Hate Out of Winston pleads for at least one American Sign Language performer at the National Black Theater Festival in August after receiving a request for support from a parent in Winston-Salem.
Amatullah Saleem, activist and founder of Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble in Winston-Salem, said her daughter, Opal Gordon, who is deaf, plans to visit her from New York and would like to attend the NBTF this year.
Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble is a group of dancers and drummers who have performed at major black cultural events, including the National Black Theater Festival. Saleem founded the group with Ron Dortch, an actor, and Gilbert Young, a painter, in the early 1970s. When Saleem moved to New York in 1989, Hashim Saleh became the leader of the group. Saleh died in November 2019 following a sudden illness.
For the 2022 National Black Theater Festival, Saleem suggests that an ASL performer be offered during a “production with an emphasis on music and dance because a deaf audience is able to see movement and feel the vibrations of the music”.
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She said she would be happy if there was just one production “where we have a performer one night and do some publicity so the deaf community in Winston-Salem and surrounding areas know and come” .
Saleem recently emailed the NBTF to inquire about performers at the festival and received an email dated May 29 from India Mack, artistic director of the NC Black Repertory Company, which produces the festival, stating : “Thank you for passing on the information about Deaf Services Unlimited. The 2022 festival does not include interpretation or deaf services. The NBTF will assess the need to provide such services for future festivals. »
But Hate Out of Winston frontman Miranda Jones said she would like something done for this year’s festival.
Jones said Hate Out of Winston had contacted the National Black Theater Festival by email and phone to support Saleem’s request, but as of Thursday had not received a response from festival officials.
Originally, Hate Out of Winston inquired about the possibility of performers during NBTF plays, but Jones said to have a performer for a production, as Saleem has since requested for the 2022 festival. , would be a good start.
“We just want to know how to make this happen? What do we do?” said Jones.
She said the members of Hate Out of Winston recognize that there will be a cost to have a performer at an NBTF production.
“We understand that often places like this use the language of ‘excessive demand,’ but when you’re talking about North Carolina which has over a million Deaf people, some of them, we think, would like to see the National Black Theater Festival,” Jones said. “Some of them are African Americans.
Brian McLaughlin, director of media relations for the NBTF, said Thursday that festival organizers are considering the request.
“We’re definitely looking at ways to make something like this happen at this late stage in the game because our motto is ‘Black theater is for everyone’ and that includes the deaf community,” McLaughlin said. . “We are certainly thinking about what we can do.”
He said festival organizers would contact Saleem and Hate Out of Winston.
“We’re looking for ways to shake things up, until this year,” McLaughlin said. “Later, we may even hope to increase it.”
In North Carolina, 1.2 million people age 18 and older have hearing loss, according to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Jones said Hate Out of Winston tries to raise awareness of the need for an ASL interpreter at this year’s festival through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and by contacting various organizations such as two advocacy groups for deaf and a sign language. band.
“(We’re) just trying to shine some light,” Jones said. “It’s not a fight for us. It’s the right thing to do.