Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Plea for Clemency: AFA's letter to Gov. Scott to FREE FELIX

11 June 2014

Rick Scott, Governor, State of Florida
cc:  Pam Bondi, Attorney General, State of Florida; Adam Putnam, Agriculture Commissioner, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services;  Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services

Dear Governor Scott,

We are writing to you once again to request you undo injustice committed in your state by granting executive clemency/commutation of sentence for Felix Garcia. Mr. Garcia, a partially Deaf man, has served 32 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, a crime his Hearing brother recently confessed to committing. Both his brother and his sister have provided affidavits concerning his innocence.  Additionally, Mr. Garcia never had full access to information during his arrest, his trial, and imprisonment due to the failure to provide him with reasonable communication accommodations. Thus, he was unable to fully assist with his own defense.

Audism Free America (AFA), as well as others in the Deaf community has a grave concern for Deaf citizens in Florida, as evidence by the treatment of Felix Garcia.  AFA is a national grassroots advocacy network working to combat audism.  Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.  Felix Garcia has been a victim of audism in being denied his rights to a fair trial and wrongful imprisonment.  We believe you have the opportunity now to look again at his application for clemency and do the right thing—granting him his freedom.  With the growing inmate population in Florida, you cannot afford to keep innocent individuals imprisoned. 

Please do not let Felix Garcia be an example of the failure of the Florida justice system toward innocent Deaf citizens. 

Let Freedom Roll,

Karen Christie, Patti Durr and Ruthie Jordan on behalf of Audism Free America

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

AFA Stands with CI Survivors and Victims

setting:  Ruthie Jordan standing on the sidewalk in front of the Cochlear America building, she is wearing a blue AFA shirt, glasses and a black hat.  Back of the blue AFA shirt has a painting of George W. Veditz signing love/cherish with the sign for STAND as a frame around George and text at top STAND FOR JUSTICE.  The painting of Veditz and the hand stand is by Nancy Rourke.  T-shirts courtesy of Shawn Elfink)

Today is Memorial Day, the day we honor those who fought and still fight to ensure our Human Rights.  We remember all who suffered physical, emotional and mental trauma and others who paid the ultimate price.  In conjunction with honoring our military, AFA has come to stand, honor, and remember our Deaf children and their parents who have been lied to and taken advantage of by the medical system and cochlear implant companies.  We honor these Deaf children who have been robbed of their human rights, their identity, language, culture, and education.  We remember those who have struggled through the frustrations of educational systems that continually focus on speech and listening while oppressing, denying and isolating them. 
The biggest offender in the spider web of systems is the cochlear implant (CI) industry who continues to profit from Deaf children.  Lately, there has been much discussion about the 12 Deaf children who died from cochlear implant surgeries in the 1980’s.  (see interview with Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Cognitive Neuroscientist  The facts of these deaths were swept under the rug and ignored by cochlear implant companies who continued encouraging the medical community to implant children and the surgeries have become an epidemic. 
On this day, many are communing with family, BBQ’ing, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company while their Deaf family members are left out of conversations, forced to focus on the lips of others and try to follow what is happening around them. We are asking all members of our Community (Deaf, hearing, hard-of-hearing, parents, cochlear implant survivors, interpreters…) to STAND with us and return the rights of identity, language, culture and education to our Deaf children.  Stop Audism.
AFA wants to emphasize, we in no way blame or demean parents of Deaf children for choosing a CI for their child, we recognize the enormity of the medical system and that it is saturated with audism.  We hold the cochlear implant companies (Advanced Bionics, Cochlear America, and Med-El) accountable for the damage they cause by incentivizing their products and disseminating false, prejudicial, and disparaging information.  Together, let us reclaim our roots by working to return ASL, culture, identity and education to our Deaf children, they are our future.  LET FREEDOM ROLL!
(description: camera is panning around the Cochlear America building showing how large it is)
Cochlear America is just one of the companies earning millions from the bodies of Deaf children, they were founded in 1982 and their annual revenue is $500-999 million. 
Description:  Ruthie is dressed in a black long sleeve shirt that says “STOP AUDISM” on the sleeves and a black hat standing next to Heather, who is also wearing a long sleeve shirt that says “STOP AUDISM” on the sleeves.  Heather is holding 2 rolled up banners and some papers. 
Ruthie signing: 
Tonight we are standing against audism and challenging the Cochlear Implant industry to stop robbing Deaf children of ASL, Deaf Culture and identity.  We want Advanced Bionics, Cochlear America and Med-El to acknowledge the cognitive damage cochlear implants cause, expose the facts regarding the deaths of Deaf children from cochlear implant surgeries, and stop taking advantage of Deaf children and their parents. Description: Heather and Ruthie walk to the front door of Cochlear America where they use blue painters tape on the windows, lean AFA cards on the front door, and lay out the AFA STOP AUDISM banner.  There are 12 candles surrounding the AFA logo and Heather is sitting on the ground near them.  Ruthie is standing in the foreground signing and then moves and sits on the ground next to the banner and 12 candles.
Ruthie signing: Tonight we hold a vigil to honor the12 Deaf children who died from CI surgery that the Cochlear Implant industry refuses to recognize. 
Earlier, I mentioned research that has recently come to light that showed in the 1980’s CI surgery caused the deaths of 12 Deaf children and a panel of experts called for the end of cochlear implant surgeries in children.  Sadly, the CI industry ignored the panel’s recommendations and continue making billions of dollars off Deaf children and their families while disregarding the health of the whole child.  Now, we honor those 12 Deaf children who were taken from us along with honoring all CI survivors.

Description:  Ruthie kneels down to light the 12 candles that are in a circle around the AFA logo.
Ruthie signing: These 12 candles represent the 12 Deaf children taken from us, as we light these candles I imagine the experience of their parents as the doctors and audiologist came into their hospital rooms and said, Im so sorry your child is deaf, but we will send the audiologist in to explain a surgery that will cure them”…just like that, the childs light was extinguished before they had a chance to shine.  Tonight, we reignite their flames, so they may shine once again and know they are valued, honored and remembered. We also light these flames in honor of our future Deaf children, those who will carry our legacy, language, culture.  WE stand for them and for all.  LET FREEDOM ROLL!  Feel your spirits rumble and stand up, stop audism, tell the cochlear implants companies NO MORE!  When we free our minds, colonialism has no power and we can inspire Deaf children to be healthy, happy and whole. 
Heather signing: Bless the 12 Deaf children and carry them with us.
Description:  Ruthie and Heather standing while Heather is holding a lit candle. 
Ruthie signing:  Seeing the lit candle is inspiring and makes me laugh at the propaganda cochlear implant companies spread.  Cochlear Americas slogan is Hear now. And always, they try to convince people that the only value Deaf people have is their ears and mouth.  Little do they know, ASL is CHAMP Here now. And Always!