NLTC Kick-Off & PLENARY: Constructing a Counternarrative Through Intersectional Lens, Part 1

Day: Sunday

Time: 7pm - 9pm EDT

Presenter(s): Melissa Draganac-Hawk and Akilah English


Too often who gets to tell narratives and how narratives are told depends on power—most often telling and reinforcing dominant narratives (the stories of those who hold power). Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) individuals are often subjected to one-sided, deficit portrayals. Critical Race Theory (CRT) gifted us with a counternarrative. We rely on it as a tool to challenge white dominant narratives in our community. The participants will understand intersectionality as multiple identities of oppressions and we interrogate the purposes of everyday racism within white supremacist structures—within U.S. schools, institutions, and surrounding communities where it continuously mutates like a virus, hiding in plain sight in our works, in our policies, and in our daily practices. The goal of the sessions is to centralize race in our understanding of white supremacy and white power structures, and importantly, it is to interrogate the significance of our own racialized identities in showing up (or not showing up) for racial and social justice work. As a learning community, we will seek out alternate viewpoints and spend significant time considering our own roles in both supporting and dismantling systems of privilege, power, and oppression. When grounded in compassion and trust, counternarrative can nurture a sense of self-worth and cultivate critical understanding of the role of power and privilege in maintaining systems of oppression, ultimately leading to collective liberation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the role of counternarratives in building racial equity and justice
  • Learn intersectional examples of how counternarratives have been used to resist oppression
  • Identify, deconstruct, and reconstruct the countering narratives to the dominating narratives to by centering the voices of racially marginalized Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened individuals

In this session participants will learn the groundwork and practice of racial justice and how it relates to their lives, work and community. Throughout the session, participants will learn counternarrative as the basis for understanding how systems of oppression and racism impact the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened individuals. The participants will have an opportunity to take ownership of their own narratives and shift the narratives by centering the voices of racially marginalized communities.

Presenter(s) Information

Melissa Draganac-Hawk


Melissa (Pennsylvania), a first-generation American of deaf immigrant Peruvians, received her Master's degree in Linguistics and dual Bachelors in American Sign Language and Theater Production & Performance from Gallaudet University. Currently, she is the Director of Student Affairs at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Engaged in the deaf community, Melissa was the president of the National Council of Hispano Deaf and Hard of Hearing (now renamed Council de Manos) and the Executive Director of Deaf Women United. Melissa has been involved with the NAD throughout her life in various capacities: as a youth, she participated in the Junior NAD and Youth Leadership Camp; as an adult, she directed the Miss Deaf America finals in 2002 and 2008. She has been a NAD member since 1988, focusing on issues affecting youth and diversity.

Akilah English

Akilah English

Akilah English is a deaf and hard of hearing specialist for the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C. With more than 14 years of experience, she has taught at elementary and middle schools in the District, Maryland, and Massachusetts. She earned her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Gallaudet University and master's degree in Deaf Education from McDaniel College. Akilah is currently the secretary for the District of Columbia Area Black Deaf Advocates and is also an active member of the National Black Deaf Advocates and a board member for Maryland School for the Deaf. She has a passion for education that is centered in social justice. Akilah has presented workshops and training on social justice to Deaf educators at both state and national level. She is a committed change advocate, which is reflected in her work with numerous boards and organizations focusing on education and Black Deaf communities. Akilah is currently attending the University of Maryland-College Park where she is pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership with a specialty in Minority and Urban Education.