POC and Black Deaf Community Respond to NAD Regarding "Deaf Roles in Movies"

Open Letter from Black and POC Community in response to NAD Regarding Article “Deaf Roles in Movies: Hire Deaf Talent, Stop Misappropriation!”

(written by Rossana Reis and Maisha Franklin Safford)

 Dear NAD,

We recently learned of your article on your website, “Deaf Roles in Movies: Hire Deaf Talent, Stop Misappropriation!” (https://www.nad.org/deaf-roles-in-movies/ ). This article centers on single identity politics. The civil rights movements vaguely referenced in the first paragraph were not single-issue movements; they were intersectional movements lead by black leaders that fought against inequalities against the marginalized black and brown, women, disabled and poor communities. The media is indeed powerful in portraying our realities. You further stated “to achieve equality, the narrative about any group must come from the group itself.”

Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of thinking of only our Deaf identities; we are not just “Deaf.” We belong to other communities—Black, Indigenous and communities of color as well as Queer and Trans communities, Disabled communities, etc. Our realities as Black and Brown Deaf folks with varying identities and experiences have not historically been portrayed in the media. Hollywood has historically centered predominantly white abled lives in the media as evident by the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag activism. It is for this reason that #BlackDeafTalent and #POCDeafTalent movement was created in 2012 by Jade Bryan.

The problem for us were not that Deaf roles were not casted by Deaf actors but when they were casted by Deaf actors, they were predominantly casted by white Deaf actors and written/created by white Deaf and hearing individuals behind the screen. When we read your article, it is as if #DeafTalent paved the way for #BlackDeafTalent and #POCDeafTalent to follow and make a difference in the media representation of our lives. Your article is a misrepresentation of our work and diminishes our movements carried online and offline. We demand that you make the following changes and take the following steps to begin working in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and Deaf talents of color affected by your article by Friday, July 12th, 2019.

1) Credit the original Deaf talent movement led by Jade Bryan, #BlackDeafTalent and #POCDeafTalent in 2012 to address lack of representation of Black and POC Deaf talents on and off screen due to Hollywood’s historical portrayal of white abled lives in the media.

2) Reframe movements such as #BlackDeafTalent and #POCDeafTalent lead by Jade Bryan as paving the way for others to follow: #DeafTalent, #LatinxDeafTalent, #DeafBlindTalent etc.

3) Study the history of Black and POC Deaf Talent movement at Jade Films site (www.jadefilm.com), MicaScoop (http://micascoop.blogspot.com/…/kickstarter-seeks-your-supp…) and refer to another organization we have confronted on these same misrepresentation and erasure issues: https://thedeafreport.com/…/reunite-the-community-in-the-fi…

4) Review Antine “Nunu” Davis’s video on working in solidarity with Black and POC Deaf Talents to elevate and preserve our history, not decenter and erase our history. https://www.facebook.com/…/pcb.10157176…/10157176790419788/…

5) Issue a public apology for misrepresenting our movement and diminishing our work to token hashtags and centering a predominantly white resource that has not benefited us.

Sincerely,

Stacey Anderson

Niesha Washington-Shepard

Black American Sign Language Group Members

Black Deaf Progressive Movement Group Members

Black Deaf Cultural Capital Group Members

Maisha Franklin Safford

Jade Bryan

Adrienne Brown Gravish

Warren “WaWa” Snipe

Lissy Norfleet