Wellesley celebrates Deaf culture through storytelling
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 21:04
On Wednesday, March 28, esteemed storyteller Bonnie Kraft received a standing ovation in Wellesley College’s Science Center after she told funny story after funny story, but instead of the audience giving her a round of applause by clapping loudly—as one might expect—nearly 200 people applauded her performance in silence by waving their hands in the air with outstretched fingers. This more visually expressive variant of clapping—which is often the preferred way of applauding within Deaf culture—marked the end of a two-part Deaf awareness storytelling event that was co-hosted by the Wellesley College Committee for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Harvard University Committee on Deaf Awareness. It was also sponsored by the Disability Services Office and funded through the Edwards Fund.
“I wasn’t completely surprised by the number of people in the audience because the turnout for last year’s [Deaf awareness] event was pretty large. But this year, it was so crowded that people were actually out of their seats,” Andrea Takahesu-Tabori, a member of the Wellesley College Committee for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said.
Wellesley’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Committee was founded by Jenny Lu ’12 in 2010. Since its inception, the Committee has organized an event each semester that brings together Deaf community members and the Wellesley community in order to celebrate and raise awareness about Deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL).
As the only person on campus who identifies as culturally Deaf, Lu said that she first established the Committee in order to share her cherished Deaf culture with the rest of the Wellesley community.
“Wellesley is currently lacking opportunities for students to learn ASL or about Deaf culture, so I wanted to bring this resource to campus,” Lu said. “The Deaf community is a small, cultural, linguistic minority, so there aren’t a lot of resources out there to learn about our culture.”
Lu explained how, within mainstream American culture, many people often do not understand what it means to be “culturally” Deaf.