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Friday, October 11 • 12:10pm - 1:30pm
Film & Panel Event: Signing Black in America: The story of Black ASL

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Signing Black in America: The Story of Black American Sign Language
While African American Language is the most widely recognized ethnic variety of English in the world, the use of American Sign Language (ASL) by Black Americans has been largely ignored or dismissed as part of an assumed ASL system uniformly used by the deaf community in the United States. But ASL, like any language, may show robust diversity, including traits associated with by Black Americans.
Signing Black in America is the first documentary to highlight the development of Black American Sign Language. Based on extensive interviews with Black signers, linguistic experts, interpreters, natural conversations, and artistic performances by Black ASL users, it documents the development and description of this unique ethnic variety of ASL. Many of the same conditions that gave rise to the development of spoken African American language affected the development of Black ASL—residential, educational, and social segregation along with the internal development of an autonomous cultural community indexing black identity. At the same time, deaf African Americans had contact with the spoken African American language community, borrowing sign language analogs of unique spoken-language African American expressions.
Different uses of space, hand use, directional movement, and facial expression are exemplified by Black ASL users, including an expanded perimeter for hand movement, the differential placement of hands and their directional trajectory, the use of two-handed vs. one-handed signs, and facial expressions, leading to a variety of ASL that is an analog of the variety used in spoken African American Language. The Black Deaf Community is now embracing the notion of Black ASL as a symbol of solidarity and agency in constructing ethnolinguistic identity.
Following the presentation of the documentary, a panel discussion of the film will include the following participants:

Ceil Lucas, Professor Emerita, Gallaudet University
Lucas is a pioneer in research on variation in ASL, and the author of many books and articles about language variation in ASL. She had led several research projects on the development and description of Black ASL and is a co-author of The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure

Joseph Hill, University of Rochester
Hill is a professor at Rochester University and an Associate Producer of Signing Black in America. He has done primary research on Black ASL and is the co-author of The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure, in addition to other research articles on the nature and development of Black ASL.

Danica Cullinan, North Carolina State University
Cullinan is an award-winning producer who serves with Neal Hutcheson as the co-producer and co-director of Talking Black in America as well as Signing Black in America. Her extensive experience with various venues of media video production has given her insight into the logistical and editing challenges of producing a documentary such as Signing Black in America.

Friday October 11, 2019 12:10pm - 1:30pm PDT
EMU Redwood