Jesse Jones III posted a June 26 video on Facebook (the video includes a transcript) detailing instances of systemic racism at Deaf Community Services [DCS] in San Diego, California, which shows DCS is nothing more than just a “performative ally” to the Black, Indigenous, and POC Deaf communities. Jones calls for several actions to be taken on DCS’ part, including the resignation of Patricia Sieglen-Perry, the current Chief Executive Officer, who is a white hearing woman.
More recently, Jones started an online charge.org petition that features a letter from Jasmine Sandifer, one of the two Black Deaf employees who were recently laid off without any warning or explanation, and the BIPOC Deaf communities’ demands. As Deaf Vee Journal does not know whether Google Docs is accessible for DeafBlind readers in “view only mode,” we are including Sandifer’s letter in plain text below for ease of access, along with her ASL video. There is a new Facebook group titled “Stand United w/ Jasmine & Razi,” and DeafBlind readers can join the group to receive accessible content.
Readers, especially those with white Deaf privilege, we once again are asking you to take the following steps. (1) Read the petition, including Sandifer’s letter. (2) Share the petition widely on your social media accounts. (3) Contact the DCS Board of Directors and the Executive Team via e-mail to let them know that you expect them to comply with the demands set forth in the petition within the next 48 hours. We drafted an e-mail template for you to use, and you can find it further down this page after Sandifer’s letter.
—– Jasmine Sandifer’s Letter —–
Deaf Community Services of San Diego
1545 Hotel Circle S Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92108
Dear DCS Board,
My name is Jasmine Sandifer. I am an African American Hard of Hearing Woman. I was employed at DCS from November 2018 through June 2020 as a Deaf Advocate/Client Support Specialist. During my employment, I was the recipient of and bore witness to racial discrimination via actions from co-workers. I have witnessed clients who are people of color treated differently from other clients. When I began working at DCS, I was told that I was hired to show that DCS supported Black people. While that statement is deeply troubling, I attempted to turn it into a positive. At the end of the day, I only wanted to ensure that everyone in the community gets EQUAL service AND support. During my employment at DCS, I personally never witnessed or experienced equal service or support. I found myself advocating to be treated fairly and for clients’ rights on a regular basis.
Looking back, I continue to ask one question: what is a person to do when the very people that are supposed to be helping BIPOC clients are the same ones mistreating them? Not only were clients mistreated, but staff as well. What would you do as an advocate when staff said, “I cannot wait for that girl to go back to the hood” regarding a Black client? What would you do if a person was calling your Black client the “N” word and nothing was done about it? What would you do when a director, who is white, said, “you can take the Black girl out of the ghetto but you can not take the ghetto out of the Black girl”? What would you do if your own boss informed you that you were “owned” by the executive director. Both of them are white! I am one of the many staff and community members who felt oppressed under Executive Director Patricia Sieglen-Perry.
In early June of 2020, I brought these issues to the attention of DCS. I expressed my disappointment in the way DCS treated BIPOC employees and clients and I asked for help to make a change.
On June 26, 2020, I was terminated and I have absolutely no idea why. I didn’t have any warnings or write ups during my employment; but I was told I violated a policy. What policy? I do not know because they refused to tell me. I was told that I violated a policy but without any specific detail. They cited an “At-Will” employment clause as a reason they didn’t need to provide further information. As a woman of integrity, I feel a need to defend myself, but with little or no information, I do not know where to begin. In contrast, when a white woman was fired–on the same day as me–she was treated differently than I was. She was informed of what policy she violated and given the opportunity to defend herself. She was also allowed to come to the office and turn her things in. She was treated with respect. In my case, I wasn’t afforded the same respect. It is disheartening to have experienced racism during my employment at DCS, but it is difficult to accept being treated as less than while being terminated and in the days following.
I felt it is important for you to hear these facts. If DCS would treat their own employee as such, the board and the community should question how DCS treats those it’s supposed to serve. The board should question why it is that BIPOC staff never last long working for DCS. If they are not terminated, they become so uncomfortable that they quit. The board should question why BIPOC community members never return to DCS. I will forever regret that my advocacy and care for those we served at DCS was not enough to protect them from the ugliness of systemic racism inside of DCS.
I value my community, I value their input. DCS should do the same. It must always be COMMUNITY first. We must question how the organization can profess to place the community first, but not listen to the community’s frustrations and cries for help. Please take the time to listen to your community. Please do not use your BIPOC staff as tokens. Do not use them to clean up this mess. Take accountability!
We have decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We will be heard! We are VALUED and DCS should not get to decide that the needs and value of one community member is more important than the needs and values of another. We are stronger in numbers. We refuse to be silent any longer! DCS can no longer be allowed to create and bring more harm to the BIPOC community.
Here is the list of the community demands to DCS and its board:
- Executive Director Patricia Sieglen-Perry to resign, as well as HR Manager Lauren Gordon for creating a toxic and hostile working environment for BIPOC employees.
- The next Executive Director must be a BIPOC Deaf person to ensure equity.
- Establish a committee of BIPOC deaf members from the SD Deaf community to select an interim ED and to conduct the search, screening and interview for the next official ED.
- Part of the process of interview for the next ED shall be in the form of townhall/community forum for Deaf community members to participate and build trust.
- Reinstate jobs for Jasmine Sandifer and Razi G Speights-Hall and raise pay due to the trauma that DCS caused them.
- Update bylaws to include term limits for the board as well as Executive Director position and create a more robust process with public transparency of how the board is elected to diversify the board.
- Allocate funding to create programs that cater specifically to BIPOC community, including fund to compensate BIPOC interpreters at community events.
- Update employee’s handbook with policy about anti-bias.
- Require HR, staff, and board members to go through anti-bias training at least twice a year.
- Create a safe space and tools for staff and clients to report incidents of bias and racism.
- Procedural changes to require input from BIPOC community members for decisions affecting the community.
- All updates and changes to bylaws, employee’s handbook and policy, as demanded as above, must be made to public awareness for transparency.
Please respond to the community demands within 48 hours.
—– E-mail Template —-
NOTE: Feel free to make any changes you wish to the e-mail template before sending it.
TO: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
SUBJECT: Comply with the BIPOC Deaf Communities’ Petition
Dear Board Members and Executive Team Members,
My name is (________), and I am a (Black, Indigenous/Native, Mexican, Asian, white) (Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, hard of hearing, late-deafened) resident of (San Diego or your current city). I am writing to demand that you comply with the BIPOC Deaf Communities’ Petition for DCS to take action against systemic racism as shown on change.org.