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Deaf community members raise awareness on diversity and inclusion

During Deaf Awareness Month, the Deaf community speaks out about the diversity found within as well as the challenges that each member faces.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For every 1,000 children born in the United States, two out of three have some level of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

During Deaf Awareness Month, the Deaf community speaks out about the diversity found within as well as the challenges that each member faces.

Sheena “Queen Foreverrr” Lyles is a comedian and a member of the Deaf community.

"The Deaf community has always been very siloed," Lyles said. "It’s been a dark hole in the hearing world.” 

Lyles said she didn't learn a lot until she went into the residential school for the deaf. 

"Then, I saw more," she said. "I learned more. I experienced more.”

That is often the case for many who are deaf. Marvin Miller is a Deafhood Foundation Instructor Facilitator. 

“My parents are deaf, my grandparents are deaf—all of my kids are deaf," he said. "It’s just an issue of pride for me."

Through the Deafhood Foundation, Miller trains Deaf individuals globally. 

“We did not learn a lot about ourselves growing up," he said. "Over 150 years of systematic oppression, our language and our culture was banned for such a long time.”

That changed recently. 

“It wasn’t until the last 40 or 50 years that we would be able to come out of that oppression and really thrive," he said. "We’ve started to look at ourselves and think what deafness means to us.” 

Part of that though process is recognizing the diversity within the community. 

“People don’t realize here I’m using American Sign Language, but there’s not American Sign Language globally," he said. "There’s are other international sign language just like spoken languages. Included in this country, due to severe educational oppression, you will see deaf people who had been reared without learning their own heritage language.”

That is why inclusion and understanding are so important. 

“What I want the message to the world to be is just to get to know us," Miller said. "If all individuals learned sign language, I can’t even express how inclusive this world would be and how incredible.”

Lyles said that the Deaf community even have their own "inside jokes," but that they have goals in standardization.

“We want to raise awareness so that everyone feels like there’s some sort of standardization—similarities between the two worlds,” Lyles said. 

These similarities can be made known through understanding.

For more about the Deaf community in Memphis, here is a list of Deaf Awareness Month events:

  • Queen Foreverrr Comedy Show 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Overton Square, 2085 Monroe Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

10pm-11:15pm

  • The Future of Deaf People!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

White Station High School Auditorium, 514 South Perkins Road, Memphis, TN

Reception: 5pm  

Presentation: 6pm-9pm

  • Deaf Family Reunion 2022

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Marquette Park, 4946 Alrose Ave, Memphis, TN 38117

2pm-6pm

  • Embracing Deaf Values for Parents of Deaf Children

Saturday, September 17, 2022

First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper Street, Memphis, TN

Reception: 12pm   Presentation: 1pm-4pm

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