She’s doing it for the culture!
A popular 22-year-old TikToker is utilizing the app to teach everyone Black American Sign Language, Blavity reports.
Nakia Smith has gone viral on the social media app Tik Tok, thanks to her videos educating people about Black American Sign Language (BASL). Smith comes from a four-generation family of people who are deaf and utilizes her own experience to educate people on the deaf community and sign language, raking up more than 300,000 followers in the process.
Her videos, featuring her great-great-grandparents, grandparents and siblings, all of whom are deaf, have a particular focus on the variations between traditional American Sign Language (ASL) and BASL while also educating people on how to interact with members of the deaf community. Smith’s videos have led to more interest in the differences between sign language in the Black community. Smith recently did a video for Netflix, explaining that BASL, a particular ASL dialect, was created due to segregated schools.
Furthermore, while the first American school for the deaf opened in 1817, they didn’t admit Black people until 1952. This type of racial segregation in education for the Black deaf community led them to create their unique way of communicating, focusing on expressive differences like utilizing both hands and creating different cultural connotations depending on the word.
“The biggest difference between BASL and ASL is that BASL got seasoning. I felt like a lot of people didn’t know about BASL until my video went viral. They were really curious and wanted to learn more about BASL and history. I told my grandfather that the video went viral, and he said, ‘Keep it going,'” Smith said.
Many deaf studies experts have noted the importance of culturally relevant sign language interpreters across all sectors. There is no standardized world language for sign language users; it varies across countries and regions, making it very hard to understand depending on the particular interpreter and the setting. Carolyn McCaskill, professor of deaf studies at Gallaudet University, once spoke about how difficult it was for her to attend desegregated schools in the 1960s because of the difference in the sign language her teachers used in comparison to what was being taught at Black deaf schools.
Cool right? very old fashioned signs from 1887! My grandfather & his friends, who he went to school with, still use those signs!
McCaskill and others have been working on the front lines to make sure BASL is just as accepted as ASL, just like AAVE. The Alachua County Library also notes that even “Black Lives Matter” was signed differently in BASL than ASL, with many white signers adopting the BASL sign in solidarity. It is just another area where Black people are required to code-switch, McCaskill explained.
What Smith is doing is revolutionary. She includes tips on interacting with the deaf community, creating informative signing videos and encouraging people to learn to sign. She also records her speech therapy sessions with her brother, expanding people’s awareness of what it means to be Black and deaf.
To check out Smith’s content, click here.
Keep educating us, Nakia! Because of you, we can.
Photo Courtesy of @itscharmay/Instagram