Timeline of NBDA History and Milestones 

See History of NBDA Leadership Team


In 1980, a small group of local Black deaf people in the District of Columbia met with the Board of the Deaf Pride, an advocacy organization for the deaf, and expressed their concerns about the problems that prevent Black deaf from achieving their potential and the lack of leadership in the Black deaf community nationwide. Goals were developed and other skills that were usually ignored. The Black deaf group wanted to have an organization where they could promote leadership as well as share experiences, ideas, talents, and hopes. In July of 1980, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) held their 100th anniversary convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a Black Deaf Caucus was formed. The Black Deaf Caucus members in attendance brought up the issues of the NAD's refusal to address the concerns of the black deaf community, as well as the lack of representation as delegates of the NAD. Caucus member Sandi LaRue issued a statement to the convention attendees that NAD must take action to communicate better with the black deaf community; encourage minorities’ involvement in the national and state organizations; and recruit more black deaf children in the Junior NAD and youth leadership camp.

“We would like to get on the cover and front pages.” – Sandi LaRue
The Cincinnati Enquirer article “Need of Deaf Blacks Recognized”, July 6, 1980 (PDF)

In August of 1980, Charles “Chuck” V. Williams (of Ohio) had arrived in D.C. preparing to file a class action suit against the National Democratic and Republican Conventions for their refusal to televise a Sign Language interpreter for linguistic accessibility throughout the proceedings. Charles received an invitation to work with a local Black Deaf committee to plan a mini-conference by, for, and about black deaf experience. The first planning meeting in November saw Charles meeting with Lottie Crook (chair), Linwood Smith (vice chair), Zoe E. Page Collymore, Ernest Hairston, Williard Shorter, Shirley Johnson (interpreter coordinator), and Robert Howard (trainer/consultant). Philip Armstrong designed the original logo of black hands in its “ADVOCACY” sign position. The name “advocates” signaled the members’ interest to challenge the disappointing reality for betterment.


Black Deaf Experience Conference, 1981 in Washington, D.C.











First Black Deaf Conference, June 25-26, 1981 in Washington, D.C.

The first Black Deaf Conference “Black Deaf Experience” was held on June 25-26, 1981 at Howard University in Washington, District of Columbia. According to the authors of the “Black and Deaf in America: Are We that Different”, the conference marked an important milestone and provided a model for others to emulate. Nearly 100 Black Deaf people attended the first preliminary conference. Based on the accounts, the mini-conference was a phenomenal success, enough to cement the idea that there should be another conference. The objectives of the conference were:

  • To better inform ourselves and the community about being both Black and Deaf in America
  • To identify and examine the social, economical, educational, religious, political, and health issues and their impact on the Black deaf community
  • To formulate some strategies and problem solving techniques that participants can take back to their communities and use.

The conference’s workshops held over the two days involved six major areas: Education, Family, Social Services, Health and Mental Health, Employment, and Interpreting.


The First National Conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio on August 13-15, 1982, in the heart of downtown Stouffers Inn on the Square. The conference theme “Black Deaf Strength Through Awareness” drew 300 participants. Topics were related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Social Services, and Hearing Parents with deaf children. Charles “Chuck” V. Williams served as the conference chairperson (Story). The debate was held as to whether to a national organization should be formed. The motion to declare the First National Conference a National organization passed.

The new organization National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) was officially formed. The six founding members were instrumental in establishing NBDA: Lottie Crook, Ernest Hairston, Williard Shorter, Linwood Smith, Charles “Chuck” V. Williams, and Elizabeth “Ann” Wilson. The national executive secretary Albert Couthen was elected to coordinate the efforts to form a national office.

New Chapters established: District of Columbia Area Black Deaf Advocates became the first affiliated chapter, Cleveland BDA as #2 Chapter, and Philadelphia Chapter of BDA as #3 Chapter.


The second National Conference, “Our Place In The Society”, was held in Philadelphia, PA. Conference Chair: Elizabeth Moore-Aviles. The conference marked the first beauty pageant for Black Deaf women. Ronnie Mae Tyson was crowned the first Miss Black Deaf America. Upon the resignation of Albert Couthen, Sheryl Guest-Emery took over as National Executive Secretary - which was later renamed as Executive Director. Under her administration, the National Bylaws were developed with the input of the original 4 NBDA chapters: Washington DC, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York City. Various positions for officers were established. Organizational structure, policy, procedures, and guidelines were established under Ms. Emery’s leadership with the assistance and guidance of a veteran lawyer.

Executive Board 1983-1988 Term:

  • Sheryl Guest-Emery, Executive Director (DC) (1983-1987)
  • Celeste Owens-Samuels, Assistant Executive Director (1987) (NY); Acting Executive Director (1987-1988)
  • Dr. Seth Ocloo, Treasurer (LA)
  • Patrick O. Atuonah, Treasurer (MD)
  • Pauline Fletemeyer, Secretary (1985-1986) (DC)

New Chapter established: New York City BDA #4.


The third National Conference, “Destroying The Myths, Discovering The Truths”, was held in New York City, NY and hosted by the New York City Black Deaf Advocates. Conference Chair: Patricia Johnson.

New Chapters established: Atlanta BDA #5 and Detroit BDA #6.


The fourth National Conference, “Glancing Back, Shape The Present, And Looking Ahead”, was held in Washington, DC and hosted by the District of Columbia Black Deaf Advocates .

Thomas Samuels of New York appointed to serve as the first chairman of the NBDA Board of Directors from 1985 to 1989.

New Chapter established: Windy City Chapter of BDA #7 (later renamed Chicagoland BDA).


The fifth National Conference, “If Not Us, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When?”, was held in Chicago, IL. Conference Chair: John Brand. The conference was hosted by the Windy City Chapter of Black Deaf Advocates.

New Chapter established: Nashville BDA #8.


The 6th National Conference, “The Black Family: Togetherness”, was held in Cleveland, OH and was hosted by the Cleveland BDA Chapter #2. National Alliance of Black Interpreters (NAOBI) was born out of the NBDA Conference.  Conference Chair: Charles “Chuck” V. Williams.

New Chapter established: Memphis Chapter of BDA #9.


The 7th National Conference, “Deaf, Gifted and Black”, was held in Detroit, MI and was hosted by the Detroit Black Deaf Advocates.

Executive Board 1988-1990 Term:

  • Lottie Crook, President (MD)
  • Sheryl Guest-Emery, Vice President (MI)
  • Lois Dadzie, Secretary (CA)
  • Pam Anderson, Treasurer (MI)

New Chapter established: Bay Area Chapter of BDA #10.


The 8th National Conference “Returning To Basics, Defining Our Organization” was held in Atlanta, GA. Conference Chair: Celeste Owens-Samuels.


The 9th National Conference, “Motivation And Preservance Make Dreams Come True”, was held in Oakland, CA. Conference Chair: Lois Dadzie, President and co-founder of newly established Bay Area Chapter Black Deaf Advocates.

Claudia Gordon, future Obama appointee and first Black Deaf female attorney, won the Miss Black Deaf America.

Executive Board 1990-1993 Term:

  • Carl Moore, President (NY)
  • Betty Henderson, Vice President (PA)
  • Naomi Moore, Secretary (PA)
  • Pam Anderson, Treasurer (MI)

New Chapter established: Boston BDA.


The 10th National Conference, “The 90’s, What Challenges For Deaf And Hearing Impaired Americans”, hosted in Memphis, TN in collaboration with Memphis Chapter of the Black Deaf Advocates. Conference Chair: Lordy D. Smith.


No National Conference held that year.

New Chapter established: Indianapolis BDA (later renamed Indiana Chapter of BDA).


The 11th National Conference, “Vision of Unity: Bridging The Gap Through Broad Based Experiences”, was held in St. Thomas, Virgin Island.

Executive Board 1993-1995 Term:

  • Pamela Lloyd, President (GA)
  • Betty Henderson, Vice President (PA)
  • Juanita McDowell, Secretary (GA)
  • Pam Anderson, Treasurer (MI) (1993)
  • Jerry Webster, Interim Treasurer (1993-1995) (MD)

New Chapter established: Dallas BDA #15


The 12th National Conference, “Tools For A Healthier, Wiser Black Community”, was held in St. Paul, MN and sponsored by Cleveland Black Deaf Advocates #2.


The 13rd National Conference, “Thoughts And Dreams Challenge Our Black Deaf Americans”, was held in Nashville, TN.

Executive Board 1995-1997 Term:

  • Pamela Lloyd, President (GA)
  • Al Couthen, Vice President (MD)
  • Juanita McDowell, Secretary (GA)
  • Jerry Webster, Treasurer (MD)


The 14th National Conference, “Taking Charge: Empowerment, Leadership, and Motivation”, was held in Los Angeles, CA.
New Chapters established: New Jersey BDA and New Orleans BDA


The year 1997 marked NBDA’s 15th birthday at the National Conference, “Black Deaf Leadership In the 21st Century: Preparing the Way”, in Washington, D.C. The year also marked the establishment of a national youth program called Youth Empowerment Summit. Kristi Merriweather of Atlanta was its first coordinator, with Tim Albert of New Orleans picking up the reins for at least 9 years until retirement from this position in 2007.

Executive Board 1997-1999 Term (General Membership voted in 1999 to extend officer terms until 2000):

  • Al Couthen, President (MD)
  • Thomas Samuels, Vice President (NY)
  • Gailya Goins, Secretary (PA) (1997-1998)
  • Zelephiene Meadows, Acting Secretary (1998-2000) (MD)
  • Walter Lewis, Treasurer (1997) (TN)
  • Donald Tinsley, Acting Treasurer (IN) (1997-2000)
  • Jerry Webster, Interim Treasurer (1998-2000) (MD)


The 16th National Conference, “The Black Deaf Community: Building Collaborative Partnerships”, was held in Indianapolis, IN.


The 17th National Conference, “Combing our Efforts: Education, Employment, and Youth Empowerment”, was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.


The 18th National Conference, “Determining, Acquiring And Realizing Our Challenge In The New Millennium”, was held in Houston, TX.

Executive Board 2000-2002 Term:

  • Gwendolyn Powell, President (2000-2001) (VI)
  • Steven Younger, Vice President (2000-2001); Acting President (2001-2002) (NY)
  • Willie Woodson, Acting Vice President (TX) (2001-2002)
  • Martina Moore, Secretary (NY)
  • Donald Tinsley, Treasurer (IN)


No National Conference held that year.

New Chapter established: North Carolina BDA #30


The 19th National Conference, “Claiming the Abundance – Black Deaf Culture: Education, Technology, Finance, and Employment”, was held in Detroit, MI.

Executive Board 2002-2004 Term (General Membership voted in 2004 to extend officer terms until 2005):

  • Dr. Reginald Redding, President (RI)
  • Claudia Gordon, Esq., Vice President (DC)
  • Aristole Ogoke, Secretary (NY)
  • Duane Halliburton, Treasurer (MD)


The 20th National Conference, “Soaring Higher: Meeting the Challenges, Realizing the Opportunities”, was held in Denver, CO. Conference Co-Chair: Martina Moore-Reid & John Reid.


The 21st National Conference, “Our Place In Society: Looking Back, Moving Forward”, was held in Philadelphia, PA. Conference Chair: Betty Henderson. During the conference, NBDA underwent transformation with the introduction of the regional system. The regional system grouped chapters under five regionals, giving them more opportunities to hold regional conferences during even years, to reduce the ever-growing number of board of representatives, allowing NBDA to function more streamlined and focus more on long-term projects.


The 22nd National Conference, “Building on Dr. Andrew Foster’s Legacy: Volunteerism and Self-Help”, was held in Orlando, FL. During the conference, a new program Collegiate Black Deaf Student Leadership Institute (CBDSLI) was established. Dr. Laurene Simms was appointed to serve as the director. It was the last annual year of national conference before regional conferences were set to host the following year.

Executive Board 2005-2007 Term:

  • Thomas Samuels, President (NY)
  • Richard McCowan, Vice President (NE)
  • Cory Parker, Secretary (NC)
  • Gerald Miller, Treasurer (VA)

New Chapter established: Kentucky BDA


The 1st Biennial Regional Conferences were held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – New York City, NY
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Chicago, IL
  • Southern Regional Conference – Atlanta, GA
  • Southwestern Regional Conference – Houston, TX
  • Western Regional Conference – None

New Chapter established: Alabama BDA


The year 2007 celebrated NBDA’s 25th birthday at the 23rd National Conference, “Today’s Vision Is Tomorrow’s Reality: Celebrating 25 Years of Progress”, in St. Louis, MO. Conference Co-Chair: Pamela Lloyd-Ogoke & Aristole Ogoke.

Executive Board 2007-2009 Term:

  • Fred M. Beam, President (MD)
  • Benro Ogunyipe, Vice President (IL)
  • Cory Parker, Secretary (NC)
  • Martina Moore-Reid, Treasurer (NC)


The 2nd Biennial Regional Conferences were held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – Washington, DC
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Louisville, KY
  • Southern Regional Conference – Charlotte, NC
  • Southwestern Regional Conference - Little Rock, AR
  • Western Regional Conference – None


The 24th National Conference, “Moving To A Higher Level: Change Starts From Within”, was held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Conference Co-Chair: Melvin Creamer & Patrice Creamer.

Executive Board 2009-2011 Term:

  • Ernest E. Garrett, President (MO)
  • Benro Ogunyipe, Vice President (IL)
  • Sharon White, Secretary (KY)
  • Martina Moore, Treasurer (NC) (2009-2010)
  • Betty M. Henderson, Interim Treasurer (PA) (2010-2011)

2009-2011 NBDA Staff:
Babara Smith, YES Director; Corey Burton, YES Assistant Director; Alaina Mitchell, Pageant Director; Valerie McMillan ITOC Coordinator; Thomas Samuels, Senior Citizen Coordinator; Fred Beam, History Archives.


The 3rd Biennial Regional Conferences were held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – Philadelphia, PA
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Detroit, MI  
  • Southern Regional Conference – Birmingham, AL
  • Southwestern Regional Conference – New Orleans, LA
  • Western Regional Conference – None


The 25th National Conference, “Overcoming Today’s Changing World: Changes We Need to Reinforce a Better Tomorrow”, was held in Charlotte, NC. Conference Chair: Bola Desalu.

Executive Board 2011-2013 Term:

  • Benro Ogunyipe, President (IL)
  • Cory Parker, Vice President (NC)
  • Sharon White, Secretary (KY)
  • Betty M. Henderson, Treasurer (PA)


The 4th Biennial Regional Conferences were held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – South Plainfield, NJ
    "Our Future Is In Our Hands"
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Cleveland, OH  
    "Bridging the Generational Gap"
  • Southern Regional Conference – Atlanta, GA
    "Reconnect, Refocus, Recharge"
  • Southwestern Regional Conference – Dallas, TX
    "Let's Get Our Shine On"
  • Western Regional Conference – None

The NBDA 30th Anniversary Celebration Gala "Celebrating A Legacy: NBDA's 30 Years of Advocacy"  was held at Baltimore, MD on November 10, 2012. 


The 26th National Conference, “Aiming for Greater Excellence!”, was held in New Orleans, LA. Conference Chair: Tim Albert. Conference Highlights & Photos.

Executive Board 2013-2015 Term:

  • Patrick Robinson, President (AL)
  • Opeoluwa Sotonwa, Vice President (KY)
  • Donald Tinsley, Sr., Secretary (IN)
  • Betty M. Henderson, Treasurer (PA)


The 5th Biennial Regional Conferences were held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – New York City, NY
    Refocus: The Past Lights Our Future Path
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Indianapolis, IN
    Through Empowerment, We Can Succeed & Gain Equality
  • Southern Regional Conference – Memphis, TN
    Celebrating the Past, Living the Present, Preparing for the Future
  • Southwestern Regional Conference – Houston, TX
    Iparapo: Coming Together As One


The 27th National Conference "Partners in Progress: Creating the Vision Together" was held in Louisville, KY on August 4-9, 2015. Conference Co-Chairs: Benro Ogunyipe & Sharon White. 

Executive Board 2015-2017 Term:

  • Tim Albert, President (IN)
  • Patrice Creamer, Vice President (NY)
  • Anquinette Kimble, Secretary (PA)
  • Betty M. Henderson, Treasurer (PA)


The 6th Biennial Regional Conferences will be held at the following regions and cities:

  • Eastern Regional Conference – Washington, D.C.
    Make Us Matter
  • Midwestern Regional Conference – Columbus, OH
    State of the Black Health: Living Well in the 21st Century
  • Southern Regional Conference – Jacksonville, FL
    Moving Onward & Upward: Positive - Progress
  • Southwestern Regional Conference – Little Rock, AR
    Together We Can Rise to A Higher Level


The 28th National Conference will be held in Baltimore, Maryland.


Note: For corrections or additions to the History of NBDA, please contact NBDA at info@nbda.org.