Tonight, Convo Relay, an American videophone company, presented a film premiere, live streaming via FB, event in Revere, MA called New England Deaf Community: A Convo Film Premiere. Renowned ASL music performer Rosa Lee Timm was Convo live streaming host during the event, in which, the event wanted to explore the deaf roots and beauty of the deaf community in New England. Deep in the Wonderland Ballroom, guests were first introduced with special guest, wonderstruck and handsome Nyle DiMarco. He introduces Convo Relay new business promotional film: New England Deaf Community.
The film, with over 8K views and still counting, explores some of New England deep roots with how Deaf people coped with education and being involved in their communities. The main focus of the film is the success of the American School for the Deaf that was established on April 15th, 1817. The story all started with a young girl playing in the sand and no one could communicate with her until she was discovered by Thomas Gallaudet who then found a man named Clerc (whom sign name is thus because he fell and hit his face on a stove which gave him nasty scar on his face). Clerc and Gallaudet met with the Cogswell family and met Alice and established the American School for the Deaf.
Now 199 years later, they’re still fighting to keep the school open.
Convo highlights an educator named Marie Philip who was a Bilingual-Bicultural Coordinator at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts. In fact, they recently renamed the their learning center, Marie Philip School or more specifically the Marie Jean Philip Elementary School, after her passing. Marie Philip installed a vision of strict adherence to bilingualism where she wanted students to learn about their culture and language first, before everything else. The first thing she ever taught was, “What is Deaf Culture?” She would always read beautiful books in ASL and make time for children.
Yet, the film touches on how mainstreaming is threatening their very lives within Deaf Communities. It all changed in 1975 when an act called IDEA, which pushed for deaf students to be mainstreamed into public schools because many people believed that the quality of Deaf education in Deaf schools were declining.
[According to the film transcript, here an excerpt of people explaining their thoughts on why.]
Now that it’s gone, there are no job opportunities. Where do the students go? The community’s dispersed.
It impacted my family hard. My family traces its roots back to Austine, where my father first learned sign language.
The campus was beautiful. I’ll always have memories there.
But now that it’s gone, it’s very sad.
Now, when I visit Austine, I think, “Where are all the kids?”
What caused the Deaf schools to dwindle in New England? You’d have to look at our history and see what’s impacted us over the years. Mainstreamed program expansions.
Lack of student enrollment.
It started during the 1960’s all the way to 1982, which stopped abruptly. What, exactly? The abuse and sexual molestations, which was done mostly by the staff.
The kids tried to tell people, just to cry for, “help, help.”
But they only listened to other hearing people. The people who were involved held power over the school. They had simply resigned and escaped without being charged. And no jail time. Nothing. But, what was done those kids…
I feel… bad. It’s sad. But, the reality is that it happened. I want the world to know that it really happened, and why we’ve been struggling to have our lives back on track.
Now, if you look at Governor Baxter School, it’s almost gone.
They’re still fighting. Using the lighthouse as inspiration, Convo wants to share with the public and within their own community that it’s not over and they need to continue to fight. From businesses such as Deaf Sailing Adventures to Deaf Interpreters Coalition (an organization) to even how colleges and universities in New England are providing amazing support for ASL language accessibility, language acquisition and bilingual education, they are showing that Deaf Education is far from over. Students all over the United States are hungry to learn ASL and in fact, ASL is one of the fastest growing languages in high schools and colleges in the United States.
Wayne Betts Jr. puts it bluntly,
We have been assailed throughout our history and we have seen our schools close down, but, we’re still here.
Will it start with you?