By: Candice Goodie, Client Services Specialist
Growing up in Bakersfield, I loved attending Deaf events, such as the monthly pizza night, annual community picnics, seasonal performances, etc. At those events, I would interact with Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) and Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals of various ages, ranging as early as 3 to their late 80s. I loved listening to senior citizens’ life stories and their concerns about the younger Deaf and Hard of Hearing generations.
During my college years at California State University, Northridge, I would return to Bakersfield during the holidays to visit my family. I would attend Deaf events when I could to socialize because I love chatting with other Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, simply because we all share the same language, American Sign Language (ASL). We understand where we come from and share the same Deaf values and culture. We also respect each other’s differing viewpoints and backgrounds. When the holidays were over, I did not want to leave, but I had to return to college. The busier I became, the less frequently I attended Deaf events.
Fast forward to the year 2013, I graduated from college and moved back to Bakersfield. I discovered several new Deaf events, which I never heard of, including Deaf Night Out (DNO), Bunco, Starbucks Deaf Coffee Socials, and movie night. I was so excited when I learned of these events. I contacted my friends to plan gatherings at these events and enjoyed seeing familiar faces while making new friends. The members from the local Deaf organization asked my friends and I if we could start hosting the Deaf Night Out to attract the younger Deaf and Hard of Hearing generation. They tend to interact with older people, not the younger crowd, and hoped that we would bridge that divide. So we decided to host several events each month. At first, it was fun and many young and old showed up. We were very pleased with the numbers.
However, when we asked the members from the local Deaf organization to provide us with ideas and feedback, they decided to not help us. We had difficulties with connecting with them and things became more complicated. We decided to return the responsibility of hosting Deaf Night Out to them. They did not advertise the event as much as they could have, nor other events. It was sad to see their unwillingness to work with the young people. We are Deaf and all should work together for the best interests of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
When I moved to Fresno for a new job, I saw the board in the lobby of the Fresno DHHSC Headquarters full of flyers, events and workshops hosted at both at the agency itself and within the community. The Fresno Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community is a completely different world. I see many Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals come into the DHHSC Headquarters for their activities, such as Valley Deaf Seniors meeting every Thursday, Sign & Sew Guild on Fridays, and Deaf Blind Support Group the second Wednesday of each month. Workshops are offered frequently and focus on different topics. Different support groups are also offered, and they host various events, such as coffee socials on Thursdays, Martha’s Vineyard, Valley Deaf Festival, ASL Summer Program, etc. The local movie theatre also has open-captioned movies every Monday night. There is often something to do, both at the Headquarters and within the Fresno community.
Because of my past experiences living near an outreach office and now working at the headquarters for another agency, I am seeing differences between the number of events, workshops, and activities offered. Outreach offices tend to be smaller and have fewer staff, hence not being able to offer as much as the headquarters that houses more staff. The number of staff available makes a difference in the nature and frequency of events and workshops offered, which people often do not realize. Smaller places rely more heavily on volunteers to make things happen, but it is crucial to appreciate and work with those volunteers. If volunteers feel unappreciated and not provided with assistance, such as what happened to me and my friends with hosting Deaf Night Out, they will leave. They will not be motivated to assist with activities.
Regardless if we work with those at an outreach office or at the headquarters, it is important to recognize each other’s work and efforts. We all need to work together to host Deaf socials because that is where Deaf and Hard of Hearing people come together to celebrate their language and culture.