Black ASL – Did you know? | ASL Ponderings

I will NOT be teaching Black ASL itself. This is only to introduce the concept of Black ASL to those who know nothing about this, give resources to do more learning, and spotlight Black Deaf creators on various platforms.

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. Yes, there is such a thing as Black ASL. Today, I’ll be giving a brief introduction to the history, going through the list of links I have below for further learning, then I’ll recommend a few Black Deaf creators that I follow and enjoy across various platforms.

Black ASL has ties with the ASL that we are all familiar with, but it also has many clear differences. Individual signs, signing style, cadence, all of that. This came around because of segregation. Black deaf schools were separate from white deaf schools until desegregation, so ASL developed differently and some of it still holds today. The first link I have is a short video from Netflix that features Nakia Smith, also known as Charmay. Her TikTok with her grandfather went viral, and in it, she’s talking with him about BASL and what it was like back then. 

The next link is an article that gives a brief history of Black Deaf people in America, written by Catalleya Storm. This gives more detail to the very basic info I just told you. There’s a project that worked to describe the linguistic features of BASL, sponsored by Gallaudet. And Talking Black in America did the first documentary about Black ASL, called Signing Black in America. The last link I’m giving you today is intended to be watched as a companion playlist to the book, The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL written by Dr. Carolyn McCaskill. She’s one of the biggest contributors to the research of Black ASL. I haven’t watched the full series myself, but I think it can still give some interesting info without the book. There are clips of Black Deaf people signing included as well.

That’s all of the links specifically related to BASL. Now I’m going to recommend a few creators. I’ll be listing people on TikTok and Instagram. Of course, there are plenty of people that I won’t get to in the video, either because I’m saving them to mention in another video this month or because I’m not aware of them. I’ll be adding them at the end of this post, so please feel free to comment with Black Deaf creators that you enjoy!

First, of course I have to mention two people that I’ve already mentioned. Nakia, itscharmay on TikTok and Instagram. She does various educational videos, often on dos and don’ts with the deaf community, but she also does videos on Black ASL. Catalleya Storm, they mainly post on Instagram at catalleya.storm but also have a YouTube channel. They’re a writer and an activist. Then we have Scarlet May on TikTok, she posts educational videos about the deaf community, and occasionally does stories, music translations, among other things. Kourtney is another TikToker, kooziza, that does mainly ASL translations of songs. There’s also Raven, bluejay19xx, doing more ASL translations and Coldest Water Table Talks, which are educational videos. Going back to Instagram, we have David Player, d7play, who posts a lot of educational things about being Black and Deaf, individually and the intersection between the two. And there’s Dr. Rezenet, rezearcher, who talks about personal life as a queer Black Deaf person, their studies, ASL linguistics, and more. Asteria Summers, empressillusions, is an Afro-Indigenous trans woman. She posts mainly about her personal experiences being in those intersections, mostly about being a Black trans woman. Lauren Ridloff who is an actor that’s been in multiple well-known plays. There are many, many more, but I’m going to stop there for today. I’ll also include a link at the end of this list that’ll take you to a guide on Instagram, listing more Black Deaf creators on Instagram for you to follow.

That’s all for today. Please leave a comment with a Black Deaf creator that you enjoy!

Black Deaf Creators

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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