS THE FANTASY. AND THAT’S THE MONOLOGUE
I’LL BE SHOWING TO YOU NOW. [INDISTINCT] AND I WANT YOU ALL TO NOTICE
THE FEELINGS, EMOTIONS
THAT COME THROUGH, THE MOVEMENT, THE ATTITUDES
OF THE CHARACTERS. NOW, THIS WILL BEGIN–
[INDISTINCT] VERY SOFT FOCUS BY THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY,
LIGHTING TECHNIQUES
TO EMPHASIZE THAT THE– I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’LL
BE ABLE TO SEE. AND YOU’RE GONNA SEE
THE MOVEMENT OF THE FEET. YOU’RE GONNA SEE 2 SPECIAL … [INDISTINCT] [INDISTINCT] A LOT OF THOSE WHITE FOLKS
TRYIN’ TO LIVE LIKE…HOMIES. [INDISTINCT] YOU EVER TRY
TO READ 15 BOOKS IN 3 WEEKS? [SHOUTING] [INDISTINCT] …I’M GONNA GO TO
MY INTEGRATED HOME, INTEGRATED STREET, INTEGRATED SCHOOL. [INDISTINCT] TOUSSAINT. [INDISTINCT] …AND YOU JUST STAND THERE,
[INDISTINCT], TRYIN’ TO GET ALL
INTO MY BUSINESS. I LOVE TOUSSAINT. WHAT SHOULD I DO? [INDISTINCT] HER NAME IS… [INDISTINCT] I’M TOUSSAINT JOE. WOW! [INDISTINCT]
YOU UNDERSTANDIN’ HIM? TOUSSAINT SURE DON’T LET
BLACK FOLKS TELL HIM NOTHIN’. [INDISTINCT] I MARRIED TOUSSAINT …
IN 1955! [SHOUTING] [APPLAUSE] NOW, YOU CAN SEE THE
SPECIAL EFFECT MAY BE
A LITTLE DISORIENTING. WE DID THAT IN ORDER TO SHOW
THE KIND OF TECHNIQUE OF… [INDISTINCT] NOW, WE USED THE COLOR
BROWN BECAUSE… [INDISTINCT]
THAT CHARACTER, AND THE COLOR BROWN… ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ANYTHING
THAT YOU NOTICED? [INDISTINCT] WELL, ORIGINALLY, IT WAS
GONNA BE A TAPE WITHOUT
ANY SPECIAL EFFECTS, BUT PEOPLE COULDN’T SEE
WHAT WAS HAPPENING. SO WE DECIDED TO CLOSE THEM
AND IN SPECIAL EFFECTS. ALSO, WE DO HAVE ANOTHER
SIMILAR–ANOTHER VIDEOTAPE, AND I’LL BE ABLE TO
SHOW THAT LATER. AND THERE’S NO SPECIAL
EFFECTS IN THAT ONE. AND MAYBE THAT’S WHERE THAT… ANY MORE QUESTIONS? – [INDISTINCT] ….AND IT’S, LIKE,
PLAIN, ORDINARY… – THE REASON FOR THAT IS …
[INDISTINCT] BESIDES, THE SOUND MADE
THEM NORMAL. THAT ATTITUDE OR THAT CULTURE
WAS INVOLVED WITH THOSE SIGNS, BUT THE SIGNS THEMSELVES WERE
ORDINARY, AND SO YOU’RE RIGHT. – I SAW THAT DEAF …,
AND I THINK THAT MY OPINION, IT WAS ONE OF THE
BEST EXAMPLES OF THEATER BY A DEAF PERSON THAN THEATER
WRITTEN BY A HEARING PERSON. IF IT WAS BLACK SENTENCES, MORE INFO THAT
WE COULD UNDERSTAND, THEN I’M SURE I WOULD
LOVE TO SEE AGAIN. I WOULD LOVE IT EVEN MORE. – AND THEN YOU COULD HEAR IT
THE WAY IT SHOULD BE DONE, WITHOUT ANY … – YOU KNOW, I WOULD LOVE THAT. – THANK YOU. …IT WAS WRITTEN
IN BLACK ENGLISH. IN FACT, …WROTE IT
IN BLACK ENGLISH. SO, UM…WELL, SHE KEPT
SAYING THE WORD “WITH.” SHE WOULD USE THE WORD “WID,”
FOR EXAMPLE. INSTEAD, SAY “ALLA”
INSTEAD OF FORMAL ENGLISH. INSTEAD OF SAYING “THAT,”
SHE’D SAY “THA.” AND SHE WROTE IT IN THE WAY
THAT BLACK PEOPLE SPEAK, AND SO IT WAS VERY
DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE. AND I TRIED MY BEST AND
TRIED TO INCORPORATE THE
BLACK ATTITUDE IN THAT AND THE BLACK WAY OF SEEING. AND, OF COURSE,
I’M REALLY NOT MYSELF… [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] OF THE PLAY
IS SIGN LANGUAGE. BUT WHAT ABOUT–YOU TALKED
ABOUT A SIGN LANGUAGE BEFORE THAT SOUNDED DIFFERENTLY? IS THAT THE SAME?
THE SAME? – THAT SIGN LANGUAGE
I TALKED ABOUT …
IS NOT THE SAME AS… …IN THIS PLAY.
YOU’RE RIGHT. THAT WOULD BE
CONVERSATIONAL SIGN, NOT THE SIGN LANGUAGE I… IT’S VERY DIFFERENT
THAN THE SIGN … – OK, HAVE YOU EVER KNOWN
ANYONE WHO’S DEVELOPED
OR CREATED A BLACK ASL? – AGAIN. – CAN I HAVE THE QUESTION
REPEATED, PLEASE? – IS THERE ANYONE TO THIS DAY
WHO HAS DEVELOPED A BLACK ASL? – HERE? OH, YEAH, WELL,
THAT’S WHY I’M WORKING
WITH BLACK DEAF COMMUNITIES, BECAUSE WE WANT TO DEVELOP
A PLAY CALLED “THE LIFE OF A
DEAF, BLACK AFRICAN-AMERICAN– DEAF AFRICAN-AMERICAN.” WE’RE DEVELOPING IT, AND WE’RE
HOPING TO HAVE IT … NEXT FALL. AND IT’S IN THE PROCESS
OF WRITING IT RIGHT NOW. SO WE WANT TO …BLACK DEAF
PEOPLE AND GET THEIR INPUT… [INDISTINCT] AND INCORPORATE
THAT INTO OUR PIECE. [INDISTINCT] – SO, FOR EXAMPLE,
ARE ALL THESE– – OH, OK, FINE.
[INDISTINCT] OK, NOW, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT
WHEN BLACK DEAF PEOPLE HANG AROUND WITH BLACK
HEARING PEOPLE, AND THEY COPY AND THEY START
THE SAME KIND OF MOVEMENTS. UM, ALL RIGHT. THEY
DID SAY SOMETHING
ABOUT “ALL RIGHT.” THAT’S THE SIGN
FOR “ALL RIGHT.” NO WAY… SIGNED LIKE THIS. HELLO, YOUNG FELLA.
YOU SAY “YO, MAN.” YOU KNOW, “YO, MAN,
WHAT’S UP?” YOU KNOW, THAT’S THE
SAME TYPE GESTURE. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS? WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS
THAT I JUST SIGNED? – [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – RIGHT, BUT WHAT
DOES IT MEAN? ALL JACKED UP
AND READY TO GO. WHAT ABOUT THIS?
IT MEANS “BAD.” IT MEANS, “OH…” YOU KNOW,
LIKE, “YOUR CLOTHES ARE BAD.” IF YOU’RE ALL
DRESSED UP, IT’S “BAD.” AS HE WAS SAYING,
[INDISTINCT] THE WAY THAT WE’RE MOVING?
SO, INTERESTING. SO IT’S BORROWING
BACK AND FORTH. ENGLISH–[INDISTINCT] WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
WHAT DID I JUST SIGN THERE? TALKING?
NO. FIGHT. RIGHT.
TWO PEOPLE ARE GONNA FIGHT. [INDISTINCT] SO, THAT’S…
I MEAN, REAL, REAL BAD. HE’S GONNA BEAT YOU UP.
AND USE EYE CONTACT FOR IT, TOO. [INDISTINCT] – THAT WAS DONE
IN NEW YORK CITY? – RIGHT. THAT’S
A CITY SIGN I USED. – WELL, I’M WONDERING IF THERE
HAVE BEEN ANY NEWER SIGNS THAT HAVE COME UP, BECAUSE
THERE’S NOTHING … [INDISTINCT] – I THINK WE TEND TO
THE YOUNGER BLACKS– [LAUGHTER] THE ONES WHO REALLY
ARE OUT THERE TALKING. RIGHT? PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
BLACK SIGN. OLD PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
BLACK SIGN. [INDISTINCT] – BUT THERE’S A BLACK
DEAF [INDISTINCT] AND HE AND I ARE… HE SIGNS VERY DIFFERENT,
SO IT SEEMS THAT… WITH WORDS LIKE “SOUL”
AND A FEW WORDS LIKE THAT, BUT I DON’T KNOW.
[INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] I WOULD ALSO TELL PEOPLE THAT
I SEE A DIFFERENCE HOW SIGN …ORAL AND USE MORE BEHAVIOR,
LIKE IT’S PHYSICAL, LIKE WITH TOUSSAINT,
YOU KNOW. THEY EXPRESS WITH THEIR
BODIES MORE THAN USING … AND I SEE, YOU KNOW,
WHEN THEY GET TOGETHER, THEY COMMUNICATE
WITH EACH OTHER. AS THEY BECOME MORE AND MORE
EDUCATED IN THEIR LIFE, THEY’RE USING LESS AND
LESS PHYSICAL EXPRESSION
WHEN THEY TALK, YOU KNOW. [INDISTINCT] WE’RE WILD
AND MORE WILLING TO DO THAT. BUT ALSO, WE …
SOUTHERN BLACK DEAF AND
NORTHERN BLACK DEAF PEOPLE. [INDISTINCT] – AN OBVIOUS THING ABOUT
BLACK PEOPLE BECOMING
MORE EDUCATED AND THEN… [PERSON COUGHING] SO, NOW WE KNOW MORE AND MORE
THAT DEAF BLACK PEOPLE WHO HAVE DEAF CHILDREN,
STUDENTS WHO ARE DEAF– THEY DON’T REALLY
CARE ABOUT EDUCATION. AND WE NEED TO EDUCATE THEM. WE NEED TO LET THEM KNOW THAT
BEING A…[INDISTINCT] THEY CAN…THEY DON’T
WANT TO LISTEN TO ME. THEY DON’T WANT ANYONE
TO HELP THEM. AND HOW CAN WE DO THAT
IF THEY HAVE AN ATTITUDE? THEY DON’T WANT ANYONE INVOLVED
MESSING WITH THEIR STUFF. SO, “HEY, HOMIE. THINK ABOUT ME.
WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?” [INDISTINCT] PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND I,
WE CAN BECOME ROLE MODELS, POSITIVE ROLE MODELS
FOR THE YOUNGER BLACKS LIKE
ME THAT REALLY NEED THAT. [INDISTINCT] – …BLACK DEAF SIGN LANGUAGE. YOU FEEL AS THAT IT’S–
THAT THAT MIGHT BE ACCEPTED BY THE DEAF PEOPLE
IN THE COMMUNITY, BUT WE USE AMERICAN
SIGN LANGUAGE… [INDISTINCT] BUT WE THINK THAT LANGUAGE
IS FROWNED UPON, LOOKED DOWN AND SEEN
AS SOMETHING LOWER. I KNOW A BLACK MAN
SO I KNOW THAT LANGUAGE. MY … SPOKE ENGLISH
A LOT AND… WHAT DO YOU MEAN? YOU THINK
THE …ARE BOTH AS BAD
AS ONE AS THE OTHER? – IT REALLY DEPENDS
ON THE INDIVIDUAL THAT
HE WOULD HAVE PERFECTED IT. [INDISTINCT] THEN THEY ADDED IN A DORM,
AND I’D HANG AROUND A LOT WITH THE BLACK DEAF KIDS
IN THE DORMS AT NATIONAL HOUSE. SO WE’RE NEIGHBORS, TOO,
TO OTHER BLACK PEOPLE, AND THERE’S A LOT OF
BLACK DEAF ADVOCATES NEAR ME. SO…BUT THAT CAN’T BE WHAT … INSTEAD, I HAVE A STANDARD–
[PERSON COUGHING] BUT I THINK IT
IS … ACCEPTED. [INDISTINCT] …THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT,
THE EMPHASIS, OF COURSE,
IS ON THE ENVIRONMENT. YOU WOULDN’T WANT
TO GO BACK HOME. THE EMPHASIS BEGINS HERE. [INDISTINCT] …BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE. [INDISTINCT] NOW, IN ROCHESTER,
I LIVE IN THE CITY, AND IT WOULD DEPEND ON WHAT KIND
OF FINANCIAL … YOU’RE IN. I KNOW IT’S A CERTAIN WAY
YOU LOOK AT THAT INFLUENCES… [INDISTINCT] I AGREE WITH THAT. [INDISTINCT] – RIGHT. THE MORE INVOLVED YOU
ARE IN THE WHITE COMMUNITY, OF COURSE, THE MORE–YEAH. [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – YOU NEED TO WORK ON YOUR
SURVIVAL SKILLS, RIGHT? [INDISTINCT] BUT THAT DOESN’T TAKE AWAY
FROM WHAT YOU HAD BEFORE. AND EVERYONE’S SAYING “BEFORE.” [PEOPLE TALKING AT ONCE] – OK, THERE’S 2 THINGS.
[INDISTINCT] THERE ARE REGIONAL SIGNS, RIGHT? I SIGNED “HOSPITAL” AT THE HEAD
AND “HOSPITAL” AT THE FOREARM AND “HOSPITAL” ON THE HAND, BUT I DON’T SEE THAT
NECESSARILY STRONG … BUT MORE A REGIONAL. [INDISTINCT] …THE WAY THAT PEOPLE
IN NEW YORK CITY… [INDISTINCT] – WELL, USE THE SIGN. – OK. THIS IS IT. – [INDISTINCT] AT THAT TIME. DO YOU USE MORE ENGLISH,
OR DO YOU USE MORE BLACK
SIGN LANGUAGE? WHAT DO YOU DO? – I THINK YOU USE MORE ENGLISH.
THAT’S WHAT I WOULD DO. [INDISTINCT] WE HAD AN ORAL INTERPRETER THERE
WHO USED HIS FINGERS. HE OFFERED SIGN LANGUAGE THERE,
BUT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WE NEED AN… WE NEED A BLACK
INTERPRETER THERE. IT’S VERY DIFFICULT
TO FIND THAT, BUT WE NEED TO EMPHASIZE… [INDISTINCT] IN ORDER TO LAND
THEIR AUDIENCE SO THAT THE BLACK
DEAF AUDIENCE UNDERSTAND
THE INTERPRETER. IF YOU PAY FOR JUST THE REGULAR,
STANDARD INTERPRETER FOR A BLACK DEAF AUDIENCE, THERE’LL BE
A VERY BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMMUNICATION FOR
THE INTERPRETERS IN THE … BECAUSE OFTEN AN INTERPRETER
WILL NOT KNOW HOW TO
INCORPORATE THAT CULTURE IN THEIR INTERPRETATION. SO, IT REALLY WOULD HELP
THAT DEAF AUDIENCE IF WE COULD GET
BLACK INTERPRETERS, BECAUSE WHITE INTERPRETERS
DON’T KNOW THE CULTURE. THEY CAN INTERPRET, YES,
BUT A LARGE PERCENT OF
A BLACK DEAF AUDIENCE WILL BE [INDISTINCT] SO, OFTENTIMES,
WE GET A WHITE INTERPRETER. AND IF THEY KNOW HOW TO
INTERPRET FOR THAT AUDIENCE, THEN YOU MAY EXPECT–
WELL, WE DO HAVE ONE
ORAL INTERPRETER. AND SHE’LL BE …
FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE
TO UNDERSTAND. SO WE DON’T HAVE A CLAIM
FOR THAT TO BE [INDISTINCT]. – NOW, THE OTHER
WHITE INTERPRETERS, THEY DON’T SIGN ASL, THOUGH. THEY DON’T SIGN
ASL, THOUGH. YES, IN MY EXPERIENCE, YES. I SEE. I SEE. I SHOULD
GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. [INDISTINCT] WE’RE TALKING ABOUT ASL
BEING INCORPORATED IN THE
SCHOOLS FOR DEAF PEOPLE, AND OFTEN IT ISN’T.
AND IT’S THE SAME WAY. [INDISTINCT] NOT NECESSARILY WOULD A BLACK
CHURCH WOULD USE ASL. – OK, WELL, I’LL GIVE YOU A
LITTLE MORE INFORMATION THEN
ABOUT BLACK INTERPRETERS LIKE… ONE INTERPRETER FROM
WASHINGTON, D.C. SHE ASSOCIATED WITH
A LOT OF BLACK PEOPLE. [INDISTINCT] AND THERE’S ANOTHER BLACK
INTERPRETER IN THE INNER CITY IN CALIFORNIA…L.A. YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFUL
ABOUT YOUR SELECTION OF … WHAT YOU CHOOSE… THEY CAN CHOOSE,
AND THEY WILL FIND THE MOST APPROPRIATE TYPE OF WAY– – [INDISTINCT] – DOESN’T MATTER. – OK. [INDISTINCT] WE TALKED ABOUT… [INDISTINCT] …NOT NECESSARILY
THE FORMAL PRESENTATION. THAT’S ONE THING.
NOT THE WORKSHOP, NOT THE INVITATIONS PEOPLE SEND,
NOT THAT KIND OF THING. BUT WHEN PEOPLE HANG
AROUND, SOCIALIZE… [INDISTINCT] AFTER ALL
THE WORKSHOPS ARE OVER. – YES, THEY DO USE
BLACK SIGN LANGUAGE WHEN THEY JUST HANGIN’
OUT WITH EACH OTHER. – OK, NOW, UM–A LOT OF PEOPLE–
WHAT ABOUT THIS WAY? ANOTHER EXAMPLE.
WHAT’S THIS MEAN? WHAT’S THIS MEAN?
THIS IS A FRENCH ONE. WE DISCUSSED THAT
HISPANIC [INDISTINCT] BUT WE DON’T KNOW
IF THEY BORROWED IT
FROM HISPANIC CULTURE. [INDISTINCT] WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? – UH…UH… – WHAT DOES IT MEAN? [INDISTINCT] – OH, I THINK I’VE HAD
A FEW GOOD EXAMPLES OF THAT. I WANT TO HAVE MORE… I THINK THAT YOU WENT
FROM HAVING TO SPEAK
TO SIGN LANGUAGE. YOU KNOW, IF A HEARING
PERSON COMES UP, A DEAF PERSON–THEY’RE GONNA
SIGN A LOT MORE ENGLISH THAN THEY WOULD IF
A DEAF PERSON SIGNED A LOT. [INDISTINCT] THE SAME WAY YOU’D HAVE– – THE SAME WAY A BLACK PERSON
WOULDN’T NECESSARILY SIGN
BLACK ENGLISH … BECAUSE OF WHAT
I’M TALKING ABOUT. DO YOU WANT–
[INDISTINCT] – NO, I WOULD BE
GETTING AN INTERPRETER. THEY DO IT DIFFERENTLY
[INDISTINCT]. – …THE WHITE PERSON
THAT KNOWS DEAF CULTURE
NOT BLACK CULTURE. – HOW ARE THEY DOING?
[INDISTINCT] – I’LL LET HER ANSWER THAT.
I’LL LET HER ANSWER THAT. WELL, WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY
IS THAT A WHITE PERSON
IN A DEAF CULTURE, BLACK CULTURE… SO, IF I WAS WHITE, I’D GO, “DO
YOU MIND IF I SIGN WITH YOU?” [INDISTINCT] DON’T TRY TO LOOK
LIKE BLACK PEOPLE. BE A WHITE PERSON
LIKE YOU ARE. – [INDISTINCT] I THINK THAT WHITE PEOPLE
HAVE TO MAKE THE MOVE. [INDISTINCT] I THINK THAT
WHITE PEOPLE HAVE TO MOVE. I THINK THE WHITE CAN– WHY CAN’T WHITE PEOPLE
MAKE THE MOVE INTO
THE BLACK DEAF CULTURE? THE BLACK DEAF CULTURE
ALWAYS MAKING THE MOVE
INTO THE WHITE DEAF CULTURE. I THINK IT’S VERY IMPORTANT. WE ADD A LOT OF VALUE
THAT WE NEED TO PRESERVE, A LOT OF LANGUAGE
THAT WE WANT TO PRESERVE. WE DON’T WANT TO LOSE IT. – I THINK THAT MAYBE…
[INDISTINCT] – RIGHT, RIGHT. BUT YOU HAVE TO HOLD ON THIS… OK, FOR EXAMPLE, IF A BLACK … PERSON
WENT AND TALKED QUITE LOUD, AND THEN IN A … WAY,
[INDISTINCT] …THAT PASSION THAT THEY’VE
INTERNALIZED ALL THESE YEARS. NOW, THAT COULD BE THE RESULT
OF EARLY CHILDHOOD … OR CHILD ABUSE
OR ALCOHOL ADDICTION. I DON’T KNOW, BUT WHY
WOULD YOU …? [INDISTINCT] OK, OK, ONE MORE TIME. [ALL TALKING AT ONCE] – [INDISTINCT] …HAD A LOT OF MOVEMENT,
A LOT OF RHYTHM, AND HAD, YOU KNOW,
PART OF THEIR CULTURE… [INDISTINCT] – OK, NOW, LAST QUESTION. – [INDISTINCT] …ABOUT BLACK DEAF PEOPLE. THE SIGNIFICANT WHITE
PEOPLE–BLACK PEOPLE
OR BLACK HEARING PEOPLE, WHITE DEAF PEOPLE
AND BLACK DEAF PEOPLE. NOW, BLACK DEAF PEOPLE,
I WONDER HOW THEY FEEL
ABOUT DEAF WHITE PEOPLE WHO TRY TO BECOME
ONE OF THE BLACK PEOPLE. THEY TRY TO JOIN
AND TRY TO LIVE IN THE CULTURE, BUT I WONDER HOW THEY
FEEL ABOUT THAT. THE SAME KIND OF THING
WITH HOW DEAF PEOPLE MAY
FEEL ABOUT HEARING PEOPLE WHO TRY TO BECOME
MENTORS OF THEIR COMMUNITY. AND YOU CAN ALWAYS
WORK WITH THEM, BUT THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE
WHO REALLY WANT TO BECOME DEAF, THEY HAVE TO DRAW A LINE AND
SAY, “THAT’S NOT YOUR PLACE.” SO, WE HAVE TO EDUCATE
HEARING PEOPLE. YOU HAVE TO EDUCATE US,
OTHER BLACK PEOPLE. – THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT. SO, YOU’RE STARTING NOW
TO EDUCATE US IN THIS WORKSHOP. – OK, GOOD. NOW, I WANT TO ASK YOU,
WHAT IS BLACK DEAF CULTURE? WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS? – [INDISTINCT] – BLACK DEAF CULTURE. THERE’S A BIG DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN BLACK … I’M TALKING ABOUT
BLACK DEAF CULTURE. WHAT IS IT? WHAT DO I MEAN BY THAT?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? – OK, FIRST OF ALL, THE DEPTH,
THE …, THE BEHAVIOR, THEIR HABITS, THEIR CULTURE
THAT [INDISTINCT] – OK. OK, SO IT’S RELATED TO
THEIR SOCIAL LIVES. WHAT DO THEY THINK?
THEY THINK DIFFERENTLY
FROM THE WHITE CULTURE. THEY’RE VERY INTO A GROUP. THEY HANG OUT WITH DEAF CLUBS. THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT WAY
OF SOCIALIZING THAT’S DIFFERENT THAN
THE WHITE PEOPLE. [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
WHAT DID YOU MEAN THAT,
YOU KNOW… [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – [INDISTINCT] – NOW…IN THE PAST,
MUCH [INDISTINCT]. SO, THAT’S IT.
PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS.
BACK THEN, NO PROBLEMS. BUT…NO.
NO PROBLEMS BACK THEN. – HOW CAN YOU PRESENT IT? – I THINK THAT BACK THEN,
BLACK DEAF PEOPLE
HAD NO PROBLEMS, BUT NOW THEY HAVE
MANY MORE PROBLEMS
THAN IN THE PAST. [ALL TALKING AT ONCE] – I’M ASKING IN WHAT WAY. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? – [INDISTINCT] – NO. MAYBE–MAYBE
I’M WRONG THAT, LIKE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT KIND OF
EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE, YOU KNOW, BUT I WAS A LITTLE KID
BY THAT TIME. BUT NOW, 4 IS JUST
LIKE NOTHING, YOU KNOW. OF COURSE,
IT’S A PROBLEM. FOR NOW, I NEED TO BE
IN THE GAME. OK? I LOST 3 FRIENDS TO … PROBLEM,
DRUG PROBLEM, EVERYTHING. I DON’T LIVE WITH MY FATHER.
I LIVE WITH MY MOTHER. YOU KNOW, THEY RAISED ME. – MAYBE YOU CAN GO–
MAYBE YOU CAN ACCESS… [ALL TALKING AT ONCE] – MAYBE YOU’RE RIGHT,
BUT I DO FEEL, IN A WAY, BLACK PEOPLE WILL
HAVE MORE … MORE ANGER, MORE RAGE. THERE’S A MORE HUMAN FACTOR,
THE OPPRESSION. [INDISTINCT] …UNTIL NOW IT’S ABOUT
READY TO EXPLODE. [INDISTINCT] MAYBE THIS IS WHAT
THE YOUNG MAN IS SAYING. THERE’S MORE RAGE NOW THAT
THE POT IS ABOUT TO BOIL OVER BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE
ARE THE [INDISTINCT] AND IT’S THE SAME WAY
WITH BLACK DEAF PEOPLE. “HEY, I’M A DEAF PERSON. I’M
GONNA SET UP A THEATER GROUP.” AND I DID THAT BECAUSE THE …
THAT WE DID FOR 7 YEARS
HAS GOT TO END. IT’S TIME.
IT’S BEEN ENOUGH, AND WE NEED TO PREVENT THAT. NOW, BLACK PEOPLE IN THE PAST
DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO START TO… [INDISTINCT] OK, ONE MORE. – OK. NOW, …IS THE QUESTION. WHAT IS BLACK
DEAF CULTURE? AND I FEEL LIKE IF…
THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE ARE SHARING SIMILAR EXPERIENCES,
LIFE-AND-DEATH EXPERIENCES, AND… YOU KNOW, WE HERE DON’T
HAVE MUCH EXPERIENCE
WITH THAT CULTURE…, BUT I THINK THAT IT CAN BE
APPLIED TO A CURRENT EXAM– ANOTHER EXAMPLE. [INDISTINCT] …AND WHAT WE
AS DEAF PEOPLE SHARE. I UNDERSTAND DEAF CULTURE… – I CAN ANSWER YOUR QUESTION. I WAS WONDERING…MAYBE SOME
PEOPLE CAN ANSWER OR ARE WONDERING, IN GENERAL,
WHAT THEIR PERSPECTIVE WAS. THAT’S ALL. IT DOESN’T MATTER
THAT YOU’RE WHITE OR HEARING OR BLACK OR BLACK.
I DON’T CARE. I’M JUST ASKING IF THERE
ARE BLACK DEAF PROBLEMS. IF YOU LIVE IN THE WORLD,
YOU HAVE SEEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE. MAYBE YOU’VE NOTICED DIFFERENT
CULTURES THAT SURROUND YOU. YOU KNOW, MAYBE YOU HAD
AN OPINION ABOUT IT. [INDISTINCT] IT DOESN’T MATTER, REALLY,
WHO YOU ARE– DEAF, BLACK, HEARING, WHITE.
DOESN’T MATTER. – I’D JUST ASK HIM A QUESTION. – [INDISTINCT] YOU KNOW [INDISTINCT] THEY WEREN’T OUT
IN THE COMMUNITY. THEY WEREN’T TALKING TO PEOPLE,
THEY WEREN’T EDUCATED. THAT WAS CHANGING. – RIGHT. OK.
YOU HAVE A QUESTION? – HEARING PEOPLE TEND
TO LABEL DEAF AS
THEY’RE ALL THE SAME. YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL
WITH THAT, YOU KNOW. ALL DEAF PEOPLE
ARE NOT ALL THE SAME. YOU KNOW, THEY MAY HAVE
CERTAIN SIMILARITIES
WITHIN THERE, TOO, [INDISTINCT] …BLACK PEOPLE
WHO ARE DEAF, YOU KNOW? YOU HAVE TO BE
CAREFUL WITH THOSE. – RIGHT. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN ASL AND BSL THAT ALL OF THE PEOPLE HAVE
NOW ACCEPTED BSL AS A … THE OPPOSITE OF THAT, THE ASL. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS
A BAD INFLUENCE, BUT NAPPI WAS STILL
CALLING BSL AS BAD ASL. ONE OF THEM WANTED TO START
…BSL AS ITS OWN LANGUAGE AND STOP HAVING THIS BAD
ATTITUDE TOWARDS IT. I THINK ASL [INDISTINCT]. PEOPLE ARE BEGINNING TO ACCEPT
ASL AS ITS OWN LANGUAGE, AND I THINK THAT HAS …
TO BSL. WE NEED TO PULL THAT
OUT OF OUR [INDISTINCT]. I KNOW THERE’S A DEAF CULTURE
AND A HEARING CULTURE
AND A BLACK CULTURE, ALSO. BUT, UM…OH, DRAT.
A PERSON CAN BE BLACK AND DEAF. WHICH CULTURE WOULD FEEL
MOST AFFILIATIONS? OR WOULD YOU FEEL
LIKE YOU’RE NEEDED? OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO PICK?
AND SUPPOSE YOU HAD TO PICK ONE, TO BELONG TO EITHER THE DEAF
CULTURE OR THE BLACK CULTURE. WOULD YOU–MAYBE ONE OF
THOSE CULTURES WOULDN’T
ACCEPT BLACK INTERPRETER. WE HAD TO [INDISTINCT] AS A BLACK DEAF PERSON, I FEEL
MORE AFFILIATION, STRONGER
AFFILIATION WITH BLACK CULTURE, BECAUSE YOU CAN SEE
I HAVE AN OBVIOUS SKIN COLOR. I DIDN’T GROW UP AS
A BLACK DEAF PERSON. I WAS BLACK.
I GREW UP BLACK. I HAD BLACK HEARING PARENTS. SO I GREW UP WITH PART
OF THAT FAMILY INSTITUTION. SO I’D SAY THAT MY DEAFNESS
IS SECONDARY TO ME BECAUSE MY FAMILY’S
ALL HEARING. IN FACT, I FEEL VERY–
LOOK STRONG NEXT TO THEM. OH, AND I’LL FOCUS
ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT HERE IS THAT… – WELL, MANY TIMES,
YOUR FAMILY WILL PICK FOR YOU WHICH CULTURE YOU’RE
GONNA BELONG TO, YOU KNOW. IF YOU GROW UP
[INDISTINCT] MY PARENTS DIDN’T WANT …
AND THEY CHOSE FOR ME. [INDISTINCT] AND I WAS NORMALLY AROUND
2 1/2 YEARS OLD. BUT MY PARENTS MADE ME CHOOSE
THAT CULTURE, IN A SENSE. SO I STARTED TO ASSOCIATE
WITH DEAF CULTURE, AND I REALIZED I HAD
A REAL AFFINITY FOR IT AND BECAME A PART OF IT
IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE OF THE CONNECTION
I FELT WITH THEM. UM, IT’S DIFFERENT,
YOU KNOW. IF YOU GROW UP WITH
A HEARING FAMILY, AND THEY MAKE A HEARING
[INDISTINCT] – I WANTED TO SAY
WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME. – NO WAY, NO WAY, NO WAY! – WE ARE JUST TALKING
ABOUT IDENTITY… [INDISTINCT] THERE ARE 25 DEAF STUDENTS. [INDISTINCT] WOULD THAT BE PART OF
THE DEAF CULTURE? I IDENTIFY MYSELF
AS A BLACK PERSON. I GREW UP IN
A BLACK FAMILY. YOU KNOW, [INDISTINCT] …OF BLACK CULTURE. [INDISTINCT] NOT ALL THE PEOPLE
ARE IDENTIFIED– NOT ALL PEOPLE
ARE BLACK-IDENTIFIED. IS THERE A…? – OK, NOW I WANT TO SUMMARIZE
THROUGH THE WORKSHOP. THERE IS–WELL, WE
DISCUSSED A LOT ABOUT IF THERE IS A DEAF BLACK FAMILY. THIS IS A HOT
SUBJECT NOW, BUT THIS WORKSHOP IS
GONNA OPEN UP AND LET
THE DIALOGUE CONTINUE. I WANNA GET FEEDBACK.
I GOT FEEDBACK FROM YOU, AND I THINK IT WILL HELP ME
‘CAUSE [INDISTINCT] …AND VALIDATE THE ISSUE
OF BLACK DEAF CULTURE. AND I HOPE THAT
I DID DO IT. [APPLAUSE]

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