Deaf Vee Journal received permission from Delresea Mornes to share this vlog on our platform. The transcript and letter to the President of the school are both available courtesy of Mornes and her team. (Transcript) and (Letter to President)
Transcript provided by Delresea Mornes
[A black background with white letters reads: “Open Letter to Alabama School for the Deaf.”]
[Delresea, a Black Asian Samoan Deaf woman is signing. Her hair is flat on the left side with a barrett. She wears a dark red lip shirt and a white blouse with black jacket . She has silver and black hoop earrings. A header at the bottom of the screen reads: “Delresea Mornes: Gallaudet University MASLED Student & Activist”]
Delresea: Hello! Thinking back to how loud I was about Gallaudet University status removing certain names, I thought: Wait a minute. I went to Alabama School for the Deaf.
[A new header appears: “ASD Alumni, Class of 1997”]
Delresea: I am an ASD alumni and graduated in 1997.
[A photo appears of the brick entry gate to ASD surrounded by flowers. Letters on the gate read: “Alabama School for the Deaf: Founded 1858”]
Delresea: I decided to do research in the archives about the names of various buildings on campus. I was disgusted at what I found out about Graves Hall.
[Two photos flash side-by-side: a close up of the Graves Hall front doors and a side view of the building]
Delresea: [as Delresea signs, a black & white photo of Bibb Graves appears in the corner of the screen] ASD campus is named after Bibb Graves. Graves was the 38th governor of Alabama. He served two terms and was also a leader of the KKK from 1920 through 1930.
[A photo of the red and white KKK flag with white iron cross flashes with the header “Bibb Graves, KKK leader 1920-1930’]
Delresea: Time for me to scream: in light of the BLM movement, this is not appropriate! We must remove his name.
[The previous Graves Hall photo is shown falling and is replaced with a a large red X covering the photo]
Delresea: This is horrifying. I am concerned about the appropriate learning environment of generations of Black Deaf children who have not been aware of this history.
[ Recommendation to rename: Dr. Carolyn McCaskill. At the bottom there is a Black Deaf woman with straight hair and a green, mixed blouse in the photo]
[ Dr. Carolyn McCaskill at the bottom is passionate about social justice for Deaf People of Color.
- Attended the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf 1964 -1968
- Mainstreamed with Black & white students at ASD 1968 – 1972
- A successful leader in the Deaf & Black Deaf community and a very important part of our culture.
- Earned the distinguished 2005 Thomas and Julia Mayes Award
- Her powerful contribution to the world included many articles & co-authorship of a book/DVD
The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure]
[Rosie Parker, a Black person with short blonde hair, jewelry and glasses appears on screen with the header: “Rosie Parker: ASD Alumni 1985”]
Rosie: I watched Delresa’s message and I agree with her.
[A Black screen with white letters reads: “Honor the Name at Vocational School area (ASD)”]
Rosie: The name should be replaced and instead honor Howard “Blue Eyes” E. Cook. Mr. Cook was born February 24, 1925.
[A photo of Mr. Cook, a Black man in a cap, work shirt, and overalls, appears with the heading: Dedicated to Howard Cook “Blue Eye” 52 years”]
Rosie: Mr. Cook attend the Alabama school for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega, AL during the time of segregation. After he graduated he became an employee for ASD and remained there until retirement 52 year later.
[A black screen with white letters reads: “Ashamed?”]
Delresea: I want to show you two things that look very similar.
[A letter appears on screen on Washington Redskins letterhead, including the logo with a native profile wearing feathers and braids. It reads: “Statement From The Washington Football Team: On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name. That review has begun in earnest. As part of this process, we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community apprised of our thinking as we go forward. Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review. Dan Snyder and Coach Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”]
Delresea: This is really harmful to Indigenus people. I feel the Silent Warriors logo is related and needs to change.
[The ASD Silent Warriors logo appears, also a native profile wearing a headdress]
Delresea: Silent Warriors must change the logo and their brand.
[A closeup of the ASD logo appears]
Delresea [a small ASD logo remains in the corner of the screen]: We stole their land and have caused harm to Indigenous people. We can no longer feign ignorance. The logo and brand must be changed! This symbol is for Indians, not for us. Their land has been stolen, they have been traumatized and have suffered, been enslaved, and exiled. Please show your respect. It’s time to support BLM!
[Various black and white BLM logos appear and fade to a black screen with white letters: “Contact to firstname.lastname@example.org”]
Letter to President of Alabama School for the Deaf
Dr. John Mascia, President
Alabama School for the Deaf
205 South Street E
Talladega, AL 35160
July 29, 2020
Dear President Mascia,
While we applaud the Alabama School for the Deaf’s commitment to educating its students, we express serious concern about the psychological impact of monuments to racism on ASD’s campus.
The American Psychological Association asserts that racist sports team names–such as the Washington Redskins–have negative impacts on indigenous peoples.1 We BIPOC people feel the same impact when we notice buildings and teams named after racist individuals and racist concepts.
Unfortunately, two monuments to racism that impact BIPOC individuals on campus are the Silent Warriors team name and Graves Hall. In the first, we feel that the Silent Warriors name is an appropriation and mischaracterization of indigenous cultures. The effects are harmful.
In the second, Graves Hall is named after Governor David Bibb Graves. Governor Graves also served as Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan’s Montgomery Klavern.2 His name is a persistent symbol of white supremacy and seeing it endorsed on campus negatively impacts BIPOC students. Replacing Graves’ name with the name of a BIPOC ASD alumnus such as Dr. Carolyn McCaskill will change that impact.
In light of recent developments with the Black Lives Matter movement, we feel it is necessary to have both monuments to racism removed. In their place, monuments commemorating Black Deaf individuals and their contributions to ASD will help create a safer place for Black Deaf students. Howard E. Cook, who served 52 years at the school, is another such person.
Delresea Mornes and team
Notes and Sources
1: American Indian Mascots. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots
2: David Bibb Graves (1927-31, 1935-39). (2014). Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1565