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Fire Captain Andrea Hall visits Gallaudet

September 30, 2021


It all started with a message on Facebook. 

Reggie Bess, a doctoral student in the School of Language, Education, and Culture and an adjunct mathematics faculty member, was about to go to sleep for the evening when he received a Facebook notification. 

The notification was a direct message from one of his Facebook friends: Fire Captain Andrea M. Hall, who spoke and signed the Pledge of Allegiance for United States President Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

Bess had met Hall just this past summer. They were both attending the Georgia Association for the Deaf and Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf 2021 Conference at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Bess was co-presenting with Candace Jones on the subject of linguistic discrimination when he used Hall’s signing of the Pledge of Allegiance as an example of community backlash. Hall, who was keynote speaker for the conference, had wandered into Bess’ presentation, and remained engrossed for the entire three-hour workshop. 

Afterwards, she went up to Bess and thanked him for his support. They bonded over being from the deep South. Later, Hall added him as a friend on Facebook.

They did not talk again after the conference — not until Hall messaged Bess the evening of September 22, inquiring about campus visitor policies and whether Bess had time in his schedule to give her a brief tour of the Gallaudet campus. Hall was in town for an early-morning appointment the next day, and her flight was not until in the late afternoon. 

Bess immediately got in touch with Evon Black, the Associate Director of the Center for Black Deaf Studies, who, upon learning of Hall’s inquiry, immediately reached out to Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano that same night. 

Hall was met at the security kiosk the next morning and escorted to the President’s office, where she met President Cordano and her old friend Reggie Bess.

Fire Captain Andrea M. Hall embraces Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano upon her arrival to the President’s Office on Thursday, September 22.
Doctoral student Reggie Bess sits in the President’s office; he shares how he met Hall at a conference. September 22, 2021.

Joining the group later in the morning was Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, the founder for the Center for Black Deaf Studies. McCaskill, Cordano, and Bess shared with Hall all the exciting things coming for CBDS, the new Louise B. Miller Pathways and Gardens: A Legacy to Black Deaf Children memorial, and much more.

Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, the founder for the Center for Black Deaf Studies, reaches to embrace Fire Captain Andrea Hall in the President’s office, September 22, 2021.

Hall remarked how her late father would have loved to have learned of CBDS’ significant work, then paused, asking if it would trouble anyone to FaceTime with her mother, Barbara Williams, and say hello. Williams, who is hearing, learned sign language after meeting Hall’s father, Russell “Bubba” Williams.

Hall and her mother on FaceTime with President Cordano during Hall’s visit to Gallaudet, September 22, 2021.

Cordano, McCaskill, and Bess met Hall’s mother on FaceTime. Cordano gifted both Hall and her mother buff and blue silk scarves, thanking Hall’s mother (and late husband), remarking that the love for the Deaf community that was passed down to Hall was quite evident.

President Cordano stands behind Hall, chatting with Hall’s mother on FaceTime, as Hall tears up during a particularly touching moment. September 22, 2021.

After the FaceTime call, the tour started at the Kellogg Conference Hotel, where President Cordano noted the site for the Louise B. Miller Pathways and Gardens.

President Cordano touches on plans for the newly-named Louise B. Miller Pathways and Gardens memorial.

The group then lead Captain Hall to Hall Memorial Building, where the group visited the Division for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion offices, then stopping in to see Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Elizabeth Moore.

The tour stops at the Division for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion offices, September 22, 2021.
Dr. Elizabeth Moore chats with the tour group in her office, September 22, 2021.

The next stop of the tour was the new space for the Center for Black Deaf Studies, where an impressive group vibrated with excitement in anticipation of Hall’s visit: Black Student Union President Romel Thurman, Student Body Government President Aubrey Moorman, Ph.D student Victorica Monroe, graduate student Amelia Palmer, and Dr. Esayu Taname, a visiting Fulbright scholar from Ethiopia studying African sign languages. Joining them was Evon Black, who explained the Center’s future plans, insisting that Hall and her father be a significant part of the CBDS story.

Evon Black, the Associate Director for the Center for Black Deaf Studies, welcomes and shares the Cetner’s future plans. September 22, 2021.
Captain Andrea Hall stands next to Black Student Union President Romel Thurman.
The 2021-2022 Student Body President, Aubrey Moorman, stands next to Fire Captain Andrea Hall outside of the HMB. Earlier in the CBDS office, Hall shared some of her experience in being bullied by others for using Black ASL during the signing of the Pledge of Allegiance. In response, Moorman thanked Hall for “putting [BASL] on the map.”

After the tour and the photographs, Hall, McCaskill, Cordano, and Bess were joined by Alumni Relations Specialist Darrius Doe, University Communications Community Relations Manager Christopher Johnson, Provost Jeff Lewis, Chief Bilingual Officer Dr. Laurene Simms, and Dr. Moore and Ms. Black for lunch at House One, the President’s residence on campus. 

During lunch, Hall regaled the group with stories: her rise to her position as Fire Captain at the Fulton County Fire Rescue, where she was the first black woman to hold the role, memories with and of her father, and the invitation to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at inauguration.

30 September 2021


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Michelle Gerson-Wagner

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