Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why should I care about songs being signed?

This morning I went on a rant on Face Book after seeing yet another video of someone signing a song in ASL go viral and get lots of media attention. Here is what I wrote:

"I need to get on my soap box again and rant about the latest signed "interpretation" of a song by Eminem. I sure wish there was a dislike button or app or something for every time I see yet another video of a hearing person signing a song that is spread like wild fire on social media. To some, it is cool to the eye; however I see it as a mockery to the language when there are countless conceptual and grammatical errors, when the singer/songwriter's intent of the message is left out, when attempts to visually represent the beat of the music make it painful to watch. For those who enjoy watching music in ASL, why are you not making music videos by D-PAN, Sean Forbes, Rosa Lee and others go viral? Theirs are true artistry. Theirs are worthy of the awe and fascination. They take the time to analyze every line of a song to ensure the most accurate interpretation possible. We cannot support those individuals who gain fame based on the hearing community's ignorance of what is true artistry. If you are reading this, please think twice before spreading these videos. SUPPORT DEAF ARTISTS!"

Soon after, I received a private message from someone asking me why I care; why is it a big deal if people make videos of songs being signed and it gets shared? People like to watch songs in ASL.

Why should I care? Good question. I care because I have the utmost respect for the Deaf community, Deaf culture, and American Sign Language. I care because in order to be the best educator of Deaf children that I can, I must have this respect and live it daily in everything I do and say. I am privileged to be an educator of the Deaf community of the future and do whatever I can to be an ally to them.

Why am I so passionate? You see, I might have gone to college to be an educator of Deaf children, but I was raised by the Deaf community. No, I did not have any family members who were Deaf. I didn't have Deaf friends in my childhood. What I mean is that from the moment I took my first ASL class in 1990 at Boston University, my rearing began. It was through these classes that I decided to switch majors and become a Deaf ed teacher. Read about this transformation here. These children and my first ASL teacher started me on my path to who I am today.

I was fortunate as I made my way through college in Boston and into my first few years of teaching at The Learning Center to be surrounded by powerful Deaf leaders. These leaders took me under their wings and raised me in "Deaf Power" that I eagerly instill in my students still today. Being immersed in Deaf life while in graduate school surrounded by Deaf teens and Deaf adult role models provided me with the mindset of ally and supporter of Deaf rights. My Deaf parents included professors and colleagues: Ben Bahan, Janis Cole, Jimmy Challis, Marie Jean Philip, Joe Murray, Cindy Palella (Perry) and May-Lin Eu. 

My Deaf ally upbringing continued as I moved to Florida. My new parents included Clayton Valli, Lisette Wood (Molina), Vivian Diaz, Jennifer Alon, and Kim Cunningham. Even though I am almost 44 years old, I am still being raised by Deaf adults who are constantly molding me into the best me I can be. In Kentucky I lean on Wilton McMillan, Meena Mann, Lisa Howe, Nina Coyer, Anita Dowd, and Laura Herman (though she did move).

I am a product of all the incredible Deaf individuals who have come into my life and have had a hand in shaping me into the educator and advocate that I am today. So yes, even though I am hearing, it is my responsibility to rant when their language and culture is being disrespected by social media.

You see, change only happens when we are all involved. The Civil Rights Movement wasn't a success because the Black community alone fought for it. Look at videos of the marches. You will see people from all walks of life there marching together. It is our moral duty to be allies, to be advocates, to stand up for what is right.

Every day I am thankful for each Deaf person who set me on the right path as an educator. I am not just a teacher of Deaf children. To be a supporter, ally, advocate, and a leader it is imperative to surround yourself and be raised by Deaf leaders.  

Thank you!

P.S. If I am forgetting a Deaf leader, my apologies. I will add more as they come to mind! :)