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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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Sexuality within the deaf and hard of hearing community has always been a fascinating subject. It is shown anecdotally that there is a proportionally larger population of LGBTQIA+ identifying deaf and hard of hearing people than among the hearing population. While not fully proven yet, this phenomenon shows the need for the deaf community to...
President Cordano had the honor and privilege of speaking at the National Diversity Council’s Disability Inclusion Summit on September 30. President Cordano was the keynote speaker and was awarded the Disability Inclusion Leadership award. She also attended Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit, which describes itself as “the world’s premier annual gathering of the preeminent...
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