Tennessee is my home state. I'll always feel grateful for the opportunity given to me to represent my home at the Miss Deaf America Pageant years ago when I was still so new to the Deaf community. I was completely accepted and treated with respect. I received so much help during that time, whether to carry out my state duties or to prepare for pageants. They didn't care what kind of school I went to or what my first language was, but they were very patient with me and helped me learn to communicate in my new world. All they wanted to do was welcome me to a group they said I belonged to as well, and although I felt different at times as I was still learning the language and the culture, I never felt out of place.
Even though I've since moved to Texas I've never forgotten the kindness I received during those years or the friendships I made. That's why I was so disappointed for the people of Nashville and Tennessee when a situation came to light this past week that seemed to strip them of any dignity or pride they might have in an organization they'd come to rely on and believe in over the years.
The League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (LDHH) a non-profit in Nashville recently merged with the EAR Foundation in Nashville. I honestly do not have all the details myself yet, but I am doing my best to find out along with the rest of the deaf community in Tennessee. However, since the two merged LDHH and EAR Foundation has now been renamed by the board as HEARING BRIDGES. Tsk. Not Deaf Bridges... Not even Deaf & Hearing Bridges... Just HEARING Bridges. Personally, I'm stunned. Someone dropped the ball. What did they think? This was catchy? No one would miss the word "Deaf"? What a slap in the face to those this organization has spent decades serving.... and to add insult to injury this name was revealed with great show at an event in front of many deaf and family members who waited expectantly after having read this exciting tidbit on the LDHH blog... "Since our merger with the EAR Foundation last September, the board of directors decided to change the agency’s name to reflect more accurately the folks we serve and the programs we offer." (See for yourself at http://hearingbridges.org/blog/ ) This is an organization that claims to bridge the deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing communities by mostly providing services to the deaf, and this is the name the board felt BEST described the wonderful work done there? Ugh. This is like taking a Martha Stewart cake out of the oven and letting Oscar the Grouch pick out icing from the bottom of his trash can to top it off. Lovely.
I hope the deaf community in Tennessee is heard loud and clear and with eyes wide open by this wonderful organization of EIGHTY years. I hope the media responds to their requests to be heard and seen and understands why this name is so demeaning and runs with it. I also hope everyone remembers this was a decision made by the board members and not the staff, and that is where grievances should be placed. People on Facebook can show their support or participate in discussions by joining the group "People opposing the new name HEARING BRIDGES instead of LDHH".