Palatine HS students learn ASL in honor of Deaf History Month

In recognition of Deaf History Month in April, Palatine High School welcomed Matt Maxey onto the stage for mesmerizing Deaf performances of songs and awareness of the Deaf community within the music industry.

As founder and CEO of DEAFinitely Dope and a Deaf performer for artists like Chance the Rapper, Maxey is well-versed in meshing ASL and music in a way for everyone to enjoy.

During his stop at Palatine, Maxey signed to snippets of “The Search” by NF and “Changes” by Tupac, using a wide range of facial expressions and body language to convey the meaning of the lyrics along with his performance. He also played a trailer for “Sign the Show,” a documentary he co-produced that highlighted the intertwining of sign language, music and the Deaf community.

Students, smiling and laughing, learned to sign short phrases like “Good morning” and “I’m busy,” along with longer verses of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” Maxey wanted them to have fun learning, but in particular wanted them to leave knowing how to sign the phrase, “You should go and love yourself.”

Besides the catchy songs and dynamic signing, Maxey also discussed common obstacles faced by the Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as his life as a hard of hearing music lover.

“Almost one in three people will have some degree of hearing loss, so learning ASL (American Sign Language) is more important than ever to provide accessibility,” said Elena Lyons, a member of the ASL Club and a junior at Palatine.

As the third-most used language in the nation, ASL is becoming increasingly recognized. Yet even with such growth in awareness, many in the Deaf and hard of hearing community still can’t access interpretation for their favorite concerts and music. Maxey is helping to raise awareness and remove those barriers while making ASL a fun and inclusive language.

Maxey concluded with a Q&A and recommended students who are interested in ASL continue to learn at the school’s ASL Club.

“Sign language doesn’t fit into the standards of other spoken languages,” said Lyons. “There is so much room for interpretation and creativity, which I think Matt demonstrated very well.”

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