Real Talk, Good Action: What Is Invisible Racism?
August 18, 2022
STEPHANIE: Hello everyone and good evening. I hope your summer has been going exceptionally well. I hope that you are ready to engage in the webinar tonight. And not get distracted by wishing you were at the beach. So tonight we have real talk, good action, what is invisible racism. I will go ahead and introduce myself. I am Stephanie Hakulin, I am the NAD's vice president I was appointed board member and now I am the vice president.
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We are gathered on the land of the indigenous Native Americans and we ask that you join us in acknowledging the community past and elders and present and as well as future generations.
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So here we have it. Tonight's topic is invisible racism. What exactly is that? The objectives of two nights webinar is to get a better understanding of what exactly is quote on quote invisible racism connecting the dots between leadership and ally ship and what are some key actions that anyone can do today so without further ado if we could have Kyle Amber, on screen. She is an employee at the Learning Center for the Deaf in Massachusetts, she is the chief of equity diversity and inclusion at the Learning Center so I want to turn it over to Kyle Amber for her to go forward and explain a little bit about herself and her role. We are delighted to have her here. Thank you so much for being here. I want to sit in the backseat and listen to what you have to share this evening. So Kyle Amber, thank you for being here.
KYLE AMBER: so I want to give a visual description. I have a blue background. I am female. I am racially ambiguous. I am multiracial. I am wearing glasses, clear framed. I have white hair that is short pixie. I have a V-neck dark green shirt that is sleeveless. First I want to honor the opportunity for me to be here this evening on this particular indigenous land. The [indiscernible] land where you want to indigenous people. So a moment of silence to appreciate past elders who [lived] on this land and we want to have a moment of silence for that. So let's all take a deep breath and think about the topic we are going to be discussing tonight. For those individuals that are learning for the first time or are in this work already I appreciate you having space here tonight. So the purpose of this is we want to have key points that we take away from tonight's presentation. As we gather in this discussion tonight we want to make a shift in terms of even my role here at the Learning Center. As Stephanie mentioned I am the CIO. I focus on organizational culture specifically. And making a shift on the organizational level. Of course that is not going to happen overnight. But how can we make small changes in terms of priorities such as racial equity what does that look like on an organizational level or people who come to the Learning Center for services, as faculty or staff, parents. How do we welcome them? how do they feel welcome, what does inclusion mean to them and how do we exercise exclusion. What voices are at the table, what voices are missing and how do we create spaces for that. So it is important that we recognize how we can unintentionally not be inclusive, how do we make repairs to the exclusivity. And how do we heal in that process. It is important that we recognize that we do make mistakes. And sometimes those conversations are not easy. Simply because fear of making mistakes and fear of how to address those. So we are here to create a space to talk about those. And that links to tonight's presentation. My work at the organization of the Learning Center, we are looking at organizational and cultural shifts. And that can be applicable to NAD as well and I am honored to have the opportunity to be here. I recently went to the Florida conference. And initially I was unsure if I should go. In terms of what is going on in our society that does have an impact on the decisions that I was making. It was a decision do I go to not go... And what would I contribute to that part of the NAD change? I did attend, and there was a lot of discussion that went on in terms of making a shift at NAD. So for those who did not have the opportunity to go, we are going to have a real-time discussion tonight to unpack some of the things that did transpire at the NAD conference. First I want to actually go ahead and introduce the esteemed panelists we have here tonight that will be a part of the real-time discussion. But first after we do that we will have a moment to go through my presentation. They will go off screen and we will bring them back on screen to engage further. So please come on screen. I want to go ahead and kick us off with Jenny, please. Can you introduce yourself?
JENNY: Hi this is Jenny Buechner speaking I'm a white woman with short brown hair and I have a black background this evening and I am the current president of the NAD.
KYLE AMBER: great thank you next Melissa please.
MELISSA: This is Melissa Draganac-Hawk. I am a light-skinned Latino woman wearing a black scooping neck and black glasses and I'm wearing a watch on my hand and I'm past president of NAD.
KYLE AMBER: great, thank you Melissa. Howard
HOWARD: Hi everyone I am a white man with a beard and a bald head I have got glasses and a blazer and a button-down shirt and a black background. I am Howard Rosenblum. And I am CEO and have been for 11 years now.
KYLE AMBER: excellent great, thank you all I'm very excited that you are here. I'm going to ask you to go off screen. I will go in my presentation just a little bit about what racism is and we will have you come back on screen to go further in the discussion. Thank you for coming on screen just now for me. I will go back. Yes so these are the three objectives for this evening. My hope that you would leave tonight with having a better understanding of what exactly is invisible racism. Secondly is connecting those dots. Leadership and ally ship. Where the dots lie. And thirdly the last objective is key actions that anyone can do as of today.So that is the goal that you will take away these three nuggets of actions from this workshop. Next slide please?
racism is real. When that comment is made in terms of invisible racism we think oh, there is no racism. But there is such a thing. Invisible means it is not seen. It does not exist. Oftentimes we talk about racism. Who is racist? who talks about racism? who has the privilege to not talk about racism? there's a variety of different contexts. Black and brown people discussing racism is centered on what? on typically systematic racism. Systematic racism, we have seen as you can see on this concentric circle that in the system or the core is systematic racism and that bleeds into all other facets. So it is not that we choose to be racist or that we choose to be exclusionary. But it comes from the system. The system has an intention and is designed for oftentimes people who are not Black and brown. That is white people so we have racism that's very important for us to understand that racism is not invisible. Because racism exists. Racism is real. So where is the invisibility with racism? that does not exist. We go about our lives on a daily basis and racism happens on a daily basis. Sometimes we can name it. And sometimes we cannot. Sometimes it's overt and sometimes it is covert. Many times and oftentimes racism happens in daily practice, through language and how we say things, when we are watching television how people are portrayed, the experiences people hold through media we see that somehow articles are written. All of that comprises of racism. Sometimes we think that again racism doesn't exist. But again, it doesn't matter whether it is intentional or unintentional. But it does exist. Racism can happen on an individual level. How one assumes about another person. How they assume about a group of people or they think why did they do that? Why are they doing that, what is the rationale why they made the decision for this individual racism. So we have created that judgment within ourselves but think about that. Where does that come from? it come from is where we have seen as a society and how we interpret that within ourselves and that has perpetuated our individual racism and it becomes more and more clear as we go about our lives. We start to see that is not right and we name it. Oh, wait that is not right either, and we name it. So there is a connection where we can name something and we also know what is going wrong and being able to put a label on that. More and more people are able to name and see racism and it's becoming uncomfortable. It is becoming uncomfortable for a number of reasons because it is causing harm. People are oppressed, people are being suppressed and not being seen. So it is very uncomfortable. Sometimes when we name something it causes harm but some people may say I did not intend to, but the intent is not same as the impact and if the impact happened how does one recover after the impact? So this is where we have to actually recognize that racism exists. Racism is real. And it impacts all aspects of our lives. I have experienced racism absolutely. I have had thoughts about other people absolutely. I can be transparent about that. We all do. Next slide please?
Bias. Think about that term. Bias. Oftentimes we deny, I deny I do not have bias I am not racist, I have Black friends I went out to lunch last week with my Black friends and I don't exclude people I am Deaf just like everyone else but oftentimes bias comes up. How do we actually unpacked that we do have bias? Sometimes we say that we love everyone. I would take in anyone. But bias still shows up. And again remember, that the things that we see on a daily practice, the language we use, the actions we take, all of that that we pick up from society, that can cause harm based on what we see and what we do and what we don't do about it. Oftentimes what we take in becomes part of the story that we tell ourselves. So when we see bias that comes, what are we understanding from the bias? how are we unpacking the bias, so if we get new information that challenges our bias how do we deal with that? how do we take that into consideration? social identities. Social identities are critical in how we function. One is apparent social identities and the other is hidden identities. I will use myself as an example. What you can see. I call myself racially ambiguous. Multiracial Female. That turned many people will assume about what race I am. They are thinking well she is light-skinned maybe she is from the Caribbean islands or maybe from another island outside of the US. But I am actually multiracial. But oftentimes people make assumptions. What are you mixed with? are you half Black or half white and they make all these grave assumptions as opposed to me taking the position to share that I am multiracial. Period. But some people are curious to know exactly what ethnicity are you. I want to know where are you from exactly. That is a great example that has an impact on who I am. I use as an example in terms of my racial ambiguity. Because it makes people stop and think well I am racially ambiguous. I have a racially multiracial... So it stops them from asking the questions any further. So I put a stop to that by saying I am racially ambiguous. I am also queer. I am a woman of color and I am Deaf. So these are for identities I just shared. And what you visibly see is the color of my skin. And that is what people see, what is visible to individuals. Until I start to sign and people realize gosh I am now Deaf. As a female it depends on my choice. How I dress. I wear heels. I have earrings. What have you and I'm designed in a fashion that fits what if you looks like. People will assume that I'm a female. But I can make a decision in terms of how I dress and if I'm actually a female and what that matches that of a female stereotype. So I show up and I know that I am nonwhite but people assume what does that actually so again people's bias shows up based on the assumptions they make about what I look like. I do have privilege as a light-skinned individual. I do have privileges that other people don't have simply because of the lightness of my skin. Going to the future of me being a woman. I have a specific role. I am educated as well. So I know that I'm a person who has education and that can be seen differently as well. So how people assume me or perceive me, it's all based on what the world has decided, what diverse quote unquote means. So we have to figure out how in terms we figure into this world being mindful of how we are in the world. What biases we have and what social identities we carry within the world. I am going to use one quick example. So I'm from the DMV area. DMV some of you may be like what does DMV stand for the DC Maryland Virginia area also abbreviated DMV. So for me being passed in the DMV area me and my wife went about life and what I was getting a job offer here in Massachusetts, I did have to take a [indiscernible] lament or positive you will to think what I want to move to Massachusetts? Why would I want to do that. It's not my hesitation because of my queer family. I know Massachusetts is quite queer friendly. I thought going to Massachusetts well I am Deaf, but I didn't really think too much about my deaf identity. They have a strong community in Massachusetts my children in terms of their school, both my children, one of them is a CODA one of them is Deaf and I know that I have I have two CODA children and one of them is Deaf and for me I know that there is support that is there. So for me to decide to move to Massachusetts, I was thinking there is a shift, my family is white and queer. And so... If my family were white and queer and I were to move... It would be a much faster move. If I was to uproot myself to Massachusetts because I wouldn't have to question color. So I am thinking about I did not have much privilege in that regard because moving to Massachusetts is predominantly white and myself as a Black or multiracial person I would feel some kind of way. So I had to think about if I should accept the job in Massachusetts or not. How would people really embrace me, how would I embrace the community and I felt like that was really important. For me to feel, my family to feel welcome for me to still have my strong identity even within the state of Massachusetts. I do stay within intersectionality by having the four character traits that I just mentioned that identify who I am but again, bias can come up for people. For any of those identities in terms of the assumptions that they think about those four identities. So if we consider the impact of individuals when it comes to race and racism, racism Is real Period. Period from an individual level I can think of my individual experience and we think on the local level the impact is so much greater it is systematic and discriminatory and the practices of exclusion are real. In order to try to get a job, to move up in the workplace, to connect with people in places of power, and navigate that, how are those oftentimes navigated through white folks. When you are working in life as a brown person how do you understand the barriers and opportunities and how do they both come into play? tonight we will talk about those opportunities and we will also talk about the barriers that create opportunities and vice versa. Next slide.
On the screen is an image of a mountainous peak. And underneath the peak is water with the opposing view of the mountain. And the sea level allows for thoughts and actions to be considered underneath, which I will refer to as intent, and behaviors on the top which is impact. Oftentimes we talk about the negative impact between the two. The cause of harm as I mentioned before, and the person who causes said harm, the person who experiences the harm. The person who is impacted by such behavior. So if there is discomfort because of bias or creating some sort of marginalization and then being called out on something, oftentimes the reaction is, but I did not intend to harm you. While the recipient of the harm says I understand that you did not intend, but you did, and you are now re triggering me because you are minimizing my experience. You are causing me more harm, you have impacted me in this way and now your emotions are something that I have to finagle. Because you cannot accept the account ability for that. So when you are the recipient of harm, how do you communicate impact versus intent? Because when the person who is the harm cause or says but I meant well, I am a good person. Regardless of you being a good person, good people cause harm. And that is something we have to acknowledge. So when we unpacked how we cause harm and how our impact in fact is intended in a positive and supportive way, but is received very differently, we have to talk about implicit bias. We have to open up the ownership and accountability of our actions and recognize that what we did caused harm. And commit to changing that. Commit to repairing those relationships. When somebody says you have caused me harm and they are recognized and thanked for the gift of being called out, that his account ability. And that is a commitment to repairing and sharing that knowledge with others. People oftentimes view this as a negative approach to the work of brushing things under the rug not talking about it because you did not intend to harm, your impact in fact was negative. So tonight we would like to focus on the pros the positivity of recognizing your thoughts and actions behind history culture and present and how the facts of the past impact the present and how we can shift the future. We are thrilled you are joining us this evening and we want for you to share your experiences with us. By allowing for NAD to share their experiences with racism. Thank you so much.
The PowerPoint disappeared. I wanted to make sure we all had access to it. Howard, Jenny and Melissa let's dive right in. Can we share your experiences? And before we talk about this, the biennial conference was held in Florida for NAD and there are some shifts that people talked about in terms of an organization and then we will talk about awareness. We want to define and accept awareness which is what I just mentioned in terms of accepting accountability. Then how do we dismantle those things that we were so very used to, so let's start with who would like to go first?
HOWARD: sure this is Howard I would love to jump in. When we were in Florida, it really impacted us in so many ways. We prepared for the conference very carefully. And we had not thought about... This is the first session after Black lives matter, after George Floyd, after all of these different issues that have happened, after Ferguson. All the unrest throughout the United States. The voting rights that were being suppressed throughout the country, all types of issues that were happening. In addition to that we had to plan for covid we had to plan for covid protocols and make sure everything was there knowing that there would be challenges just for the conference having the initial additional concerns. During that time there was also the discussion in Florida about Disney. And the laws that were passed not allowing you to teach certain civil rights in schools. Things that were anti-CRT, critical race theory. There was just a blowup on the different areas where they suppressed human rights throughout Florida at that time as well so we had to look at all these issues. And make sure that the conference was 100% safe, as much as we were able to. So it could not be 100% safe, but how could we make it more safe? In previous conferences we had done things that we decided we could not do this time. We had to look at trauma. There were so many people who had been traumatized and we were all coming together in one place. I really have to again express my thanks to the board. We discussed all of these issues in our planning time. We talked about our concerns. We did a lot of internal work looking at our own internal personal issues and as an organization we checked in with different affinity groups, different groups outside of NAD as well, with RID, with our own individual groups, with different affiliate groups as well just trying to find good ways to approach the conference, making sure that we included good ideas if there were things we could do looking at what we should not do. All of this was in discussion as we prepared for the conference and proceeded to be sure that everything was prepared for you all to come we wanted to include new ideas.
KYLE AMBER: would either one of you like to add to that?
MELISSA: Hi this is Melissa signing. Howard, you described it beautifully. And when we talk about the culture in Florida, and we had a lot of conversations with NBDA and RAD the rainbow alliance for the Deaf they had conversations about Black lives matter and the support they wanted from NAD. RAD was a previous affiliation with us, they were in affiliation but we disbanded the relationship sort of organically and they reconnected with us and included their perspective 100%. And we really wanted to push for the alliance and listen to their lived experiences and that is when we came up with a plan for our presence in Florida as a staff and NAD, and we wanted to make sure we worked together at those respective affinity groups. The first night we had the unity night. And we started off NAD maybe if I could share that now Kyle Amber or would you like me to hold.
KYLE AMBER: actually hold on that. Let's have others chiming in terms of partnerships. With other like you said affiliations, externally and internally so, actually if you do not mind holding on that but we will get to that yes. That's very important. Jenny did you want to share
JENNY: No, you pretty much covered everything already, but thank you.
KYLE AMBER: so collaboration. Right? how do we come together. It is not something we do in silo, but we have to work as a team taking the time to actually make sure is this something we proceed with? It is multilayered. So there's Covid protocols there was the [government] regarding the decision people what was going on in terms of the various cultures and how do you bring that together to hold the conference? to make sure that everyone is on the same page and everyone feels safe in that space. So thank you both for sharing what you did. Willingness to address adoption. I was wondering if you would be willing to share a little bit about what that looks like. Do you feel as though it is a challenge or do you feel as though it is easy for people to come together and have a willingness to address the issues that you were to sharing?
JENNY: this is Jenny signing. This is not something that NAD acknowledged it to happen in the moment, this is something we have been doing for years and years and years. And the board recognized the immediacy for training so while we have done training for every board meeting for folks to recognize and unpack and learn a variety of differences and isms specifically including racism, since Black lives matter the focus has been particularly on racism. We certainly have not pushed other isms to the wayside but we recognize the need to unpack together to work together as a board. And really to focus on what that means for us as an organization. We then divided into groups and we did a series of unpacking. Please remind me of the name of the group? The book title thank you. Me and white supremacy. I wanted to make sure that I use the correct title. It was a 28 day challenge for us to read together. Both the board and the staff. So that we can process through this as an organization. And it was not something that we wanted to do as a one and done. We understood that it would take years to truly start to unpack and knowing that Florida was sort of looming because of the laws that were passed we had to acknowledge that. The board already had opportunities to be invited into these places over the years and we were still upset over so many things because what did these laws in Florida mean for NAD? What did it mean for our relatives, friends, loved ones, members of our board and organization? What do these things mean. Racism. And homophobia. And when you combine the two, that was so [indiscernible]
KYLE AMBER: thinking about NAD as an organization it's nice for the audience watching tonight to know that we have been at this work for years, for decades. And it was not just the highlight of Black lives matter that caused this to start but this has been going on for decades within NAD. So you have not just been sitting back on your laurels, if you will regarding the isms at work about this has been an opportunity to see what has been at work for many decades and there's more action that still has to be done. And I believe Florida was definitely another highlighting moment through social media of what was going on in society at that time. How would that impact our safety, as Howard has mentioned. And I really tip my hat's to everyone that was involved with making the conference a success. Again it is really critical to understand that this was an inclusive process and that it's not something that happens overnight but it takes years and years to really truly be an inclusive... An inclusive organization and thinking about implementation. Right? what resources and engagement? What shifts have been made that we are adopting the resources and engagement of different organizations and being affiliated with us. Melissa did you want to chime in to say something or Howard?
HOWARD: ladies first.
MELISSA: what I had begun to say was to share about the unity night, and that time we were... We understood that the community was using the term people of color. And that term people of color was used to sort of interchangeably for a variety of affinity groups. And then when we had the board establish their training in 2006, we started to talk about what the internal issues were for the board that we wanted to focus on as a group. What were we doing to ensure inclusivity of people of color. Then 2008 came along, and one of our focuses, then I was chosen as an appointed board member and I was working with Kristen [posting] the two of us in tandem took a deeper look at what it meant to start the process of this training. And to see Kristen say here is the history of NAD, it was so alarming to see how systematically and systemically white NAD is. So if you imagine the establishment of NAD and then fast-forward Jenny already mentioned the 40 hours of privilege training, and that was for the Council of Representatives also known as COR that includes delegates and affiliates, they wanted to take the board trainings as well. So when it was brought to us it helped us ensure we could get the ball rolling. And to focus on what details should have been included in that training. I mention that because it ties into the isms that we talked about. Now in January 2016 I remember very well the board was in Atlanta Georgia. We invited Dr. Bettina Love, who is the author of the book, oh my gosh, what... Was it called, you should know more than survival. Am I saying that right? It is... She was... A professor at Georgia State. And she shared lived experiences. That she had. We then acknowledged all of the racism that was occurring and we were actively practicing. And we did not acknowledge it until we were able to unpack that book. And so there was an immediate shift. It was as though the lightbulbs went off on all of us and we dove deeper, harder, stronger. And of course, the tragedies of George Floyd and the Black lives matter focus that happened during the pandemic certainly highlighted things in a very different way and help me out because I am adding more things as time goes, but that was 2016 when we really started to focus in a way that was much more intentional. And for the audience, the board is not somebody who comes to this with knowledge and assumptions and knowing what we are doing. We are constantly learning. We also disagree with each other. We also have biases. We also have... Responses that are sometimes defensive. Because we don't know. And we can't just sit and listen. There are moments when we listen and that is exactly what we need to do. What we have to do in these moments is to listen and to act upon them.
KYLE AMBER: thank you Melissa for sharing that.
HOWARD: if I could just share a let's see... I think I came in 2001 and I had specific instructions that I need to be sure that all programs and services are diverse and inclusive. That was a goal. And with the staff, of course we are all learning together. And as Melissa mentioned, we do disagree at times. And of course we have had a turnover in the board members as well. So we have all these issues going on at the same time. We are trying to learn together as a group, trying to be sure we are all on the same page. Some people are picking things up pretty quickly. Some people are not quite as accepting and others are sharing their lived experiences. Some people have not seen those types of experiences and it is new to them. So all of these discussions were going on and then someone would switch out. There were not many but it did have an impact. We continue to this type of dialogue meeting together in person, because that of course affects the dialogue as well. The people are maybe more of an open book, maybe willing to share. We also shared just within our staff. Of course George Floyd and Black lives matter happened and other isms. Of course we are looking at everything, how does it impact us? What do each of us bring? what have we been looking and missing? What have we not talked about thus far? because obviously these issues have been occurring all along and we as an organization have not been aware of it because we don't know what we don't know. So we had to seek advice and counsel from others. To show is basically a broader picture of racism and what we didn't realize. Even recent things that have happened helped us become more aware. They may not have been intentional just as you talked about intent versus impact. They still had a strong impact on others. And it was not acceptable to say I did not mean to cause harm. No. You had to be accountable and accept that and try to stop the harm. So everything we do we looked at all the services we provide and the programs and what we post on the website. We did a deep dive into the organization and try to look at how we could support all of the constituent groups that rely on NAD. It is not about us at headquarters. It is about how we can work with the Deaf community at large and make the committee has some type of improvement. And not to toot our own horns but to be collaborative in the growth process and effort.
KYLE AMBER: this is Kyle Amber speaking here as Melissa was saying, going back to the point about the community and recognizing that the work is not a one and done occurrence but it is continuing. Harm happens through policy, how policies are written. Information is shared. How community folks receive information. It is very real in many ways and at the same time, we have to move forward and we have to make progress. So again it is not going to be a perfect process in an overnight fashion. If that was the case not be having this discussion but again it is a journey. And we have to recognize that there's still more for us to always learn. Like Howard just mentioned, people come in and out. There are shifts that are happening. There's turnover that happens but again it is about the journey and how we unpack racism on a collective level but also an individual level. It is impact versus intent. So we have to see the intent that has happened and the impact that has ensued, so we have to recognize that we are going to make mistakes. And recognizing that, how do we process the mistakes. How do we celebrate even small wins. I look at my organization at the Learning Center and it is tough being there sometimes feeling alone as a woman of color in leadership. But it requires myself to have a determination, to have a spirit of patience, to really continue on in this work it requires people to meet where they are and to know sometimes where they have been is not currently where they are. So how in my patient in that process. We see a little bit of shift and that is a win. Even prior to Black lives matter we offered 40 hour training seminar that is a one and done deal and maybe things will shift and that did not happen. So that is something that we continue with. But even like you just mentioned. Inviting Dr. Bettina Love, and reading her book and learning from her. It is something that is unprecedented and I think it is important that we continue on with always having that support and knowing if something is happening, how do we actually showcase that and talk about it and deal with it. It is important like I mentioned as you mentioned Dr. Love, the author who has been a traveling presenter. Where they talk about real narratives that have happen to people and showing graphics, how do we show more narratives versus actual information. So there's different levels of impact and the application can look different so tying that to currently what we're doing in our practice where are we now. Where is NAD now, where were we in Florida? So I want to move on to the next slide because I do want to connect the dots for us. Because where are we? Where are we in this journey at NAD? Have we had the opportunity to reflect have we had the opportunity to discuss or debrief about some of the occurrences that have happened. How have we learned? what have we learned? What are some of the gaps that are still going unfilled. So there is still more work to be done and I'd be curious to know in terms of what does the work look like. That still needs to be done. Yes Jenny.
JENNY: Kyle Amber, you asked if it was a job well done and no, the answer is we can always improve. So looking back on each of the conferences, yes they certainly have gotten better. In paces and pieces. You are never perfect the first time you do something nor the second or the third. So we did have what we called a safe space room for a particular affinity spaces. So individuals could take literally a physical and mental break from spaces that either were triggering or caused harm or both. Obviously we learned that that did not work well. People did not feel welcome in those spaces either. So we had an internal group do an analysis on what we could do to improve that. I was not a participant because I did not feel I was the right person to be a part of that but I do look back and say that we did make an attempt to do better and we always asked what we could do. We asked it from the community, from the participants and we did make those shifts. And what we had was lounges. We changed the terminology we realized because then folks saw this as a place for me. So the lounges we had, there were specific to communities that offer comfort to each other. Black indigenous people of color, individuals who were on the LGBTQIA2+ spectrum and the third group that we had was for Deaf blind individuals and the intent is for us to improve for those particular lounges or community spaces because we are learning from this recent conference what we can do better. So there are several affinity groups there are several groups that we have met with that have shared feedback. There are also taskforces and particular subgroups that we have focusing on the planning. The community. The partnering with organizations, the work and so on and so forth. And to get all of those particular individuals together simultaneously is difficult to schedule. Our intent is to have, allow for that to happen but it is still a work in progress. Some people may say it has only been two months since the NAD conference has ended and you're already planning for the next biennial and that is true because it takes a lot of time and ask the volunteers and staff and board and participants and so forth. Because while it looks as though there's magic behind the curtain that makes it happen, it takes a village and our intent is to always make it better.
KYLE AMBER: right. So again, it is not something that is ever done. There is still more to the process. Like you said, there's a lot of hands that are involved in this process. Volunteers. Leadership. And thinking about how are we all dismantling systematic oppression. How are we working together to see racial equity? Or to see equity at large? we see within society there is in equity. So if we think about equity on a level that's an organizational level how are we doing so when we are hosting these conferences, so that they are spaces that are welcoming. And it is about equality not just equity. What changes do we need to make? What improvements need to be made? It's not just a one day process. As you said, that you had lounges of folks, places for folks to go find comfort. That is action. There was investment that was made to make the action happen and that speaks volumes. So again it is not just statements or talk that is happening but you are doing the work I'm seeing there's actually action behind the words that are being said. So I hope that continues. Melissa did you have something to share?
MELISSA: during the NAD conference the board can be never evening so yes we worked from 11 PM to midnight on a daily basis to ensure that everything was happening in the ways that we intended it to happen. we also have a Council of Representatives focus on individual expenses and we received individual feedback during the day as well when he had the conversations the board trained ourselves before in how to address those situations that would be acceptable. We had a no tolerance policy that racism was not okay. We had scenarios that were created for training and videos and how to respond to particular things that may or may not arise when you're at the conference so we could take action. And sure enough there were things that occurred and we had to take action. We also received feedback on how we approach things and we did a lot of peer mentor ship in those moments while going through the processes we also started the next day as a new day we move forward with the intent of continuing. So that was how we did it.
KYLE AMBER: oftentimes you know people go to conferences and what they learn they forget the next day. So that continues that knowledge is not forgotten and you continue to practice on a daily basis post conference. It's nice that even after one day the next day would have the debrief for the discussion. So people have the opportunity to sleep on or meditate on what was being shared. So I think that again a lot of investment in time was placed into the efforts that were made and it's great to really see the amount of work that was put into that. To create a space where people felt welcomed and included.
HOWARD: Yeah on top of that I would like to say that oftentimes there were people who felt they had some type of oppression and they wanted to get together and have a discussion. They felt kind of pushed down and we would say no, hold off on that we can get together and discuss that right now. So after we did that it helped us know how to change policy and function better not just to say well that happened it and keep it moving but also to hear what people had to say. I think this is the first one since 2012 where I saw so many things that were added and were different. Of course everyone was very helpful with that. I think we really had to emphasize more than ever before there was no tolerance for any isms. We emphasized that multiple times but it was on the registration form. When you arrived it was posted in the venue. It was shared and other information sessions at the beginning of core and again emphasized to the delegates. So that was to influence behavior and when we saw troublesome behavior we quickly responded.That was the result of all of that earlier thoughtful planning and discussion that we had. Because we need to show support for those who feel like they are being made less than.
KYLE AMBER: so having a less fear when people were to come in I think it's really important for people to recognize that those experiences may come up, but identifying them. And being able to see them. So the people can say, any ideas and result can take action. And then what ends up happening is people see the action NAD took is not just talk. So it is sort of like mental mindfulness. And when people take a particular position they make a connection with something that was either wrong or right about a particular action and that connection sticks. So people talk. We understand business is business so let's create a space where it's not about business it's really about welcoming. And at the irony ever moving 70 from a place that causes heart because it's not acceptable and people can't just say but this is a business. I need to allow for everybody to be here because heart [indiscernible]
MELISSA: I just had one more thought when you were speaking. I just wanted to mention that hmm... We often reviewed our actions. And that is one approach. Yes. But you don't want to get rid of everything you have done before. So when we had COR and all the representatives and delegates were together we had a training together. Where we talked about all of this type of experiences and how we would approach it and we have been doing the training since 2012. So there were some people who would say well I really didn't know. That this was an oppressive environment for delegates but when the delegates were voting on their five priorities the board had been working on this for a while and people brought up that they did not feel equally involved in the process. And we had to realize that we had to be a bit more careful about thoughts and how things were expressed. People were unintentionally offending one another because they had not quite taken to heart these types of trainings that they needed to have. I do remember in 2016 we talked about micro aggressions. It was a popular word and a new word to many so we did send homework before before we came together so people could learn more about that. Many people did not know what it meant at all. And I understand that. Dr. [indiscernible] came and processed us through all of that. And of course everybody went back to their own worlds. So we don't know how well that information was internalized. And it didn't seem like it really did get internalized and then of course we had Covid so we were not able to retrain at the time but we realize we need to do more training before we came together as a body. So we did. We had delegate trainings several times. And one was including a video, I would not show all of it but one included a video that we thought the delegates would benefit from. We actually had multiple videos that actually showed you through role-playing etc. about different kinds of situations and such as the use of pronouns, why the appropriate use of pronouns is important and why mis-engendering is an issue and we saw difference after that. Once people got the really direct visual type of training, we started to see it impacting and it became better than it was before the training. So we realized we can't just have talking about it outside of the meeting and have the complaining environment. We needed to do the training, and it just made such a more progressive environment environment more resourceful. We had to provide the training and resources and the delegates and once we did that it spread out more into the broader communities so that was a benefit of the trainings.
KYLE AMBER: thank you Melissa for sharing that. It's a work in progress. Mistakes will happen but it's important there's a shift that still can happen in training and training over time. As I said it's not a one and done it's a continual process. For it to finally stick and for someone to truly comprehend what is going on. You are learning to the process being mindful of your language. Being mindful of how you say things what is the motivation behind it. All of that is bringing that to the forefront of your mind and being mindful. That is a practice that we need to start to put into action to be mindful. What is this it requires being critical and thoughtful of your actions and words before you present. Take a moment before you say something and how it will impact, how it will include or exclude someone so again it goes back to what I was sharing about biases and how we see the potential of how that can impact the bigger picture. How much hard it because based on the spices. Seeing how we use language and prioritize certain things. Offering a different perspective on particular topics. Nonetheless, thank you so much, Melissa, for sharing what you did. Next slide please?
Here we have it. We see all three of these aspects are interconnected. All three of us that's it on the screen are leaders. And what exactly does that mean? People have a particular role. They have power dynamics. It starts from the top. From those decisions that are made from top down. And how we look at leadership. It's a social process that enables people to work together because as a cohesive group to produce collective results. Who needs to be involved? who needs to be at the table? and if they are not at the table, why? How do we come together to see the three sections intertwined? Looking at the multi-perspective decision. Direction commitment and alignment. How do we see racism that may come up or audism or what have you what kind of ism are we seeing and how does alignment play into that? Organizations versus on a community level or state level. On a national level. How do we bring all of these levels together to look at them together and to make a commitment. So we have direction, alignment and commitment, and how do we make this a success? It's not necessarily about a black-and-white success or failure, but how do we make progress. I think that the conference that happened in Florida with the NAD is a beautiful example because I remember the first night, I got I was going back and forth if I should actually go to the conference in Florida. I was just thinking, could I support tourism in Florida. I wasn't sure. Again it was something myself as a queer individual I wasn't sure. I was at a crossroads. I am a person who, I am all for change. I want to be part of that change. But I was not sure if I should go. But I decided you know what? let me go. I am one person and I know that many others were coming in, folks ever going to be touring at Disney what have you. Were going for the beaches, family members what have you visiting family. And I am thinking will I be one person that can make the change? but I decided to go. And I know a lot of the laws that were being passed in terms of going against the RT or do not say gay law all of those that were going on it was something that I felt as though I needed to be a part of two create the change and to create a brave space for individuals to come. I wanted to have, to see that there would be a space for people who would have a brave space there. For people to take action, that this could happen but how do we create space even in the midst of this. And to see the NAD take that stance is a game changer. So to see the change happen, again the leadership is not just one person but leadership is a process actually. It is not just an individual person. It means that we actually are able to be here together to make the space and to make the changes. So I am wondering if you would be willing to share a little bit about how your journey as a leader has been. I know when you mentioned about the kickoff night, the unity night, and what was the result of that. Can you share just a little bit about your experience in leadership than?
MELISSA: this is Melissa signing. I can say without a doubt the entirety of the conference was stressful. It was difficult. We did not know if we could actually be successful. We were navigating those emotions personally and professionally. And we had to take a step back to understand that the Deaf communities have access and don't have access to a variety of information including critical race theory and what did critical race theory meaning in Florida? What did the laws mean in Florida? What could we educate folks on in the time and space we had? So when we had our delegates and staff and board and individual volunteers in our trainings we were trying to move in ways that allowed for those type of education. We started with explaining what was happening because people needed to understand that in a very transparent way. So what law was passed was our first step. How it impacted people was the second step. We also shared that the law in fact oppressed Deaf children who did not have an opportunity to talk about perhaps the families that they had. They could not have this conversation at home. Often the children that were affected were people who didn't have signed language in their own home, so they couldn't have a conversation anywhere because it was not allowed in school it was not allowed at home. So literally they were told not to say anything. What we were doing was encouraging dialogue. That was the entire point that we felt was critical to be in the space. And then we thought who should we have talk about these things? Who could be the speakers? And they both did an incredible job. The speakers that we had included NBDA representatives ---Deaf represented as the Florida Association for the Deaf got up and shared their perspective and they talked about partnership. And partnership from there on out, and respecting there are differences and to highlight the differences and they would share those spaces and there were several workshops that have the conversations. And that folks were open. We also had a lunch that allowed core conversations to be shared and witnessing that was really such a gift because this was much more of an open forum. I can say that in many ways the NAD had private spaces where people had conversations that were not welcome in public spaces. Now this also allowed for being in person with folks, and you can't deny that even though Zoom is a fantastic piece of technology there's nothing that beats being in person. So all this work really took a lot of conversation, a lot of processing and a lot of unpacking to get to the point where we could take particular action and for those of us who were working inside of NAD who had the good fortune of these processes inside and outside of the organization, we did have a few people come to us and say what is really going on here? This conversation allowed for these processes and discussions that we had internally as a board. So folks had the opportunity and felt very welcomed and open to have the conversations and to ask the questions. Jenny and Howard? did you want to add anything?
HOWARD: sure. This is Howard. This entire talk about leadership, hm... Unfortunately there is both good and bad leadership out there. Many examples of it. We realized none of us have the single answer. All of us are figuring it out together. In addition to that, we are seeking input from other sources outside of our core group about strategies, should we do something, should we not do it and why, and having more in-depth discussions. What are we doing wrong? just opening up the pathways of communications to help set a trend for the entire conference of openness throughout the entire week. Of unity. Of the same spirit of everyone is in it together. Of understanding one another. We may not agree on everything but we can respect one another, and that can be a common expectation. So that was really helpful. And everything that we sent out, we talked about that. So all of the information that we sent out was to help the community learn together. Especially through video posts. We did have training for the delegates. I wish the training was available for anyone who wanted it. What we saw in those rooms with the four days with the delegates was a lot more collegiality, a lot more understanding and empathy, more congenial discussions, much more imagination and ideas, as we discussed priorities etc. So why can't that happen throughout the whole community and throughout all of our membership? So we wish we could break down isms in that manner. I think we have a wonderful team who is developing a curriculum. Hopefully that will be available to be dispersed. And then we will be able to include even more information from other groups and other leaders. In that context. It is transforming how people see us and how we work together.
MELISSA: this is Melissa signing again. Can you share, you mentioned unity in spirit, can you share with spirit would look like for folks who were not present
HOWARD: that is one of my favorites, go ahead, Jenny.
JENNY: Sure. We wanted to be sure the space was affirming. That we recognized and support whatever everyone is bringing to the table. So for four days we had a session... And then we had a different theme for each of those days. The first was LGBTQ+2S and we had different clothes affirming the community in identifying the community. We also had one for BIPOC. And people brought whatever they wanted to wear that show their affinity with the group as well, and we also had just, we had another night for Deaf which you could show your Deaf organizations and pride etc., your spirit. Almost like spirit week when you were in school. Every night had a different scene.
KYLE AMBER: really that his spirit week. It really does have an impact. With my organization every Wednesday... We can or something that has something to do with social change or social justice. And the entire starts conversations. People say what does your shirt say? Oh! I don't understand what it means, can we have a discussion about it? It could be related to any particular topic. Is a teaching moment right then and there. So it could be transformative justice. Decolonization. Those are all conversation starters. Just based on a T-shirt. So does everyone have to do that? No. But the executive team has started to do that. We are wearing those and we are in allyship with one another and we see that it has spread to the community at the learning ship or other programs or departments who get on the bandwagon with that. So again it is another way to support small businesses or Black and brown owned businesses or Deaf owned businesses that is the ecosystem network just by doing a small action like wearing a T-shirt. It's a conversation starter in the way of social justice. We started to see those changes and shifts start. So the spirit week I was very excited because every day I said what is it going to be? But even at the Learning Center I always think of what shirt I'm going to wear because it is intentional. Sometimes I have a couple of them that I want to wear but I'm excited that I'm continuing to do more shopping so that those opportunities when I wear the shirts are again something that opens up change, discussion and education. So really, it is an opportunity for us to open up a conversation, learning, just based on those spirit weeks. It has an impact not just on me, but others as well. When we speak about on the unity event, you know, when we think about what did we bring to that event, right, it is not something that we just talk about and forget about, but it is something we actually think what exactly does unity really mean? What does it look like? What does that actually entail? It is a powerful experience that happens when one goes into explaining about what that looks like. It is about inclusion. It is about factual statistics as well. And again, we want to model this. We want to model what the process looks like in terms of having these discussions. And how we can actually build partnerships even with other organizations as the NAD mentioned RAD or NVDA, or other organizations it's a great way to have affiliations and partnerships with us. And seeing the NAD board being involved with the organization's cause is a collaborative spirit and lessens the marginalization that happens. It causes inclusivity by being a part of those different organizations and also creates a spirit of empathy as well. I will say that that night I was a bit nervous. I was not sure what it would look like. I definitely wanted to have... I was all in though. I was all in for that event. It was something I realized that it had an impact on myself. And it was really, it was a powerful. I would have to say, it was powerful to behold. I feel as though even just walking back in time right now, I can kinda feel the chills even this evening, but again, it is something that was very powerful and beautiful night. So I am seeing everything we are talking about tonight ties back into the topic of leadership leadership is a process and change and coming together that we have to challenge what we know, challenge what we don't know, challenge what we see and what we do not see. What the gaps are and how we fill the gaps. Those are the challenges that we face. And I think that the NAD is well on their way with that. Next slide please?
Here we have a quote from Audre Lorde. This is one of my favorite poets, a Black queer artist a poet. And they often share about liberation. The quote says without community there is no liberation. And the quote is something that is something that has been riveting for me. If we think about shackles on a woman, on a person of color, they are queer, and they are female, Audre Lorde that is and if you think about the experience of sexism, racism... And what is the last one, what am I saying, one more. Black queer and women. They are female so the experience of hetero sexism. They have those three isms that are at work but if they didn't experience those, that is liberating for them they are free from the shackles and bondage . I think that is a way, that once they have if they are not experiencing racism would they feel comfortable being a person who is female. Or not experiencing hetero sexism what are they experiencing? That is a liberating if they are not experiencing those things. And that is her whole point of the quote. Saying without community there is no liberation. So I want to open up this to... The panelists in terms of what does the quote mean to you and the NAD?
JENNY: so this is Jenny. I feel that community is so important. We all have our own journey. We all have individual experiences and we need community and we need to listen to everyone. We need to include everyone. We can't afford to exclude anyone or to just look at our own individual path and ignore everyone else. We need to hear everyone's voice. We need to see their journey. And to remove any barriers to that. We have to learn together. So we may be in different places, individually and that is fine. But it is how we work together to push and pull one another. So I may, where I am at that moment, I may not be 100% aware and understanding of a particular experience but someone else who may know more than me can push me. And I can be challenged to learn more. There may be others who don't have similar opportunities and I can pull them along. So they are also learning so I think it is important that we have the push and pull challenge. So that requires community. It requires us to work together in order to have those connections so we all move forward together. If we don't work together we are going to stay in the same place. We will be stuck and not change.
KYLE AMBER: Howard or Melissa do you want to add?
MELISSA: Jenny, you took the signs right off of my hands. When community gathers... Ally ship happens. And you can see folks magnetized towards each other when they are acting on things. And I often have three reminders. When I am in space. Accountability, consistency and trust. And you can't have anything without trust. So if you are in a space where you cannot trust anybody then of course action is not going to happen. Consistency is important because nothing is a one-time thing. You have to continue to do things in order to create and gather community. And if folks are not listening to each other , then none of us will be free. Just as Audre Lorde says we have to work through these good, bad or indifferent.
KYLE AMBER: trust consistency and accountability. Those are three critical key is required for the process. If there is no trust, then how do you process with the person or process an event? So being able to recognize that to continue to do the work we must have all three of those consistency accountability and trust.
HOWARD: Well, Jenny and Melissa have already said so much I suppose one point I could add is that my core of who I am, I'm an attorney. So I look at how society can improve as a system. How we can get to liberation for all of us. And as I look back over the years I have been here, I realize that the laws are weak. We may think that the laws are really strong and will help resolve many issues that we currently are concerned about, but what we are starting to realize politicians, legislatures etc., society even, they are changing things to fit their own interests and we are realizing that they are not really focused on what we need. What will benefit us as a whole. So for liberation, equity, equality, from it is not coming from the law, it's not coming from the government. It is coming from the community. We have to work together. We have to support one another. We have to find ways to be sure that everyone is respected, and yes, that includes accountability, trust and what was the other one? consistency. Thank you.
MELISSA: consistency. Yes.
HOWARD: yes so we definitely need to be together. We need to listen to one another. Our country is in a really difficult position right now. There's a lot of fear. There is a lot of aggression and danger. People are fighting against their oppression, oppression is trying to continue to maintain their status quo. So we need to fight together to have that liberation occur.
KYLE AMBER: it's interesting because people say, oh you know, go vote on the national level, but thinking about that larger scale, or even a smaller scale, we can pull people in to come together to navigate this together. How can we figure this out together, on an individual level and a collective level. In order to advance equity there is an emotional burden toll on people. And it really starts on an individual level. How do we unpack how do we look at our own bias? How do we see what we are doing, as opposed to just ignoring what we are thinking or ignoring the actions that have been taken. But how do we unpack our bias and recognize our bias, and what does that mean? How do we explore it further to make the actual requisite change. How do we bring our self into spaces, in the collective space where we allow for agreements and disagreements to happen. And before we disagree, how do we actually listen for understanding? How do we listen for getting a better awareness of what the person is actually sharing? It's okay to disagree. To agree to disagree. But how do we embrace another person's perspective? how do we effectively listen to one's narrative or experience so that it increases the knowledge or to understand from another lens. How do we learn and leave with more awareness or more knowledge about another person or another culture? We are enlarging our landscape of knowledge about cultures and individuals. About the world. You mentioned about laws. Laws are intentionally ambiguous. Laws are there, and where we actually have that ambiguity that causes a challenge of ideology. So we talked about bias. Going, collective direction, leadership, unpacking. It is all a part of the journey and figuring out how we can actually model this and so at the NAD conference it was an exact example of this. So tonight during this discussion, this was an opportunity to share with the community at large what would you like them to take away? What are some of the privileges that people may have and where people are involved and can use the privilege to do dismantling, or to create change?
Thank you for being a part of this conversation to advance racial equity. Thinking about trust and doing a deep dive into dismantling. How do we leverage our previous experiences where we can apply the change for the future. Thank you for being a part of this group. And thank you, NAD, for sharing the space with me. I want to say thank you to everyone for watching.
I want to talk a little bit about ally ship. Ally ship has many different definitions. So my question is I guess a lot of us have that passion and desire to have an allyship and do the work on an individual level but what would you wish from the audience in terms of how can they engage on this work, and embark on this work with you all? Who wants to take a stab at it? Which one of you? Yes Jenny.
JENNY: Well, the others have started previous question so I guess I will go first. I do have the NAD to thank for encouraging me to be more curious about racism, about what I can do. I do know I still have a lot to learn. Definitely. I admit that. I am really committed to taking the time and trying to see things from other perspectives rather than just saying why are they doing that. Let me stop and go back and look at situations differently. See what barriers may be there. See if racism is also at play. In other isms. And what can I understand from that before I just react. I want to continue to read more as well. I feel that it's been really busy, but I am finally taking the time to do some reading for myself. And I am appreciating that so I want to get back to reading more and of course having the group discussions, this type of dialogue about what we are learning, about the isms, about being an ally. I read Ibram Khendi's book about being antiracist so the book I have heard about and I do want to read it but I have not read it yet. It's on my list I'm intending to read it shortly. And getting ready to dive into the type of work and into more of these types of thoughts and do some unpacking there.
KYLE AMBER: thank you for sharing that. And being a part of the conversation. Yes Howard.
HOWARD: Sure. I'm also learning. I'm also always learning and I know sometimes I will make mistakes. And that doesn't mean that I am going to say I did not mean to do it. No. I will own it when I make a mistake. I am in a powerful position, a position of privilege as a leader at the NAD. As CEO, as an attorney. I need to help shift the environment both internally and broader throughout the community. I need to maintain connections with different organizations, leaders, developed the friendships and check in periodically to see what else I can do. Lead from behind or encourage more mentorship from them. I really do appreciate the organizations who have pushed me. Some of them are far ahead of me. They have learned a lot more and they say Howard, you need to look at this and I say all right. Tell me what I need to understand and I try to learn more. I have worked with consultants. I really appreciate the consultants who have helped our team. We have learned a lot from them and we crave more of that. But we have a lot more work to do. So what can people do right now? Be open to learning. Be open to understanding. All of us have bias. How can we work together? how can we support one another without trying to take over and take the credit for something that we have done. Just assume that you have privilege. [Laughter] and go ahead and be willing to learn more. And because you have the privilege does not mean you know more than someone else. It is important to be open to the perspectives and to learn. Let's try to dismantle racism and barriers and change things for others. I think that everyone needs to be willing, needs to be open. Needs to be teachable. And hopefully we will have a curriculum ready soon to share with everyone. When you look at that curriculum hopefully it will help us all and it will be accessible for the Deaf community so there will be some readings. So I do understand that the material may not be as accessible to everyone so of course we need videos and ASL as well. So we are working on that curriculum now.
KYLE AMBER: thank you Howard yes Jenny I see you wanted to add on.
JENNY: I do, this is Jenny, thank you for that really. What I realized was my comment was more individual and I also recognize a is that that doesn't mean that I'm only focusing on me. I certainly do want to share my individual journey and also I want to share that for the NAD I do want to continue doing what we have already been doing and then some. We have been doing, building and creating four years whether it be teaching staff and partnering and so forth I want to continue that and that affects me as an individual. In such positive ways. So I hope that inspires others to continue that work. And the board itself knows that while we certainly are changing and we come in and out of these roles we need to continue that legacy. And share with the community so we can continue inspiring them. And then intern for them to inspire us to continue the work as an organization. I can't remember exactly when it was but it was about two years ago and it was at the conference. And I saw this idea that we should have a training with the organizations that are specific to racism. And people were a bit taken aback by it. And it is time that we stop being taken aback by it. We can no longer ignore thanks. We can no longer allow for affiliate organizations to behave in ways that feel as though they are making the rules. And they don't feel accountable. So we are not just a training on a national level but a local level and we want to help those respective organizations with the same approach I mentioned before. The push and the pull. Whether it be the community organization itself.
KYLE AMBER: Right, so you are talking about the individual level but also the national level but being able to recognize that you know, when information is come up how do they connect the dots on an organizational level. And having it accessible for all for example. Having it in American sign language. How do we start the work by saying that it is time now. Right? How do we go forward. The time is now. I know in the past maybe there's been not such a great turnout of delegates in the past. But now we see there's been a change in leadership. And people interested in going, who are interested in being a part of what the NAD is doing and changing. And people are holding themselves accountable and how do we continue to model the on a national level at the NAD level that is. So it is little actions that make big waves. And creating space to do that work. On an individual level but also on a state level and national level as well. Where other programs are running, we see that we are creating change together even in small ways. So thank you, Jenny for sharing that. Melissa did you want to add?
MELISSA: this is Melissa signing. I second what Jenny and Howard said. I am beyond humbled to be working under the auspices of the NAD for the past several years and I have learned so much from them and their trainers and for the last two years we have had the largest membership of Black indigenous people of color on our board, comparing 2008 to currently we see issues arise as if they were dandelions. And in the last two years we have literally seen this uprising of growth in every single issue, and a willingness to have this conversation. So I want the audience to see that while we are all learning in these spaces, you don't have to take a formal training to learn. Your friends can beer trainers. Your neighbors can be your trainers. Social media. Instagram, tiktok, Facebook, there are so many incredibly accessible mediums and folks will reach out and say did you see this particular Instagram? and I may have missed it, and when I see it it sparks a conversation at the dinner table. I am fully surprised by my son who is 18 years old and has different thought processes that I do and I learned so much from watching movies, reading books, connecting with individuals and it does not take signing up for an official workshop or a training. That is one avenue but there are also many other ways. And there are more and more people aware of lifting and holding space for people and it really happens in a variety of venues whether it be the workspace, the personal space, university, higher Ed, corporate America. Also from, actually there's actually people who are talking about racism at the [indiscernible] I am seeing conversations have most innocuous spaces really does about the individual is to have these conversations where as before maybe people were afraid to say the wrong thing or they did not know it was nothing that was happening and I have seen this really healthy shift to these conversations.
KYLE AMBER: social media. Social media is power. It is a powerful tool. It is a place for sharing of information. It is an opportunity to see even biased information. And where we can actually search for the truth, search for all the facts. It is better for us to have a conversation to actually be able to understand really what is going on. It shifts our perspective and our thinking and also questions our thinking. Where has the thinking come from? is it from our values? Our upbringing? it's good to have that discussion because it can bring to light our thought processes there are people who are in our society where we decide to maybe just focus on the change that could happen as opposed to what is not being changed. So thinking about how we can be more open to really impact planting the seeds. How we can see people grow as a people in the audience watching tonight starting a conversation. It could even be this conversation is a seat that is now being planted and questions can answer from the conversation being involved on estate level or national emails continuing to have conversations if I do talk about these issues. We see it for different ways. Maybe having conversations about social justice or racial injustices. We are seeing those conversations happening across the globe. And we can have those here as well. We can even start our own 21 day racial justice campaign or something to some sort, or discussion group. That is all part of the community at large. So again I think it is an opportunity for us to do some sharing, and also I think it is important, people tend to turn an eye to vulnerability and that is not a sense of weakness but vulnerability means being open, being transparent. And showing your authentic process. Authentic process of un-learning and sharing of the stakes. That is vulnerability built on relationships are built on rapport with the person. Again I want to say thank you for continuing to do the work and on behalf of the community we see it. We acknowledge it and we are asking for you to continue doing the work. I am committed. After tonight watching the dialogue that has transpired here tonight I'm committed to being more involved with NAD. I'm not just going to sit back on my laurels and have my hands tied, in sale, they are going to do the work. But I want to be part of the change and be a part of the process that you all are going through. I want to be in hand with you all. And I want to figure out how I can start with small actions. How can I make a particular, plant the seed of maybe doing a BIPOC section for example. DRC for instance, the dismantling racism committee, or there is a BIPOC committee those are two small action items but I'm going to contribute to that. I'm going to be involved with seeing the fruition of those two committees. I'm going to contribute my time and donate my energy. With that being said does want to tag in and add?
MELISSA: I did want to take place because I wanted to check in with Jenny and Howard first, but if I could share with folks about , the DRC the dismantling racism committee there's a priority proposal that was created in 2020 at the national convention and it was passed, and the committee was gathered... I believe there were 10 of us that had been consistent to folks have been in and out of the committee and dismantling racism is a ginormous topic and we struggled at first to decide where to start and it took us two months to figure out a game plan and when we had to jump and we developed a survey prior to making those decisions. We then sent out the survey and questions that were asked included identity, age, some other demographics, what folks would like to see from the NAD when it comes to dismantling racism. And what types of trainings. And I want to say they were 15 questions in total. Surprisingly, this was the largest number of responses we received on any survey. I want to say it was close to...
HOWARD: close to 300
MELISSA: I know it was much more than that it was about 7 to 800. And to take a look at what the responses were it was really so telling. It was definitely predominantly white folks that responded. Oh, I am getting Stephanie is saying 700. Thank you Stephanie. And folks filled out the trainings that they would be interested in whether it be restorative justice, racial justice, intersectionality, what have you, we chose the top five and we created webinars like we're having tonight, the real talk series and we have held them on a monthly basis since the beginning of the year. And those were based on the survey responses. So thank you to those of you who completed the surveys. We realize that we needed to develop a form of curriculum. And actually one of the other questions was would your preference be in person or via... A webinar online? And a significant amount of folks setting person. So we were trying to approach a hybrid model for folks that couldn't make it in person and we considered a curriculum where we actually work on accessible materials for the purpose of helping us train the trainer. And then work with Affinity organizations respectively to have open conversations about really just where to start having a conversation about racism. Because many folks just say well racism just means that you discriminate against a person because of their skin color. And we all know that it is not that. And then we realized we all don't know that it is not that. So at the most recent convention we did to have these conversations. We had groups that were ready to have these difficult talks. It was so great. Unfortunately time was limited. And nobody wanted to leave the room because they felt as though this was the time and place. So as we wrap up I hope, and... That I think Stephanie will probably... Comment, but she will be a part of this next plan as we wrap up I just wanted to say that we are continuing to have those places and spaces.
KYLE AMBER: Well, thank you so much for sharing about DRC and going into detail about that. It's a space for us to have a conversation in ASL. And to have that start is amazing. Again, it is action. It is action being taken. And we are looking forward to seeing what is going to come from the committee. To seeing the change, to seeing the ideas come to birth. And having these webinars. Again, seeing that live, and seeing again what the words look like in action. So again I am looking forward to see what the fruit and life will come from the DRC and also the BIPOC section as well. So quickly due my going into BIPOC section what exactly does that mean? So Howard ICU... Your eye twitched a little bit you want to talk about that or Jenny?
JENNY: sure this is Jenny. The NAD has several number sections. Howard help me please if I am wrong. It is my understanding that throughout the years the community would look at the NAD and identify a gap. And then say we are interested in coming together around a shared identity, deaf blind groups started that way because they recognize there was a gap there within the membership sections. So how the process works is that a group of people who come together say this is something we are interested in. There needs to be about five NAD members who are willing to support that. And that becomes a petition. People may reach out to others and say hey I have, I need to get other people and they have more than 50 people who are interested. So basically it is responding to what the community has identified as a gap. And they are interested. So a membership sections that's a bit different from what other organizations already have out there. Of course with respect to other organizations we are not trying to take over because they may already be doing something. But the purpose is the NAD can help to provide space for other organizations who are doing work as well. That has happened. Definitely with the BIPOC section we have done that and provided space for them when they got up and running. They submitted their petition. We submitted that to the board. The board received it shortly before the conference actually. It was approved by the board in the meetings just before the conference in Florida. So of course that is new information that we are sharing with the community now. That there is a BIPOC sections of course that is a process. And basically, again in response to what the community identified as a need or gap in the NAD's membership.
KYLE AMBER: I know I was at the particular event where they made the announcement that they have a BIPOC section and the energy the spirit of the room and it was a small room, too, but it was like a wave had crashed. There was power in that decision. It was a space, again I want to reiterate space that was created. Because again racism going back to the question is it invisible? It clearly is not, work needs to be done in terms of how we hold the system accountable and continue to not... [be exclusive]. So we want to create equity and equality, equity is about creating spaces and at the same time we want to have the same role in mind, which is about the community coming together. So I was thrilled to see that the section was enacted. So again, to have the BIPOC sectional along we have been having the meetings and thinking how can we donate to the NAD and to the BIPOC section and contribute to the section that is part of what we are doing and we are looking forward to seeing again the contributions that are to that particular section of the NAD. I want to again say thank you to Howard, Jenny and Melissa, gratitude for coming on to have this discussion in real-time. Thank you again.
STEPHANIE: so we do have some questions and comments from the audience. Think it is important for us to address those. I saw a question from the chat. And I also see... A question, someone raised their hand. AM I wrong with that? Let me see here. The question is the NAD membership is for multigenerational family but I believe that when the NAD banned Black Deaf members for 25 years from 1925 to 1964 have a long-term impact on the makeup of the NAD membership. I am a hearing white person, so I want to be careful not to speak out of place. But I do wonder if waving number should do's for Black Deaf members for some period of time I'd be a small but appropriate step in addressing the impact.
KYLE AMBER: I members earlier about naming the action. So thinking about reparations preparations for the harm that was done in history. So that's really the question. What is the reparations that NAD will do? I believe that is the question that is being asked by the participant so that is the question.
HOWARD: So, this is Howard. The board has been thinking about this question. Regarding membership dues. And whether or not membership dues and the ability to pay them is a type of privilege. So we have been addressing and discussing and looking at this process. Does it mean we are going to stop having membership dues? That is not something that has been decided yet but the topic is up for discussion internally. Of course we are still thinking about reparations I do understand that. Yes I think that I need to look at different ways reparations could be provided in the future. It's a topic for the board to discuss. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I did see another one From Hunta asking about COR and attire for COR. There is not a dress code for COR can someone else addressed the question from the chat about dress code being a barrier for participants? Hunta had typed a question the chat asking about why there is an age requirement or dress code for COR, and that could be a barrier for some people who may not have the funds to be able to purchase the clothes that are required to attend COR? I am wondering if that is something that is newer that I did not know about. Can you share more about that?
MELISSA: are you talking but the general conference or the COR specifically and thank you for clarifying. Hunta, your question is absolutely one that we would like to respond to. And you are right. In the past we had business meetings and we expected folks to address in a business casual or business manner. And over the years we have noticed that it was something that we did not require rather we encourage. Because we had spirit week for affirmative spaces we took the shift and allowed for a more flexible dress code and we talked about the previous dress code and we had two delegates come to us and mention this was an issue for them. And we listened. So Jenny as our next president will bring the discussion for the future. So thank you for that, Hunta.
KYLE AMBER: so Hunta I don't know if that answers your question this is Kyle Amber speaking. I believe you wanted to come on screen to sign your question in ASL and I see you responding yes. So great.
STEPHANIE: Liam has a comment and there's also a follow-up from Hunta so let's check in and see if they would like to be on screen.
KYLE AMBER: Hunta is on screen.
HUNTA: you have answered most of the question I had about most was responded to and prior to this attendance in NAD I went to some trainings and of course with the laws and don't say gay of course it was something I had to consider whether I wanted to be in Florida or in person, and the expectation was to address a particular way. And a white person said that to us. And as a Black individual we all felt like whoa. A lot of us don't have the funding to purchase these types of clothing. And while we are already responsible as delegates to pay for flight accommodations, hotel, and you know we need to make sure that her hair looks good and we need to make sure we are representing ourselves in the way we are comfortable representing ourselves. That requires a significant amount of money. And I just wanted to name that funding is a limitation for a lot of us.
KYLE AMBER: yes thank you. Thank you.
STEPHANIE: there is a comment from Liam. There was a follow-up. In the chat.
KYLE AMBER: Liam said no you could read the chat.
STEPHANIE: a follow-up question regarding the chat that the law does not do anything. Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Robinson says in the documentary who are we, a particle of racism in America that racism equals prejudice and social power [indiscernible] and that the core fuel of racism is legal authority because it is the basis of how the power of white supremacy has grown exponentially over the last several centuries. The laws that have been written are what perpetuate racism and white supremacy in America and this goes back to Kyle Amber’s opening around systematic racism. And it is the problem that we need to focus on. I am getting a little bit lost. Here we are. So what are some examples of howNAD's legal work is working on transforming legal authority such as legislation to shift social justice and reduce prejudice toward Black Brown and indigenous Deaf people in the community
HOWARD: that answer, Liam we could discuss for hours and hours, definitely. But yes your point is true. It is valid. When you look at the legal system it is definitely biased. It's definitely biased toward white people. So we have discussed with our consultants and we have one in particular whose father is a Deaf attorney, so anyway we have had discussions about these topics that our attorneys have expertise in disability rights. Our attorneys are knowledgeable about how to work to shift to focus on BIPOC rights is something different so we recognize we can work together to support use the benefit of our privilege as white Deaf individuals to see what areas of society that we can affect change in or bring suits or litigation or try to advocate for Black Brown, Deaf equality. And to fight oppression. So to change the system and to make it less biased requires more of a look at constitutional law, current legislative system, judicial decisions etc.. So that is a big ask for us to address those type of systemic issues that would have to come up before Congress. Things like that. So we need to have more Black and brown representatives in Congress more representatives in the House of Representatives on the Supreme Court, in state legislatures. That way we can have more change system wide. So what can NAD do? we can work with attorneys to support black and brown Deaf individuals and folks who want to work to make change. We could partner with them. There is one group called... Oh gosh... I think the leadership conference. So they have cohorts of different civil rights attorneys. And there is a BIPOC group and other different groups that come together and discuss how they can work together to sign bills and work with legislature and congressional representatives etc. at higher levels and state levels to do whatever they can to try and look at how they can use their skill to contribute to change the legal system for the benefit of Black and brown people and for us Deaf people as well.
STEPHANIE: thank you so much for sharing that. I know we are out of time and I just wanted to wrap up. So I saw someone... I saw someone from the audience had raised their hand. I wasn't sure if they wanted to come on screen to share their comments...? No... So again, I want to say thank you to the three panelists for coming here tonight. We do have to wrap up. We are on time so I want to say thank you to Melissa Jenny Howard and Kyle Amber as will. Kyle Amber, thank you.
KYLE AMBER: thank you everyone and again thank you to them for coming and joining us
STEPHANIE: thank you Kyle Amber for leading the discussion on what is invisible racism. This is an ongoing conversation so thank you for being a part of this journey. NAD is continuing to work on having different topics of webinars on a monthly basis. We still have more work to do on restorative justice, transformational justice, and just seeing different justices come into play. That BIPOC section 4 NAD we really want to thank region three, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia for being the ones to actually bring this up, to write this into effect and so we appreciate their efforts in supporting the BIPOC section we are over the moon and thrilled to see this come into play at NAD and to see us working together and it's a great start. I know there's more to come. There will be challenges but I'm looking forward to seeing the positives as well. So we will again continue to have monthly webinars. Again from tonight think about the three terms, consistency accountability and trust. Do not forget those. Thank you so much again for coming tonight. And good night! Bye everyone! we also want to say thank you to the interpreters as well for interpreting this evening.
Often people understand the term “racism” and may be able to define it however when we look at the system, some don’t realize how invisible racism exists. Presenter Kyle Amber Clark will open the webinar defining the meaning of invisible racism. Following that brief presentation, Kyle Amber will share examples of what kinds of partnerships are useful to address invisible racism. To dismantle systemic and structural racism requires a collaborative approach involving various stakeholders on individual and group work on an organizational level. Kyle Amber will have a conversation with others to discuss what the NAD is doing about invisible racism. Howard A. Rosenblum (NAD CEO) will join the panel to discuss the NAD Headquarters’ internal operations and what they’re doing to identify and address invisible racism; Melissa Draganac-Hawk (NAD Outgoing President) to share the NAD Board’s history of addressing racism and the 2020-2022 Priority “Dismantling Racism in the Deaf Community” priority; Jenny Buechner (NAD Incoming President) will join to highlight specific goals the NAD Board has to address racism and the NAD’s commitment.
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 newly established BIPOC membership section so we can continue our advocacy efforts and plan important events like this series.
Previous webinars in this series:
- January 27, The Healing Process, Part 1
- February 24, Black Deaf Excellence
- March 24, The Healing Process, Part 2
- April 21, The Other Side
- June 9, Interrupting and Dismantling the Institutional Racism
- June 16, Intersecting LGBTQIA2S+ Identities and Anti-Racism Work
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