I sent my letter to DWU:

I am a Culturally Black Deaf woman who has not participated in many Deaf Women-based organizations or events because of the lack of cultural competency in the larger Deaf Women community. As a womanist (Black feminist) and advocate for gender equality for everyone in the community (e.g. Deaf Women of Color, and of all orientations), my activism is not solely focused on Black Deaf Woman. Historically and currently, Women of Color have always been subjected to violence in every corner of our existence and memory; what does that say for DWOC? The struggle is backbreaking as race, class, sexual orientation and gender are interlocking oppressors in the lives of WOC/DWOC. Having this basic background laid out, I am very appalled to discover that the National Association of the Deaf has invited Governor Dennis Daugaard to the 2012 NAD Conference to give a plenary presentation on civil, human, and linguistic rights. This invitation is clearly the continuation of degrading human and civil rights for Deaf Queer POC, DWOC, and the Queer Deaf community.

Another fellow activist Tavian Robinson clearly spelled out what kind of person that was selected to speak at NAD (which “is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America”). Governor Daugaard has a legislative record that interferes upon a woman’s sovereignty over her own body by allowing the government to legislate reproductive rights. The American feminist movement fought a long struggle, beginning in the 1910s with Margaret Sanger, pioneer of the reproductive rights movement, who subsequently fled to Europe to avoid imprisonment for promoting birth control and reached its apex with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Barbara Smith, a selfless Black Feminist/womanist and socialist, focused and emphasized the intersectionality of racial, gender, heterosexist, and class oppression in the lives of Blacks and other Women of Color. With this being said, you can imagine the enormous impact on DWOC by issues such as reproductive rights, rape, prison reform, violence against women, hetrosexism, racism, audism, ableism, sterilization abuse, and health care.

This letter is to support Tavian Robinson’s statement that the NAD has a history of marginalizing women within its own ranks, beginning with its formation in 1880. For example, deaf women were not allowed full voting rights in NAD until 1964, although federal suffrage had been granted 44 years earlier in 1920 to American women. Black members (including Black women) were allowed to join in NAD a year after Deaf women (White Deaf Woman) who was already held membership, voting rights.

As an affiliate of the National Association of the Deaf, I call upon you to assert the equal place of women, Deaf Women of Color, Deaf Queers and Deaf Queers of Color in the NAD. I urge your organization to insist that anti-women legislators with a record of limiting women’s human rights not be given a platform to speak on human and civil rights. As a community activist, we should hold ourselves responsible and ensure that NAD is practicing their mission:

“The mission of the National Association of the Deaf is to promote, protect, and preserve the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America.”

Actively yours,
Stephanie Johnson

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