Four Deaf People Running for Public Office; Deaf Interim ASL Teacher Escorted Out of Class After ASL Program Cut; Deaf Man Travis Martin Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison for Fatal DUI Crash
Hello, welcome to the Daily Moth! Ready for “Deaf News” Friday?
I’ve got news about three Deaf people running for public office, concerns over an ASL program that was cut at a high school, and a Deaf person sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Here it is.
There are now four deaf people who are running for public office in the U.S., as far as I know.
They are: Philip Wolfe, Connell Crooms, Chris Haulmark, and Toyin Faskin.
I reached out to the first three for interviews and will share their comments. For the fourth person, Toyin, I only just found about him today, so I will share information from his website.
The first person is Philip Wolfe. He is running for Portland (OR) City Council Position #2. The election is on May 15, less than two weeks away.
Philip Wolfe: I regularly attend town hall meetings to share my thoughts and express concerns and complaints. The city council has disregarded me every time and simply moved on with their meetings.
It is really hard to get through to them and have them listen with an open mind and work to find a solution to the issue and vote on it. They don’t understand deaf issues. They don’t understand disability issues. They haven’t really experienced what it’s like to face barriers. Accessibility is a major concern. I’ve prompted them numerous times and very little has changed.
It’s time for us to switch seats. The city needs to listen to the disability community and the deaf community’s concerns and take swift action. This is what I will do. I will advocate for your voice because I get it.
Alex: Wolfe has been involved with city government and policy for several years now.
It all started in 2012 after a domestic violence situation in which he was a victim to a hearing partner. When he called the police, officers ignored his requests for an interpreter and talked with the partner, listened to his side, and left. Wolfe said he almost died in the abuse that followed.
Later, Wolfe asked for police’s help and told them that he needed an interpreter, but instead got an officer who knew very little sign language.
Wolfe sued the city and won a 2013 settlement with a new directive/policy on how police officers should interact with deaf people — to protect their rights.
Wolfe: I’ve already brought about some changes and I haven’t even held office yet. For example. I tried to tell the mayor the importance of adding captions to videos and streams of the meetings at city hall. The meetings are not accessible without captions. I tried to tell them but nothing changed.
When I started campaigning I brought it up again and they quickly added captions. They also added an interpreter in the corner of the screen. That is full accessibility and I am thrilled to see it happen. That’s why I feel like I’m already a winner. That’s what’s really important.
Alex: Good luck to him on his election on May 15.
The next person is Connell Crooms, who is running to be Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida. The election is March 2019. He is running with no party affiliations — he is independent — not a Democrat nor a Republican.
He has lived in Jacksonville his whole life.
Crooms is well-known in the city because of his work in activism, something he has been doing since 2011. He has often participated and led rallies and marches for social change. His face is painted on a silo overlooking Hart Bridge.
Last year, he was a part of the “Jacksonville Five,” a group of protesters rallying against U.S. missile strikes in Syria. They were arrested by police after a confrontation with a counter-protester. Crooms’ charges were dropped after many in the Jacksonville community showed support for him.
Connell Crooms: Right now the people of Jacksonville, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, Independents or whatever, they do not think they have an ally or friend in office.
We have to have someone who is from here. We have to have someone who understands Jacksonville’s working class roots, its history and Jacksonville’s history on race. How should we approach and solve those issues? Our current leader has been tight-lipped and has shown that they don’t care to address these issues. They don’t care about race. They don’t care about what’s happening to transgender people every night. They don’t care about anyone except those who are rich.
That’s sad. Jacksonville has a deep history, a deep background as a working class city – and it’s not just because of football. People forget that it was because of working class roots that the Jaguars moved here. We’ve supported that team for many years, but we can’t keep paying for rich people’s pet projects.
It’s time to focus on developing, expanding, growing and protecting working class issues. At the same time, we cannot ignore race. We can’t. That’s why I’m running for mayor. We need honesty. We need fairness. We need to build a future that belongs to the people of Jacksonville.
Alex: Connell said the race is very competitive, but he feels confident that he will win. He said there is a new generation of people, senior citizens, and grassroots people that feel left out, and he expects to have their support. He said he is “ten steps ahead” and is prepared with a ground game, ready to knock on doors.
Good luck to him as he begins his year of campaigning.
The third Deaf person I will spotlight is Chris Haulmark, who is running for Kansas House of Representatives District 15.
You might have noticed him from his daily vlogs, which are captioned in English and Spanish.
He first ran for U.S. Congress (House of Representatives) in June 2017, but changed to run for Kansas House of Representatives in February.
Haulmark decided not to continue his campaign for U.S. Congress after he met with another person who is running — Sharice Davis. She is hearing and knows how to sign. He said he felt she could represent him, and endorsed her.
[Video of Haulmark and Davis endorsing each other]
Alex: Haulmark said when he first ran, he had to go through a lot of challenges with having accessibility with interpreting, due to the cost. He fought for his rights by using Democratic values against them — he asked if they were truly equitable and inclusive. He said now they provide interpreters, have budgets ready for them, and when groups set up events, they say they have already arranged interpreters and invite him.
Chris Haulmark: Many of those that hear, are used to their own hearing perspectives.
When a Deaf person shows up and offers their own take, they will be able to learn a whole new perspective.
I will be able to frame many of our issues regarding systemic oppression on the Deaf community, as well as the oppression of women, persons of color, the LGBTQ, as well as all the other marginalized groups.
When they see someone so versed in fighting against oppression his entire life, who is able to re-frame this dynamic, they will take heed.
Now imagine working with them as a lawmaker...
I can provide a unique and different perspective that can shift their vision of how people are served.
So I look forward to seeing the positive influence I will have.
Alex: Haulmark said he felt he has a good chance of winning the state congressional seat. He has campaigned locally by riding his bicycle and knocking on doors. He said he shows them a brochure with his main goals and issues: public school education funding, Medicaid/KanCare expansion, and voting rights for marginalized people.
Chris Haulmark: If you donate $30 to this campaign, we will mail you this shirt. If you would like a shirt, all you have to do is donate $30 and we will send it to you. This campaign needs to keep raising money. We need to continually spend money to promote the campaign, convince voters, get name recognition while at the same time ensuring votes so that I am elected into the State Legislature.
Alex: Good luck on his campaign up to Election Day in November.
The fourth Deaf person running for office is Toyin Fasakin, running for Prince George County (MD)’s Office of Register of Wills. This position protects those who died, dealing with their wills, heirs, legatees, and tax collection.
On his website, it encourages people to elect him as the first deaf P.G. County Official.
Here is a clip of a video on his campaign page.
Toyin Fasakin: My father passed away without a will. We had two different families involved and everyone was looking at his land. It got to the point where both sides were arguing over his property. Eventually we were able to start negotiating with each other and get it resolved. So that is the reason I’m running. I don’t want others to go through what we did.
It is especially crucial for the black community since many black people don’t have wills. When I visited different civic meetings I would ask people if they knew about wills. They said they knew wills were important but they didn’t know about filling them out with the ROW office. For that reason, I want to educate them and put things in order.
Alex: He wants to repeal the inheritance tax and to make sure the online services is accessible to everybody.
His website shows images of him knocking on people’s doors and interacting with people in his campaign.
His election is on June 26, with early voting on June 14 through June 24. Good luck on his campaign.
So, those are the four deaf people who are running for office. They have big dreams, big goals, and have done months of hard work.
The first election is Wolfe’s in two weeks in Oregon, followed by Fasakin next month, then Haulmark this November, and next year for Crooms.
We know there is a Deaf Mayor in Angels Camp, California, Amanda Folendorf. I did an interview with her in January. She was on the city council from 2014 and was appointed mayor by the council with a one-year term. If you want to watch that interview, the link is in the transcript. I’ve also included links for the four Deaf people who are running.
Philip Wolfe: https://philipforportland2018.com/goals/
Connell Crooms: https://www.facebook.com/Crooms4Mayor/
Chris Haulmark: https://www.haulmarkforkansas.com/
Toyin Fasakin: https://vote4toyinfasakin.com/
Interview with Amanda Folendorf: https://www.dailymoth.com/single-post/2018/01/09/The-Daily-Moth-1-9-18
In Pasco County, Florida (near Tampa), a deaf long-term substitute teacher who taught ASL classes was escorted out of class by school administrators in the middle of the third period.
This was last week at Wesley Chapel High School. Local news ABC WFTS reported about this. The teacher’s name is Arlenne Negron, and I reached out to her for comment.
Negron said she taught four ASL classes since January in an interim/temporary role. She is in graduate school and is working towards her teaching certification. She said she was asked to “start up” and rebuild the ASL program. Even though she was a sub teacher, she had the same kind of privileges and authority as full-time teachers.
On Friday, April 20, she was informed by the principal that administrators decided to cut the ASL program due to budget allocations. All four ASL classes would be cut.
She said the principal told her she could share this with the students. On the following Monday (the 23rd), she informed the students. This upset the principal, and Negron said she was confused because she thought she could share this.
On Tuesday (the 24th), students asked Negron if they could start a petition, a GoFundMe, and to email the school board to keep the ASL program. She said they could do it and was supportive.
Then last Friday (the 27th), during the morning, the principal went into her classroom twice, using voice without an interpreter. The principal did pull an interpreter who was assigned to a deaf student in another classroom then pulled a speech therapist who knew a little sign langauge.
Negron said she told the principal that this was not appropriate, that an outside interpreter should be brought in. She said the principal was upset by her comments.
During the third period on the same day, the assistant principal came in and via pen and paper told her to come with her and to bring her stuff. Negron said she knew it was “done,” she was done.
She went to the principal’s office, who said she crossed the line by starting a petition, that it was not appropriate. Negron said she didn’t “start it,” but that the administrators seemed set on her leaving. So she left.
In the ABC news article, it quoted school officials saying Negron, as a sub teacher, did not have due process, so she could be removed anytime.
Negron said she appreciates the students’ support and loyalty, and their “deaf heart.” She said there is nothing she can do, but she wants to continue pursuing her passion of teaching.
There is still a petition on change.org. The person or group who started the petition has called themselves, “Wesley Chapel High School ASL.” There are now over 1,200 signatures.
The petition says cutting the program would be a tragedy as the ASL program is the only gateway they have to the Deaf community.
They say they have reached out to their administration for help, but that they oppressed their Deaf teacher and students, and said ASL was ridiculous.
Students told local news that school district officials are falsely accusing Negron of staring the petition.
Students plan to confront the Pasco County School Board during their next meeting on May 15.
You can read the news article and see the petition at the links in the transcript.
In Montgomery County, Virginia — a deaf man, Travis Martin, 29, was sentenced to nine years in prison in relation to a fatal wreck last year that killed a deaf passenger, Angelina Greene, who was 27.
Martin pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, possessing a controlled substance (heroin and fentanyl), and driving under the influence.
He was supposed to go through a jury trial facing a second-degree murder charge, but had that charge dropped with his plea agreement.
After 9 years in prison, Martin will lose his driver’s license for six months for the possession charge, then indefinitely for the DUI charge, his third in ten years.
The crash was on July 4 of last year. Martin was driving a 2004 Ford Expedition that was pulling a trailer, helping Greene move from Pennsylvania to Texas.
Prosecutors said the SUV was weaving back and forth across I-81 and crashed into a disabled semi-truck that was parked on the right shoulder.
Greene died on the scene, she was not wearing a seatbelt. She left behind a then-5 year old child.
That is all for today. Have a wonderful weekend and stay with the light!