HELLO, HELLO, HELLO to all the faithful followers of Deaf Insight!!! My name is Joey Barefield, hailing from the Nation’s Capital, Washington DC and I have been granted the distinct honor to be a Guest Blogger this week (*hands waving*). A few weeks ago while discussing and displaying my signing progress to one to the editors of deaf-insight.com, I was informed of the possibility of a segment which the website was thinking about implementing. In the course of my chat session with this “Socialite” of an editor I was given loads of encouragement to continue on my path toward becoming fluent in ASL. In exchange for her words of wisdom
I graciously accepted the opportunity to be this week’s guest blogger and agreed to open my vault of ASL progression videos, which cover a two year time period (2010 – present), so look forward to seeing my skills from the beginning to the time when it’s time for my hands to fly solo in the open air of communication. With all that said, I would like to enlighten the readers about how my zest for learning the language began. As a hearing person learning ASL, I tend to always be asked why I’m learning the language. With that said, I think it fitting to simply title this blog “MY JOURNEY “ _\m/
I enjoy every opportunity to learn all I can in my determined effort to increase my ASL skills. Over the past two years I had hung around Gallaudet University so much that many thought I was a student there. I’ve gained a great deal of acceptance from within the Deaf community and I love the feeling. Allow me give you my background story of how I fell in love with this language and the community that uses it:
I have a brother name Jullian Mitchell (JB) who was born hearing but after a bout with meningitis while still a toddler, became deaf. I only saw my brother roughly twice a year since we lived in different cities after he was born. When I would visit him and the rest of the family (who didn't learn to sign) we would communicate orally. I only knew two signs growing up; the sign for "STOP" and the sign for "PLAY,” only because those were the signs I always directed toward him when he was continually jumping on me, getting on my nerves as siblings are known to do to each other (love ya JB..hehe). I can honestly say I was totally illiterate when it came to understanding deafness and deaf individuals for all those years. I was one of those “stupid hearing people” who viewed deaf individuals as disabled and mentally challenged (I was the mentally challenged one with that type of thinking). As we got older, I didn't even consider JB’s deafness because he was just like any other kid who would do the same things I did whenever I would come visit. As I look back to days of growing up and visiting him, I never saw him sign at all, always oral with everyone, because with hearing aids he could hear them. He was mainstreamed and even attended college at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida where he played on the baseball team, and finally transferring and completing college in Miami, FL.
Okay, now back to me... My brother and I always communicated either through phones calls or text messages. In January of 2010 I told my brother I was moving to Washington, DC, and to my surprise he told me his Orlando based Deaf Club basketball team (FSAD) was going to be coming to DC for a basketball tourney that February. I was excited because I was going to get to see my brother. As the day of the tourney came closer I texted him and asked him for the address to where the tournament would be held in order to familiarize myself with the drive since I was new to the DC area. The address he gave me was 800 Florida Ave NE, Washington DC. I put the address in my GPS and did my recon of the area so there would be no getting lost when I had to drive him to the game on game day. So I entered the gates of this university I had never heard of before named GALLAUDET, I ask for direction. To my dismay, the gate guard begins to use sign language (this is weird, I thought to myself) so I used the obvious sign of shooting a basketball and he points to the Field House (gym). I proceeded to pass by the field house to see exactly where everything was located. As I left the campus I called my brother and I asked him if that was the right address?? I told him the man at the gate was using sign language...My brother then proceeds to tell me "It’s a deaf university stupid"(sibling love was in the air). So I went home and googled “GALLAUDET “since this “gate guard surprise” sparked my interest.
Once my brother finally arrived he told me that his fiancée (now wife, Damaris Santiago) would be arriving with the team that would be driving up the next day from Orlando. He “reminded” me she was Deaf. I said okay that cool, and then he say she is Deaf and doesn’t communicate orally like me, she uses sign language. I actually was becoming nervous about bout meeting her. He told me not to worry taught me how to say "good morning”, "my name is Joey", and "nice to meet you"... which I secretly practiced all night.
Next day was game time... I was totally not ready for what I was about to experience!!! I drove to Gallaudet campus like I had practiced before to make sure I got JB to his game on time. I started to park at the Field House and he was like NO, this isn't where I'm playing at, he said to keep driving further onto the campus; so I drive further and we parked at Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD). AS we entered into the gym it seemed like the whole gym gave him hugs and high-fives. It was like he was a superstar...hahaha... I was glued to his side (I felt like foreigner whose plane had landed in the wrong country) as he directed me to the bleacher to meet his future wife...Well remember those 3 easy signs he had taught me the night prior and I had practiced all night??? YEAH... they totally were nowhere to be found when it came time to use them...hahahah... I felt so embarrassed. I have no idea of what I signed it was probably a combination of all the signs...hahaha... I sat in the stand with her for the whole day and was so afraid to attempt to communicate with her. But that was the least of my fears... I glazed to my left, right, in front, behind... FLYING HANDS ARE EVERYWHERE!!! I felt as even more deeper into this foreign country my plane had landed in. Everyone was friends with everyone it seemed. Hugging, handholding, handshakes, high fives...but the one thing that fascinated me was when my brother’s fiancée (now wife) waved her hand at a little 4 year old girl and gestured for the little girl to come talk with her. The little girl (who was CODA) began to sign back, engaging in a full conversation...I was in amazement!!! It was at that very moment that I made the decision that I was going to learn to sign because this is the community I want to be a part of. It was at this moment that I also begin to look back and analyze my family’s relationship with my brother. We had forced him to grow up in a hearing world where at times he didn’t fully understand discussions or reasons why things were happening around him due to breakdowns in communication. My self-analysis produced a motivation to show my appreciation and love for JB for all that he’d accomplishment even though being forced to “be hearing.” It was on that day I made the decision to begin my Path to PAH and learn to sign for my brother and his Damaris.
After the games (a whole day I went without verbally talking to anyone) I ran on the court to take pictures of my brother and his team after they won the tournament. People came up to me signing, signing, signing...and I didn't know what to do!! My brother saw my fears and came to my rescue and explained that I didn't sign.
My brother and Damaris introduced me to a guy name Robert Zambrana who was a senior at Gallaudet at the time and was childhood friends with Damaris. Rob told me he would teach me sign language and I became super excited. Rob and I exchanged contact information that day. Well I waited and waited and waited, but didn’t' hear from until a month later in Mid-March 2010. Rob apologized for taking so long to get back in contact with me, but he was busy with his fraternity (DSP) and was preparing for graduation soon. He then invited me to a frat event at a local club. Well that invite was the start of lasting friendship. I arrived at the club on the invite date and to Rob's surprise I showed up... he was as excited as I was. Rob didn’t think I would be brave enough to show up. Still ignorant to the Gallaudet, I thought only Deaf students attended, then Rob introduced me to an interpreting student and I was considering a new future for me, maybe I could become an interpreter.
In April Rob begin showing me around Gallaudet and introducing me to people, taking me to his classes for me to experience how teaching is done at the university, and hanging out in the student lounge and watching student interact. My love for the community and language grew and grew. It was at this time I began searching the internet for ASL lessons and started teaching myself along with Rob's help. I would stay up until 3 in the morning some nights learning new signs and trying to put sentences together. Whenever I would go to visit Rob, I would show him what I taught myself but I was still too ashamed and embarrassed to use my weak ASL in public.
Well Rob moved to Orlando that July; however he had introduced me to numerous people at Gallaudet so I would go visit them and go to different on campus events. I wanted to attend Gallaudet, but was still too intimidated because of my signing skills. I waited through the fall semester of 2010 and said it was time for me to apply for a program at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) if I wasn't going to attempt Gallaudet. Since then, I have been steady on my path.
I’m currently in my second year in the Interpreter Training Program at NVCC, which I began after completing all the required ASL classes. At the same time I’ve recently been accepted to Gallaudet University and will completing my Bachelor’s Degree majoring Deaf Studies.
I can honestly say that my choice to opening up my mind and become acquainted and educated with sign language and Deaf Culture has brought me closer to my brother and his family. Although I’m still learning the language I still feel a sense of pride that I’m able engage in signed conversations with JB, Damaris, and all my friends within the Deaf Community. I’m a strong believer the philosophy that everything in life happens for a reason. After my move to DC, my brother basketball tourney, and introduction to the Deaf World, I feel that this is the path I was meant to travel. The satisfaction and love I have developed continues to grow. Even though I wish I had been familiarized to the language and culture years ago, I cherish the fact that I finally found my comfort zone and a world that I find appreciation and continued desire to be associated with.
I welcome all communication opportunities and love to chat. I can be reached via Skype, or Email.
Life of a Deaf Socialite
Hi, My name is Ann Marie. I was born on May 3, 1975. I was raised in Indiana. I attended Indiana School For The Deaf from 1979 to 1989. I have grown