Interviews, Essays, Podcasts, Video

BLOG: SWANS LAST DIVE (inactive) Please see my Crooked Mirror blog www.crookedmirror.wordpress.com

memorial in sign language

January 16, 2010

Tags: Virginia McKinney, ASL, deaf community

I'd never been to a sign language memorial before. 8th of Jan, an appreciative community-- mainly deaf adults-- gathered to honored the memory of Dr. Virginia McKinney, founder of the Center for Communicative Development. Her great legacy was there, in person, her students and former students. These are deaf adults that were cast away, abandoned by the educational system. Virginia would not take NO for an answer. She didn't give up on people. Thanks to her persistence, her students told us, they were out in the world, working, married, raising kids, earning a living.

One of the speakers, a deaf Russian gentleman named Vladimir, said, that when he'd walked in that day, Viriginia's office was dark, her desk chair empty. "But she was there."

Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu is finishing a documentary about Virginia (whom, we all agreed, would have been played by Bette Davis in a feature film.) and her son Walter is working hard to ensure that the legacy of CCD continues. "What would Virginia say?" was a common refrain and the answer was clear: "Don't take my school away."

Light, Loss, Moving On

December 18, 2009

Tags: Virginia McKinney, Sylvan Katz, Larry Sultan, loss

These last weeks, months some very dear and important people have passed away. One of them was Virginia McKinney, a salty intrepid tireless educator of the deaf. I wrote about Virginia and her Center for Communicative Development for the LATimes years ago. Virginia lost her own hearing as an adult, as a reaction to a medication she was taking. She turned her insurance settlement into good works for helping other adult deaf learn to lip read and sign. I hope her son Walter will be able to continue the school.

Last Sunday, after attending a Chanukah party, Sylvan Katz passed away. Sylvan, a WW II vet, was a retired judge. I interviewed Sylvan for "The Souvenir." It was Sylvan who first told me that my father would be "rolling over in his grave" because I wanted to return the flag. We became good friends. He was a true mensch. He helped so many Filipino students go to college, repaying a debt to the hill tribes who assisted his Red Arrow Division during the Pacific War.

And Larry Sultan, a great photographer. Larry died too young, in his sixties. I didn't even know he was sick. We have one of his photos on the wall of our living room, two blind swimmers at ease in the water. Virginia, Sylvan, Larry... may you all be at ease wherever you are.

Here's to the light that these people brought into the world, and the afterglow we can still feel.
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Great Horned Owl, Benson's Grove, Malheur Sept 2010

Scotty Mitchell www.scottymitchell.com

Buster in our kitchen

Lloyd's sculpture "Capsize" at Cardwell Jimmerson Gallery

last glow, Chatham Cemetery, Jan 4, 2010