NDC Attends the 2023 National Black Deaf Advocates Conference

Published on September 8, 2023

After several years, the National Deaf Center (NDC) had the privilege of attending and presenting at the National Black Advocates Conference in August 2023. The conference’s theme, “Reconnecting to Thrive Together: Reconnect, Recharge, and Thrive,” perfectly encapsulated our experience. Since NDC’s last participation in the NBDA conference in 2018, much has evolved. Our team was eager to reconnect, share insights, and learn within the vibrant community of participants in Birmingham, Alabama.

Reconnecting with Community

The heartwarming reception from conference participants set the tone for a productive event. NDC proudly presented two sessions at the main conference: “Improving Postsecondary Educational Experiences and Outcomes for Black Deaf Students” and “Best Decision Ever: Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Deaf Students.” These sessions offered valuable opportunities to connect, exchange knowledge, and engage in stimulating discussions on student experiences.

The “Improving Postsecondary Educational Experiences and Outcomes for Black Deaf Students” session opened the door to dialog between NDC and community members to share qualitative and quantitative data on the educational achievements of Black deaf students, highlighting national-level barriers and challenges. Participants in this session contributed insights on strategies colleges can employ to support Black deaf students effectively, such as:

Clear Communication

Ensure accessibility and accommodations are communicated clearly to students, and maintain regular engagement to understand their needs.

Inclusivity and Diversity

Promote inclusivity and diversity by increasing representation among faculty and staff, offering mentorship programs, and encouraging student leadership.

Identity Affirming Experiences

Host events and campaigns that celebrate Black culture and highlight the achievements of Black deaf professionals.

Mental Health Support

Establish tailored mental health resources and safe spaces for open discussions about students’ concerns.

This session was a dynamic engagement and a source of inspiration for NDC’s ongoing efforts. Community engagement is pivotal to achieving equity and enhancing postsecondary experiences for Black deaf students, and we extend our gratitude to NBDA’s participants for their valuable contributions.

The “Best Decision Ever: Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Deaf Students” session was equally well-received. It provided a platform to discuss the legacy of HBCUs in serving Black deaf students, featuring insights from student panel guests. These students shared their experiences, choices, and how attending an HBCU impacted their lives.

Recharging By Black Deaf Youth

During the conference, NDC staff conducted several sessions for youth participating in the Collegiate Black Deaf Student Leadership Institute (CBDSLI). Connecting with youth served as a poignant reminder of the importance of NDC’s mission. The sessions focused on self-advocacy, career readiness, and strategies for enhancing college experiences.

Self-advocacy is an essential component of college student success. During a lively and interactive session, called “AdvoQuest: College Expedition,” students were challenged to navigate a mock college environment. This activity resulted in robust and enlightening discussions around overcoming system barriers on campus.

Another session, “Be For Real…Professionally,” provided students with valuable insights on cultivating an intentional online presence without sacrificing authenticity.

Student participants demonstrated wisdom and insight, emphasizing the importance of increasing awareness, training faculty and staff, and creating spaces for Black and other BIPOC students to connect. NDC staff was deeply appreciative of the opportunity to recharge and further our mission through engagement with CBDSLI youth.

Planting Seeds So Youth Can Thrive

In a time when youth, especially Black deaf youth, have faced significant challenges, the NBDA conference provided a unique opportunity to connect them with role models. These role models offer support from a place of shared understanding and life experience, fostering socioemotional skills, self-determination, and inspiring future possibilities.

NDC coordinated an impressive panel of role models who shared their life journeys, challenges, and words of encouragement.  Panelists shared how they have navigated life to their current position, challenges they have encountered, and words of encouragement to inspire and motivate students.

“Find your why and your own way to navigate to get what you want.  You will encounter discrimination and oppression, but keep on. Tell your story.” – Storm Smith, Creative Director & Creative Brand Storyteller/Certified Life Coach

“Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Be creative and change the game.” – Richie Bryant, Certified Deaf Interpreter, RID President

“Don’t let other people stop you from shining.” – Amie  Formah Sanokoh, Ph.D., the first Black deaf woman to graduate with a doctorate in a STEM field.

“Sometimes you may not have everything you need, but you gotta just go or it.”

-Abiola Hauron, Doctoral Student & Entrepreneur

To culminate our enriching experience at NBDA, NDC was honored with the Andrew Foster Humanitarian Award, which motivates us to continue our unwavering commitment to making an impact on deaf communities.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the National Black Deaf Advocates board and community members for their partnership in creating meaningful opportunities for Black deaf youth. We recognize that this is a collective effort, and only through such collaborations can we create spaces where deaf individuals can truly thrive.

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