I can’t give you the cool wavy focus you get in TV shows. I CAN offer you a glimpse of a turning point!
“So, Wha ha happen was”…..(All the best stories start that way you know) I was in my second semester of the Interpreter training. I was one of two black students in my class. I was carrying a solid B in my assignments and had received no negative feedback (that I knew of) from classmates, mentors, or clients. The program required a one-on-one with the instructor at the end of each semester. I scheduled mine and was actually looking forward to it. I was looking forward to telling the instructor of the upcoming NAOBI (National Association of Black interpreters) for which I was going to be a student volunteer.
I walked into the classroom and the instructor went over my assignments letting me know where I could improve and what to look forward to in the next year. It was then that the meeting to an interesting turn.
“There is one thing I want to talk to you about. You sign……” I sat nervously waiting for her to locate the word to describe my sign style, “You sign very culturally black.”
I am going to pause here to mention that while yes I am a black woman, I was also raised by Caucasian parents and have been told I am the whitest black girl around.
“I am concerned that if you keep signing this way, you may not be successful.”
I was seriously thrown for a loop. What does signing Black even look like? I was devastated! This was something I was immersed in. I want to be an interpreter and I was being told I will not be successful because I was to “black” of a signer.
I decided to honor my commitment to volunteer for the conference. Off I flew to the conference. When I arrived to the hotel and walked through the door, I saw BLACK interpreters everywhere. They were skilled educated and amazing. I was given a mentor, given a song to study, and for the first time, i felt like I belonged and could be successful.
If I had not gone to the conference, I would not be an interpreter. I had decided I would not be continuing in the program. The comment about my signing being “Black” was both incorrect and inconsiderate. NAOBI offered me an introduction to musical interpreting, the ability to see myself in the people around me, and the ability to see success in my future.
Often times people say horrible things thinking they are being helpful. YOU are the only person who can decide the direction of your dream. Do not let ANYONE tell you that you are “Too” anything. You are you and you are AWESOME!