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February 25, 2004

Presentation describes struggles of being black, deaf

From: Ball State Daily News - Muncie,IN,USA - Feb 25, 2004

There are about 240,000 deaf, black Americans worldwide

YaShekia Smalls
Chief Reporter

The black community and the deaf community are separate, but they can overlap when they are integrated, a speaker signed Tuesday night at Cardinal Hall.

In celebration of Deaf Awareness Week and Black History Month, Donald Tinsley Sr., program director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service in Indianapolis, described the difficulty he faces with being both black and deaf in the United States.

"I struggle with my black identity," Tinsley signed. "Am I black, or am I deaf? I feel like I'm teeming on the edge of both."

Tinsley signed the purpose of his presentation, titled "Black Deaf History and Culture," was to highlight the discrimination many people like him have faced and to also emphasize the unique history of successful deaf, black Americans.

There are about 240,000 deaf, black Americans worldwide, but only 5 percent of them live in the United States, Tinsley signed.

"That's a really small percentage," he signed. "In the past, there was a lot of discrimination and racism that black people faced, and of course that correlated with the discrimination deaf people also faced. People like me would feel double discrimination."

Even when he was learning sign language at the Indiana School for the Deaf, Tinsley signed he didn't remember seeing any deaf, black teachers who could serve as role models.

Despite these struggles, however, Tinsley signed many deaf, black Americans have overcome hard times in this country.

For example, Bill King was the first black deaf person in Indiana to earn bachelor's and master's degrees, Tinsley signed. He signed Andrew J. Foster was also the first black, deaf man to graduate from Gallandet College and became the father of deaf education in Africa.

"Black history had been ignored for so long, but people have finally realized the importance it has on American history," Tinsley signed

Tinsley signed he enjoys the value the deaf community places on communication and hopes hearing black individuals and other cultures will strive to learn more about it.

"I remember when I had to write or speak to introduce myself, and now I just have to raise my hands," Tinsley signed. "I love it."

Hannah Lamey, president of the American Sign Language Club, said she liked how the presentation integrated both a black and a deaf person's point of view.

"I had never seen any presentation on any kind of deaf black history," Lamey said. "A lot of students don't get to take part in multicultural education."

Devin Day, Black Student Association secretary, said he also enjoyed the enlightening presentation.

"I didn't know much about the black deaf community and that it was an issue," Day said. "The speech made me more aware of these issues."

BSA president Morenike Aderiye said she was also glad Tinsley had the opportunity to speak to students and Muncie residents.

People must start with themselves to help bridge the gap between the black hearing and the black deaf, she said.

"The presentation makes me want to share this information with my hearing friends and make friends that are deaf, so I can help bridge that gap," Aderiye said.

© 2004 The Ball State Daily News