Thank you, President Obama and the first family.

The election is over. I did my civic duty and voted. The candidate I voted for won the popular vote. That to me means that my vote counted for something. It is done.

I am not sure how to feel about the aftermath all of that is going on. That’s not to dismiss anyone’s feelings. It is to let you know that I am a Black man in America and I feel something. That something has everything to do with the sitting POTUS.

The man who looks like me, my skin, a man. A brilliant man. An amazing human being and leader.

Thank you, Mr. Barrack Hussein Obama, for giving me hope. For showing me that even as we face this new challenge and result, we shall overcome. That hard work pays.

Thank you and your family for being the example I can look to on how to persist with my dreams, aspirations, and hopes. As a Black Deaf man, I know that giving up and caving to fear and petty criticisms about who I am is not the way to go.

The way to go is to hold my head up like you did amidst the visible obstruction, hatred because you are Black, but not because you are a genius. I miss you already and it’s hard to think clearly while I am writing this to you, President Obama.

Maybe you will read it, maybe not. Maybe I will get to meet you before you leave office and maybe not. But whatever has happened, I know this in my heart, I am a man, like you, and I can be anything that I want to be.

It was amazing to me that during your tenure, you showed so much restraint, something that has been stigmatized against Black men to not be able to do.  I admire how when someone publicly provoked you, you would find ways to make it look like you loved them. Don’t misunderstand, I was pissed but watching you left me forgetting that.

I have read countless times about how you have received racist letters from the people you represented.  I have read countless of oppositions on Facebook and other social media outlets.  I  mean, wow!

I often ask myself, is President Obama one of those aliens from the conspiracy theories?  Seriously, this man can’t be human. Yet, you proved me wrong at each turn – you are the true epitome of a BLACK MAN.

I read so many articles about how our people, Black people, some who simply hate you for “not being Black enough.”  Their opinions are theirs.  Just like you stated when that President-elect’s fan was protesting at your speech – you showed the true meaning of what it means to be an American – to agree to disagree and to exercise all the rights afforded us as Americans.

I am so impressed with you.  You went further and hired a Deaf woman, a SCOTUS.  By doing so, you elevated the true meaning of following our dreams in America, not only for people with disAbilities but for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Not only that, your way with children, our future leaders, wow.  I am seriously wondering if you mess up at all *smile*.  I know you probably have but publicly, I have not seen it and it doesn’t matter.

The Affordable Care Act, to me, is a symbol of healing.  A true meaning of the human spirit.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion about it and I respect them too.  But for me, my opinion, it is the true meaning of democracy, the ability to give people healthcare should be a basic need.

To add icing on the cake, you passed several laws, one that united the LGBTQ community.  I could go on and on. But I believe in addition to this little thank you note, history will be kind to you, your family and leadership.  KUDOS to you, your family and team.

I wanted to thank you now because it seems like most people want to remain the “negatives” of things happening.  It looks like most of us would rather wait until you vacate office to thank you. I want to thank you now while you are still our President.

Thank you for 8 years of unwavering service. Thank you for not giving up no matter how “impossible.” You made it look almost easy, cool, collected, and steadfast. With those characteristics, I am reminded daily, to NEVER GIVE UP.

Thank you, Mr. President Barack Hussein Obama, and your family, the first Black family, for being the examples of true human beings.

Hi.

Hi, my name is Kojo Amissah.  How are you?  Nice to meet you.  I am a Black Deaf man.  I would like to share a part of me with you.

Before I do that, I often put disclaimers.  One of my friends, a White man, asked me why.  I told him it is because of some people, both Black and White need to be assured that I am not here to say something that could cause someone to feel guilty, upset, or ignorant of others who might have it “worse.”

Please, don’t feel guilty.  Don’t feel bad.  If anything, try to reflect on your own experiences and your story.  I believe we all have our stories and it isn’t about comparing stories.

I think stories is healthy.  It is human nature.  Each and his or her own.

My story is related to the recent shooting that took place in Tulsa.  That is one of many shootings that I draw my experience from.  Those shootings of Black men.

I am a Black man, Deaf, son, brother, uncle, and father.  I am afraid for my life.  My mind is busy – yes, I am psychologically stressed.

I am not sure how to share some of my daily thoughts without offending someone White.  In fact, I am afraid this story will have another adverse impact on my life and career.  I am afraid of a million other things aside from the fact that I could be shot for no reason.

I get up in the morning daily and the first thing I do is check outside to make sure no one is shooting or getting shot.  When I am ready to leave for work, I look outside the window to make sure the streets are “clear” before I come out.  When I am out, I am always looking over my shoulder to make sure my surroundings are safe – remember, I can’t hear.

One thing about me is that I can’t hear, but I can talk and that causes some of my hearing friends and acquaintances to wonder about me.  It is actually funny and can be fun when I get questions – most of them funny because of the simplistic nature of them.  It doesn’t bother me when someone asks me a question about my hearing loss.

But now I am more afraid than ever.  The man who was shot was hearing.  He had his hands up from what the videos are showing.

I put myself in his shoes and at that moment, I was dead.  I tried to imagine how that would play out for me.  I have tried every possible image (I pride myself on being creative) and each one of them led to the same thing – dead.

I played out each scenario.  Each one of them ended up worse. Worse as in possibly multiple shots in the back – dead.

I started to think about my family, especially my sister and daughter.  I tried to imagine how that would make them feel.  I tried to imagine how I would be remembered.

Then I realized, I could be implicated as anything.  A gang member,  drug dealer, a drug abuser, and every stereotype assigned to Black men after they are shot dead.  With this, I looked my life now.

My life is not any of those descriptions.  Another psychological stress I carry with me is about those descriptions.  I work hard, and please when I say I work hard, I mean extra hard to earn everything I have.

As a Black Deaf man, in general, the stereotype for Black men has been that we are lazy, sleep around and have a million babies, are irresponsible, and up to no good.  So this sits on my mind and reminds me daily to give 1000% to everything that I do.  I know that one mistake could cost me my life, lead me to jail, and now, GET SHOT FOR NO REASON.

This is my daily reminder.  These thoughts along with the others I have mentioned is the psychological stress I live with daily.  I know that even while I am writing this blog, I have to write in “perfect” English.

Otherwise, some of my readers, grammar police, could also SHOOT me down.  Not only that.  I tend to send this to some of my White friends to “White proofread” it for me out of fear that I may offend some White people for sharing my story.  I have written other blogs, which you can read.

My goal is NOT to offend but to share with you, my daily psychological stresses as a Black Deaf man who is afraid for his life in light of what has been happening.  I have become aware that while I can share my story in a form of freedom of speech, I am not afforded the same freedom of speech and expression that is afforded Whites (please don’t feel guilty or offended because we have enough historical and research evidence to attest to this and Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines are available to help you find them).

I wanted to end by saying hi.  How are you?  Nice to meet you.

I don’t hate White people.  I don’t hate America.  I don’t have hate for anything.

I am just psychologically stressed from living in fear for my life.  I don’t think any HUMAN BEING (if I am considered one) deserves to live like this.  But unfortunately, some of us, Blacks, Native Americans, and DARK SKINNED people live this way.  I don’t believe that Americans want anyone to live this way.

Imagine if I am living this way and this is my story.  I can’t speak for others.  But just sit back and imagine what it must feel like to get up in the morning daily with this type of living condition – psychological stress.

Worries that what I say and how I say it will NEVER be acceptable because of the color of your skin.  Worrying that your boss could read your blog, something you are advocating for and punish you for it.  Worrying that you are a target to be assassinated for no reason and then after that, your name will be smeared and your family embarrassed.

Hi.  How are you?  I am afraid for my life and right now, there is nothing I can do.

If you happen to see me passing you, please wave at me and show that you acknowledge that I am okay and that the last thing you can remember about me, is that I smiled my contagious smile back at you.  I think I can feel okay when you do that because tomorrow, I could be shot DEAD.

Thank you for reading.

#BlackLivesMatter: Are you kidding? Sit yo Black a$$ down!

First, my heart goes out to the officers, their families, and children for losing their lives in the line of duty.  It is my sincere hope that our leaders will step up, address these pressing issues and prevent more lives from being lost.

I have been following the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  I noticed how some Black people have issues understanding why #AllLivesMatter.  So I did some homework and read a lot before I wrote this.

Let me be very frank here.  #BlackLivesDontMatter.  I will share what I learned to help the rest of those delusional Black folks who seem to not get that #AllLivesMatter is what this is about.

First, Black Americans need to understand that someone years ago did us a favor.  The favor was to capture Blacks from the dangerous African jungle for our own safety.  Notice that there are different stories about how we were captured and if you tell anyone that we were captured, they will tell you no.

We are instead told that the African tribes were at war with each other and the winners sold losers.  Do you see how that becomes that focus of the conversation each time we try to discuss slavery?  There is some truth in that.

Here is the logical fallacy.  Back in the day, if Whites in Europe fought in a war with other Europeans and prisoners were captured, the prisoners of war became slaves.  I think this is okay.

What is not okay is that if Africans traveled to Europe, brought those prisoners of wars, and secretly captured others to bring back to Africa to enslaved then to do their dirty biddings, other wars, then it could lead to RACISM later when Whites feel oppressed.  If you are a Black person and you think this makes sense, I think you have gone and lost your mind.

Trying to make this argument sensible is an indication that you might have some serious mental health issues.  Trying to make that argument is why #BlackLivesDontMatter but instead, #AllLivesMatter.  Let’s continue with what I learned.

I also learned that #BlackLivesDontMatter from reading this article.  If we look at the images in this article, we see spectators.  Their lives matter is #ALLLivesMatter.  The only way to say #BlackLivesMatter is when the spectators are Black.

I mean, think about it. There are countless accounts of lynching and burning of Blacks for all sort of reasons.  Many of those reasons are the same reasons why many are rioting for justice.

Nevermind that.  Let me share something else I read.  This one is not to suggest that police lives don’t matter.  It is to share what I read that I found fascinating and to make sure that those that are ranting #BlackLiveMatter understanding that they have it all backward.

This article among others clearly indicates that what is happening, the way African Americans are treated by the police today and #BlackLivesMatter makes no sense.  If you read the article carefully, there is a lot of love towards Black slaves back in the day.  Do you notice how most of the articles talked about the police was established to protect #BlackLivesMatter folks?

So #BlackLivesMatter folks, you see where you got it all wrong?  There is a need for a divine intervention to help you #BlackLivesMatter folks.  The law is on your side and the police are here to make sure that you are heard, taken care of, and are safe.

You see, there have been others before you who behaved the same way, asked for justice and fairness, and guess what?  The police were there to make sure they were safe.  I was amazed to read those articles because they helped me get the true meaning of #AllLivesMatter.

The people in those images and articles are NOT the reasons why #BlackLivesMatter today.  That is in the past.  We cannot hold today’s individuals and groups accountable and responsible for those things that happened in the past.  Do you see why #AllLivesMatter?

A review of these historic images clearly shows that #AllLivesMatter because those being lynched and burned so not look like #BlackLivesMatter.  The images show that #AllLivesMatter and you protesters should be ashamed of yourselves.

Trying to get those that have benefited from all of those images to see what you see is like trying to turn a dog into a cat!  How could you even do that when you were not allowed to read and write?  Perhaps the lack of access to education is why #BlackLiveMatter folks don’t get it.

Don’t worry #BlackLiveMatter folks, you have access to education now and this is why #AllLivesMatter.  In addition to education, #BlackLivesMatter folks need to understand  the abundance of your economic wealth.  Please, stop whining about injustice and get to work  and live the life you have been living since the beginning of slavery.

I mean think about it.  Each and every one of you #BlackLivesMatter folks is obviously afforded the luxuries and spoils from slavery.  Why shouldn’t #AllLivesMatter?

It is time to enjoy the benefits.  It is time to stop the madness about injustice.  It is time to sit, yo, ass, down!

#AllLivesMatter because we are all equal.  We bleed red and some of us were unfortunate to be born with Black skin.   It is not the folks chanting #AllLivesMatter fault.

How could it be their fault when they were not there when it all happened?  How is that possible when they #AllLivesMatter folks did not benefit from everything I have been reading about some of the reason why #BlackLivesMatter should be addressed first?

You see, the folks from the #AllLivesMatter camp have no idea how Black women slaves were raped.  So in today’s rape culture, if you say #BlackWomensLivesMatter because of these hideous rape incidents, the #AllLivesMatter camp will cry foul and I can agree with them.  It is your foul mouth to remind the #AllLivesMatter camp that these are possible reasons why you believe we should focus on #BlackLivesMatter first.

Unacceptable of you!  How dare you #BlackLivesMatter folks compare the past with today? You see, rape culture today has nothing to do with the past.  There is no foundation whatsoever and I appreciate you #BlackLiveMatter folks if you join the #AllLivesMatter camp so we can all benefit from police protection and reduce rape culture.

I don’t think it will be okay to continue this way, put each other in harms way because we want to maintain an old status quo – unearned privilege.  I don’t believe that the #BlackLivesMatter camp should be called a terrorist group.  That terrorist label pales comparison to the articles I have shared.

I have no intention of telling anyone that we need to kill each other to do what is right by us.  Clearly, what is happening is affecting everyone.  Everyone is nervous, even some police officer are nervous.  To me, that is not the way to co-exist.

I have no intention of suggesting that we should retaliate against the police.  Being an officer is dangerous and hard work and I respect the men and women in that profession.  I have several  close friends who are officers and I am worried about their lives, their families, and kids.

What I suggest is that we look at the impact of history to understand that #BlackLivesMatter is not some elite exclusive club that excludes #AllLivesMatter or the police.  I have a reason to believe that the #BlackLivesMatter camp is trying to point out that some of these on-going mistreatments, injustice, and blatant display of the past in 2016 is shameful and must change.

I took a lot of time to research and read to try to understand.  I am sure some people will disagree with my point of view.  I think that’s okay.  I hope we can look at this objectively, admit to some of our subtle discriminatory ways, and put an end to profiling Black Americans.

According to the constitution, “all men are created equal.” Even that document is fraught with skepticism and questions about if it included Black Americans and recently the LGBTQA.  Are we all equal in today’s society?

Do we all have access to economic power?  This is one area that #BlackLivesMatter wants to address and change.  Have we been treated the same way within the legal system?  This is another area that #BlackLivesMatter wants to address and change.  Was the police established to treat Blacks in the same way as Whites?  I think this is another area that #BlackLivesMatter wants to address in light of recent shootings.

I am not asking Whites to feel guilty.  I am not asking for anything other than to face a truth about who we are, and how we got here.  The information, historical, don’t lie.  Ignoring our history may only lead us to repeat the same mistakes.

If we individually and collectively allow that to happen, then #AllLivesDontMatter.

It is time to begin healing and it has to start with addressing #BlackLivesMatter first, which doesn’t mean #AllLivesDontMatter.

Because embedded in the #BlackLivesMatter message is have open and honest conversations about rape culture, police brutality culture, White privilege, and a culture of fear of simply being a Black HUMAN BEING.  I have a reason to believe that most of us know this to be a truth and I challenge all of us to step up and be a part of the solution.

Saying nothing is more dangerous as we saw in the images of those bystanders while Blacks were lynched and burned as we are shot on television.

Please, stop the killings.

 

 

 

 

Nyle DiMarco: Congratulations and thank you

Heartfelt congratulations to you and Peta for winning this season’s Dancing with the Stars! You did it, both of you! All your hard word and persistence paid off in the end. This is why I believe many of us are happy for and inspired by you.

Congratulations to the DWTS show, the judges, ABC, and network leadership for making it possible to unite the world. I will get into the part of sending powerful messages to the world later in this blog but I will say this: I believe that ALL of you, together, sent powerful messages to the world.

First, I want to address a few things I am seeing that concerns me. Keep in mind that this is only my views on them and I’m not here to speak for anyone else but for myself. I am not here to tell anyone what is good or bad for them. I want to share my story with you and the world in hopes that we can find ways to create accessible pathways for other Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and the hearing families with Deaf or Hard of Hearing members.

I am inspired by you.

I am a Hard of Hearing man and I’ve been one since birth with jaundice. My hearing is residual, it means I cannot hear high-pitched sounds. Even with low-pitched sounds, I still need to read lips to understand what a person is saying. As I get older, I am losing some of that residual hearing. That is to be expected as one gets older.

Before I learned American Sign Language (ASL), I thought I was the only person on this planet with a hearing problem. This is because I grew up in Ghana, West Africa. While growing up, I was alone in my world of thoughts — mostly thoughts of fear, negativity, and defeat. I thank my father who worked so hard to bring our family to America.

When I attended high school here in the US of A, I sat in the front in the class and MISSED 99% of what was taught by the teachers. I came home frustrated to family members who did not sign.

My family made sure that I had access to everything. In fact, my family worked hard to make sure that I had everything I needed to succeed as a child and the fact that I was hard of hearing did not stop me from achieving my dreams. That included the opportunity to graduate from high school and go to college at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), a college of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York.

In high school, I did not have a sign language interpreter. It would have been useless because I did not know ASL at that time. I did not have access to many things except for my textbooks and my dad made sure that I read and stayed on top of my studies.

In addition to working hard in high school, I was picked on and bullied on very often by other kids because I did not hear them and they misinterpreted that as my ignoring them. I have residual hearing and if someone calls me behind my head, I can’t hear them and I need to face them to see what they are saying.

When I arrived at NTID, I met other Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals like me. I was like, “Wait a minute, there are others? You mean there are others who don’t have some residual hearing? They are Deaf? Really? How can that be? I am not ALONE?

OOM! A culture shock! A major one for me, I tell you. Imagine how many children in the world like me.

What it meant for me? The journey of learning about myself, the meaning of being a hard of hearing man, and how special that is as opposed to all of those negative thoughts I had growing up had begun. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of belonging, a sense of identity, and a sense of relief that I am NOT alone on this planet.

I was only 19 years old at that time, a freshman in college, and finally discovering myself. I felt like I was a kid again. I finally could be myself but I needed to communicate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who used ASL. Alas, I did not know ASL.

For the first time in my life, I had a girlfriend who patiently taught me ASL. This was when I became aware of some “family syndromes.” Although I did not experience these with my own family, I wanted to share with the parents who may have a deaf or hard of hearing child to make them aware of some of the psycho-emotional stressors:

1. The “I will tell you later” Syndrome
This is when the family is at the dinner table laughing and enjoying conversation. As a hard of hearing kid, my family made sure that we spoke clearly, one at a time, and made sure that I was included.
What I learned from my college experience was that some of my friends’ families failed to include them. Can you imagine the impact on the child who is deaf or hard of hearing?
2. The “It’s not important” Syndrome
 
Really? If it’s not important, why do the laughing and giggling look fun? Why not include the Deaf and Hard of Hearing child?
3. The “Why are you being difficult” Syndrome
This is when a Deaf and Hard of Hearing child expresses frustration of being left out of family things and the response is usually that the child is complaining and misbehaving badly.
There are many more syndromes but these are just some basic examples that come to mind. Why should any child experience these syndromes? Could we imagine growing up with these and the implications it has … specifically the psycho-emotional ones? Why should it be that way for any child? She and he are family!
I am sharing my story with you and the world because I want to reach out to parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. I want to let them know about the possible psycho-emotional stresses a child with hearing loss will cope with. And to remind them that our kids are our future and we must never lose sight of that.

There have been some factions who have been deceiving parents of the notion that if a child is born deaf, they need to be taught to read lips, to be implanted, and have a hearing aid that will “fix” them and make them normal. Normal?

Thus begs the question: what is normal anyway? If normal is that hearing children have and get everything they want, why should Deaf or Hard of Hearing children be deprived of that because of their hearing loss?

My personal experience?
Even with residual hearing and a hearing aid, I still could not hear and make out words. Even with hours of speech therapy, I still miss some words and continue to struggle with some pronunciations. Lipreading is hard work and it drains me.

I encourage hearing folks to try a fifteen-minute experiment: plug your ears and order food at a restaurant by reading lips for that amount of time. Just for fun. Go ahead, give it a try.

Remember, I am not here to say that my experience and life is a “one-size fits” all experience. I am not here to tell parents what is best for their child. I am not here to advocate for one thing over another.

I am here to point out that ASL is one option among many and want to thank Nyle for putting that out there.  I am here to point out that each kid deserves to be a kid with access to communicate with their parents.  That builds connection, shows unconditional love and doesn’t cause all of the psychoemotional stressors, which could lead to other stressors later in life.

Each Deaf child is different and has his or her needs.  That is what is important that we treat each child as special.  That is the message I have for parents – our children are special in their own ways and we must ensure that their language and educational needs are met based on their learning styles.

You know what the greatest irony is? Hearing children are being taught ASL at an exponential rate. Go ahead, Google it. Yet Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are being told by misguided advocates that being taught ASL as a child will deprive them of language. What sort of an oxymoron is that? It is like saying that a child born in another country and must speak English first instead of their native language.

I am a parent. My daughter is hearing and she signs. She is bilingual. She is not delayed nor is behind in her language acquisition. I still remember one of her first signs, “daddy.” So cute and adorable.🙂

Sorry, I got a little distracted there.🙂

Parents, I ask you to ensure that your child gets what he or she needs to become a whole person. If it means learning ASL first, then why not? This is your decision and yours alone.

I don’t believe that the Nyle DiMarco Foundation is advocating one over another. It is advocating to ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing child gets what he or she needs to be a whole person.

I believe I am not alone when I repeat the Star Trek theme – you have boldly gone where no one wanted to go before.
I am inspired and I believe the rest of the world is inspired. The Mirrorball Trophy is not even the most important.
What is the most important is that now, parents are aware of options. Options on how to raise a Deaf and Hard of Hearing child. Forcing them or trying to force them to speak will cause them to experience language deprivation. That is what the Nyle DiMarco Foundation is about.

Thank you all for your bravery.  Thank you for creating an opportunity to have this dialogue about something so important – the child and his or her needs language development needs and several available options.

Congratulations again and again and again.  Well done, all of you and especially Nyle for standing tall amidst all the waves.  I am proud of you!