Image Description: Actual banner advertising the first-ever #DeafEd twitter chat with a photo of a bunch of mixed age, but mostly youth signing in an open space at a university. in the middle of the photo, there is a white circle that says 11.25.14 @ 2 PM EST #DeafEd Twitter Chat. the attached Tweet is by @behearddc and says: don't miss our youth-led #DeafEd Twitter Chat Nov 25 @2pm EST! #Deaf #ASL #IDEA #LRE #Disability #EdRefomr @DkJLandis
Note: this blog post was drafted by TL & edited by the current core #DeafEd team: Micah Lewis, Heidi Givens, Lauren Maucere & Tamara Copeland-Samaripa. The author of the Daily Dot article had no knowledge or or involvement in the creation of this blog post.
Last week, the Daily Dot released an article that proposed to highlight the #DeafEd Movement. Unfortunately, the article did not capture the essence of #DeafEd and erased the contributions of countless DDBDDHH (Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing) Youth & educators.
#DeafEd has been a massive community-led and community-centered effort for two years. DDBDDHH Youth have been at the forefront of this Movement since its inception and they continue to lead, even now. For example, Derek Landis and a group of six students organized and hosted the first-ever #DeafEd Twitter chat; and Micah Lewis, a fourth-year DeafDisabled student, has served as host for the past two month's chats. Micah even hosts a physical space on NTID campus during chats for other students to learn the art of sharing their perspectives through #DeafEd. Importantly, Youth advocates have hosted at least one chat per semester, and have had a strong showing at every single chat. The erasure of DDBDDHH Youth leadership and centering of hearing individuals seen in this article is counter to everything that #DeafEd stands for and a misrepresentation of the #DeafEd Movement.
The author, who is d/Deaf, originally approached our core team---which is made up of five people, Micah Lewis, Heidi Givens, Lauren Maucere, Tamara Copeland-Samaripa & me--genuinely interested in covering the "#DeafEd Movement." The author even went so far as to interview four of our five core #DeafEd chat team members, so we were thrilled at the prospect of having a d/Deaf person write about this incredible Movement. Perhaps this is why the article, as edited and published, was such a let down.
After the article was published, it was revealed that the editor, who is hearing, made edits to the article without the author having signed off on those edits. The result was a feel-good, oversimplified article that centered hearing individuals instead of the fullness of the Movement. Look no further than the title to see for yourself: “Deaf education lacked attention—so this teacher started a movement."
After raising our concerns, the author admitted to having similar concerns and agreed to forward our concerns to the editor to see if modifications could be made to the article based on our feedback. The editor's response was troubling and demonstrated that the editor had no intention of going back to include quotes from the interview of our Youth core team member; of changing the title to attribute the Movement to the entire Community; or of centering the DDBDDHH community members instead of hearing community members. Here is the response in full (yes, the "editor" misspelled my name):
I'm [name of author removed]'s editor at the Daily Dot and [the author] forwarded me your email about your concerns. I'm sorry you were disappointed in how the piece turned out, but we believe the piece is factually sound and stand by it. Moving forward, however, we will be more conscientious about a balance in d/Deaf and hearing voices when publishing similar stories, because our intentions are for those marginalized voices to be heard.
In short, this response illustrates the problems inherent in having token representation of marginalized writers with little or no representation of marginalized in the editor's board room--especially when editors have not done extensive work to examine and unpack their own privilege and power. Not only is this editor unwilling to admit error and make changes to the article to reflect the truth, the editor has no problem with allowing a marginalized person to take heat for the editor's errors.
Despite a clear indication of the harm that these misrepresentations bring to our Community, this editor is more concerned about publication views than how the article misrepresents and possibly sets back a Movement that the publication claims it set out to honor. Instead, the editor resolves to, "be more conscientious about a balance in d/Deaf and hearing voices when publishing similar stories" while knowing full well that there will not be another opportunity.
In response, our current core #DeafEd team wants to set the record straight by sharing our responses to the author's interview questions so the Community can have a clear understanding of the origins of #DeafEd, the contributions of our diverse community members--especially those of our Youth and DDBDDHH educators, parents and professionals. This Movement has been a true, grassroots, youth-led and community-inspired and -driven effort.
The author asked each of us seven questions and we provided responses. Below are our unedited responses (note that Tamara was unable to contact the author for contribution in time for publishing but has since provided responses which we have included below). The questions from the author are in bold below and were labelled Q1-Q7 to mimic the format of Twitter chats. Our responses are just below each question in no particular order.
Our collected responses are long, but they are particularly helpful in understanding the #DeafEd Movement, and what it means to and for so many people. As such, we have decided to make this a three part series to ensure that it is digestible. Part One will include our responses to questions related to #DeafEd History; Part Two will include our responses to how the #DeafEd Movement has evolved; and Part Three will include our perspectives on impact the #DeafEd Movement has had and some of our goals, including, why people should continue to care & join the Movement.
Our responses are below:
Q1: Tell me about yourself and your affiliation to the #DeafEd movement.
MICAH: I am a 4th year Deaf+ student at RIT/NTID, focusing in areas of Criminal Justice, Psychology, Sociology, and Visual Culture. I have grown up in a mix of different educational settings, although the majority has been in a mainstream setting. I now advocate for a more intersectional approach to Deaf Education and share my experiences where I can during #DeafEd events.
Note: Deaf+ (pronounced "Deaf Plus," and also known as "Deaf+Disabled") is an identity in which the person identifies as Deaf with other disabilities such as also having mental illnesses and/or another physical disability.
TL: I have taken to calling myself a social justice engineer because I do not know what else to call myself. I organize spaces in university classroom communities where hearts and minds are opened (my own included), but I do not consider myself to be a "professor." I am a recent law school graduate, but do not see myself as an "attorney." I have spent the past decade as a volunteer working to end mass incarceration, abuse of incarcerated deaf/disabled people; and to preventing and overturning deaf wrongful convictions. I am trying to do right by the world by using my privileges to end all forms of violence against multiply-marginalized individuals and communities. This brings me to the #DeafEd Movement (I love that you call it that!).
The volunteer work that I do (See #DeafAccessToJustice, #DecriminalizeDisability, #DeafInPrison & #DisabilitySolidarity) is inextricably tied to the #DeafEd Movement in ways that should stoke rage in the hearts and minds of us all. Mass incarceration literally feasts upon those who have been denied access to meaningful education and economic opportunity. At least 60% of adults and 85% of our youth incarcerated populations are functionally illiterate. Additionally, we find that youth with disabilities, including deafness are disproportionately represented in low and no income populations and in the foster care population.
During my first semester as a “professor,” I was searching for ways to engage course co-leaders (co-leaders is one of my words for “students”) in advocacy that would allow them to share their perspectives on issues of importance to them and that would serve them and our communities long after our semester came to an end. I had been active on Twitter for several years and thought that having students live tweet during class and for other assignments would be a good way to support them in gaining access to information and learning about and supporting different causes that were important to them. Course co-leaders had never used Twitter, so we started from the ground up.
Unfortunately, there were no accessible videos on how to use Twitter. This sort of unexamined hearing privilege is typical in our majority hearing society. I noticed that there were hundreds of education-focused twitter chats, but none related to DDBDDHH communities & decided (with the consent of the co-leaders, of course) that our end-of-semester projects should include three things:
1. A community-wide #DeafEd Twitter chat;
2. The creation of ASL signs for Twitter-related content; and
3. ASL vlogs to educate others in the community about how to use Twitter for social justice advocacy.
In preparation for this finale, I hosted course-wide Twitter chats on varied topics so we could all share our perspectives on federal disability rights laws, audism and other oppressions. The most important part of this journey was the fact that students were able to share their lived experiences & see immediate response and feedback from people outside the walls of the university. Each “like” or “retweet” signaled for these young people that people were listening and valuing their contributions—that their lived experiences were important. Co-leaders also joined other Twitter chats throughout the semester. By the end of the semester, they were thrilled (and anxious) about the prospect of having their own chat that would allow them to share their perspectives on a topic that would impact them and those who come behind them.
We wanted our chats to be fully accessible, so students created ASL vlogs for each question in addition to the typical English question format. Others created their responses to questions in ASL in advance of the chat, while others created infographics that they created on #DeafEd. Derek Landis (@DkJLandis), a co-leader of one of the classes who did not have a Twitter account at the beginning of the semester, brilliantly served as lead host for that first #DeafEd chat. We sat in my office during this first chat. He led and I supported. Witnessing all of the work that he and the co-leaders put into that final (& first) chat, and seeing his sign of relief and smile at the end of that first chat was, for me, the most gratifying moment of #DeafEd history. They knew that they had created something great—something greater than themselves. That was November 25, 2014.
Soon thereafter, a brilliant educator from Kentucky named Heidi Givens contacted me asking when the next chat would be. After sharing that this was an end of semester project with our classroom communities, Heidi asked if she could keep the chats going. The rest, as they say, is history.
DDBDDHH Youth advocates from my courses have been deeply involved with each chat—often taking the leading roles with planning, promoting or hosting. Micah, for instance, has hosted and storied the past two chats.
HEIDI: For 21 years I taught deaf and hard of hearing students, most of those years in Kentucky where I am now. Two months ago, I transitioned to administration in a new school district in KY as the Director of District Student Services. I am still a strong advocate and ally of the Deaf community and Deaf education. Last year I served as the moderator and co-organizer of the monthly chats working collaboratively with Talila Lewis. This year, the co-organizing and questions development is done by TL, myself, a few other teachers who are regular contributors, and a Deaf college student.
LAUREN: A Deaf by-product of a hearing education system, I am currently a high school teacher at Marlton, a day school for the Deaf in Los Angeles. In 2015, I was asked to join the #DeafEd Team by Heidi Givens as a host moderating on a topic related to ASL Literacy. Since then, I have continued to be part of the organizing team to provide direction. I will be co-hosting the upcoming January #DeafEd chat with Heidi.
TAMARA: My name is Tamara Copeland-Samaripa and I am a Literacy Coach for the high school at the Texas School for the Deaf. I have been in the education field for over 13 years in various positions from teacher’s aid, instructor, department chair, and now teacher support. I am what is considered late-deafened, though my hearing loss most likely began from birth. I was diagnosed with a unilateral loss at the age of 3 (deaf in one ear), then gradually lost hearing in the other ear. I grew up in the mainstream environment where I was the only deaf student in my school. I grew up speaking and listening. I didn’t wear hearing aides until I was 13. I learned sign language in high school and met many deaf friends through Jr. NAD. That was when I started to understand what it meant to be culturally Deaf. Through my involvement in Jr. NAD, I decided I wanted to learn more about ASL and Deaf Studies. I double majored in Deaf Studies and Psychology at Boston University. I immersed myself in Deaf culture and spent time studying interpreting. I continued my studies in Deaf Education at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. I realized I’m still not proficient enough in ASL to choose interpreting as a profession, so I answered the call to become a teacher.
I became involved with #DeafEd after meeting Heidi on Twitter. I mentioned to her that I hope the #DeafEd Twitter chat was something that was going to continue. I started to attend frequently and becoming very “vocal” within the chat. I naturally became a part of the team as I shared my ideas and even hosted a discussion on how Deaf Professionals can partner with Deaf Ed programs.
Q3: What is the origin of #DeafEd and how has it evolved into what it is today?
MICAH: My understanding is that #DeafEd originally started as a safe space for DDBDDHH college students (from a course that TL was co-leading) to gather to share their experiences, ask questions they might not have otherwise been comfortable with regarding their education, and to share resources on what has been a great role in getting them to where they are today. This has spread into a large resource of its own, in which parents and professionals are able to learn from the actual experts of Deaf Education as well as share tips from their experiences.
HEIDI: A few years ago I joined Twitter as a way to connect with other professionals and to increase my access to professional learning. I participated in some education chats which were so educational. At the time there was not a #DeafEd chat and not many people were even using that hashtag for sharing information. It was sporadic. Then November 2014 I see a tweet advertising a #DeafEd chat being led by students at RIT/NTID as part of a course culminating project. The experience was exhilarating and I wanted more, but because it was a final project, there weren't plans for future chats. I reached out to the students' professor Talila Lewis about continuing the chat. With TL's support and from feedback from people on Twitter, we created a monthly #DeafEd chat with featured hosts each month who were experts in specific topics. We have had participants from across the U.S. and even from some other countries as far as Saudi Arabia. IN fact, the teacher from Saudi Arabia started her own #DeafEd chat in Arabic, though they have only had one chat. There are participants who show up each month and those who are sporadic depending on the topic and their availability. The great thing is that the hashtag is being used a lot more throughout the months as a way for people to connect, share resources, showcase their student's work and learn from each other just like most other educational hashtags.
Part II will be released tomorrow, November 11, 2016.
I dream incessantly of justice. Hoping to calm my mind & stir yours through this freedom space.