While the NAD conference was taking place, our country was reacting to the shooting of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas shooting.
This is a special community response report that occurred during the National Association of the Deaf conference in Phoenix, Arizona from July 5th to the 10th. Historically, NAD has been a predominantly educated white deaf space with very little diversity.
DTV News was there at the conference and was able to connect with two individuals -- Storm Smith and Socorro Garcia Moore, who were responsible for initiating and provided support facilitating a community forum designed to create safe place for deaf POCs and allies to come together and provide each other support.
Here they will share their thoughts and feelings prior to the community forum and what they hope to see from NAD in the future. Or if anything, their shared experience will provide NAD with insights on how they can better improve through the inclusion of creating safe spaces for diverse NAD attendees in the future.
Really, so, this is my first time here at the NAD conference and when I arrived, I realized there needed to be a space where people of color could feel safe because there wasn’t one and that didn’t sit right with me. With the current events going on in the world...where was the space we needed? So then Storm texted me that morning...
Yes, that morning when I woke up I came across the news through twitter, it was devastating of course. My reaction was a mixture of different emotions -- angry, frustrated, upset, confused... I just couldn’t understand what was going on. But at the same time I wasn’t surprised. So immediately I thought to reach out to Socorro to see if we can bring together people of color (POCs) and allies to process our feelings and be supportive. Socorro agreed and would look into it since it was a busy day for me. We got the room and I’m glad it happened. We all needed this, it had to be done. It was a good turn out with a great group of people -- it was diverse with many races, community leaders, board members, participants and many others. I took the lead along with 3 others including Socorro to facilitate the meeting in which I emphasized that POCs should be allowed to take the floor first in expressing their thoughts and feelings. Once that step is finished, then others are welcome to take the floor to offer words of support. This was really great because we were able to acknowledge and let everyone know that this situation actually happened -- it wasn’t just made up or overlooked . This situation had a global impact even within the deaf community among POCs, it can happen to us as well, specifically black deaf community members. Once we step out the door there’s a much higher risk compared to people who are white. So, this was great, it was emotional and heavy … but there was Love there as well. It was beautiful and I’m really grateful for Socorro and other leaders of color for making this happen.
I agree. I think it was great that you both took the lead in making this happen. It’s important. Even myself as a POC, I woke up that morning ready to start my day, to learn, engage, attend workshops but when I found out what happened it was really upsetting. At that moment I realized I did not want to leave my hotel room and engage with others -- there was a lot going on in my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. I’m unfamiliar with this place and was unsure how others may react to my discomfort. Would they acknowledge how I felt? Offer support? Or would they just politely nod and go about their day as if nothing happened? I’m afraid to feel invalidated. So, again, it was great that you both took the lead on this. Now another thing comes to mind, I personally was not aware of this gathering until it was too late. So, my thinking is how NAD can improve … or are there any future plans in regards to creating or maintaining that safe space?
I think last night’s meeting sent a message to NAD and it has been discussed with the board. So… you know now it’s on them to be accountable in terms of providing that safe space at future conferences. It’s not only about coming together when current events impact us outside of this, but it should be an ongoing dialogue because we are still facing daily systematic oppression. We know NAD isn’t perfect and they have a lot of work to do. And we know they are working on it, so we DO trust that they’ll improve.
I personally hope to see that happen with the newly elected board members along with the top five priorities selected. I really do hope that they will focus on ensuring safe space for all here on out.
I agree. We’ll make sure to remind them now and again. It’s all about dialogues and working together no matter what happens. Really, it’s about maintaining this with support, faith and optimism … at the same time, some of us are dealing with different kinds of fear and it’s not easy. We’ll do the best we can with every given chance.