How Do You Say “Black Lives Matter” in ASL? It’s Complicated

The nuance is in the translation.

There is no universal set of signs for the phrase that’s galvanizing the world right now, Sonja Sharp writes in The Los Angeles Times.

Many deaf black people say it this way:

“The phrase begins with four fingers cut across the brow, followed by two thumbs drawn up like breath from navel to chest, ending with a fierce tug with two hands down from the chin into fists toward the heart.

“Black. Life. Cherish.”

But it hasn’t always been signed this way. “Even now,” Sharp writes, “many still end the phrase with the gesture for ‘worthy’ or ‘important,’ which looks like two ‘OK’ signs held together at mid-chest and arched up and around to meet again at the top of an invisible ring.

“Indeed, in the seven years since ‘Black Lives Matter’ first entered the popular lexicon, the competing ASL translations have come to convey far more than three words could ever do in English. For many, they reflect a painful reality: Though the coronavirus pandemic and police violence both impact black deaf Americans disproportionately, the interpreters they rely on for information about those twin crises are often not ‘as clear and understandable’ to them as federal law has long promised.

Read the full story:

How To Qualify