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Sunday, October 1, 2023


UH holds Q&A with deaf African Americans

As part of the final celebration of Black History Month, UH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the UH American Sign Language Interpreting Program and the Communication Axess Ability Group hosted a panel discussion featuring five deaf black men Saturday.

The event, called “Untold Stories of Black Deaf Men,” consisted of a panel moderator relaying questions to the five guests in sign language and their respective responses being relayed via interpreters.

The goal of this discussion was to highlight these fascinating people, who hardly get any exposure at all, said assistant professor Sharon Grigsby Hill, who moderated the discussion.

“What I think we accomplished was exposing people to a hidden part of a community … that people don’t even know exists,” Hill said. “People aren’t even aware that there’s a culture of sorts and a language of sorts and that within that community, you have this subgroup of black individuals who have their own unique sign styles, their own identity issues, their own issues with discrimination.”

UH has the only bachelor’s program in ASL interpreting in Texas, Hill said.

“This is an educational institution that is training individuals that are going to go out and interpret and now they have a broader experience, they have exposure to this community, norms, languages, terms and so we raise it for them and the community,” he said.

The tone of the discussion wasn’t sorrowful but upbeat and occasionally humorous.

Marcus Sylvester, a graduate of Barbara Jordan High School in Houston, recalled an incident in which a white interpreter was struggling to interpret a rap song, and it turned into a comical disaster.

Hill said another goal of the discussion was to reveal the personality and sense of humor of these individuals.

“I think culturally, it’s a part of black culture that we deal with the issues of oppression and pain,” Hill said.

“It’s just a typical part of our culture that even though we delve into these painful things, there’s still a lot of joking and laughing, and I think that it’s normal for anyone dealing with oppression or the abuse of power to try to find some humor and laughter, because that’s often the best medicine.”

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