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Where Deafness is Not a Disability.

I grew up with cousins who were deaf. My experience with those who used sign language to communicate began at a very young age. But, I didn’t learn to sign right away. I took an introductory American Sign Language course during high school, and wasn’t able to really flex those muscles during college.

But towards the end of my college years, I was asked to come speak at an event called the Youth Leadership Forum. Sponsored by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, the event gathers students of varying abilities and teaches them numerous skills. Most important of those skills, I think, is self-advocacy. It also teaches acceptance of yourself, and acceptance of others.

To get that latter message across, learning a few signs was a big part of the forum, as there were a few students who used sign language to communicate, exclusively. Those two students, Liberty & Triton, who happen to be deaf have become really good friends of mine over the years – 2 people that I care about deeply.

Over the years, they have taught me a ton of signs. Combine that with what I learned from the ASL course in highs school, from my second cousin Sha’Nelle and her parents (my cousins), and I not only enjoy using ASL to communicate (it’s great to communicate in loud places or when your mouth is full!), but whenever I see a story or media that heavily features sign language, I always pay attention. For example, even though ABC Family wasn’t (and Freeform isn’t) really my jam when it came to TV shows, the show “Switched at Birth” quickly became one of my favorite shows to binge on Netflix becuase it heavily features ASL and some scenes where only ASL is featured.

CNN Films recently posted a digital short online that really caught my eye in this regard. The film is called All-American Family. In theory it is about a football team in California for an all-deaf school and their journey. But in reality it’s about an amazing family. The film is made by Andrew Jenks and follows the Pedersen family and their four generations of deafness over the course of a few weeks. I felt like you sort of get to know the family and see two of the brothers compete in the first home football game of the season.

1 heart
In one of the more moving scenes in the 12-minute film, the team quarterback, Zane, gets everyone pumped up by reminding them to play with 1 heart. It’s amazing … it happens towards the end, before their first game.

You can check out the entire short film here or click the image below. It has been praised by the deaf community and obviously I really enjoyed it, too. If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, I would definitely recommend it. And if you know or are learning ASL, even try it without the captions like I did. :)

Proud
Zane: “I’m proud of my identity.” Amen, brother.