Lecture to consider challenges faced by black, deaf people


Black deaf people can face double discrimination — for both their deafness and their skin color.

Headshot of Joseph Hill
Joseph Hill

Researcher Joseph C. Hill will explore that topic and share his own experiences in “Black, Deaf, and Disabled: Navigating the Institutional, Ideological, and Linguistic Barriers with Intersectional Identities in the United States,” presented as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

The lecture will begin at 4 p.m. Jan. 17 in Room 4448 of East Hall.

The event aims to shed light on the elements of intersectionality and the interconnection of educational, political and cultural institutions. Intersectionality refers to how a person’s multiple identities might lead to unique forms of oppression or discrimination.

Hill is an assistant professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreting Education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

His main research interests are socio-linguistic and historical aspects of the African-American variety of American Sign Language, or Black ASL. He also studies language attitudes and ideologies in the American deaf community.

The Department of Linguistics is presenting Hill’s lecture. Organizers hope people who attend take away a deeper understanding of the relationship between systemic oppression and intersectionality, with an eye toward social justice.

Natasha Abner, a sign language researcher and assistant professor of linguistics at U-M, and the presenter’s faculty host, said sign languages are underdocumented and understudied compared to spoken languages. She also noted that the community of people specifically researching Black ASL is small.

 “It’s absolutely a privilege” to have Hill, who is black and deaf, come to campus to share his research, Abner said. “He is going to offer us a perspective that is authentic, or not experienced by people who are not part of those communities.”

The lecture will be given in American Sign Language. Spoken English interpretation and speech-to-text captioning will be provided.

There is no cost to attend. Refreshments will be provided.


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