Real Talk, Good Action: Black Deaf Excellence

February 24, 2022

>> STEPHANIE: Hello, everyone. Hello, hello, hello. Happy Thursday. First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone that is joining this webinar. To recognize Black Deaf excellence, I'm thrilled about this panel. This is the first opportunity to hold this platform, I know we will also be honoring other cultures in the future as well. I want to acknowledge that this February is Black History Month. And I do want to say that it's not just one month of the year, but we want to really honor Black History all year around. So I want to make an acknowledgment of that. Before we move forward with our panel, I do want to let everyone know that someone will be monitoring the chat for any questions. You can put them many the Q&A section and we will be monitoring that. So we want to actually have the floor to the panelists from 6:00 to 8:00 and then we will have a half an hour of Q&A from the audience. I'll introduce myself. I'm Stephanie Hakulin, I'm the appointed board member. Just give you a visible background, I'm wearing a navy blue T-shirt that has the NAD logo, white glasses. I have extensions in my hair with a little bit of brown streaks and I'm smiling bright with a blue background. I also want to let everyone know that this panel will be recorded and sent out to everyone that has registered. Now we want to take a moment to make sure that we understand the raw experiences that will be shared here tonight and to acknowledge that. I do want to take a moment to recognize the native lands. We are gathered on the land of Indigenous Native Americans and we want to take a moment to acknowledge that. Again, a quick reminder, is that please respect everyone, including the chat. Any disrespectful comments that are made will result in removal from this room. So now I'm very thrilled to call on our panelists to give them the opportunity to introduce themselves. So if we could ask Darrius Doe, Tiffany Tráz Freeman and Mervin.

>> Hello.

>> STEPHANIE: Thank you for joining us tonight. So, I want to start with Mervin, do you mind introducing yourself and giving a visual description of where you are.

>> MERVIN: Yes, I'm Mervin, I'll give you a background. I have gray drapes in the back and it's a pretty black background. You can see the director's chair that I'm in, special for you. All right, so don't start with me, baby. All right. Here we go. Anyway, that's my visual description. I have on a maroon blazer, with a gray turtleneck. I have some very smooth skin with a bright shiny smile and some wonderful glasses on, got the cuff links going, smiling bright for y'all. Pleased to be here.

>> STEPHANIE: Thank you so much. Darrius.

>> DARRIUS: Hello, everyone. I'm going to introduce myself. My name is Darrius. This is how you sign my name. I am wearing a green polo shirt. And this is my background, I'm currently located in my bedroom. I have a lamp and you can see everything here in my background. It's a little bit too busy to go into depth on the background. There's a lot going on. I have a green wall here, and then I have my light wall behind me. That's a little bit about me.

>> STEPHANIE: Great, thank you. Tráz.

>> TRÁZ: This is Tráz. And I use the name Tráz, I have a blue tight button up shirt on. I have a green beanie. Beige canned background.

>> STEPHANIE: Great. Thank you. And Imonie.

>> MONIE: Hi, everyone. My name is Imonie. But I prefer to be called Monie. Short and sweet. I'm a brown skin African American woman. I'm wearing a black long sleeve shirt. My background, to explain it, um, I don't know how to explain that.

>> Just say gray.

>> MONIE: Yeah, there's some kind of pattern back there. But I am standing in front of a wall.

>> STEPHANIE: Thank you so much. We are going to ask a series of questions and have you go around and answer. Please share about yourself. Let's kick us off with Tráz.

>> TRÁZ: So I'm from New York, born and raised. I'm from a Deaf family, my parents are Deaf. I have one older system who is hearing. So um, me and my sisters are CODA. I work as a teachers aid at a deaf school. I'm an educator, um, counselor, and I do a lot of artwork photography, I'm an artist, I specialize in animation. I love to travel and yeah, that's me.

>> STEPHANIE: So I have a follow up question for you, Tráz. So particularly, about Black History Month, I would love to know how you got started in your career and what you're doing now. That's a question I will hold off and ask you much later. Imonie?

>> MONIE: This is Monie speaking. I'm trying to think, where do I even start? Right now I'm in graduate school, where I am getting my master's degree from Columbia University. I'm in New York City. And I am -- I am the oldest of 4 children. I'm the only Deaf individual in my family. And none of my family members actually sign. I actually had to learn speech growing up. I do speak and read lips and of course, I sign as well, but my preference is either. And I'm trying to think what else I want to share about myself. Um, oh I did attend Gallaudet University and graduated in 2018. I'm a Gallaudet alum, proud one. And now I'm focused on just trying to graduate from graduate school. I'm not sure what I'll do after my graduate program, but that's my goal.

>> STEPHANIE: This is Stephanie. Um, yeah, I should go for my masters, but that's a lot of work now. Darrius, off to you.

>> DARRIUS: There is one thing I forgot to add which was the visual description. So, I am a handsome Black man --

>> Oh, Lord.

>> DARRIUS: To reintroduce myself, my name is Darrius Doe. And let me take you back to 1995, when I was born, where it all started. No, I'm just kidding. I identify as biracial person, so my mother is White, my father is Black and that identity has really impacted my experience growing up. So, I just want to emphasize that that is how I identify. I also come from a Deaf family, I have an older sister that's deaf and a brother that's hearing, I'm the middle child. As Monie mentioned, I also graduated from Gallaudet, I'm a Gallaudet alum. And I've branched out into different areas, marketing, communications, public relations and also personal hobbies that I enjoy include skating. I've done that. Quite a bit. Skiing. Film making. Music. Um, and just various hobbies that I enjoy, too, I've delved into.

>> STEPHANIE: I'm also a Gallaudet alum. All 3 of us here holding down the fort.

>> MERVIN: The most beautiful in the world, naturally, okay? No chemicals. All natural, baby. I woke up like this. Yes indeed. So I'm from Lafayette Louisiana, born and raised, moved to DC, then I graduated with art and design, with my AA in dance education. And since then, I've moved back to DC, in 2018, I've been a performer, been performing all over with different performing companies, hearing companies. As far as my family, oh Lord, okay. I have 3 gay brothers, 4 sisters. So, I have a large hearing family. Some sign, but not ASL growing up. So, a lot of SimCom for communication. My family is very supportive. I have, out of 8 cousins in DC and all over that are Deaf as well. I'm an actor, a producer, a director and soon to be announced, I'm working on a documentary with other folks that I'm working with, so that's going to be a big production, a feature film that's coming up.


>> MERVIN: Yeah, so be on the lookout for that soon. That will be announced officially on Sunday.

>> Yes.

>> MERVIN: And I'm LGBTQ person, I'm a queer person. I've been living out loud for 25 years. And also I have a foundation for POC folks to help get them services they need for all. It's focused on getting folks resources and so that's me. And getting resources for folks with AIDS and HIV. So that's me in a nutshell.

>> STEPHANIE: So we have a mixture of folks that are from a Deaf family or hearing family. I am from the south, so I know here in Massachusetts, it's supposed to snow and I'm like, I want to fly home to Alabama. Tráz, I feel you. But you know, we keep it warm, keep it going, right? Anyways. Um, you know, you mentioned a little bit about the different cultures in your family, some hearing, some deaf individuals that went to deaf schools or mainstream. Now before I go to the next question, I want to ask us a poll. I want to know about people's experience with racism. I want to do the poll first and then we are going to ask the question about racism. So, let's throw out the poll now. Here we have it.

>> Okay, we can't vote. Thanks for letting me know.

>> STEPHANIE: I'm going to go ahead and sign the question. This is for Black Indigenous People of Color only the answer, which is where have you experienced racism? School, volunteering for organizations, sports, work nonprofit, work corporate. So I'm seeing the numbers come in. And again, I want to make sure I emphasize that this question is only for individuals that identify as Black or Indigenous or they are a Person of Color. All right. So, let's get the numbers for us.

>> Wow, of course I'm not surprised.

>> STEPHANIE: Seems the most has been in schools. The lowest is in volunteering for organizations. Some sports. People mentioned nonprofit, corporate businesses, 43%. But it seems that in schools. So schools was the most. Now I want to throw out the question to the panelists. Let me make sure I close out this poll. So, I want to see your beautiful faces. So, I see someone asked in the chat what is B-I-P-O-C stand for, Black, Indigenous, People of Color. So, I want to throw the question to the panelists, can you share your experiences with racism and how have you overcome your experiences or challenges with racism. I don't know if Monie wants to kick us off or start with someone else?

>> MONIE: I'll go ahead and start. I've experienced racism in school, at work. I don't play sports, so not so much. So that doesn't apply to me. But I would have to say at work for sure. I'm looking for a few situations that I've experienced. I remember when I was a student at Gallaudet, for instance, I believe it was a workshop that was about becoming a leader, or something to that extent. And I had signed up for the event because I wanted to participate. So, I had already explained to the admin that was running the program, that I would be arriving a little bit late because of work. And so I remember I got to the workshop and just as I went to sit down, one individual, White, a White male, they stood up and I don't know what he was -- what they were talking about before, but he made this comment and was saying "oh, if you're a good leader you don't arrive late." And I was like "wait a minute, is he referring to me?" I mean, my first feeling was, I felt the target was on me. And I felt like "was that racism or something else?" And honestly, that person -- how do I say it? I mean, they -- I mean, there were other BIPOC students at Gallaudet and in that moment I felt as though I was targeted because I was representing the BIPOC community. Why was I an example of bad leadership? They made a general comment in front of everyone about that, because I was late, but I had my reasons for being late. And so I just, as a person who is BIPOC, at that moment I just felt as though I was labeled and it didn't make me feel good. And I've just remembered that since. So, I remember not interacting with them thereafter, that particular male, if I saw them, I just avoided them at all cost. And so there were microaggressions that happened that make me question, um, because he was in place of authority. And it was my word against his, right? In that situation. And I've experienced that again and again. And typically at work. Um, I have a supervisor who -- how do I say it? Um, they're older, they're from a different time period. I don't want to use that phrase, but they're from a different generation. I don't know how to best explain it. But I notice that when I'm working with them, um, I'm at a place in where I can actually have conversations with my clients, inference, and it just seems as though there's some kind of -- I may not know the depths of their cultures that I'm working with or their areas, but I have enough background information to assist. But again, a lot of the comments that are made from my supervisor about my work, um, I question if there's racist intent. This under tone that I feel when their feedback around my engagements with clients. I still feel today in 2022, I'm only 25, I don't have the answers to everything, I don't have the tools, I feel like I'm finding myself struggling to address that. What do I say? What do I do? Especially when people are older than me. And they are in places of authority. I'm backed up against the wall and I don't know how to move. I also feel as though sometimes I feel powerless. Um, I know that I can have conversations with them, but at the same time, my struggle is how? How do I have those conversations? Do I address it? I don't want to um, to be a -- I don't want to start a conversation and it gets out of hand. So, I try to explain to that person, going back to the workshop example, just thinking about you know, the comments. And they are not being appropriate. But then it's somehow, it diverts to something else. And so they turn it back into making it about the client. That's the example with my supervisor, that is. With my clients I notice that, for instance, I noticed -- I noticed that they want to work with more diversity, that's my supervisor, that is. But the comments that they are making is a little bit off. So I'm seeing -- and I'm just trying to figure out how to address my boss, and these kind of microaggressions that come through in my experiences, thus far.

>> STEPHANIE: I can really appreciate what you're saying because then you can feel so, as you have no support, because you're standing out in a sea of not diverse persons. Right? And you can be labeled as the angry Black woman, which that becomes you know -- that's a very strong label and it comes with a stigma. Then you have the question of if I actually stand up and say something, am I going to be labeled as an angry Black woman? Or suppress my feeling and not say anything and not address it? That requires us to be in a place of vulnerability. You may not have experienced that so you don't have a schema on how to address the situations when they arise.

>> It's a daily struggle.

>> STEPHANIE: Yeah, I really appreciate you sharing that. Tráz?

>> TRÁZ: All right. So similar experience, here. Racism at work, at school. Really, um, you know, growing up, being from a deaf family, you know, my parents, go out to -- most Black deaf, CODAs, or um, you know, as kids, that we have Black deaf parents, we typically feel, you know, it's normal, that environment feels normal, until we go into college and you see that people look at me as deaf first. Or they see my skin color first. And you know, I was taken back by that. Because typically, you know, really socializing and being fully involved and being extroverted. But when I saw everyone looking at me as different, I became a lot more reserved and felt I couldn't be myself, because I wasn't seen. And so that was a really big struggle for me. You know, to be who I am, to feel strength within my identity all through my college years and then after I graduated college, I started to look into my own identity and how I connected with myself. And I realized that it depended on who I was hanging out with. If I was hanging out with Black folks, I was comfortable. But when I was with White folks, I felt you know, like I wasn't free to be fully me. And so you know, an experience at work, it was my first time working a at a deaf school, as a TA. And I felt a little bit -- I didn't feel great about it. I wanted to be um, you know, bring my true self. But at school, of course, it's mostly White. And you know, I had been kind of observing things. And if I saw something wrong, or if I saw something that needed improvement, I would always tell something to the higher-ups, and it was always White men. I'm sorry always saying, maybe the announcements, so students know what is up or the different times. I was always giving feedback and getting that financial constraints over and over again. And so when I started to host deaf events for Deaf Awareness Day, I wanted to host that event, and I asked if you don't mind I host that event. And I had to go to another -- they said another staff member was hosting that. So I went to that staff member and ask if they wouldn't mind me volunteering and helping out and they said, "Of course, sure" but I had to bring it up to the higher ups to let them know through the series of bureaucracy that I was going to help. But they ignored me. So we hosted everything, everything seemed to go fine. And then I started to feel you know, picked on. You know, one thing that happened, I asked for you know, some personal paperwork to get approval for a doctors appointment and HR gave me the wrong paperwork and I had no idea. So, I brought it to my doctor and brought it back to HR. And then they said, "No, that's the wrong form." So they gave me the other paperwork and I was confused what happened with that miscommunication and the reason why the person didn't sign. So, I complained, saying that this person gave me the wrong form, there's communication issues, so on and so forth. Later the higher ups wanted the follow up with me so I was open to that discussion. And somehow you know, they wanted to, you know -- they were blaming me for that miscommunication. And I was saying that they didn't sign well and they allowed this to happen. How was it on me? So I was upset. And I felt no support, no recourse, no nothing. There was no union at that time, so I really had no idea what to do. I was still young, still trying to make my way through everything. Until BLM happened and when that started, I really became an activist and fighting for my own rights because it was serious. You need to know what's going on now days. Whether you know, people are breaking the law, lawsuits, the whole 9 yards. I was ready the roll my sleeves up and get that knowledge. That's when I learned about BLM and that was an empowering moment for me.

>> STEPHANIE: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Again, oftentimes miscommunication happens, and you look bad, right? You get the wrong form and maybe the folk that is are in HR they didn't get enough training, don't know the policies. So oftentimes people just "yeah, Black folks, they are not smart enough, it's their fault." They look like they are the ones that don't know what they are doing. Instead, it's like, even if you have an idea to change policies, you don't get the credit. It's always that the Black person doesn't get the credit but the other person who isn't of color, does. So, we have to think about how do we work together? How do we change that? Regardless of your race, how do we work together to make change?

>> You're right.

>> STEPHANIE: Next up, Mervin.

>> MERVIN: Well, all right. You know, I've really been -- my brain has been going on racism. Obviously, I've experienced racism. I think about the difference between you know, when I was an adult versus when I was mainstreamed in Lafayette. There it was a mixed environment and we were not taught about racism at all. Because again, it was mainstream. I thought everything was good. I went along functioning and signing. You know, doing ASL, PSE, sign English. Then I moved to DC and let me tell you, different. Going to a deaf school, versus a mainstream school was completely different. Let me tell you. So you have to understand, you know, I grew up with you know, love. And again, the Southerner way of thinking, very empathetic, very caring, very heart felt. And in DC, very cliquish. We have the groups and I was confused. I was trying to find where I fit in, because my language didn't match the certain groups or because of my skin color, because of how -- you know, and that competitive nature of DC. And I'm just Mervin, I'm just myself. I'm a performer and you know, signing is great but not all of us sign the same way and so to look at me and to judge me based on my language and all of a sudden deg gait me and felt you know, that hurt my own self-esteem. And people looked down on me. I wanted to benefit from a better education but I felt targeted from the beginning and I didn't feel like it was a safe space for me. And high school in DC was completely different. I was just faced with all of these new instances and then Gallaudet, the whole "we are a deaf school, deaf space" I was just overwhelmed. That was a huge impact and I struggled with that. I struggled with how I could bring my full self, how I should show who I was. That was a big struggle to try not to make myself smaller in these spaces. And you know, so what happened when I was in this deaf environment, what happened is that I met a Black deaf teacher and I looked up. And growing up I had all White teacher, all the way. I was taught by Whites the whole way. But then all of a sudden I had this Black deaf teacher who was teaching history, culture, you know, my roots. And I had no idea about my own history. I never had been exposed to that, learning about Black deaf history. And I realized that my identical had been deprived of me all this time. My parents would say "you're deaf" and I would ask these questions because I had answers that I wanted to know. And when I was here, I learned, when I became an actor and oh Lord, let me tell you, in the theater world I felt so free to just -- There's no right or wrong. All the eyes being on you, they saw the skill. And that constant, you know that constant, I really struggled on stage because I faced so much racism, so much backlash, so much, you know, struggling with my identity, with that language deprivation. With the culture. All these parts of me that had been missing. And I felt lost, and it was a huge frustration. And I wasn't able to find Mervin. I had to start all over again to figure out who is Mervin? And so through those struggles, I was able to bring that to the stage. And I did get a scholarship from a university, a hearing university for the arts. And I applied at Gallaudet. You know and I not feeling safe there. And of course, being at a deaf school, all of that was exciting, but again, all of that animosity and feeling the constant cliques I felt that every single day, everywhere I walked, everywhere I went. I was constantly paranoid. I felt like a target every single day. I would hear people talking about all these different things and saying did I have enough resources and support. Where are the people? We need the find our people. And it's so hard. It's so hard to do that. And so I had to choose this university, to go, because that's where I could get the support I needed. And one funny part is, I applied for VR, I applied -- that's a big thing, and I'm still upset, I'm still traumatized from this experience. Okay? So when I got the reward letter from -- and I put the benefits, the paperwork and all of that and I filled out the VR paperwork they said that they would cover housing, transportation for 4 years. Room and board, all of that. VR looked and said, "We can't because you're a dance major, so that is not going to lead to work." And I thought "how can you apply a future for me, I'm following my dreams, you can't tell me what to do, you don't know." And they were saying you must prove a path. As if all of that hard work I did wasn't enough. And so I said, fine, I'll prove it. And so they paid for two semesters and I worked, I worked. And again, I asked my White friends, but one of my really good friends I said, "Do you get VR to cover everything for all 4 years?" And they said "yes." So they would pay you for 4 years but for me I had to get half of that and get loans the pay for the rest? I mean, what the fuck? I mean, that's -- and it felt like it was because I was Black. And so, you know, I was devastated because I had to go through all of these struggles and I was broke, barely getting by, because I couldn't get the help I needed from VR. And so you know, finally you know, after all of this, working so hard and I felt all of this work -- my parent taught me to be strong, to persevere, to fight for your dreams. And just to tell me that your dreams are not a reality? You can't take away my dreams from me like that. I'm asking you to help to pay for school. That's it. Don't look down on me. That's pure racism. And still, to this day, to this day -- okay. All right. So, I graduated with my arts degree. And I continued. I mean, I was you know, successful, of course I struggled as artists do. And I um, I was diagnosed with HIV. So, I went to the social work to fill out the paperwork to get my medication. And then of course we still have racism but then we have classism coming into play, those are two distinct categories. So, when I asked for the medication I had to fill out paperwork, constantly, sending paperwork and I was denied again and again and again, saying I didn't have -- not enough assistant, not enough support or not enough familial support. I'm sending it in over and over, and I'm wondering. And the social worker would say, you know two days later -- the social worker is White, of course, and hitting the same barriers to same walls over again trying to get support. And so you know again, the impact there. The economic impact. It's the same thing. Everything is the same, all the paperwork is the same, I send it in, the White person sends it in, asking for support for food stamps, basic living expenses, the White person gets it every time, the Black person does not. And I'm still waiting. It's the same story, every time. Whether it was one day, two weeks, I'm still waiting. I finally get the letter and it says, "Not enough income." So, I send it again, fill out the paperwork again, and now it's -- you make too much money. But again, I have the exact same salary as the White individual. And I'm get -- they get 400 dollars and I get $16.

>> That's not fair. That is not fair.

>> It's right there. Because I have to put it on there. I need help, I need support. And so again, that's racism. Clear as day.

>> STEPHANIE: Wow, this is Stephanie.

>> MERVIN: It's a lot. It's a lot. And when it comes to BLM, you know, that really shook things up. And you know, I remember George Floyd, the "I can't breathe" when I saw that, it really -- it had a huge impact on my life. Because I'm thinking of all, I'm thinking of my roots, the fighting, the battles, being involved in the protests. Because I feel them. Because I know the struggles. Because they -- you know, they take away my rights, they try and take away everything from me and I say "no". Because I will rebuild myself, because I can breathe. And I will continue for them. There's a lot going on, and I feel you know there's a lot going on within the nation and I feel that within me and I try to heal that through my spirit, throughout the universe. But I see everything that's going on. You see the talk, you see what people walk through, people fight through, people you know, their heartbeat, their tears, they are fighting together, breathing together, coming together. And I felt that and it was so inspiring. And I felt something building within me, internally. And I thought "I can face it." And so that's a little bit more than what you asked for so I'll pass it to the next person.

>> STEPHANIE: No. Thank you so much for sharing that. It's the system. Right? The system have their own bias and that needs to stop, where there's some equity, there's something that's fair within the system. Because again what's the difference? Everyone is struggling. You know, if the income is the same, it doesn't matter the color of your skin. We all struggle, and we all have to ask for help at some point. And there needs to be a fairness with this.

>> MERVIN: Thank you.

>> STEPHANIE: I want to talk more about the racism, but I know Darrius has his comments and then we ask about how you guys become successful.

>> DARRIUS: I'm going to keep my comments short. The 3 of you fellow panelists have shared powerful and authentic stories. So, I would like to add my experience and this is just pertaining to racism, itself. Racism is interesting, because it's very complex. It comes in different forms and it appears in different forms, some that are visible and some that are not. Some that are overt, and some that are covert. And racism can happen on an individual level as Stephanie alluded to, at a systemic level. There's intentional racism and unintentional racism. I also think it's important to note that as Black people, Black deaf people, we do not have the same experiences. We have various identities, we are not monolithic as a group. We experience things as we are, as individuals, within the group. And we have faced different things and some people have faced racism in horrific ways and some have not. And that's okay. But for me, can I say that I have experienced overt racism in my life? I don't know. Unintentional racism is there. I've seen a lot of it. I've seen a lot of people who um, are unintentional racists. It doesn't mean that their hearts are made of stone and they are bigots, but they make assumptions and mistakes. As humans we make assumptions and mistakes, based on those assumptions. And most people probably go through feeling like, in the deaf community, that overt racism is not blatant, it's not there. A lot of persons in the community will state that they are allies, but they don't practice what they preach. I wanted to mention that, the unintentional racism.

>> Thank you for sharing. You mentioned you're biracial. So I'm sure your experience is different. Seeing people say the wrong thing or when it comes to being biracial, or people in general that are biracial. That being said, I wanted to move on to um, my next question. How did you become successful? You're a dancer, Monie you're in the dance program, how did you break through the glass ceiling. Do you feel your family taught you the value of education and the value of being --

>> Mervin said it perfectly, when you're talking about the Black teacher, and you learned about the history and the culture of Black people. I feel like that was the key, because that gave you and gave me confidence. You really can appreciate who you are. You know who you are as a person and that confidence will allow you to fly. If you don't have that strong resonance with your identity, and you don't have that mentor, or that representation, then not so much. When you see a black teacher or professor, that can be high opening and I didn't have that until college. Knowledge is impactful and understanding that there was colonization and the history that has impacted us is really key. That knowledge is key and it's powerful. And confident is key and you get that from knowledge. I think with that confidence, and that knowledge you can be successful in life. Absolutely.

>> Yeah, so one of my favorite quotes is by James Baldwin and in his quote, states to be a Nigro in America is like being on fire all the time. And that quote really struck me. Because we as Black people, we see, we see -- we experience things, we see racism on a multitude of levels that can impact us in ways that are profound. And it impacts us a lot. Um, there is a lot of emotional and physical trauma and I've read articles in where there are people who are all for fighting for the cause. But then people are still dying. You see that there is not so much going on, in terms of action. And it doesn't matter how strong you are, it doesn't matter what kind of issue that you're facing, um, it can be handled. There is no emotion that is too hard for us not to fight it. I know for me, I would have to say how I've broken through the glass, how I've gotten to where I am today is taking a step back, and realizing that I actually have to stand up for my people. I have to stand up for myself. I have to remind myself that I have to live. I don't know how to sign the phrase, but basically, I exist out of my struggles. I'm not just a person who is "oh, I'm going to get by, by the seat of my pants." No, I exist because of my struggles. I know I have be oppressed but I have to go past that. I enjoy hanging out with people, I like watching movies. I experience life and so I don't allow racism to stop me. Yes, it happens. But listen, I have to live. We have too much life to live to on obsess "are you checking on me because we are Black?" We have to take a step back, take a pause and realize that we need to exist in life. To be honest they have the ability to be successful. Yes, it's going to be hard, not a walk in the park, but you have to have that confidence in yourself and if you have that confidence, you will make it.

>> Preach, that was beautiful.


>> TRÁZ: Yeah, sure. So really, you know, we were talking about those feelings, those uneasy feelings, and then all of a sudden having BLM shake things up for me and wanting to know why? What's going on in the world? BLM really started back around 2014 and when that started, and it wasn't until 2020 that people truly started to see that impactful and we started to see it and wanted to be involved in the NYC protest, I wanted to be involved and see the fight, to see you know, the speeches, the protests. One speech that I went to that really stuck with me and I really thought -- it was talking about knowledge is power and that really impacted me. And really said that I need to share my experiences and yeah, back to the topic of knowledge is power, going forward you see the different posts about BLM. It's about knowing your rights, and you know, I've started to recognize more and more to know, while I'm making content and being creative, to be able to incorporate those things. When it got to election day, still the same path. And COVID-19, that was tough as well. Having you know, the spread of BLM and the spread of COVID-19 happening at the same time, that really amplified things for folks. So, I had to put things on pause, because I felt overwhelmed in that moment. And then you know, with Black History Month I thought "it's time". I recognize that most of you for Black History Month, that's when we get taps for that and that platform, would you mind doing this workshop, and speaking here? And it's like "why? My voice needs to be heard all year-round not 28 days of the year". Trying to share Black History Month but making sure that I want to -- I want to actually see something. I want to see something new in the future. I want -- because our history is important and that's going to show what our future looks like. And again going back to knowledge being power, that's what lead me to this day.

>> STEPHANIE: Beautifully stated. Mervin and then I'll share.

>> MERVIN: So what I've learned is how to become successful. And you know from these resources. Whether that be people that I've met, you know, folks that I know well, that I can get support from. But finding the right folks that you can trust. So from that, you know, going through different struggles, they can have good ways or bad ways. There's two choices. And it's okay to struggle. The struggle is still a process, it's a growth experience. And that it can be very empowering. And I've had people try and take my power and that's okay. If they try and take the power, they can't use it because I know how to use my power. It's my work, it's my passion, it's my path. And I remember when I started to travel internationally to different you know, different conferences, Japan, so forth, all over and of course, the U.S. as well, I started to learn. I saw all those different countries, they really don't have this kind of racism. But most of America is racist. You know, I go to Europe, I go to all those places and I'm not experiencing the same thing. So, I learned more and more along the way. I learned more about who I am. And I've learned that I'm Black, I'm gay, I'm beautiful, I'm worth it and then I have to remind myself of those things every day and continue to reinforce that confidence in myself. And I had to do that work internally. When I look at my work, I set up my foundation because I wanted to give back to my community, because they have earned this. It's not about me, it's about resources and support and accessibility for all. Because I do not believe in that segregation. I don't believe in that. I think that we need to be together. I'm all about this collectivist approach. And so you know, when I'm humble with my work and my acting. And when BLM started, it really changed everything. And I started to see all of these new faces. All of these things that I didn't recognize and I thought "where have you been?"

>> You're right. Spot on.

>> MERVIN: I have been here for 25 years and still here and people are like oh, oh, oh. Value my worth and what I bring to the table. And what I bring to the stage. And I'm sick of all these alleys and advocates. No, you know what, I'm going to save that for later. Hold on. But I feel -- that I could acknowledge the success I've had and the impact. And the fact that I've been able to impact change. And that I'm able to give and that I want you to take what is yours. I feel good. I'm not selfish. I feel good when I give. Things have been given to me and I want to pass that on. I want this shift in the community to continue. You know, I want to continue to support and advocate for the community so we can all move forward. There's a lot on my mind, and I just have so much love. I have so much human -- love for humans. I understand. I'm there and I just -- okay. I love it all and all of this is just passionate and love for all of you.

>> STEPHANIE: Thank you so much for sharing. I remember one woman said that we have a purpose in life. Right? So we have a purpose in life and we have to name it. And I remember you know, thinking about religious beliefs and faith, how we overcome even in those settings, how do we utilize the tools that we have to always remember that we have a purpose in life. We think about Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go high. We are striving.

>> Period.

>> STEPHANIE: Yes, so now I want to shift gears and talk about allyship and advocacy. Is ally and advocate the same? Yes, no, or I'm not sure. I'm seeing "no" as the popular response. So we have 81% at "no". Some folks are saying they are unsure. So we are going to be closing up the poll. So 5% said yes, 81% says no they are not the same and 14% say not sure. So, I wanted us to have a brief discussion about that. What are your thoughts about allyship and advocates. Are they the same or different. What do you all think. Who wants to start us off. Mervin seems excited. Let's start with Mervin and Tráz.

>> We are talking about AA and not AA batteries. Ally vs. Advocate. All right. Okay.

>> This and that. But it's about what are you doing, all right? There needs to be that clear, there's a clear separation. An ally, what is an ally? They say "I'm an ally, did my part, because I said it." Advocates are involved in the community and actually doing. Try to remember a friend that said I'm an ally because I do so-and-so. And I thought what? What is that? Because I see nothing. I don't see you in involved in marches, I don't see you posting anything. I just see you talking a bunch of bull. What research have you done? It's about actual effort. When you start actually advocating and doing the process, advocates are more active. So do not get it twisted. Saying that I'm an ally, but you're behavior is different, I can read you, honey. Okay? So that's what I'm talking about. People like to say more than what they actually do. I see people say that they are allies, more than I see them say they are advocates. Because they don't want to talk about being involved in the struggle in all of this. They don't want any of that. Maybe they will throw something here or there. And that is not what we're talking about. Because there's -- because this stuff is heavy. Allies, they got it light. It's all talk. They could pick and choose what they want and they take their little pieces over here and do their little ally work and say "I'm an ally" and take all the credit. All of it. But I see, you're taking all of this from me. And then they are like "I'm fighting for you". No you're not. Okay? You're being an ally. Which is not an advocate. All right? So --

>> TRÁZ: I have two comments. About allies, they -- They perform. Right? They perform very much on the surface level. They don't actually do the work at the ground level. And that's what a real ally is. And don't talk it, be it. We want to see the action. We want to see the evidence that supports all the talk that you've been giving. And actually, advocates provide support, they provide what is needed. So that is just what my perspective is. Allies um, true allies actually do put in the work.

>> STEPHANIE: Darrius?

>> DARRIUS: Yes. So between allies and advocates, makes no difference. They are just words. They are both words. Whatever you call yourself, be it an ally or advocate, doesn't matter. Because it's really about the work. It's about your willingness to learn, grow, and evolve. I think sometimes people that identify as an ally or advocate and call themselves such, think that they are -- they have made it, good to go. And they don't have work to do. But we all have more to learn. And if we continue to learn, and gain more insights and more knowledge and information and we see the world in a broader perspective and we are open to do that, that's important. I don't care what you call yourself, I care about the action.

>> STEPHANIE: Right, right.

>> Yes, period.

>> MONIE: Yeah, exactly what Darrius said. To me, it's just a vocabulary word. Everyone has their own perspective on it, on that word. And it comes down to action. I mean, again you can have both terms but again, it's not about the words it's "what are you doing?" You can label yourself as "I'm an add advocate" or ally. But it's about, are you doing the work? I have seen people myself that are allies, I've seen people who are advocates and it boils down to, at the end of the day, how do I say this? If you're not actually doing the work, if you're not out there fighting for the cause, if you're not standing with us and fighting for us, then it's just performative. That's all it is. Performative allyship and I don't care about that. I care about -- you just care about getting the spotlight, the shame -- or the highlights and that's it. Right? But folks that are still struggling on a daily basis, it's a far human right, basic human right, and it's not something that we have the luxury of saying "oh, let's take off being Black today and not have to fight." It's something that we have to do. An advocate has the luxury to take off that role. So again, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you're an ally or advocate, whichever mask you wear. It's about what you're actually doing, period.

>> STEPHANIE: You're right. I agree with you 100%. Oftentimes it's a mask that they wear, but we not wearing a mask. Our skin is our skin. We can't choose to take it on or off at any point. But those that are allies or advocates oftentimes will confuse the two words. And they may say, sorry family that is Black or friends that are Black. And that's what justifies their label. But that doesn't matter, it's about their work, it's working behind the scenes, not in the spotlight, for supporting the group. And not just checking a box or calling yourself this or labeling yourself this. I just wanted to get clarification from the panelists, do they self-identify as allies and advocates? Or should we assign them those labels? So that's just something to consider. I just wonder what we should do as a community. Is that a label that should be assigned from us? Or what? And the point is for us to work together in various capacities and we are all going to have various experiences with that. So, I just wanted to throw that thought provoking question out there, rhetorical. So there is one question that I wanted to pose now with the conversation about BLM, we will pause. NAD as an organization and whole, we are using their platform right now. So NAD as an organization, are they supporting the community? Or do you feel "no"? Why or why not? And what does NAD need to do to change your feelings on that? And how can they continue to do the work and be it the curriculum or resources that are provided. And according to the 5 priorities that NAD has set out this last term, achieve and work on. Do you feel welcome? Why or why not? And what can they do the change that? And how can they make us feel welcome and safe without having to feel like we are having to second guess what their intentions are behind the scene or without having to over think. How can you feel you can be your authentic self at NAD and feel welcome. Mervin.

>> MERVIN: NAD, National Association of the Deaf, but are they there for a diverse group of people or one specific group of people? And so take a step back and really look at this. Because there's errors in the system, internally, internally that need to be fixed, that have been there for years. Probably since NAD was established, I don't know, I would have to check in on that. But the NAD cannot be the hero for the deaf, if they are not serving all of us. People, you know, want to change the system. They want to change the way of thinking or what is in people's hearts, but they have never experienced the struggle. So that means they are just feeding into it. They are not meeting the actual needs. And there's a lot. It's heavy and that work is honestly never done. And NAD has changed a little. There's a lot to clean up and I feel that it's worth it. You know, but they haven't gotten there yet. I'm still here and I don't know when those changes are going to happen, as far as being on the board or what have you. But does the NAD support my organization? My organization wants to be accessible to all, not split it up. I refuse to have that. I want us to be a coalition with each other. If we think about things like Black porn, disability porn, is that what we are going for here? It's just, as if we are there just to exist only for the inspiration of others. And so there's a lot to do and I mean, there's a lot of garbage.

>> STEPHANIE: Right, you're just being honest. This is Stephanie speaking. Um, what about our other panelists? What are your thoughts? Darrius.

>> DARRIUS: Well, it was already mentioned previously, and first of all you're an amazing signer. But in terms of NAD, an organization, and organizations at large, deaf organizations to not target NAD specifically, are very much like you know, other systems. Really. And it doesn't have to just be Black organizations. It could be medical system. Black people in general don't trust the medical system. That can happen. Just like Black deaf person has some apprehension to organizations at large, various organizations, whatever their field is, because of -- they may have a tarnished reputation and reputation is hard to clean up. So that aside, I want to clarify using this disclaimer, I'm only speaking for myself. Being here on the panel, um, we have higher education, we have working professionals here that are educated that have degrees and there are many grassroots persons that don't have the accolades that we have. The journey that I can't speak to. They have experiences I can't speak to. So there are many organizations that speak to the professional, the Black elite, if you will. The educated Black persons and not necessarily those grassroots person, that don't have a voice here today. I want to close with I think most Black deaf people are about show and prove. Show me, don't just tell me. And I want to say it was Tráz, I believe -- I'm sorry, it was Mervin, when BLM took off in 2020 and Black Lives Matter and there were posters everywhere. While I appreciated it, what happened prior to 2020? We have been here before 2020. So it's like "come on now, come on". So again, we are open, but at the same time, with a bit of hesitation. Like, show me and prove it. As opposed to just the tokenism that we see. You know? We don't want to hear your words, we want to see your actions so prove it to me.

>> STEPHANIE: I want to follow up on what you just said, in terms of feeling welcome and trust and more you know, proving themselves. Um, do you think that they should be invited to certain platforms? Do you feel as though organizations should be invited to our platforms, for instance state agencies, DCABA? Do you think we should welcome people into those organizations? How do we do outreach? "We have invited you, are you going to come?"

>> DARRIUS: Everything. It's not just NAD it's other organizations. Even deaf organizations, if they have ideas that they want to share, just go ahead. Do it. And even after BLM, there were a lot of organizations and non-Black deaf people, I will say. Not to point one out particular, that were hesitant, they were unsure about what to do next. They didn't want to cross the line. They were very apprehensive. Because they were afraid they were going to offend someone. So they would ask, tell me what to do. If you have an idea, do it. And that's a moment that you learn by your mistakes, don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you have ideas, do it. That's what I would share.

>> STEPHANIE: Mervin.

>> MERVIN: And you said it perfectly. You know. That we want to see the example. "What is this for?" All of this talk, again, and it's time to actually face it. So really the goal -- NAD or any organization at large is to work with. You know, having these different workshops and all of that, but let's be real. Let's talk with real people going through their actual struggle. And maybe there will be a power shift in thought, and we can be a human collective instead of being cliques and we can be involved in the change. It would be nice to really socialize and not have these different -- that feeling of imbalance, but to feel that equality, to feel that justice, that equality as a group. You know that NAD can prove that they can do more work, so that I can feel that it's a safe space. That if I see the work, I'll feel welcome. I'm not asking what you're thinking or seeing or feeling. What I want to see is how I as a member how do you address me? How do you interact with me? And it's just not enough just to face it. But what are we going to do? How are we going to move forward? Are you going to fight with us? Are you following us? Or are you asking us to follow you? Are you going to be in my shoes with me, through this? And I know that NAD has a good heart, internally. You know, but we have to -- again, we can pull it out of them and they can clean it up.

>> STEPHANIE: Monie.

>> MONIE: I feel as though Darrius has stolen all of my words tonight. I'm trying to think of something else besides what he has shared. I think it's not just NAD but everywhere. Any organization needs to do some deep dive, deep unpacking of their own. I mean, thinking about what is your goal? What is your purpose? Are you inclusive of everyone regardless of skin tone? What is your reasoning? What is the motive? What are your intentions? Figuring that out first will lead to the next step and the next step. And so it requires a lot of unpacking and going into a deep understanding of what is the intent of this. My organization needs to focus on, for instance, bringing awareness in particular areas that we have overlooked for so long. Um, so we reach out to that particular people, or people's groups to bring that awareness to us. But what exactly is missing, though? For instance, what -- It's only benefiting one way. So I think in general, how can we make things more accessible, one. And accessible for all, two. And also how can we give people more opportunities to actually learn and to grow in their profession. And professionally, personally I think that that is where we actually need to start. Um, really, taking a look at -- seriously, doing the work. And that's how people actually can be successful. We have of course are going to make mistakes and offend. But that's part of the process. If you don't try, then you won't know what you don't know. So I think it's one about trying and if you fuck, then so it, you learned from your fucked up mistake. That's the point, we have to start with the organizations in terms of talking about, again, co-collaborating, how are we -- where we are both people are benefiting. Also the community. It's an uplifting experience for all.

>> STEPHANIE: Seems we have run out of time but I want to post this last important question. And I want to see if we have time for Q&A. I believe we do, and then we will wrap up. I believe there was a quick question that I wanted to post in the poll for everyone to be able to vote on. So with the recent wave of Whiteness and saviorism, does that help or harm? What are your thoughts? And as you consider that question, I think we can post the poll. So, I want you to consider how you can answer the question, and I'll pose it again with the White persons that are -- with the White saviorism that's come up, is that helpful or harmful? And while you consider how you're going to answer, I would like everyone to take a look at the poll. It asks, since George Floyd was killed in May 2020, there have been an increase in social justice resources and webinar. How often do you participate in that work? None, rarely, sometimes, often, always. Please vote.

>> Are we answering the question? Around White saviorism?

>> STEPHANIE: Can you repeat that question?

v>> Sure, do you want people to answer the poll first, and then um, we will round-robin to answer the question? Around White saviorism?

>> STEPHANIE: Very briefly, yes. Just consider how you would answer that question. Let's see what the poll results are. The there have been an increase of social justice resources, webinar, how often do you participate in that work? There was 4% that answered none. 9%, rarely. 35%, sometimes. 39%, often. 7%, always. And 7%, other. So there's a varying mix of answers here. Any final thoughts from the panels?

>> DARRIUS: Any final thoughts is what you're asking us? Okay.

>> STEPHANIE: You can skip the question if you choose not to answer. It's up to you.

>> MONIE: This is Monie. I have a lot to share, but I'll comment and try to keep it short around sweet. Um, I had read the question before, and I had some thoughts. When we are thinking about racism, like Darrius said previously, it's complex. Um, it's very easy to see it sometimes, especially when you are a Black deaf person, it's multilayered. You have intersectionality at play. And it's hard to sometimes, you're thinking to yourself "did this happen because I'm Black or because I'm deaf?" And so we sometimes can see that a hearing person, they may just identify it as racism. But I think that's where -- I'm speaking for myself, I should say. When I've taken a look at racism or oppression, I feel those experiences, there's an overlay. And they can't be separated. I feel as though people don't always understand that. The more identities that one has, the more oppression one carries or experiences. And that's in and of itself, is traumatizing. That you're really never free, because of those oppressive identities. I mean, I'm just thinking to myself I'm envious. I envy, you know? White people have it simple. We don't have that luxury. You know? We go forward with something and there's a barrier. Or we are faced with X, Y and Z on a daily basis. And we are always confounded to some restraints, and we have to work double or triple or quadruple. Where we feel like there's no end to this struggle. And it's continuous. So we don't get a break from those intersectionality oppressions. It's a struggle that we experience every day, and White people don't experience that. And so I just want people to become more empathetic in what we are experiencing. Understanding cultural empathy, whether you're an advocate, ally, that's not the point. Practice cultural humility. You become a better human and that's the way that it could be beneficial to everyone, when you have that cultural humility in place. I know that we have been talking often about you know, being a better person, and becoming more empathetic and we are not doing enough, etc. Or what am I doing to bring awareness. But I also feel as though we really need to put focus and light on how to be a better human and be more culturally sensitive. Those are my two cents.

>> STEPHANIE: Thank you. Anymore comments before we wrap up? Mervin or Darrius?

>> MERVIN: I have something. You know, it's obviously, White people have more privilege than our people do, it's true. And we still have a lot of -- I have more privilege than other Black people do, and I still experience racism. I experience it every day. And you see it. You see it on the news. And I feel -- and I feel it. You know, one day you know, you feel the impact and people start to push back. I have a lot of thoughts, but I don't want to say anymore. I think I feel like I've said enough. I've said enough. And you know, you can cry, but really, it's enough because you have to think about our families and what they went through and what they have gone through and what the generations have been through, and the systems that we have navigated. And it's like "do we deserve this?" You know, why am I here today? We fought for what -- we fought for the right to own land and property, because they stole ours. They stole what wasn't theirs. And that is really painful. They steal our creativity, our ideas and they take it as it's their own and we are not their puppets. But we are stuck. We are slaves to these systems that will never be free. You know, fuck that. You know? Honestly. You won't be free until you hang, honestly.

>> STEPHANIE: Darrius or Tráz? This is Stephanie speaking. Anyone? Darrius. Sure.

>> DARRIUS: I want to end this panel on a positive note. I like what Monie said about the fact that we are human and it's about being a better human. I agree with you 100%. And the conversations are about racism, then it becomes a White and Black thing. But it's more than that. Because there's so many different races and cultures across the world. So Black deaf people experience our own experiences and we are not infallible. We have experienced what we experience but there are other groups that experience the same. And there's so many varying races and genders and combinations of so many different identities that make us who we are as humans. And I'm not sure who is in the audience and who is watching. But I want to speak directly to Black deaf people that are here. We are champ. We are amazing. We are amazing people. We have gone through so much in this country. Remember chatting with a friend last week, and they said, "Are Black deaf people the only group that are here in this country?" Not my choice. Black persons were not here by choice. We didn't decide to immigrate or relocate. And we made something out of nothing. So those slaves that were forced here, found a way. They didn't just sit and pity themselves. They found a way and in the '40s and '50s and '60s, they didn't just complain. They continued to push through with their allies. So, I say again, is the Black deaf community infallible? No. Are we perfect? No. Is NAD perfect? Any organizations that are perfect? No. And so do we complain, as people? My Black deaf people, in the audience, do we complain about the organizations and what they are not doing? Or do we continue to fight and make a difference? Do we hold ourselves accountable? Even though the system is still a mess, are we continuing to work on ourselves and our community and are we uplifting each other within our community? Regardless of whatever the system is doing and the organizations are doing. And not waiting for them to save us. We need to save ourselves. So, I just want that in mind. Please keep that in mind.

>> MERVIN: We have the power in us, the key is in us. And we can use that fire within us to change because we do every day. Every day. We are always -- we are always doing it. We are strong. We have the strength. We have the power in us. It's there, it's already there.

>> Yes, amen.

>> MERVIN: If you feel something isn't right, do it. Don't sit back. You know, you have the passion, you have the skills, go ahead and go for it.

>> STEPHANIE: There you go. Mic drop, right there. Yes, Monie?

>> MONIE: I wanted to share one quick tip. Don't stress yourself. Don't stress yourself too much in making mistakes. It's part of the process. And so always remember that. That oftentimes people make mistakes and again it's part of life. It's part of you know, who we are in the system. So oftentimes people are afraid to make a move because they are afraid of making mistakes. Embrace those mistakes because it's a learning experience. So don't allow one situation to stop you from persevering or continuing. It's important really, to just think about the end goal. Think about where you're going, the destination, and getting towards that destination. So don't stress yourself, relax, take a beat, and know I will make mistakes, I've learned from them. And then continue forward in doing and making more mistakes. So again, stay on an optimistic viewpoint and that's what I've been doing so far and that's where I'm at and that's where it's taken me. I have to say, there's so much that's going on and do we need to have hope? Without hope, where do you go? What do you do? What do you look forward to? So you must have hope, optimism and not to hold on to the past but always look to the future.

>> STEPHANIE: Beautifully captured. There's one final thought. If you could share one final thought for our Black audience, one thought or word, please. What is one word of wisdom that you would like the share with our Black audience, particularly our Black youth? What is something you would like them to take away? Please, Darrius.

>> DARRIUS: Words of wisdom, I would say to them, there's no one way to be Black. You don't have to um, think that there's some sort of blueprint for how to be Black and deaf and one way to behave. That's not the case, just be yourself.

>> MONIE: This is Monie. You know that phrase, how do I say it? When life gives you lemon, you make lemonade? You know that phrase? So um, that aside, doesn't apply to what I'm trying to say, but I think about that. Sometimes in life, people will give you -- I missed that. They will give you scraps. Thank you. And what are we going to do with those scraps? We think about our ancestors and how they have fought for us and what they have given to us. And basically, we can make -- we can make beauty out of shit. Let's be real, here. We think about owl culture, we think about our cooking, etc. And so our ancestors have gone through their -- you know, they have gone through crap and we are here, making beauty out of their crap.

>> MERVIN: So I have two thoughts. One is throw out that feedback. And the other is find the power within yourself. Find your power.

>> STEPHANIE: Come on now. Yes, you better drop those words of wisdom, Mervin. Tráz?

>> TRÁZ: Keep going, you will get there, you will persevere. Be patient with yourself. Start within yourself. That fire, let that flame roar.

>> STEPHANIE: I feel as though my heart has been empowered. This is -- this is a panel full of Black role models. I know we had a number of Q&A questions that were coming through. We will hold those for our next webinar. We have a series. Before we actually close out for the night, Mervin has a performance that he would like to share. So again, I want to say thank you to our panelists, to the audience. Panelists if you don't mind going off screen at the moment and we will give the floor completely to our Mervin.

>> Much love. Thank you for watching.

>> I believe the children are our future. Let them lead the way. Let them share all the beauty they possess inside. Give them the strength of pride. I've decided long ago, I will never live in any one shadow. If I fail, I succeed. They can't take away my dignity. I still believe no matter what they take from me, they cannot take my dignity. Because the greatest love of all is to achieve. I found the greatest love of all within me. No audio.

>> STEPHANIE: Let me get my tissues. Hold on. Absolutely beautiful. It is giving me chills. I want to send love and hugs to you. Thank you for that.

>> Much love to all of you. I try, I try.

>> STEPHANIE: Yes, please join us for our next webinar, March 24th at 7 p.m. Um, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to us. Thank you so much for your time and attention. Love to everyone. And from NAD, we are saying good night.

>> Take care everyone.

>> Take care.

>> Powerful, all of you all.

>> STEPHANIE: Love you all. Thank you.

>> Much love.

The NAD is excited to host another webinar in the ‘Real Talk, Good Action’ series. Our next one is especially more important as we continue to celebrate Black History Month! Our webinar “Black Deaf Excellence” will celebrate individuals in the Black Deaf community; panelists will share their accomplishments and successes in mainstream society – participants will learn from their experiences. The stories and experiences will be kept raw and shared with no filter. Participants are encouraged to ask questions during the Q & A period. Join us on Thursday, February 24, 7-8:30p ET! 

If you are interested in attending this event live, please sign up to receive a link. If you’re not able to attend live, please do not register to allow others to participate live. The ‘Real Talk, Good Action’ webinar series will be recorded and made available online for anyone – we ask that you be mindful of this opportunity and sign up only if you are planning to attend live. Additionally, if you are hearing and interested in attending this webinar, we respectfully ask that you watch the recording when it’s made available after the event so Deaf people are able to participate live. 

Please consider a donation to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) so we can continue our advocacy efforts and plan important events like this series.

In case you missed others in the series:


Stephanie is smiling.Stephanie serves on the NAD Board as an Appointed Board member and is currently the President of the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf (MSAD). She currently works as a Deaf Interpreter Staff at The Learning Center for the Deaf. She has been involved in advocacy organizations such as Deaf Women of Massachusetts (President), National Deaf People of Color Conference (Co-Chair), Conference of Interpreter Trainers ('Dismantling Racism' Committee Member), Massachusetts Commission on the Deaf (Advisory Board Member) and more. She has two lovely kids and loves sports!
A Smoothly brown-skinned, Black Non-binary Creole African American artist, dark brown dreadlocs bun, almond dark brown eyes, wearing a baby royal suit jacket blazer, light peach shirt with three buttons.Mervin Primeaux-O'Bryant is a native of Lafayette, LA. He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he obtained his degree in Dance Performance & Choreography. He is an actor, director, producer, choreographer, international performer, and advocate. Currently, he's busy producing a feature documentary and spends time managing his Mervin Primeaux-O'Bryant foundation and serving on the board as a Co-founder of Def Lens Media. His creative journey has blessed him with many experiences; including with Quest Visual Theatre as an assistant director, and as a consultant for American Sign Language in theatre and music videos. He performed Gladys Knight & The Pips’ ‘Midnight Train to Georgia' and he was on Midnight Moment is the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition, synchronized on electronic billboards throughout 75 screens with Times Square nightly from 11:57 pm to midnight. He is a Wavy Award recipient. Donate: linktr.ee/MPOFoundation.
Traź is looking at the camera.Tiffany, also known as Traź, was born and raised in New York. Traź comes from a Deaf family and is proud for who she is. She currently works as a Teacher Assistant and a social media content creator. Traź has a huge love of art and creativity that makes her energetic vibes more bright!
Darrius is looking at the camera.Darrius Doe is a communications/marketing professional and a 2018 graduate of Gallaudet University. He currently serves as secretary for DC Area Black Deaf Advocates (DCABDA). Some things he enjoys: skateboarding, podcasts, video editing, and interpreting.
Imonie is looking at the camera. A Gallaudet alum devoting her time for educating communities about providing equitable communication access especially in the mental health field. She has advocated for deaf individuals experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, spreading awareness about healthy relationships. Imonie is currently studying at Columbia University for her masters in social work.


We value access and strive to make our meetings accessible and welcoming to all participants. The NAD is committed to access and all of the presenters have been provided with guidance on making their presentations accessible. We also provide accommodations to meet individual needs during the webinars. If you have a question about an auxiliary aid or service you requested on your registration, please email [email protected]. All webinars will be in American Sign Language (ASL) unless specified.
  • Our webinars are intended to be a safe, secure, and learning environment for all participants with the purpose of encouraging productive discussions
  • All participants are expected to conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner, and to show respect to everyone at all times without any form of harassment.
  • The NAD does not tolerate harassment of any kind, including but not limited to: race, national origin, age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, religion, or political affiliation. The NAD reserves the right to expel any person who engages in violations of this conduct policy, and also reserves the right to ban such person from future events. No refunds will be given to any person who has been expelled from the conference for violating this conduct policy.
  • Anyone can report harassment or inappropriate conduct. If any person’s behavior has made you uncomfortable, or if you witness inappropriate conduct towards someone else, please immediately contact any staff or security affiliated with the NAD.
By attending a webinar, you agree and understand that you are giving permission to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to obtain and use screenshots, audio, and video recordings at the webinar, without restriction or limitation for such use. You also agree and understand that you will not be compensated for the use of such photographs, or audio, or video recordings. You further agree and understand that if you do not want to be photographed or recorded in audio or video, you will notify [email protected] before the webinar.
NAD webinars may be free (with a charge only for CEUs) or might have a cost for registration. Any payments made towards registering for a webinar and/or the CEUs are non-refundable except for a medical emergency or a death in the family (written documentation is required).