In The Vintage Room Wednesday night, hearing and deaf students and faculty gathered for an evening of poetry and sharing.
Roughly 60 people attended the Poetry Jam, which had a focus on deaf performers and was put on by Fresno State’s Cross Cultural Programs and Services. September is Deaf Awareness Month. The Poetry Jam featured stories, songs, spoken word and poetry performed by students, faculty and a visiting high school class.
Senior deaf studies student Tracy Weber was one of the deaf performers. Weber said she initially didn’t plan to perform but was encouraged to participate by her professor, Dr. Rosemary Wanice. Weber told a comical story of her first time being in New York City.
Weber explained why an event like this is so important to her and the deaf community as a whole.
“The deaf community is not alone,” Weber said. “We want to spread awareness to the hearing people, so they can understand what we have to break through–some of the frustrations–because when hearing people understand us, it’s easier to get along.”
All the hearing students’ performances were interpreted into American Sign Language (ASL) by Fresno State staff, and the deaf performances were translated into English by ASL staff. In between performances, the event coordinators served snacks and refreshments.
They also held quiz challenges with questions about deaf history and common deaf culture practices to promote awareness and offer a way for the audience to win prizes.
Wanice performed as well. She first explained what inspired the poem she wrote. Wanice’s performance focused on the frustration she felt as a deaf person when she has been misunderstood or left feeling inferior to the hearing.
The audience switched back and forth between clapping for hearing performers and shaking their hands above their heads to applaud the performance of a deaf person.
The event also featured a short, touching video of deaf people of all ages explaining how deaf people can do or be anything a hearing person can.
Student coordinators Jasmeet Sandhu and Clarence Obichere were pleased with the program. Sandhu said she was glad the event went well and had a good turnout.
It was Weber’s second year performing, and she too was satisfied.
“Tonight’s event is good, because deaf people feel like they can be included and not just separate from things,” Weber said. “We are together. We are included. It’s really important for us to feel included.”