2015 NBDA Conference Photos (Andrew Robertson Photography)

The 2015 National Black Deaf Advocates Conference was one of the most successful conferences in its organization history. The 27th NBDA Conference was held in the historical city of Louisville, Kentucky with support of the local Chapter, the Kentucky Black Deaf Advocates (KYBDA). KYBDA, which was founded in 2005, celebrated their 10-year milestone.

The conference theme “Partners in Progress: Creating the Vision Together” represented NBDA’s aspiration to collaboratively create and achieve common goals with organizations and individuals in the pursuit of NBDA’s mission “promoting the leadership development, economic and educational opportunities, social equality, and safeguarding the general health and welfare of Black deaf and hard of hearing people.”

A diverse of more than 500 attendees from all across the country who are advocates, activists, administrators, educators, counselors, consumers, KODA & CODA, parents and siblings of deaf children, senior citizens, high school and college students, allies, sign language interpreters, and professionals in various fields all in the interest of attending personal growth and professional development workshops and panels on issues as topical and varied as leadership & mentoring, interpreter development, language & culture, health, social justice, collaboration & partnership, educational success and opportunities, legal issues, employment, advocacy, technology & social media, and financial management.

The conference was honored by visits from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) CEO Howard Rosenblum, Gallaudet University President Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz, NBDA Founding Member Chuck V. Williams, NBDA Founding Executive Director Sheryl Emery, President Obama Appointee Claudia Gordon, Esq., Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) Executive Director Sherri Collins, and Superintendents & a President from the Deaf Schools in Alabama, Indiana, Missouri, and Mississippi as well as the Black Deaf leaders and presidents of the NBDA Local Chapters.

The conference kicked off with Tuesday evening’s Opening Reception with welcome remarks by Gallaudet President Dr. Hurwitz for early arrivals. There were a varied of events throughout the week: NBDA Board of Directors Meeting, Welcome Ceremony, Steamboat Cruise Entertainment Night at the historical Belle of Louisville, 2015 Miss Black Deaf America Pageant, NBDA Regional Meetings, the State of the Black Deaf America, and the NBDA General Membership Meeting/Election. The exciting art exhibition displayed African-American artists’ works ranging from paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs to videos, prints and other media. A variety of more than 20 quality exhibitors showcased their products, programs, and services ranging from Video Relay Services providers, government agencies and small business owners to educational institutions & academic programs.

The conference coincided with two youth leadership programs for high school and college students participation in the Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S!) and Collegiate Black Deaf Student Leadership Institute (CBDSLI) leadership summits, respectively. The 2015 CBDSLI program was coordinated by Andrea Sonnier and Dorian Fletcher with 16 students from Gallaudet University, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and E.H Gentry (Alabama). Corey Burton and Brandon Ruiz-Williams directed the 2015 Y.E.S! leadership summit, with 20 youth participants from schools for the deaf and mainstream schools and supported by Peer Advisors coordinated by De’Lasha Singleton.

The three-hour Belle of Louisville cruise along the Ohio River while the crowd were entertained by the live performance by Wawa Snipe, Aarron Loggins, Anderson Twins, and DJ Deaf Kazeem. A special plenary given by Talila A. Lewis entitled “A Call for Cross-Movement Activism: Achieving Deaf Access to Justice & Disability Justice in Communities of Color” addressed actions that can be taken to combat mass incarceration and to ensure that disabled and deaf people have equal access to the justice system. The integral part of the conference was “The State of Education of Black Deaf Children: Progress or Stagnation?” with five prominent leaders invited to serve on the panel discussion to identify innovative practices and programs in schools for the Deaf that are making a difference for Black Deaf children and recruit and employ Black Deaf teachers and administrators. Finally, congratulations to Nanette Smith for crowning as the 2015-2017 Miss Black Deaf America! 20 years ago, Nanette’s mother SeAndra Smith-Reese was crowned the 1995 Miss Black Deaf America.

The conference closed with the Saturday evening banquet and awards. Keynote Speaker, Maxine Childress Brown, author of the new book On The Beat of Truth, A Hearing Daughter’s Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents, shared her experience growing as a CODA and discussed hearing children as a bridge between the hearing and deaf worlds. At the banquet, NBDA recognized the many individuals who have accomplished a lot in the Deaf Community and contributed their invaluable service in Black Deaf America. The following awards were given:

  • Andrew Foster Humanitarian Award: Talila A. Lewis
  • Linwood Smith Humanitarian Award: Benro Ogunyipe
  • Bronze Hand Award: Stephanie Johnson
  • Advocate of the Year: Kari Cooke
  • President’s Distinguished Service Awards: Karen Anderson & Donald Tinsley
  • Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award: Alabama Black Deaf Advocates

The 2015-2017 NBDA Executive Board was announced:

  • Tim Albert, President
  • Patrice Creamer, Vice President
  • Betty Henderson, Treasurer
  • Anquinette Kimble, Secretary

Benro Ogunyipe and Sharon White were appointed to serve as co-chairs of the conference. They assembled a team of planning committee members to organize the successful conference with the support of NBDA Board of Directors and KYBDA. The Conference Committee members included: Registration Coordinators Tim Albert & Stephanie Albert, Conference Treasurer Bobby Green, Interpreter Coordinator Mercedes Hunter, Workshop Chair Richard McCowin, Workshop Coordinator Aileen Vasquez, Exhibit Coordinator Barbara Smith, Art Exhibit Coordinator Fred M. Beam, KODA Club Coordinator Alexis Maya Conners, Entertainment Coordinators Wawa Snipe & Aarron Loggins, Volunteer Coordinator Holly O’Mary, CEUs Coordinators Kafi Lemons and Pamela Collins, Communications Director ‘Bunmi Aina, and Director of Policy & Governmetn Affairs Kari Cooke.

NBDA gratefully acknowledges all of our generous sponsors and partners. The success of this year’s conference would not be possible without their unstinting support. NBDA extends its gratitude to the following sponsors, media, interpreters and supporting individuals:

Premier Conference Partner (Muhammad Ali Center)

  • Gallaudet University
  • Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Purple Communications

Conference Partners

  • Eastern Kentucky University ASL & Interpreter Education
  • National Alliance of Black Interpreters of Washington, D.C.
  • Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind
  • DeafNation

Platinum Conference Partner (Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs)

  • RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf
  • Sorenson VRS Gold Conference Partner (The KFC Yum! Center)
  • Convo
  • Sprint Relay
  • ZVRS

Bronze Conference Partner (Louisville Slugger)

  • Conference of Interpreter Trainers

Friend of NBDA Sponsorship (Kentucky Bluegrass)

  • Alison Aubrecht
  • Kelby Brick in Honor of Carl Way
  • Marilyn Edwards
  • Gerry Gordon-Brown
  • Benro Ogunyipe
  • Corey Parker

Media: Seth Gerlis of iDeafNews

DJ & Technician: Deaf DJ Kazeem

Photographer: Andrew Robertson

Interpreters: Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing & Purple Communications

Thank you to all the presenters from all over the United States who provided many excellent educational workshops. NBDA is grateful to members and visitors who support the conference, and continue to make this an organization to be proud of around the world. We look forward continuing to serve the Black Deaf Community in the coming years, and we will see you again in 2017 when the 28th NBDA Conference will be held in Baltimore, Maryland! 


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