So, I thought to take the time to be able to reflect on my experience on my first attendance at the National Black Deaf Advocates conference in my hometown – Baltimore, MD.
First off, let me explain that this is my views and my thoughts since this was my first time attending something that I have heard for years as if it was the spot to be – truth be told, it was a spot to be among different individuals from different walk of life, history, and knowledge. I felt like I was part of a community that has been fighting for many things and I felt honored to be among them because I am still learning about new things daily. Seeing some of the founders was like seeing history come alive, seeing young children running around felt like I was at a church function where we laughed and we cried. But I’ll be honest with you, there are moments where I had to scratch my head and wonder what the hell is going on? So, it was a mixture of feelings that made me wonder – will I see this at the 2019 conference? Many people have told me the same thing – “it’s the same old song and dance” and has been for the last few years so the question I often ask myself is how will the cycle be broken? How will the community be able to bridge the divide that I saw at the conference and experienced firsthand?
So, I want to start off with the disappointing stuff that I noticed over the last week – the rejection of blooming minds, xenophobia, judgmental attitudes (cliques), refusal to take accountability, to being with. Often time, I have hosted parties and to be the host for the conference was a huge honor. But I noticed that the older generation were just harsh and judgmental – maybe it was me being a good host but I just felt that they were rejecting the notion of a young black man because they looked at me as if I was uneducated or naïve. Again, that’s just me, I can’t speak for the rest. That was the first two days where I found out that my chapter was doing everything all backwards from the national board, and they had the nerve to accuse me of not communicating with them which was an insult to me and to the people of my chapter when they were being hypocritical – and all I asked of them was to take accountability into the mistakes that were made – and make the proper remedies to satisfy my members since they have put a lot into forming this chapter only for a senior citizen to simply say “ACCEPT! AND MOVE ON!” – to me, that’s saying “you have to deal with the fuck up that we made” when we shouldn’t have to do so in the first place since we were following the guidelines and the requirements that the board set for us and we met it with flying colors. That left a bitter taste in my mouth especially when I had to chase the board down and make them realize that they screwed up – not us!
The second disappointing thing about the conference was the cliques that I noticed at the business meeting, it really was a wake-up call for me because I didn’t realize how divided it was and how the older generation really rejected the blooming minds of the young professionals who could have really helped change things around – the business meeting really need to be conducted in a proper fashion (Why are we still discussing something from two years ago when they could use that time to discuss new business or new ideas for the organization – put the minutes on paper and keep it moving!) But the young professionals really were excluded from voicing their opinions and thoughts which really made me wonder “is the organization trying to progress forward or stay stuck in the historical phase?” I just was in shock because I’m like these young professionals will become the lifeline of the organization, especially when the older generation slowly wilt away.
The last thing I want to address and I think it’s a very important thing to address – XENOPHOBIA – It was shocking to see that a community that prides itself on being united and show that unity practice xenophobia on a harsh level. I am sure some of you are familiar with the US driver license motion that was proposed and failed. The detail of that motion was just so insulting that I just couldn’t help but drop my jaw and ask “Is this for real?!” – are we actually excluding a community of immigrants, legal aliens because they are not US citizens? At the conference of black people?! It was just OMG – if it wasn’t for the voice of a few people who opposed the idea of this motion, I would have walked out and got in my car and went home because I didn’t come to a conference just to participation in this disgusting behavior yet alone try to even perpetrate the cycle. These were the disappointing factors that really made me wonder about the next conference.
But I will say that the most impressive thing was the knowledge that I walked away with – from black females, black males, youth, LGBTQIA+, and senior citizens – I feel like I was dipped in water and came out anointed with holy oil on my head. I felt like that I was learning from the facts of life and how they managed to use their experience and make it a positive one in a time where uncertainty is becoming the new norm. I just felt that the experience alone was enough for me to realize that I’m in a community where I can feel safe to talk about issues that impact the black deaf community. I also made it clear that it takes a community to raise a community. That’s how I felt when I was seeing some of the positive things taking place such as different programs like Y.E.S, different community leaders working together for the bigger picture. That was the most impressive part for me and that’s what I would aim to see more of that at the next conference. I just felt that the positive things sometime can cause one to look at things differently, allow one to really be able to paint a different picture than what has already been painted. So that is the recap of my experience at the NBDA conference. Does it mean I would go to the next one? Sure. But would I go with rose-colored glasses like I did this one? Nope.