For the first time ever...




at California School for the Deaf

Guest from Washington D.C.

Christopher D. Johnson “CJ” founder of [Deaf] Creative Minds flew in from Washington D.C. for the camp. See CJ's video message.

ASL version | English transcript

From the president of Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates

My name is Ashley Griffith and I am president of Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates (BABDA), and also an alum of California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSD) 2006.

This organization’s mission is to provide advocacy and resources for our Black Deaf community, from infants to the elderly, for education, laws, and other important resources they lack. 

Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates offered its first-ever Black Deaf & KODA Camp

We wanted to provide a camp to address the various needs of our children. This year, we had 13 campers – 4 Deaf and 9 KODAs (Kids of Deaf Adults) – who were from Deaf families. We had a strong focus on our KODAs this year, but also Deaf kids from hearing families who may have experienced language deprivation or were Deaf plus (having an additional disability). Some of the kids came to the camp needing support with manners and self-esteem. Our goal was to take their weak areas and build them into areas of strength.

The purpose of this camp is to help kids develop self-advocacy, respect, responsibility, and communication skills that empower their life at home and at school. We wanted to help the campers use manners, such as properly signing their requests. For example: “May I have some ice cream, please.” We showed them how to sign a sentence using manners, and then asked them to copy our signs. To make sure they truly understood, we then asked two kids to role play the situation together.

The camp offered many playful activities that encourage empowerment, communication, teamwork, and self-expression. For example, one activity was the board game Guess Who?. When the campers first started playing, some of the hearing kids would talk and forget to sign. We explained that there were other Deaf kids who fully depended on everyone signing. We explained that if the hearing kids talked without signing, it was not only rude and deflating for the Deaf kids they were playing with, but it was also disrespectful if they talked without signing around their Deaf families at home. The kids were shocked as they had never really thought about it that way. This is interesting because they are KODAs. We aim to remind everyone to be inclusive. 

Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates would like to see this camp continue to be offered every year. This year, there were a very small number of kids participating because it was limited to Black kids only. BABDA is considering expanding next year to include kids from diverse backgrounds. There are great benefits to offering the camp to a wider range of diversity, as the kids could learn about different cultures—the intersection of their Deaf culture and their ethnic culture of origin. California is a big state with Deaf everywhere. It is nice for the kids to come together and share their cultures—whether it be Black or BIPOC—to mingle and learn about each other every year.

It was really nice to have the camp at California School for the Deaf so that the kids could see and experience that a residential school has cottages where children and staff stay, including having full meals provided. Also, they learned more about CSD regarding education and values. They met other diversity students and staff from CSD, which greatly exposed our little campers to more experience and knowledge. 

Thank you to the members from our community who volunteered their time to come here! Camp staff included BABDA officers: presidentAshley Griffith; vice presidentAntoine Hunter; secretaryMoni Brown; treasurer—Eugene King; event coordinator—Kei-Che. Members of the community alternated days coming in to work with the kids. We even had a special guest from out-of-state, Christopher D. Johnson “CJ”, who is the founder of Deaf Creative Minds.

I would like to thank California School for the Deaf, Fremont for their hospitality; Pro Bono ASL the interpreting organization; U.S. Based Deaf Action Foundation (USBAF); and the two individuals who were sponsors; plus donors from the communities for this camp!

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