This week, Sept. 20 – 29, is Deaf Awareness Week. It’s a chance to elevate stories from the Deaf community, to celebrate Deaf culture and build a deeper understanding of a historically underserved community. It is observed around the world.
On Sunday, a Milwaukee nonprofit helped to kick off the week at Mitchell Street Library.
Ex Fabula hosted a Deaf Story Slam. The free event invited seven deaf individuals to share personal stories from their own lives, on the theme of “labels.”
The storytellers signed to the audience while their stories were interpreted into spoken English by certified ASL interpreters. A Spanish interpreter was also available to further translate the English stories for those who speak Spanish.
During the opening remarks, Ex Fabula co-founder Megan McGee said this event is just one of many “radically inclusive” events it on puts on throughout the year.
The audience, which filled the main community room and overflowed into the library area, was comprised of deaf and hearing individuals. All were invited to ask questions at the end of the program.
Leading the discussion were Mayra Castrejón-Hernandez and Jose Barraza. They were trained to become Ex Fabula Storytelling coaches, as well as take part in organizing the event
“We are the Deaf and hard of hearing community of Milwaukee. We hide because no else recognizes us. We want to tell our stories,” says Castrejón-Hernandez.
Watch her story below, and be advised the English audio is slightly delayed due to interpreter processing time. Raw video courtesy of Ex Fabula’s videographer Eric Kleppe-Montenegro.
The Ex Fabula event was hosted as part of Milwaukee Public Library’s “Gathering Art, Stories and Place” project. It aims to “empower Historic Mitchell Street neighbors to create, share and celebrate diversity through storytelling and multi-media art, specifically engaging youth in the process at the Milwaukee Public Library Mitchell Street Branch.”
How to get involved
Here are few ways to participate in Deaf Awareness Week, regardless of your ability to hear, according to HearLikeMe.com:
- Teach and learn sign language
- Reach out to companies and governments to encourage them to fulfill their legal obligations to the deaf population
- Encourage, advocate and promote deaf people as one-of-a-kind
- Support Deaf businesses
- Emphasize the importance of sign language as a key part of human rights for deaf people
Castrejón-Hernandez offers one more thing she wants the public to know: stop saying “hearing impaired.” Instead, she encourages people to simply say deaf or hard of hearing.