Tonight I had the opportunity to attend the pre-protest meeting at Memorial City Mall. The meeting finally started after a few minutes delay due to waiting for more Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals to show up. There were approximately around 15 Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals.
There were diverse individuals from different background, some were Deaf and Hard of Hearing, some had a strong conviction to protest and some were not sure of what was going on. Neverthless, Brian Determan, one of the co-founders of the Deaf Right Protest (the title of the protest has not been clarified) took the floor and explained the issue of why we should need to protest.
Several issues were brought up. Some stated that it was a long struggle for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals to gain access to interpreters and the city did not fullfill the needs of Deaf individuals. He said that he met with the city and the city coordinator said that there was not much Deaf awareness and did not know how to provide the support for the Deaf community.
Brian said that he has exhausted all channels with the city including meeting with the County Judge which he mentioned it was a woman, (it is Judge Ed Emmett), contacted with the Mayor Bill White, etc. He also mentioned that they (the co-founders) have contacted the Houston Police Department and came to the conclusion that there was no support for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals through HPD. He has mentioned that he contacted James Solboda of the HPD and spoke with him. That gave a strong conviction that they have tried all means of contact and came with no solution. Hence, the main reason to have the protest on June 16th.
After Brian’s explaination, other Deaf/HOH individuals came up and explained their case. One said he became frustrated when he called ahead to request an interpreter and once he showed up in court, there were no interpreter present. He requested to reschedule the court case and asked for an interpreter, the next time again there was no interpreter available. He felt that he had no choice but to communicate through pen and paper. In the process, he felt lost and was unsure of what to do.
Another said that in the past he had problems with calling an non-emergency 911 call and requested an officer to have an interpreter with him present. Once the officer showed up and the compliant found that they did not bother to have an interpreter. Then when the second time he had to make a non-emergency 911 call, they did not send an interpreter. He said that it was difficult and frustrating so he felt that the time is now to protest and try to deliver the message across.
There were more people who expressed their frustrations and concerns of the lack of access that the city of Houston is not meeting the needs of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.
After all is said and done, I decided to get up and press Brian further to ask him a series of questions relating to the protest. I asked him, “Who is representing the protest, who is the spokesperson?” Brian said, “It is me that will be the spokesperson because I know and understand everyone’s situation and what should be done.” Brian explained that he has seen many cases and realized that it became overwhelming that gave away to the fact that it was enough that the city was not doing anything. The only best possible solution would be is to have a protest/march on June 16th to “wake up” the city council and explain the case to them. Hopefully, the result is that they become more aware of the issue and Brian said that he knows it will be a long process. It will be an effort to get the message cross and felt that this is the best way to go.
Previously earlier, when I asked Brian what he does and he said that he works as an advocate with the office of Deaf/Hard of Hearing services. I felt that it was a conflict of interest since he himself leads the protest and is a spokesperson as well. When I told him that I was concerned about the conflict of interest in terms of public relations and the media’s perspective since it might look like a one man march. Brian said that he is willing to have a neutral person that would be in the best position to be the spokesperson for the protest/march. That has yet to be determined on who is the spokesperson and I was asked to be their spokesperson on the spot. However, I felt that it was inappropriate because there was no proper voting from the members in the meeting. You cannot just select a member out of the blue but in order to have a spokesperson with a strong backing of the members, you have to have a voting prodecure. I also explained that being a spokesperson is a huge responsibility and it would be a person who truly understands everyone’s concern and be aware of the real issue at hand. I think they should have done an voting prodecure but with the protest date nearing, it would not be enough time in my opinion. Again, this is not an organization.
When I asked Brian on what the plan was after the protest? “Do you have an agenda in place?” He said that he hopes to get the message across through the protest with the city council and eventually start from there. One of the member, Don, has said that we need the protest because it was “long overdue” and that for many years there were problems after problems.
It seems to me that there were some members who are still unsure of whether we should be having a protest and there were other members who are ready for it. When one of the member in the audience asked that if everyone was ready for the protest, Brian said that there are more people who has not showed up in the meeting and those are the people who were ready to protest, there are more “numbers”. I got up in front of the audience and told the members in the audience that “numbers” do not mean a thing. It does not matter if you have a LARGE protest or a small one. What matters the most is the message you are trying to get across, that you have exhausted all channels, and you have no options but to protest.
The meeting took more than 2 hours at length and since the mall was closing at 9, many members felt that there should be more time and Brian suggested that there should be another meeting before the protest. Some of the members agreed to have another meeting and some members have expressed to postpone the protest outright.
In my opinion, I felt that there are more to be done and remain exclusive to the idea that there are more channels to go through such as contacting Judge Ed Emmett, etc. There are other options such as establishing an organization such as Houston Association of the Deaf to provide a strong establishment within the Houston community. We need to have a multi-pronged approach and a better plan of attack. We need to have a more democratic form of ideas and vote on it on which is the best agenda to follow through. It cannot just be the co-founders’ ideas and expressions but requires a community of whole.
First thing I would like to see from the founder and co-founder is a blog that explains EVERYTHING in detail of the plan, agenda, why, etc. That way we as a Deaf community can be better informed and have more meeting with the members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community. I understand that Brian has mentioned that there has been a meeting prior to establishing the protest but the question is, if several members of the Deaf community is not aware of the issue or a meeting that took place then what good would it do for the protest?
Second, I would like to see an establishment of an organization and have that organization to be a representation of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community then eventually lead the protest. I would like to see a more organized form of structure and prodecures that provides an establishment of electing a spokesperson, leader, etc.
That is why I asked to delay the protest to another date, but if the protest is to continue then at least change the message from complaining that there is a lack of access within the Houston community to a better message of establishing a Deaf representative with the mayor’s office (the city council can vote on that, so why not ask?) If the city council refuses to vote on having a Deaf representation, then it would be a stronger conviction for the Deaf community to say that city council is discriminating the representation of having a minority voice within the city council and the mayor’s office. It would look better for us through the media and the public but of course, that is just my opinion.
However, the good news is that there will be another meeting on Monday and I am hoping more people will show up and voice their concerns on whether they are supporting the protest or not. Maybe provide a better ideas and options that could lead to better result.
As soon as I find out more about the meeting on Monday I will post!
Feel free to express your concerns in the comment box below and remember, “Rome was not built in a day”
Note – this is solely my opinion and does not represent the opinions of the writers/owner of the dphhh.com