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It might seem odd to put on a “music” performance to help bridge the gap between the Deaf and the hearing worlds, but that’s exactly what NIU’s Deaf Pride organization accomplishes with Sign Sync.
In an effort to help those with deafness achieve cultural equality, members of Deaf Pride bring a part of the hearing culture to those with deafness by using American Sign Language (ASL) to sign and interpret song lyrics, poetry a
stories. This spring’s Sign Sync performance was enjoyed by over 160 people – those with and without hearing.
“ASL is a very dynamic language in which facial expressions and CLs (classifiers) take up
75 percent of the language in poetry and stories. There are many beautiful poems and stories that captivate the audience. Those who don’t know ASL are able to understand it as a whole since the person is expressing themselves,” said Taylor Hartman, FLSL Program Coordinator and Instructor at NIU and Sign Sync performer.
NIU’s Deaf Pride has been staging Sign Sync for decades now (Hartman said the organization has old performances on VHS tapes). The show, now held twice a year at the Carl Sandburg Auditorium, is just one of several activities the group conducts, said Deaf Pride president Ashley Liem, a senior public health major. The group’s over 70 members are both hearing and those with deafness — many are studying ASL at NIU to meet their foreign language requirement.
The group members meet regularly and hold events such as silent meals and game nights where they communicate without speaking out loud, and sharing information about the Deaf culture. They also volunteer at events such as NIU Cares Day.
Liem said performing in Deaf Pride has taught her much about ASL as well as the subtleties of interpreting versus translation.
“We interpret lyrics into sign language because there isn’t a direct translation. We have to think differently and understand the concept of something,” Liem said. “When you pick up the signs you learn the deeper meaning and the bigger concept and that is rewarding. You find the deeper meaning. You feel what the artist wrote.”
She also enjoys her involvement with Deaf Pride and immersing herself in the Deaf culture.
“This organization has taught me so many things I would not have thought of. We all believe sign language is beautiful, but I love knowing why a person pursues ASL,” Liem said. “Whatever the end goal, anyone is part of the Deaf community.”