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Signed: How ASL Became A Language Of Resistance

An illustration featuring purple and white morning glories and their vines along the top and bottom of the square. There are three hands in the middle of the image with different skin tones: a light shade on the left, a medium shade of beige in the middle and brown skin on the right. All three are right hands and all feature purple and white nail polish in the nails. The hand on the left is signing the letter for "A," the hand in the middle is signing the letter "S" and the hand on the right is signing the letter "L." The background behind the three hands is a light purple and white pattern. The word "Signed" is above the three hands.
Charnel Hunter

American Sign Language is the third-most used language in the U.S. ASL has its own culture and art forms, and for many Deaf folks, ASL is about much more than just communication. Anita talks to Deaf author Sara Nović and Deaf ASL Slam poet Douglas Ridloff about how ASL gave them tools for self-understanding and artistic expression. Then she learns from scholars Carolyn McCaskill and Joseph Hill about Black American Sign Language (BASL), an ASL dialect that emerged because of school segregation.

Meet the guests:

  • Sara Nović, author of "True Biz," outlines the history of ASL and how it has influenced her work as a writer
  • Douglas Ridloff, visual storyteller, ASL master and executive director of ASL Slam, shares how he learned ASL and became an ASL poet
  • Carolyn McCaskill, recently retired professor and director of the Center for Black Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University, talks about attending a segregated school for the deaf — and how integration raised her awareness of Black ASL (BASL)
  • Joseph Hill, associate professor in the department of ASL and Interpreting Education at Rochester Institute of Technology, talks about the impact of the research he, Carolyn and two other colleagues have conducted about BASL

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Our interview with Sara and Douglas

Our interview with Carolyn and Joseph

Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.