Each individual person, in one way or another, is oppressing another. At least, that is the argument of the Oppression: Breaking Barriers conference.
“I think a lot of people think they’re not actively oppressing people,” said Vanessa Craig, a Deaf Studies major and conference organizer, “but you need help acknowledging the prejudices you have.”
Although the conference is mostly about the Deaf oppression, the organizers hope it will help raise an awareness of oppressions of all kinds. They see lifting oppression as an exhaustive endeavor encompassing all minorities.
Conference organizers have opted that the conference be presented in American Sign Language with voice interpreter services.
“Because it’s about lifting oppression,” Craig, said, “we’re making it readily available to the Deaf students.”
The conference, organized by students Vanessa Craig, Brandon Bunker and Cheri Mills, began as a class project for ASL 385G, the Deaf Oppression class.
“To be an ally to Deaf people,” said Dr. William Garrow, the teacher requiring the project, “you also have to be an ally to other minorities.”
They welcome and encourage everyone to attend, not just those with a vested interest in the Deaf culture and community. More than anything, they are trying to raise an awareness of the ways in which people are oppressed and the ways in which anyone of any privilege contributes to that oppression.
“Through the class,” Mills said, “we were able to see oppression and we’re hoping the conference will help others see it.”
There will be seven presentations, each of which will include examples of oppression, whether personally viewed or experienced. They felt it necessary not just to talk about it, but to give real-life examples, especially since, they contend, most people are not actively or consciously oppressing others.
“Oppression really does apply to everybody at some point of their lives,” said Craig.
The conference will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 12-5 p.m. in LI 120. Students will be presenting seven topics, ranging from “Biodiversity” to “Autism: How interpreters oppress their clients.”
The keynote speaker will be Flavia Fleischer, a Deaf Studies professor, who will speak about oppression in education.
The conference is sponsored by the Language and ASL Deaf Studies departments and is free to attend. Presentations will be 30 minutes each and begin after the welcome at 12:10 p.m. with a break from 1:40-1:50 p.m.