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Special Thanks from the Deaf Democrats

July 9, 2009

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It has been a month since the Deaf Democrats blog published a special tribute to Marcella M. Meyer, the last of true Deaf warriors. The outpouring has been rather huge, and this tribute became our most popular posting, with the highest number of hits ever for a single posting. This goes to show the kind of impact Marcella M. Meyer has had on our lives.

Ever since the special tribute came out, a memorial service honoring Marcella M. Meyer took place at the Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf (GLAD) on Sunday, June 14th, with approximately 350 people in attendance. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times newspaper ran two obituaries on her, one in the regular obituary section and the other one as a feature story published after her memorial service.

As further evidence of Marcella M. Meyer’s widespread reach to people from different walks of life, the Los Angeles City Council proclaimed this past June 14th (the day of her memorial service) as Marcella M. Meyer Day throughout the whole city. On June 23rd, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors closed its meeting with a tribute to Marcella and issued a proclamation in her honor. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is currently working on a special feature honoring her to be included in the next NAD NEWS issue.

The family of Marcella M. Meyer has been deeply touched by all this and some family members have not realized the extent of Marcella’s influence until now. The Deaf Democrats editors want to thank everyone for expressing their sentiments through various avenues. It is still a challenge for many of us to comprehend a world without Marcella M. Meyer; however, we can take great comfort in knowing that our lives have been made richer by her impact on us all!

**PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS TO UNDER 250 WORDS!
Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors

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MARCELLA M. MEYER, The Last of True Deaf Warriors

June 8, 2009

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The day of May 26, 2009 brought another milestone into the history of the Los Angeles Deaf Community and everywhere else, with the passing of Marcella Mae Meyer. As one of the founders and as the CEO of the Greater Los Angeles Agency of the Deaf (GLAD), Marcella brought upon incredible changes affecting the lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people everywhere.

Affectionately known as MMM, Marcella M. Meyer deserves this special tribute from the Deaf Democrats editors because of her steadfast behind-the-scenes support of this blog. Marcella had been a long-time supporter of the Democratic Party and held the distinction of being the first Deaf delegate to the California Democratic Party convention. Another compelling reason is that the current chapter in our Deaf history would not have been made possible without Marcella breaking barriers in a very GUTSY manner.

Marcella M. Meyer, (1925-2009), now belongs to a group of legendary Deaf leaders who stood at a pivotal period in our community history, leaders such as Frederick C. Schreiber, Don Pettingil, Ed Carney, T.J. O’Rourke, Jerry Jordan, Frank Bowie, Boyce Williams, etc. This group led the Deaf Community at a watershed point when civil rights, services and access came flooding into our community. One of Marcella’s enduring legacies stemmed from her creating the Greater Los Angeles Agency of the Deaf, Inc. (GLAD), using a concept derived from a Leadership Training Program position paper at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). There at GLAD, Marcella M. Meyer reigned supreme for 24 years.

Marcella M. Meyer used the GLAD platform to bombard the world with legislative and social changes. Her favorite means of bully-pulpiting were her renowned feature, Marcella’s Musings, in the GLAD News magazine, and at GLAD Council meetings and staff meetings. She provided a true and fine example of the famous conventional wisdom: Whatever happens in California, the rest of the nation will follow.

Among Ms. Meyer’s early victories was winning a legal battle for the right to sit on a jury, a precedent picked up by the rest of the nation; another victory involved the legislation requiring telephone companies to impose surcharges on all consumers to establish a telephone access fund. This resulted in both a statewide relay service (California Relay Service) and a free TTY equipment distribution program, with both models being copied by other states.

One of Marcella M. Meyer’s most colossal battles brought changes to the sign language interpreting evaluation systems. This all began when she challenged the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and its interpreter evaluation process by establishing a GLAD interpreter evaluation system. Her creation was adopted by the California Association of the Deaf (CAD) and then by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). This process evolved with RID and NAD merging their evaluation systems into one, now known as National Interpreting Certification (NIC) system. These are only a few examples of Marcella’s achievements.

Also, one can say that Marcella M. Meyer was the very original queen of social justice, as she had the foresight to set up innovative programs dealing with issues that no one dared to touch — issues such as mental health, substance abuse, women’s issues, HIV/AIDS, smoking cessation, to name a few. More often than not, the issues and practices that she advocated would end up becoming buzz words or concepts in the mainstream society. One cannot help wonder where she got all her insights into the needs of our community and the world. Marcella herself was the epitome of this adage: A good leader leads people to where they want to go. A great leader leads people to places where they feel uncomfortable going.

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An excerpt from the GLAD News magazine
upon Marcella M. Meyer’s retirement…

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Marcella M. Meyer was such a trailblazer that she left a transforming impact on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. However, all her efforts and victories did not come without blood, sweat and tears. Her brash manner in creating social changes oftentimes ruffled feathers everywhere she went, as she seemed impatient with conventional methods and would rather see concrete results in the shortest time possible. An example of the legacy of her driving force was the acquisition of the current GLAD headquarters / community center at a historical landmark building in a Los Angeles suburb.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri during the Roaring 20’s, Marcella M. Meyer grew up and lived in a world where job opportunities for Deaf people were limited to manual labor such as printing, dry-cleaning, factory work, housecleaning, etc. Also, Marcella’s life paralleled that of the 20th century American history, being a factory worker during the Second World War and holding several different jobs during the booming postwar economy. Additionally, Marcella was one of the people who contributed to the creation of the postwar baby boomer generation by bearing three hearing daughters, with her first husband. During the 1960s, after going through two marriages, she took her daughters to California to start a new life which included another marriage, this time to Lenny Meyer, a teacher at Selaco High School in Downey, California.

Nowhere in Marcella M. Meyer’s life story up to this point was there any indication of the greatness she would achieve later in life, the qualities that would propel her to national and international stages. However, a close examination on the latter part of her life shows that the tipping point most likely came from her three daughters. They got involved in social issues of the day and causes such as the women’s liberation movement, and they brought a social awakening and political awareness to their mother. The rest was HERSTORY!!

Of all her achievements, Marcella M. Meyer often said that her greatest accomplishment was the raising of her three daughters – Jamalee Plank, Coleen Ashly and Michele Balfe. This statement of Marcella’s is not too surprising because of her renowned mothering instincts which she also shared with the Deaf Community. These days, stories from countless Deaf women and men abound about her incredible mentorship which included her pearly words of wisdom, her earthy and sometimes bawdy sense of humor, along with barrels of tough love!

Marcella’s daughters have taken on her superb mothering instincts while raising Marcella’s five grandchildren. Now some of her grandchildren are following Marcella’s example in providing active public service, including a granddaughter becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), a grandson in the military, and an attorney granddaughter who recently argued before the Ohio State Supreme Court.

Marcella M. Meyer was one amazing woman who rose to the challenges of her times and who responded in a splendid manner and turned our community upside down. To give her our due honor and to remember her with reverence, a memorial service will be conducted at the Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf Headquarters (2222 Laverna) on Sunday, June 14th, 2009, starting at 2 p.m. Also, you can read her obituaries in two newspapers, Los Angeles Times and Kansas City Star.

(Editor’s note: After the memorial service honoring Marcella M. Meyer at GLAD, the Los Angeles Times ran another obituary, this time with a feature story on her.)

To Marcella M. Meyer, the last of true Deaf Warriors, we doubt if we will ever see the likes of you again. We shall miss you TERRIBLY!

(Written by Christine “CB” Buchholz and Vikee Waltrip)

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Marcella M. Meyer with her daughters —
Coleen Ashly, Michele Balfe and Jamalee Plank

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We at the
Deaf Democrats blog encourage you to visit the condolence book below and add in your comments.
(If you don’t see the condolence book,
click on “# comments” below to open it.)
In observance of our famous tradition,
please keep your comments to 350 words.
Yes, 350 words instead of 250 words this time! Thanks!

And long live Marcella M. Meyer, through each one of us!!

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The Promised Land…Lessons to Learn

November 11, 2008

by Bryen Yunashko

Kudos to President-Elect Barack Obama and supporters for breaking the barrier and placing the first African-Amercan President in the White House.  Since the historic election on November 4th, much has been said that the Promised Land has been reached.

‘Promised Land’ was the phrase used to lead the Jewish people to the Promised Land of Israel.  Centuries later, in the 20th century, it was used represent the symbolic leadership of African-Americans to empowerment.

But what exactly does Promised Land mean?  And did we really reach it or did we reach an important milestone on the way to the Promised Land?

In 1988, we in the Deaf Community also experienced our own Promised Land.  We took over Gallaudet University and refused to yield until the incoming hearing President of Gallaudet University was replaced by a Deaf President.  I was living in California at the time and remember the exact moment, when I was at a gas station filling up my tank when someone who knew I was Deaf came running over to tell me she had just heard on the radio that the incoming Hearing president would resign and be replaced by a Deaf President.  There were others with me at the station and we were running around jumping for joy.  What a scene we must have made for passersby who thought we were a bunch of young kooks.

This incident was just over 20 years ago already, and it still represents one of the most historic moments in our Deaf History.

But did we truly reach the Promised Land that day? No.  But we did pass an important milestone.  There was still more work to do.  However, because we passed that milestone, it became the impetus to yet another important milestone two years later.  The Americans with Disabilities Act.  Now, not only were we empowered to take charge of our destiny in 1988, we were also promoted to equal class citizenship in this country.

But we still hadn’t reached the Promised Land.   Technology held us back.  In 1992, a piece of legislation was passed to mandate that all new televisions include a built-in closed-captioning decoder chip, despite strong resistance by television manufacturers.  I still remember the quote I read by one industry lobbyist before Congress at the time.  “If Deaf people couldn’t afford to buy a decoder, what makes you think they can afford to buy a television?”  What boneheaded statements made about a cheap $5 chip, compared to the spiraling costs of televisions today without any concern by these same manufacturers about its burden to consumers.

Technology has taken a huge lurch forward in the 21st century and clearly benefitted us in the Deaf Community.  Already a close-knit community, we’ve expanded our ability to network amongst ourselves and to quickly be aware of what’s going on out there outside our world.  Information is instantaneous to any of us.  Videophones have virtually replaced all other telecommunications devices we have used and now even our relay conversations with hearing callers are near-instantaneous.

So, are we now in the Promised Land?  There’s still employers out there who discriminate against prospective Deaf hires, who become fearful because they do not understand what being Deaf means and how they would have to work with such a person.    There’s still people out there who think being deaf means you have a lowered sense of intelligence and ability to fit into society.  And there’s still many misconceptions about us that exist out there.

So, when I hear the phrase “Promised Land” repeated often over the past week, I can’t help but wonder what does it mean and did we really reach it?  A single man broke the barrier and won the job of President of the United States.  But to really prove that we’ve reached the Promised Land, America has to prove itself in the years to come.  Sadly, but truly, there will still be discrimination in the workplace, there will still be people walking the streets fearful when they know an African-American is walking behind them, there will still be persistent and negative stereotypes of African-Americans.

But Barack Obama represents the Promised Land for all of us, not just African-Americans.  The plans he has talked about represent some significant changes in how we address institutional discrimination and equality.  But they are not the perfect ultimate plans.  There’s still much work to be done.  The problems we have experienced in our society did not melt away the day Obama was elected, and they will not go away the day Obama is sworn in.

The Promised Land represents two important components to achieve the goals of the Promised Land.  One:  There needs to be a leader.  It appears today that President-Elect Obama is that leader.  Two:  There needs to be followers who march towards that goal.  And it appears we have a significant coalition to help us all march towards that goal.

Hidden in the results of the historic election day of November 4th, 2008 were two sobering obstacles.  While the Electoral College represented a huge landslide, the popular vote was separated by just 7 million votes.  Out of 119 million voters, only 7 million made the difference.  There is still a significant division of ideology in America.   Take for example, California.  The state that voted for a very liberal candidate, also voted for Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriages in its state constitution.  How did a state vote liberally and conservatively at the same time?

But we’re not there yet, and the road still isn’t very clear yet.  How we get there, and when we get there depends on all of us as Americans coming together, regardless of your race, creed, gender, physical ability, or relgious beliefs.

But I do believe the Promised Land is within sight…

**PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS TO UNDER 250 WORDS!
Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors

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Voter #70

November 4, 2008

by: Bryen Yunashko

Well, I just got home from voting.  I was voter #70 in my precinct.   There was definitely no line at the pollicing place, which actually has two polling centers in the same building covering two precincts.   You’d expect with all the excitement going on, there’d be a line around the block.  But the media likes to zero in on just a handful of polliing places around the country and say that’s indicative of what’s going on everywhere.   Nor was there any line at one of the 50 early-voting polling places near my home, despite news coverage last week that the lines were going for hours here in Chicago.

In any case, I really didn’t know who I would vote for when I left the house this morning.  I still had strong misgivings about either of the major candidates and I wondered whether my vote really mattered in this lop-sided election.  If I vote Democrat, it is just one more vote in an extremely blue state.  If I vote Republican, it is nothing more than a token vote where it won’t really change the electoral college outcome of Illinois.

Nevertheless, I walked the 4 blocks from my house, feeling quite disappointed that I still had no decision in mind, yet reminding myself that to not vote at all is the most offensive thing I can do as a citizen.  I’ve never missed an election since 1988 and I wasn’t about to start now.  I only hoped the answers would come to me when I saw the ballot.

So, I entered the polling place, and as always, was greeted by the precinct captain inside the door.  Sigh, you know, those guys aren’t supposed to be anywhere near the polling room.  But this happens to be one of the last remaining Chicago machine-politics wards, and such impropriety is on its last leg.

I showed my identification to the polling officials and was handed a very large ballot.  Clutching that ballot, I purposely took my time scanning the room for an available booth because… FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, I still had no idea how I would vote.

I see an empty booth and walk to it.   I fumble with the ballot which is actually larger than the booth’s tabletop!  I take a brief moment to read the flyer explaining that Illiinois has a Constitutional Convention proposal on the ballot and then quickly went to the ballot itself.  I flipped it over so I could vote for the smaller offices first before getting to the ultimate office “President and Vice President of the United States of America.”

Oh lordy,,, I’m getting closer to the top of the ballot, and still no idea.  What am I supposed to do???

Finally, I come to that most feared and revered spot on the ballot.  And in that moment, something magical happened.  As I stared at this section, I instantly knew what my choice was.  It shone out to me and my conscience said, “That’s the one.”

I cast my vote, received my receipt and walked away feeling better than when I had entered the building.  I didn’t vote to make a difference, I didn’t vote because my vote would change the outcome of the election, I voted purely on conscience.  I felt that this was the most significant vote I had ever cast in my life.  And that’s what makes voting a sacred right in a free society.

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Electoral College, huh?

November 1, 2008

These days all the media pundits have been speculating over the Electoral College while the polls are based on the popular vote. Several readers requested that this blog provide an article explaining the Electoral College as they expressed some bewilderment over this topic.

WHAT IS THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?

The Electoral College is a body of electors who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December of a presidential election year. This body consists of 538 popularly elected representatives; this number reflects the number in our Congress (both the House of Representatives and the Senate) plus three from the District of Columbia. Therefore, in order to win the presidency, a candidate will need to win 270 electoral votes (one more than the exact half).

HOW DOES THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE WORK?

The electors are decided upon on Election Day, the day of the nationwide popular vote. When a candidate carries a state, he/she wins electors from that state. The number of electors in each state is based on congressional districts; i.e., the state of California consists of 53 congressional districts and 2 senate seats; therefore California carries 55 electors. All the states except for two are winner-take-all states; the two exceptions are Maine and Nebraska where a candidate collects electors based on the districts he/she wins on Election Day. These electors themselves cannot hold office in the United States Congress.

Several weeks later, these electors meet at their respective state capitals to cast their votes.

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?

To many people, the Electoral College does not make sense and needs to be abolished. In the beginning of our nation’s history, the Electoral College made sense and was considered an innovative tool of the American brand of democracy. The Electoral College was established by our Founding Fathers when they wrote up the United States Constitution. At the Constitution Convention in 1787, the smaller states such as Delaware and Rhode Island sought to protect their states’ power without being overpowered by larger states such as Virginia and New York due to differences in population numbers. Also these states did not want the Congress to have extra power by picking a president and vice-president without any popular vote, so this power was switched to the citizenry.

At that time, some politicians believed a purely popular election was too reckless, while others objected to giving Congress the power to select the president. The compromise was to set up an Electoral College system that allowed voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates. The Founding Fathers believed the Electoral college itself reflected very much the U.S. Constitution itself which was based on a compromise between population-based and state-based governances.

This is how we ended up with the Electoral College. Yes, our presidential elections are really based on a two-vote process – the popular vote and the Electoral College.

**PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS TO UNDER 250 WORDS!
Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors

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A New Poll for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Voters!!

October 30, 2008
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The G.O.P. Ship Is Sinking!!

October 27, 2008

Each day brings more bad news for the Republican Party, better known as the Grand Old Party (GOP). The G.O.P. ship is definitely sinking, and all the mice are now escaping the ship like crazy, escaping in the disguise of Republican leaders and major newspapers proclaiming crossover endorsements of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for President. To make matters worse, several recent events cast a very long shadow on the Republican Party and the McCain campaign, events that occurred beyond anyone’s control.

The list of prominent Republicans who crossed over party lines to endorse Obama has steadily grown on a daily basis. Such Republicans included columnist Christopher Buckley (son of the late William F. Buckley); former Secretary of State (under the current president) Colin Powell ; Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana; former governor of Minnesota, Arnie Carlson; former press secretary in the current Bush White House, Steve McClelland; Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island; and most recently, former governor of Massachusetts, the ever-popular William Weld.

Major newspapers who endorsed Senator Obama included the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Arizona Republic along with many other major newspapers. At the last count, the tally of newspaper endorsements of Obama and Senator John McCain stands at a lopsided 194-82 in Obama’s favor.

The claim to the most stunning newspaper endorsement of Senator Barack Obama probably belongs to the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska, the home state of Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee. Read below how the Anchorage Daily News explained its case yesterday (Sunday, October 26th):

Gov. Palin’s nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency — but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain.

…Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she’s a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.

This was the rationale behind the endorsement by the Anchorage Daily News for Barack Obama.

In the past few days, three events took place that did not portent well for our nation. Last Wednesday, a McCain campaign volunteer in Pittsburgh, a white woman, claimed that she was robbed, raped and beaten by a black man who was an Obama supporter. After interrogating this woman and performing a lie detector polygraph test on her, the Pittsburgh police declared that this was a sheer fabrication on the woman’s behalf. To make matters worse, a McCain campaign official disclosed the details of the alleged assault to a local TV station BEFORE the police had a chance to finish its investigation, which raised suspicions of race-baiting within the McCain campaign.

Today, two major pieces of news came out that the McCain campaign probably wished would never happen. The first one was today’s announcement of a guilty verdict in the Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens’ corruption trial, a verdict that could greatly affect Senator Stevens’ re-election next week. The other news was that the federal agency, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), disrupted a plot by ultra-right wing skinheads in Tennessee and Arkansas to assassinate Senator Barack Obama.

On top of all this, almost all national polls point to a resounding Obama victory next week. And now reports are coming out in trickles describing major discontent within the McCain campaign. The full inside story may not be known until long after the election. However on the Meet the Press show yesterday, Senator John McCain guaranteed a victory in the presidential race:

“We’re going to do well in this campaign, my friend. We’re going to win it and it’s going to be tight, and we’re going to be up late. This is going to be a very close race. I believe I’m going to win it.”

Hello? Hello?? We shall see….

**PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS TO UNDER 250 WORDS!
Thank you- DEAF DEMOCRATS Editors