In 1958, the city of Rome welcomed the launching of International Week of the Deaf (IWD) by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), an organization that serves to advocate for equal rights for deaf people internationally. IWD is celebrated during the last full week of September every year. It is a time for coming together, deaf and hearing, to create unity and raise awareness.
Junior Kargbo, a new teacher at Central Catholic who previously attended college at Gallaudet University, sat down with me to discuss the importance of Deaf pride, awareness, and culture.
Interpreter: Colleen McMonagle
What was your cause of deafness?
“I was born hearing, but when I was three years old I got meningitis.”
How did your deafness affect you socially?
“I was isolated. I made friends in high school and college through sports. The isolation came with benefits however. I found it to be useful for my studying and focusing.”
What can you say about deaf pride?
“Being Deaf is my identity, ASL is a beautiful language; it helps me communicate, it shows expression and I like it.”
When did you first become aware of Deaf pride?
“When I was around seventeen years old, this was also when I become involved with the Deaf community.”
What aspects of Deaf culture are most important to you and why?
“100% of it. It is nice to have support and respect from others, for example when going to the store and people sign, but writing is okay, too.”
Why are Deaf friendly spaces important to the Deaf community in the school setting?
“If there are no Deaf friendly spaces, you are not able to learn, and it helps socially, also.”
What is the importance of Deaf awareness week? How is it significant to you?
“It shows Deaf culture, Deaf society, and it is important because it gives a voice to people, like CJ Jones.”
How can hearing people participate in Deaf Awareness week?
“Yesterday, my students put in earbuds to ‘become deaf’ in class. They did not talk all day and had to sign or write to communicate. They told me how it felt, doing something like that.”
What were your students’ responses to that assignment?
“They said it was hard. They have always been hearing, using their ears and not their eyes. They had to use their eyes more. That is why deaf people are really good drivers.”
What do you think the importance of hearing allies is for the Deaf community?
“Hearing allies supporting deaf people are similar to people supporting Black Lives Matter. It’s about having equal rights. If hearing people don’t know about deaf awareness, how is the world going to work for them?”
Tell me about Deaf Awareness Week, its importance to your life, and how it’s affected you.
“It’s nice that hearing people recognize the Deaf community. There are a lot of people in the world—about two million deaf people—and many are learning sign. It is important that people learn sign language first. Cochlear implants and spoken language can come later.”
“Deaf Awareness Week.” Signing Savvy, http://www.signingsavvy.com/deafawarenessweek.