Saturday, August 31, 2013

When Taking a Stand...


When Taking a Stand...

AFA has been hosting events beginning with the 2009 AG Bell Volta Rally.  We would like to share with the community responses to our advocacy. The most inspiring experiences, of course, have been the folks who have shown up with really pure hearts to take a stand for Deaf children’s rights and take a stand against the continued suppression of the language and culture of Deaf people via various institutions/organizations and systems such as AG Bell and EHDI.  These individuals have been amazingly courageous---they have stood on the grounds of their previous oral only schools and institutions in their hometowns and said ‘enough!’  They have rallied at AG Bell conferences in a 100+ degree heat wave; they have marched and celebrated ASL and Deaf pride at our nation’s capital.    These folks have shared their own experiences at vigils and we all have worked together to move ahead as survivors of an audist society.  We celebrate you and you have kept our spirits on the right path.  Thank you for standing.

At the same time, we feel we need to share with all of you other responses to our activism.  In response to the on line article in the Atlantic (, the AG Bell representative accused protestors of having “made bomb threats at a convention center, stormed into conferences, defaced historical property, and harassed parents of children.” 

For the record, since AFA is made up of truth seekers -
1. We have never made any bomb threat at any convention center - it would not be in alignment with our principles of peaceful nonviolent resistance. 

2. We have never stormed into any AG Bell conferences – we did walk into one AG Bell 2011 conference session on Cultural Competency and engage in a peaceful sit-in.  

3. We have not defaced historic property – we did apply a bit of blue painters tape on the AG Bell Volta Bureau’s bronze plaque while a patrol car drove by and a civil rights lawyer was present. Nothing was desecrated or defaced.  Just AG Bell’s true face being shown and that is what they are objecting to.

4. We have not harassed parents – We have stood on sidewalks with signs of truth and flashing “I-LOVE-YOU” waves and we have engaged in honest dialogue with parents. 

We are making the invisible visible and that has resulted in AG Bell Association, a leader in the EHDI movement, and other groups and individuals to categorize us as extremists and lop outrageous and false accusations against us in an effort to discredit and distract.  AG Bell’s defensive reply to the Atlantic article and other attacks against us are indication that we are getting the truth out there.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
~ Martin Luther King, Jr “Letter From Birmingham Jail” April 16, 1963

Criticism leveled at AFA also happens from Deaf people in the blogspere in response to our events.  We have been criticized for exercising our first amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly and to petition the Government.  We have been attacked and slandered over standing for justice and equality for all.  The latest attacker is criticizing AFA for not welcoming abusers into our activism.  AFA stands with survivors of oppression such as racism, sexism, heterosexism – not just audism.  It is flabbergasting and disappointing to see Deaf individuals and organizations invest more courage in unjustly criticizing AFA while protecting or ignoring the true oppressors.  Again, we take these defensive reactions as indicators that we are making positive impacts.

 AFA recognizes that some people and/or organizations are not comfortable with soul force, truth force or think it should only be applied selectively.  AFA understands that not everyone is comfortable with peaceful direct confrontation.  We call upon those who are not able to abide by peaceful civil disobedience and truth force, to not become obstructionists or detractors. 

In looking back to 50 years ago this month and the civil rights march on Washington,  Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.”  We, AFA, have been striving truthfully to follow this principle and we express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have stood with us.