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Tamae Clarke, an organizer for Poetry Jam, expresses her support for the deaf community near the Poetry Jam sign. (Sabrina Stevenson/The Collegian)

Deaf artists put on show at Poetry Jam

Though they can’t hear, deaf artists were heard by others Wednesday as they expressed their views on how society may sometimes interpret deafness as a disability.

The deaf artists were featured in the Cross Cultural and Gender Center’s Poetry Jam event in The Vintage Room at Fresno State. The judgement-free event allowed students of various backgrounds to perform songs, poetry and raps amongst other things.

Tamae Clarke, event organizer, said it is important for deaf students to speak about their experiences at these events because there are few events like this for them.

“One of the deaf performers said, ‘I walk alone.’ She added, ‘Why don’t you accept me as well?’ and this is like saying that, ‘We accept you. We want you to be joining in. We don’t want to put you as separate,’” Clarke said.

Participants in the Fresno State deaf studies program became the event interpreters for the night after the original interpreters did not show, Clarke said.  

“The fact that we had so [many] students and former students willing to actually interpret for us was awesome,” she said.

The deaf performers gave a voice to their oppression by using their hands. They showed metaphors for personal growth. And they sometimes made the audience laugh.

Tracy Weber, a deaf performer who used sign language to tell her story, wants others to know that though people may forget deaf students cannot hear, they are trying to pursue their dreams like everyone else.

“I want to show people here that deaf people can do it. They are not alone, and I want to expose people to sign language so they can see that they have something that is the same as talking – a language, dancing hands,” Weber said.

Fresno State student Annadina Garcia said she liked the event.

“It was more like learning everyone else’s experiences,” Garcia said. “I felt connected with them as well. I had the same kind of experiences.”

Similarly, student Meng Thao said the performers and student interpreters did well.

“I like how they express themselves with the poetry, and their emotion fascinated me,” Thao said.

Clarke said the Cross Cultural and Gender Center will look at different groups on campus to make it easier for people from different cultures to interact with others.

“Next month, we’re going to feature Hispanic, Latinx and different Chicano [and] Latin studies, departments and individuals [who are] part of that community so that they can represent during Hispanic Heritage Month,” Clarke said.