I believe that everyone, including my Deaf parents, deserves a fair opportunity to live freely and be able to contribute to society as they please. I have been immensely blessed to be a multi-cultured native signer, so I plan to employ this gift to crank up the volume and allow others to be understood.
Where does your passion lie? Is it in being a bridge between hearing and Deaf constituents? Is it in your love for the Deaf community? Is it in interpreting itself? Is it in the “Aha” moment when those you interpret for reach the intended level of understanding made possible through your interpretation?
My passion lies in the trust given to me by the Deaf community and by my family to facilitate communication between them and their non-Deaf counterparts. To facilitate their interactions, when warranted, with coworkers, bosses, physicians, lawyers, and sometimes even their own family members. I know, firsthand, the necessity of full accessibility as I witnessed my Black Deaf father get wrongly arrested after an altercation between him and a law enforcement officer due to a lack of communication access. I want to prevent situations such as this from happening.
Is there a golden rule to longevity in this profession?
Resilience is key; fail big and take chances. Do not be afraid of disappointment, as it is inevitable, and learn that your reaction is what matters. Also be patient, not only with others but also with yourself. Lastly, selflessness, a great smile, and a positive attitude will go a long way for anyone in this line of work.
What was your first official interpreting experience?
I honestly cannot recall my first official interpreting experience. However, I can remember when I was a young boy and I interpreted a conversation between my mother and her physician. The physician compensated me with a dollar after using my services.
When did you know, “This is for me!”?
I knew this was for me when I earned enough money to afford some Jordans (shoes) for doing something I had been doing my entire life for free. No, but seriously, during every assignment or video relay call, I get the passionate feeling of wanting everyone to be understood. To be on the same page. I enjoy the “at home” feeling when I am constantly exposed to sign language and surrounded by the Deaf community so I can express myself freely in my native language. And after discovering the disproportionate ratio of POC service providers to Deaf POCs, I knew this profession was for me.
How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?
Despite growing up with interpreters, I didn’t always know that interpreting was a profession. I would always see the same people come to interpret the messages for moms and pops but I never really understood it to be a professional occupation. I just saw them as familiar faces or family friends who would show up at our meetings to assist with communication. I first learned that it was an actual profession when my moms told me that I could go to college and major in ASL interpreting and make it my career.
How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?
The field of interpreting has opened up the door for me to do what I love, which is to travel and explore the country. As a result of this, I have met some of the most amazing and influential people in my life and am entirely grateful for their support. I have also gained a wealth of knowledge that I would not have obtained otherwise. Most importantly, interpreting has allowed me to display the love and support that I have for my Deaf parents and the entire Deaf community on a bigger scale.
How would you describe your training experience?
I attended a formal interpreter training program at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), where I also played college basketball. I have stood alone in most of my training and work experience as a biracial, straight, male CODA. I have had a difficult time trying to connect with colleagues in shared experiences so far. However, I have met a handful of practitioners who share similar characteristics. These are the people I reach out to for support in my journey. I have leveraged all of my internship training in Washington, DC as well as various workshops/trainings/discussions with colleagues to become the Nationally Certified Interpreter that I am today. I have been showered with tremendous support and wonderful opportunities that have stretched me in a positive way and I am entirely grateful.
What words of encouragement do you have for a person like yourself, who is interested in becoming an interpreter?
Stay hungry. Engage with others with the intent to learn something about the other person. Filling this role is an absolute privilege that should never be taken for granted. Each interpreted meeting could have a profound impact not only on the Deaf individual but also on those who surround them or even generation(s) later. Also, learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because there will be many times this will benefit you. Lastly, we are all in this together so don’t be afraid to ask someone to hold you down.
Know someone who is making a positive impact in the interpreting profession?