At LaGuardia Community College, Visiting Fulbright Scholar Steven Gilbers discusses African-American English through the comparison of East Coast and West Coast hip-hop. In a classroom filled with students and professors, Mr. Gilbers proceeds to break down hip-hop culture and the importance of authenticity in the hip-hop community. “Another crucial part of hip-hop culture is this […]
A groundbreaking-TV series Switched at Birth has become a game changer, educating the whole world about an invisible minority – “deaf people.” Before flattering LaGuardia Community College on April 18, 2017 with his one-man-live-talkshow, the biggest star of the instant hit series removed a lot of stigma and ignorance about being deaf. He is on a mission to eradicate it completely and his name is Sean Berdy.
The event took place in the Mainstage Theater. Everyone who attended was actually Sean’s fan as well as of his TV show. The room quickly filled up with a few hundred of people with shy, smiling faces. A third of them were deaf. They were all proud to be a part of such a major occasion that brought deaf people from other colleges and even high schools.
In a TedTalk-like presentation Mr. Berdy gave a 90-minute inspirational speech encapsulated in his sweet charm, charisma, and strong character. When not shooting TV scenes, he travels within the States sharing awareness and knowledge about deaf culture, while motivating his audience to overcome any obstacles they might encounter in life.
Mr. Berdy, a pivotal star of the show who is deaf in real life, was born into an all-deaf family, and such families are not that uncommon, according to Mr. Berdy and a deaf supermodel Nyle DiMarco.
According to Mr. Berdy, the number of deaf people is not that small. Less than one percent of the world’s population is completely deaf, but the percentage of people who are hard of hearing is about five. If we take into account anyone with some kind of hearing problem that percentage can be as high as fifteen percent.
Mr. DiMarco, a sweet and friendly guy who has one big smile, compared the world of the deaf with the world of Harry Potter in one of his easily accessible Youtube videos. Just like a wizarding community in the Harry Potter Movie series, the deaf community coexists with a hearing world but is separated, and invisible to a majority of us. There they have their own specialized schools, restaurants, movie theaters, etc.
We all liked Michael Jackson’s dance moves and Madonna’s vogueing. Thanks to Mr. Berdy and Mr. DiMarco, the Switched at Birth show, and the ASL – American Sign Language – is getting recognized as something super cool, but most importantly – fun to learn and practice.
“That idiot, that silly boy, that’s Sean! When he dances and goofs around on the set. We only live once. It’s sad, but true. One chance, one life. We have to get to basics. What is my dream? What I am trying to say is to follow your dreams in order to be happy. Who comes first? You and your dream, you two come first. I am saying this because I know it. Don’t forget, a paycheck is not a dream.”
Mr. Berdy talked about some really tough times in his life when he was bullied and felt depressed. To hide his anxiety he would goof around and was misunderstood. Even teachers told him he would fail. Once he realized he should not let others penetrate his mind, he decided to get them out of if his head. He started feeling wonderful.
“There is one story that hit me hard. There was this guy, Lester. He was on production systems. He made some mistakes in life and needed a second chance. He had a really tough time, no money, no job. He asked me for a job,” Mr. Berdy said.
“I gave him a chance. He came smiling everyday. This guy was so happy he was all energy. He was the first at work and the last to leave, 14-15 hours per day, with no day off. Most of the crew works for a minimum wage,” Mr. Berdy said.
“I’ll never forget it. He was always smiling. He loved his new job. He had a wife and two kids to support. Just last week, he was hit by a truck. He died.” Mr. Berdy paused and shed tears. “It was devastating. He started fresh, turned his life around. It’s just tough. But his story will grow in his children. It will always inspire them and us.”
After his show finished, every single spectator waited in a long slow-moving line to take a photo with him and even hugs. All of them considered him their biggest inspiration. Girls as young as six started to learn ASL.
Berdy’s most memorable statement: “Don’t search for your passions. Create your passions – create yourself.”