Transcript of Interpreter’s voice-over:
The last few weeks have been a tremendously horrific time for myself and my family. It has been a week that we will never forget. This nightmare began two weeks ago on Wednesday, October 3rd when I was approached by a faculty member of Gallaudet University who’s name is Martina Bienvenu. She is a faculty member in the department of ASL and Deaf Studies at the University. She asked if I had signed the petition to put the question of same-sex marriage on the ballot as a referendum. I responded that I had, that I did sign such a petition. In this very moment she determined the signature meant I was anti-gay.
No one has the right to decide what my signature meant, only I can do that. MJ (Dr. Bienvenu) and her partner, Kendra Smith, wrote a letter to the President of the University that I be reprimanded. I offered to have a campus-wide dialogue on this very sensitive issue. I believe in civil discourse. I thought it was important that as a citizen of the state of Maryland, that I could exercise my right to participate in the political process. I am pro-democracy. I thought that this would have been an incredible opportunity to teach our campus.Unfortunately, that opportunity was lost.
I think that the University has allowed this issue to escalate out of control and it could have been handled much differently. They have allowed misinformation to be circulated throughout the campus community. They have attempted to intimidate me. They tarnished my reputation, and my 24 years of service. My record at Gallaudet University speaks for itself, and I asked to be judged by what I have done.
A single mother in Mobile, AL, raised me. She raised five children by herself. She taught us that education is the key to success, and that your education is something that no one can take away from you. And she was right. You can take away my job, but you can’t take away my education. I am proud to say that all five of these children are college graduates. Two have earned PhD’s. One has earned her Masters. And the other two have Bachelor’s degrees.
When I read President Hurwitz’s email that he sent to the entire campus community, I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked, hurt, insulted. I was humiliated. Not only for myself but for the students at Gallaudet University. They deserve better. They look to us for guidance and they give us this? It is utterly wrong.
I view the President’s email as a termination of my position because that is exactly how I felt when I read that email. The content of the email did not allow for any resolution. The email stated that he would appoint an interim Chief Diversity Officer. He disqualified me from my position as the Chief Diversity Officer. This brought me back immediately to the protest of 2006 that was orchestrated by just a few radical members of the community that pushed students to the front lines to debate their own agenda not the student’s agenda. It was not the student’s agenda then, and it is not the student’s agenda now. It was in fact just a few rotten apples.
I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a University of intolerance, a University that manages by intimidation, a University that allows bullying among faculty, staff, and students. I am hurt to see that so many people took this information and determined that it was accurate, regardless of my outstanding service to the University. This situation has rapidly spiraled out of control.
The University took this action against me because I was among 200,000 people that signed this petition. I exercised my rights. I felt it was important that we as citizens of Maryland have an opportunity to vote. Many people know me and know that I have nothing but love for people. People ask my why I am such a cheerful person, and I often tell them because there is God in me. When I wake up, I am happy to start my day because I know that many people don’t make it to see a new day. The Lord has given me something to celebrate.
I have treated each and every person with nothing but love and support. Even though I am deeply hurt right now, I won’t stop loving people. I have pushed for equality, social justice, for not just one group of people, but for all people. I have been very successful in doing what I was hired to do.
I ask Gallaudet University to reinstate me to my position. Our students are watching. The world is watching.
I want to thank so many people who have contacted me by email. You have no idea just how much you have kept my spirits lifted. I have received a number of very ugly, hateful, and deeply hurtful emails. But those emails of support and encouragement came from around the world. And I want to say thank you because that has kept me lifted.
I want to thank the pastor of my Church Rev. Doctor Lee P. Washington of Reed Temple AME Church. I want to thank Tony Perkins of the Family Research Counsel. Josh Levin from Marylanders for Marriage Equality, Rev. Derrick McCoy from the Maryland Marriage Alliance, and the Governor of the State of Maryland, Governor O’Malley, and so many other people whose names will go unmentioned today, but whose support we recognize. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and the time to speak to you. I pray, and ask that you pray, for Gallaudet University. We have some wonderful people there. Faculty, staff, and students. I pray and I ask that the administration makes the right decision and to right their wrong. Thank you.
Transcribed by Connor Gillis for Planet DeafQueer