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Our Story

Our story starts at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). As a Deaf Studies faculty member, Dr. Lissa Ramirez-Stapleton, our founder, wondered where are the Black Deaf and Black signing hearing students? Where is the Black-centric curriculum in Deaf Studies and Deaf education? In collaboration with students, she began organizing community and campus-wide events that supported, educated, and worked with Black Deaf communities. The first event in 2016 was the Justice Can’t Wait: Deaf People of Color Seeking Change Through the Arts, a two-week Deaf BIPOC art festival with an art exhibit, ASL Afro-Cuban dance classes, ASL Poetry, films, and community viewings. Over the years, there were many Black Deaf History workshops to educate, hold space, and honor Black Deaf elders, scholars, artists, athletes, and international Black Deaf community members. The relationships formed over the years make up the core of who we are today.  

 

In 2018, Black Deaf and signing hearing student enrollment and retention numbers were dropping at CSUN, and students often felt isolated and challenged by being one of the few Black students in their classes. This led to the creation of the Black Signers Meet Ups. The Meet Ups were created to welcome all Black Deaf and Black signing hearing students, alums, and community members to social gatherings at local restaurants to build community and support for one another. This support is still seen with and for our Deaf community partners today. 

In 2019, Dr. Ramirez-Stapleton and Black Deaf and hearing students worked with CSUN’s Admission Office and their Harambee Program, a Black student college recruitment event to find ways to bring more Black Deaf high school students to campus. This initiative directly responded to the data published by the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Education that only 11% of Black Deaf Californian students graduated with a bachelor’s degree. To impact Black Deaf high school students’ exposure to college, they were invited, for the first time, to participate in the main program, and we planned additional events such as a Black Deaf student alum panel, a workshop on Deaf student support and admissions, and a social event with current students. Uplifting and providing educational opportunities to our Black Deaf youth is still essential to our work today. 

 

Throughout the years, students and community members nationwide have reached out to attend virtual programs and requested to participate in Black Deaf experiences at CSUN. Due to university policies, many nonCSUN students were not allowed to attend; thus, we needed to expand beyond the college campus. When engaging with Black Deaf youth, several would ask questions about Black Deaf culture and history; thus, we needed to create more Black Deaf-centric educational materials and curricula. The racial uprising of 2020 and the need to hold space for all Black perspectives and lived experiences in accessible ways was dire; thus, we needed a new platform. Our organization was officially founded in April 2023 as a 501c (3) nonprofit, and the dream of serving more, reaching farther, and making a more significant difference in creating equitable education was realized. We have many community partners, continue to honor and center Black Deaf lives, and are grounded in collective liberation.

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CSUN Black Signers Club 2022

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