UMBC’s chapter of Zeta Sigma Chi prides itself in being a multicultural sorority. According to their official website, their ultimate purpose is “to unify a group of women from diverse cultures for one common goal; success in education. To achieve our goal, we base our beliefs on our unique backgrounds with the purpose of building a strong sisterhood that will assist us in our success.” ZSC continued to follow this mission by hosting a Deaf Culture Awareness event on March 29. In doing so, ZSC shed some light on a UMBC minority group that is most definitely underrepresented.
Psychology and gender and women’s studies double Prachi Kochar serves as PR chair and secretary of ZSC, and acted as one of the two planners for the event alongside Chay Jones, a fellow sorority sister. Being a deaf person herself, Kochar was especially passionate about the event and was able to give a presentation about her life and her experiences in deaf culture along with Ramla Almoshen, a fellow deaf student, and Jazzy Jones, who works with the National Association for the Deaf as well as the National Black Deaf Advocates and Deaf Women United.
The presenters also spoke about deaf culture as a whole and what it means to them. Kochar stated, “Deaf culture is like any other culture; it refers to the practices, beliefs and values of the culture that ties deaf people together. It is particularly important to me, because it reflects the experiences and values of deaf people. ASL is also very central to US Deaf culture and it is incredible to me how deaf people have incorporated ASL into artwork along with the ASL poems that I have seen — it is truly poetry in motion!”
After their presentations, the event opened up to the audience for a discussion about deaf culture on- and off-campus. “One of the major issues [we discussed] was the lack of awareness of what exactly deaf people need in regards to communication,” Kochar said. “We talked about how hearing people can best accommodate deaf people in general. We also talked about how UMBC has had issues with providing accommodations for deaf people, and how it currently does not provide American Sign Language classes. During the event, a few audience members and I spoke about starting an ASL club.”
Kochar finished by speaking about UMBC’s blind eye towards their own deaf community. She hopes the deaf community will be better represented in the future. “Many of the audience members at the event were not even aware that there were deaf students on campus! That is why deaf awareness events like this are so important. They bring attention to a minority group that most of UMBC students and staff are not aware of. One of the things that UMBC is most proud of is its diversity, and discussing deaf issues is necessary to bring the culture to the forefront of peoples’ minds.”