ASL club to host performances by deaf community at Common Grounds Friday

Baylor’s American Sign Language club will host “Open Light Night” at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Common Grounds with the goal of showcasing the deaf communities of Baylor and Waco. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

Open mic nights usually have emphasis on the mic, but Baylor’s American Sign Language Club hopes to show students how another culture expresses itself through an “Open Light Night” at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Common Grounds.

Gladwater senior Emilye Harris, ASL Club president, described the event as similar to an open mic night or a poetry night with performances by ASL students and the deaf community.

“It’s a laid-back event open to anyone and everyone interested in ASL,” Harris said.

Harris said ASL students from Baylor, McLennan Community College, local high schools and members of the deaf community will perform poems, stories, jokes, songs and skits. Elementary-aged students from a deaf ministry in Waco called “Win” will perform a dance, sing a song and perform an anti-bullying skit they wrote.

ASL Club officers said that, while knowledge of ASL will be beneficial, students do not need any knowledge of the language or culture to enjoy the night.

“As long as you are interested in ASL, you should have a good time,” Santa Fe senior Bree Tassin, ASL Club secretary, said. “Even if you don’t totally understand what a performer is signing, you should be able to understand the main points of the story. ASL is very theatrical and descriptive, so it is fun to watch even if you are not fluent in the language.”

ASL Club officers said some performances will be mostly mime and gesture based while others will lean more toward complete ASL.

The emcee of the night is a member of the deaf community; her explanations and introductions will be interpreted in English.

Childress junior Rachel Caldwell, ASL Club public relations chair, stressed that the event is open to everyone and said she hopes Baylor students will take the opportunity to learn about another culture right in their backyard.

“I think people tend to shy away from ASL and the deaf community in Waco because they don’t understand it or feel they will be excluded, but this event is a great way to connect with great people in Waco you may otherwise never meet,” Caldwell said.

The ASL Club officers said as of Tuesday night they had 23 people signed up to perform and expect the show to last about two hours, but it is a casual come-and-go event.

There will also be an “open mic” period where the stage will be open to people who did not sign up to perform.

“Overall, the atmosphere will be similar to any other poetry night,” Waco junior and ASL Club treasurer Nathaniel Chacon said. “We hope students will come, sip their coffee, hang out and enjoy the deaf community and culture in Waco.”

The ASL Club officers made a YouTube video advertising the event titled “Open Light Night” on their channel “Baylor ASL Club.”