When I was nine years old I joined the American Sign Language Club in my school. We met every Tuesday in a classroom after school went out and learned to talk with our hands.
First it was a few words. Then it was lines to a song. After a few months of learning, my nine year-old self was able to speak basic sign with my friends and my peers who could not hear.
Around Christmas time, our school held its annual Christmas assembly. I was also a part of my school’s Junior Choir. Being a part of both clubs, I was asked to sing and sign the words to “Silent Night.”
The deaf children in the school were able to fully participate in the assembly. I was happy to see their hands signing in unison to the song. To the song they could hear privately and communally with each gesture. I was exceptionally humbled to be able to share in their experience. To be able to speak with my hands. To be able to speak.
As I grew older, my practice of signing dwindled. I had fully entered the hearing world and lost the language that enabled me to connect with the deaf.
Communication is important to me. Inclusivity, too. Empowering yourself and others in order to demolish the lines between those who are marginalized and those who are not is a meaningful cause, one I adamantly participate in and advocate.
It is my desire to re-learn American Sign Language. To be able to speak to the unwanted silence in all of us.
(c) Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez