MSJC brings light to the diversity in the ASL community

By Breanna Padilla

A-S-L in American Sign Language. Source: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

An event held on MSJC’s Menifee campus on Feb. 29 showcased BSL (Black Sign Language) and the oppression and discrimination against Blacks in the Deaf community. This event discussed the history and discrimination of African Americans in the deaf community.  

Jeremy Rogers, the Chair of the Sign Language Department, gave a presentation on sign language while one of his interpreting students interpreted for him. The presentation shared with the audience some slang used by blacks and the signs for them.  

The event also featured “Still I Rise,” which was a video of testimonies from students who attended Arkansas’ school of the Deaf ,where they had a “colored department” that was later called the Madison Building. That building was later called the “Madison School” for the Black Deaf and Blind.  

One of the oldest alumni to go to the “Madison school” was Eliza Taylor, who attended from 1919 to 1931.  

Taylor explained how the school was segregated. At the time all the teachers were white, and Taylor was never taught ASL. She taught herself and learned from watching other children as most of the people in this video did.  

Since the schools were segregated, the white students went to the Arkansas’ School of the Deaf (ASD) , while the African American students had to go to the “Madison School” and they weren’t allowed to learn ASL at this time.  

The event showed this little bit of history that displayed what African American deaf students had gone through during this time.  

Breana Padilla signing her love! Photo by Breanna Padilla