Houston's most prominent black deaf women are coming together to share their stories of defying expectations, blazing trails and, most importantly, getting others to see and hear them. The panel discussion, "The Untold Stories of Black Deaf Women," will begin at 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26 in the Social Work Building, Room 101, on the UH campus.
"The deaf community as a whole is often overlooked, ignored and marginalized by society at-large," said Sharon G. Hill, an adjunct professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders. "Imagine how much more so that occurs to minorities within the deaf community."
Hill, a sign language interpretation instructor, will moderate the panel, which features Shirley Allen, Mary van Manen, Mary Perrodin, Rebbie Smith and Michelle Martin. Allen, the first African American deaf woman to earn a Ph.D. degree, is president of Houston Black Deaf Advocates. Van Manen, the first black deaf person to graduate from college in Mississippi, sat on the Texas Governing Board for the Texas School for the Deaf. Perrodin is an educator of the deaf at Barbara Jordan High School and is pursuing her second Master's degree in counseling at Prairie View A&M University. Smith is a long-time employee at the Michael E. Debakey Veterans Administration Medical Center. Martin is president of the United Methodist Committee for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries.
"Black deaf individuals possess their own unique cultural norms, values, language dialect and heritage - distinct from the white deaf community," Hill said. "This diversity in the deaf community makes the need for minority interpreters all the more necessary. Sadly, minority groups are grossly underrepresented when viewing the statistics for certified interpreters."The discussion is hosted by communication sciences and disorders department's American Sign Language Interpreting program. Communication Axcess Ability Group (CAAG) and G. E. Grigsby Inc. are co-sponsors of the event. CAAG is one of only five interpreting agencies in Houston that specializes in sign language interpreting services and G. E. Grigsby Inc. is a local accounting firm that specializes in serving deaf and hard-of-hearing clientele.