SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 80

Ethos of ASL Poetry Rose A commentary on Christie's 2009 manuscript, ""Black Hole: Color ASL": A Personal Response" The Cultural Ethos of ASL Poetry Heidi M. Rose Villanova University Reading Karen Christie’s commentary on the poem, “Black Hole: Color ASL,” by Debbie Rennie, I am struck by how the same questions that drew me to study ASL poetry years ago persist to this day. I am also struck anew by the myriad ways in which ASL continues to be the core of Deaf American identity, and the way original ASL poetry continues to mark the significance of Deaf Americans’ relationship to their language. Rennie’s poem is a love letter to ASL, and Christie’s words create a love letter to Rennie’s poem. No artistic expression can fully explain or repair the world, but ASL poetry reveals Deaf cultural ethos and all its nuances better than just about anything I know. The insights of scholar-artists like Karen Christie demonstrate the universality of ASL poetry’s significance for the Deaf World and create a bridge between the Deaf and hearing worlds. Christie’s impressive career at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf includes numerous scholarly contributions to Deaf culture and theatre, ASL literature, and other art forms related to or inspired by ASL. The “Black Hole: Color ASL” commentary brings to life Christie’s personal, intimate relationship with ASL and its poetry, expressing in English some of the ways in which Deaf American identity comes into being specifically through ASL. The familiarity of her own story of linguistic discovery and cultural belonging, coming from a hearing family as do most Deaf individuals, resonates as much today as with accounts from the last 200 years. What additionally resonates as much today as in past generations are questions concerning the relationship between language, culture and education that Christie’s commentary raises. Historically, d/Deaf children’s education in schools for the deaf across the US would facilitate the development of their Deaf identity naturally through exposure to ASL and interaction with d/Deaf peers. Unfortunately, however, mainstreaming d/Deaf children into local public schools with speaking and fully hearing children has become a ‘preferred’ option in the last several decades, 1 a reality that robs d/Deaf children of signing as their natural mode of communicating, just as speaking is natural for hearing children. Christie’s personal narrative shows us the tremendous strength needed to take ownership of one’s own culture and language. She discovered ASL later in life, when it should have been her language all along, and describes poignantly the ongoing process of finding her place in the DeafWorld. Christie's commentary sheds light on the consequences of mainstreaming. While ostensibly aiming to equalize education, mainstreaming cannot help but limit access to ASL, because it isolates d/Deaf children from one another and does not provide them with Deaf adult role models. 1 75% of deaf/hard-of-hearing children are mainstreamed. mainstream/ SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 80