The constantly evolving world of inclusive language that UMBC explored last week extends to the nuance, dialect and context of Black American Sign Language within the Deaf* and Black community. In this national, and now global, moment of affirmation with Black Lives Matter, the Black and Deaf community explore the haunting question, "Am I Next?"**
While the protests continue, American Sign Language, and interpreting while Black and Deaf* is complicated by race, history, local dialect and more as this linked article explores.
Rorri Burton, an American Sign Language interpreter who has been working for Los Angeles County, breaks down how to sign “Black Lives Matter” in ASL and explains why not everyone signs it the same way in this related video (link).
Related history from Carolyn McCaskill, a professor at Gallaudet University's Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, explains how deaf African Americans show their shared identity through BASL, beginning with her experience in Mobile Alabama via this supplemental video (link).
Black Deaf Culture Through the Lens of Black Deaf History by Benro Ogunyipe provides additional background (Link)
Some hope as we hold fast to the dream of creating progress: Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (part of Gallaudet) signing BLM's guiding principles with this linked video:
*Most members of the Deaf community use identity-first language, however it is a best practice to ask and get a clear understanding of how a person with a disability would like to be identified. We value consent as a community, as well as the agency of a person with a disability to decide how they, and their experiences, are represented by others. We encourage everyone to provide that respect.
We must avoid paternalism and internalized ableism by making assumptions about the wishes of others and speak from our own concerns, even if it's to discern supplemental information that has been shared via direct communication. Accessibility and Disability Services wants to follow up on disability-related questions and concerns from anyone, especially allies, who may benefit from more information about disability-related rumors, concerns and questions via email: email@example.com, phone 410-455-5745 (it's forwarded and has voicemail) and our online reporting form (link). We appreciate all that our community partners and allies do to co-create a welcoming and inclusive community for people with disabilities.
**Am I Next? Written and Produced by Natasha Ofili & Storm Smith
Thumbnail photo of protester's sign "I'm DEAF, but I HEAR YOU #BLM"