#THEPEOPLE - DEAFinitely Dope
DEAFinitely Dope is an organization that uses hip-hop to connect and advocate for the hearing impaired and promote ASL (American Sign Language) education and awareness. We reached out to its creator, Matthew Maxey, to discuss his activism and how hip-hop has influenced his mission.
TPVTAP: It appears that you fell into your current role quite organically. Once your videos began going viral, what was the spark or motivation behind starting DEAFinitely Dope?
Matt: The spark was observing how hip-hop and sign language being combined became mind blowing to people that never knew the two could coexist on such a relatable scale. From there, it became more of the mindset in developing a brand to make it more marketable while at the same time growing to include more of mainstream America.
TPVTAP: In this case, "The People" for you represents the deaf and hearing impaired community but you are also a brother. Can you compare or contrast your experiences in society as both hearing impaired and a person of color?
Matt: I always viewed it as having 2 strikes already, if a police officer tells me to stop as a brother and a deaf man, there’s always a spider sense in the back of my mind that keeps me on my toes knowing I could be a victim of my own circumstance. To be a black man in the deaf community is a minority, just as being deaf in a hearing friendly world also leaves me as a minority, over time, adaptation becomes very real and instead of letting situations claim another victim, why not rise up against it and speak change into action.
TPVTAP: How did hip-hop help you growing up and why do you think it can be a tool to unite the hearing and hearing impaired communities?
Matt: Hip-hop was my favorite audiobook, everywhere I looked was surrounded by hip-hop and I admit when I first started learning sign language, I wasn’t quite sold on it, but seeing how lyrics came to life through sign language changed my perspective forever and slowly became an addiction to a thirst of knowledge as well as breaking down the challenges of combining languages.
TPVTAP: Prior to learning about you, I have not seen much attention paid to ASL interpreters and definitely not in the hip-hop community. How important is it that there is representation from the hip-hop community in this space?
Matt: It’s very important actually, hip-hop is the number one genre, and ASL is the third fastest growing language in America, to combine the two makes for more awareness, and inclusion is a product of that awareness.
TPVTAP: What's next for DEAFinitely Dope? Are there plans to release original music?
Matt: We will be traveling to different conferences, panels, deaf ran camps and more for the upcoming month! Original music has been a goal of mine, but there’s so much music that comes out, it becomes overwhelming!
TPVTAP: How can folks get involved/donate to the cause?
Matt: Support your local deaf school, community or local deaf business!
We thank Matt for representing for the people! Please check out DEAFinitely Dope for more information and to donate.