TSJDL Testimonies Part 1 and 2. For transcripts- see after each video.

Description and Script:

Black background with white letters:

Teachers of Social Justice
for Deaf Learners:
First Retreat, Summer 2014

Woman of color with black mid-length hair, black framed glasses, black and white stripped halter top. Background: brown panel wall and an altar.

How I felt this week? Before attending the social justice retreat, I felt I had a responsibility because of what I identified myself with: a person of color, woman and deaf. I never knew how to represent or present myself. I felt my knowledge of social justice was limited and did not have a full understanding of what it was. One reason for that is I am not assertive in finding information, reading articles or engaging in discussion related to social justice.

When I saw a flyer with the words ‘SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR TEACHERS’ for the social justice retreat, I saw it as an opportunity for me and for the school I represent. Social Justice – what it meant to me before the retreat, I defined it by looking at the meaning of word ‘social’ and the meaning of the word ‘justice,’ and the combination of the two. After a week at the retreat, I realized it is more than it’s individual meaning.

During the week of retreat, I felt a lot of exchanging of information through discussions, sharing stories, and more. I cannot explain the details of the experience, I can say that the whole experience has helped me understand myself better and I know that it will be an ongoing process for me in terms of reflection and self-analysis. As Carla mentioned, we are constantly changing. She mentioned that she has learned new things about herself not long ago and she is a different age from me. Seeing that validates what I am going through – figuring out myself. I figure that it is okay to be in a state of constant change because I am not always – in one place and with a with certain group of people. I am with different people, different … “figured world” is what I meant, the figured world that I associate in, I find and learn more about myself. My thoughts on social change have changed. It is a MUST, for better education, a better society around us, and now I aim to engage in social justice for myself, for others whom I interact with and the community.


White woman with dark brown short hair, wearing a black T-shirt and shorts, sitting on white sofa in the front of a fireplace.

What does TSJDL mean to me?

When I first arrived, I determined that “social justice” meant equality. Everything is equally the same. It’s as simple as that. After the week progressed, it certainly hit me with intensity. Ah, it meant more than that. “Social Justice,” in itself, defined the difference between “equality” and “equity.” It really provoked me into deeper thinking and my comprehension grew.

There’s one example that really impacted me. I am a very visual person, understandably so since I’m deaf. This retreat really catered to my comprehensible needs as a Deaf person because I was given unambiguous information through a Deaf perspective rather than a hearing person’s perspective. That particular example was a picture with three different people at various heights but they had a same sized box to stand on. All three of them were peering over a fence. Of course, the tallest had no difficulties, the middle one had somewhat some difficulties, and the shortest person had the most difficulty looking over the fence. The point is, all three of them had an equality-sized box, however, did they have “equal” access?

That was the question. On the other picture, there was a different scenario. The tallest person did not have a box to stand on a box, the middle person as well as the shortest person each had a box that allowed all three people to be at the same height which allowed them to peer over the fence with “equity.”  Ah, that made a whole lot of sense and explained the difference between “equality” and “equity.”

To be honest with you, during the week, I experienced grief. “Grief?!?” you may ask. Allow me to explain. Throughout my years of teaching, I have had numerous students of color…Black, Latinos, Asians and countless others. As I’ve taught, I’ve carried the belief that everyone is equal. I assumed that although I am a white person that I understood. But, really, each and every one of them is different. I felt grief because we haven’t really put a lot of value into their families, heritage cultures…when they arrive into our classrooms, everything surrounding them is based on white perspectives. Where is their identity? Where is it?

Also another thing that hit me was the “doll study.” There were some children who were given two different dolls and asked, “Which is the good doll?” They picked the white doll. “Which is the pretty doll?” Again, they picked the white doll. “Which is the bad doll?” and they picked the black doll. This was really disconcerting and impacted me greatly. A question was asked to the children why they thought a particular doll was pretty, their response was, “….because it’s white!” “Then why is that doll is bad?” they were asked. “…because it’s black!…” was their innocent response. Wow! How our students feel when they enter our classrooms when there’s nothing for them to relate with, such as seeing pictures of people of color, that really hit me. I have more reflections that are quite raw as well. We come together as people with different standpoints, which could lead to dangerous assumptions of others. This retreat made me feel “safe.” Not feeling offended and it provided several avenues of healing.

Social Justice, to me now, is to broaden my perspectives….to become more aware and to teach oneself, children & everyone around us, the importance of what social justice truly is about.

White woman with short brown hair, white long sleeved shirt and brown skirt, sitting on white sofa in the front of a fireplace.

For the past week that we have been here, we have been discussing, analyzing, applying theories and ideas, exploring, and brainstorming. Wow! I feel ready to go back to my classroom, roll up my sleeves and apply the tools – to analyze my curriculum, my teaching, and what I include. I have curriculum and lesson plans, I have a better understanding of the purpose of social justice, the theories, ideas, labels, words. I feel ready to go back and continue on with the process in my class.


White woman with brown hair pulled up in a ponytail, silver hoop earrings, purple tank top and green shorts. She is sitting on white sofa in the front of a fireplace

SCRIPT: How do I feel about the retreat this past week? After receiving the information from Facebook, and thought to myself, “Wow One week for a retreat is a bold move. Most workshops and retreats last only 3 or 4 days. This first time retreat was being hosted with very high expectations. I admit I was curious to see how things would really go . . . and it went well!

Each of the three presenters had different ways to meet the various needs of the group. Information was shared in a variety of ways such as factual, experience based and backgrounds. Typically information is presented through one mode while overlooking others. For example, focusing on facts and ignoring the background information or visa versa. The retreat was well balanced and as a result, my needs were met.

We were encouraged to share learning together rather than being “taught at” and unable to share our thought process with others. I liked this retreat because it let me really express myself which allowed a true “safe place.” if feelings of resistance arose it was okay to put our guard up when necessary and also to let our guard down once we worked together to find the reasons why we felt resistant. I liked that, having a safe place for me as well as for the other participants.

I studied and observed the three facilitator’s interactions during the entire week. All three of them expressed love in different ways. Even how they say “Hi!” to me showed love, I really appreciated that!

This week gave me the support I needed as a teacher, it helped me grow and see the potential of what I can do. Before the retreat, I had to find ways to inspire myself, but you three really inspired me, which does NOT happen often. And you have started the journey with me. I hope to see the end — well, it will never really end, it will always be ongoing. I do hope the three of you will continue to be a part of my journey as well.

I appreciate all the work you did this week, really not just this week, but the many years you have invested doing this work. But I appreciate that you gave me this one week to start. I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! Thank you! – Thank you!

Black background with white letters :

Teachers of Social Justice for Deaf Learners: Testimonies Part 2

First Retreat, Summer 2014

Sense of Urgency

Visual Description: White woman with light blond short-length hair, black framed glasses, wearing a black elbow length sleeved shirt sitting on white sofa in the front of a fireplace.


How do I feel? I feel…an urgent need to do something. I’ve always known that, but this week, it was especially evident, the need to do something.  That sums up how I feel.  The sense of urgency is not based on the fact that the world is screwed up, but the notion that the world has so much potential and that the people within this world are incredible and can do so much! I want everyone to look into themselves and see what they are capable of doing to change, to transform the world.  That affects how I feel about this week. I feel that TSJDL’s mission of educating about social justice, the goal of this week, was certainly attained.  It also inspired people, too.  I’ve told the group how I came into this week and how I have changed. I mentioned that at the beginning, noticing that everyone came from different backgrounds gave me both a sense of appreciation and a sense of ambivalent resistance. I really appreciated the diverse group that we are and felt some resistance about what might be our different perspectives, understanding, and awareness related to social justice.  I think it is my own bias that came into the picture, coming from the Bay Area where we often dive into and are engaged in dialogue and discussions about so many different things. From that, I was coming here and feeling that the pace was slow and feeling antsy, but then as the week progressed, I was able to allow my deep appreciation for the variations in this group (in experience and backgrounds)  to overcome my ambivalent resistance to the process.  When that happened, it was a relief and I feel good about this opportunity. Yes, I feel good.

Not Just “Deaf”

Visual Description:  White male with light brown hair, brown framed glasses, wearing an orange Polo shirt and brown shorts, sitting on white sofa in the front of a fireplace.


When I first came to the TSJDL retreat, my definition of social justice was all about Deaf.  On the first day of the retreat, my first impression about this retreat was about Deaf, nothing else.  I could not figure out what the connection was between Deaf and Social Justice.  During the retreat, the 3 coordinators (Doralynn Folse, Laurene Simms, and Carla Fernández) helped me to become awake, wide awake about the Deaf itself, it taught me to use a scalpel to cut the word “Deaf” itself.  When I completely cut the word – Deaf and took a look inside of this word . . . Wow, it is like the surface of the word – “Deaf” looks so healthy, however there are some diseases that roamed freely.  Now, the idea of the connection between social justice and deaf is like the old advertisement where a person loves to eat Hershey chocolate bars and another person was very obsessed with eating peanut butter.   Not paying attention to where they were going, they collided with each other.  The chocolate bar flew in the air and dived into the peanut butter.  It’s now called Reese’s.    This applied to me in how I was obsessed about being deaf but not realizing that there are other important identities that need to be combined together.  It became my new perspective on Deaf.  When I was in the graduate program, I wrote my thesis with a focus on Civil Rights: Deaf.  After I took this retreat, I wished that I could rewrite my thesis once again.   The reason I said this is because one or two years ago, the state legislative proposed a bill called HB 1367 to end ISD’s outreach department and create a new independent state agency.  Due to their intuition, it was AGB’s hidden agenda.  It was not my point.  This retreat helped me to revisit this.   I remember that there were many testimonies that were mostly against HR 1367.  I see all of them were white.   For a moment, let me go back to take a look at the word –Deaf.  Social Justice means that we are responsible as deaf people to ensure that everyone in the deaf community has the same opportunities and equality.  We must communicate with each other to ensure that we are on the same platform.   Don’t assume that everyone in the Deaf community feels the same way as you.

Back to HB 1367, before we start off to fight against the bill, we should contact every Deaf individual, it means black deaf people who have their own frustrations, struggles, and challenges.  HB 1367 is a one way street of oppression of mostly white people.  Perhaps, it is more than one street of oppression of black deaf people.   I have no idea nor the right answer.  Maybe they have different answers than we do.  Once we heard, then if we put all of other minority deaf people’s stories together that would send the powerful message to the state legislative. It could be that HB 1367 was not about Audism itself, but could be about racism and so forth.    The state legislative will see that it is widely oppressive.

From now on, if the deaf community found that they have to stand and fight to support or oppose a bill that will give us fair treatment, I should say, we can’t fight this battle.  First, we must “clean up” the disease that plagues the Deaf community.  We must ensure that we are equally with the fact everyone in the deaf community must accept that white people do have privilege, however, whites must work with other minorities to raise the bar.     We need to get the disease out of our system, then stitch the Deaf together, and let it heal.  We would become a stronger force from now on.

There is a comment that is often made that the “United States is a melting pot” which has not bothered me.  It’s not until I attended this retreat.   It should not be called a melting pot.  We should say this is a salad bowl.   For instance, if I cook an omelet, then I crack the eggs and blend in vegetables and cheese.  When it is completed cooked all I see are eggs.  The other items that I added disappear.  In a salad, it is like tossing lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and other items together and I can still see them individual and well represented in their own identity.  I poke my fork in the salad bowl and eat it.   It’s doubly delicious by sight and by taste in comparison to the melting pot – which you can’t see each ingredient but it tastes good.    2 vs. 1














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