By J. Parrish Lewis
When we first decided to host a Deaf Men’s Conference a few years ago, a lot of people joked about what that would look like. They asked if we would sit around drinking beer and smoking cigars, and other jokes like that. While it’s true that there are plenty of guys who do love a good beer or even a cigar, we know that men are capable of much more than that.
Like all people, we also enjoy learning. Like all people, we also enjoy having a day that we consider to be fun. Like all people, we enjoy supporting each other and bonding, though we may do it differently.
We have been inspired by the women in our lives, our wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and female friends. When we saw, year after year, the Deaf Women’s Conference being so successful, we wanted the same for ourselves, but with our own twist.
This year’s Deaf Men’s Conference was no exception. On June 3rd, 2017, we convened in Fresno, California for a fun and inspiring day.
Our theme, Man Up!, was unfortunately misunderstood by some to be a negative expression of various aspects of our society which the guys at the conference don’t support. When the theme was created, the idea was not to suppress emotions, such as telling a little boy to “man up” if he was crying. It was also not at all a commentary on women in any way, for we know that the concepts we touched on apply to both men and women: maturity, leadership, patience, kindness, honesty, and responsibility.
In a way, the day was an attempt to take a phrase and redefine it for the 21st century as something positive, encouraging men to become more mature, kind, patient, honest –including with our emotions — , responsible and leading by example, alongside of women, transgender, gender fluid, and more. In short, all people. Though the day focused on the men who attended, we support everyone.
We were thankful to have presentations from Steve Longo, a Deaf musician from Beethoven’s Nightmare, on Empowerment, and from David Kerr, Deputy Director of DCARA, on Leadership. Thank you, Steve and David, for contributing to our day!
We also had an excellent activity using Play-Doh, showing that we’re not afraid to channel our inner kids while still doing a serious activity, to create sculptures that represent those words again: maturity, leadership, patience, kindness, honesty, and responsibility. After we had created our sculptures, we talked about why we chose to build what we did and how we would want to incorporate these values in our lives.
Finally, as if that weren’t enjoyable enough of a time, we had a fantastic Italian lunch and a fun Ping Pong competition.
We’ll be hosting the next Deaf Men’s Conference in 2019, and hope to see many new faces join us! *
* Note for the women in our community: the next Deaf Women’s Conference is in 2018.