March 17th: #DWCOverlookedGems
Aloha, my name is Maile Paongo. Signed Maile. Maile is a Hawaiian green leaf that is used for leis. It is smells good. I was born a deaf island woman in Hawai'i. I was first raised to use oral speech in school. At 12 years old, I transferred to the Hawai'i School for the Deaf and Blind. I graduated in 1975. Then I went to Seattle Community College for two years, and graduated in 1977. I went to the deaf World Olympics in Romania in 1977. On the American women's volleyball team. We won second place.
Then I moved back home to Hawai'i, to settle down. I missed the beach. Then I got a job at the USPS (United States Postal Service). I worked for thirty-seven years as of last month. I am not ready to retire yet. I did bid for other positions like supervisor, mail carrier, window clerk, and ramp clerk. But I eventually gave up. I felt like the managers were hearing men who were putting me down as a deaf woman, and didn't know how to deal with me. I worked as an expeditor (with express mail), which meant that I was responsible for getting the mail out on time and onto planes. It felt like a prison. I remember when I first entered the Post Office, there were no TTYs (teletypewriters) and no interpreters for group (Stand Up) meetings. Wow I was surprised. I contacted the APWU (American Postal Workers Union) and cited a section in the employee handbook. I said the handbook says I have a right to have access to a TTY and an ASL interpretation during Stand Up meetings. I succeeded and got those things set up, even though it didn't feel like a lot of improvement. Nowadays, we have a new TTYs, smart phones.
HSDB (Hawai'i School for the Deaf and Blind) advocacy group SOAR asked me for support. Why? Because the Hawai'i Department of Education (DOE) decided to switch the deaf principal with the hearing principal for no reason. I was shocked. I supported the deaf children. They said that they missed the deaf principal. It was easy to communicate with him. With the hearing principal, it was harder to focus between the hearing principal and the interpreters. It doesn't work. I just heard that the Board of Education (BOE) will remove the current superintendent in July. Regardless, we have to keep fighting to save the deaf school. Yes the deaf community is suppressed by hearing people. But even in the deaf community there is infighting. We have this problem in Hawai'i. I want more fellowship. I'm also not alone. I have my son David, my friend Darlene, my friend Cheryl. My family, they support and try to raise up the deaf community. ASL is important. I will never forget Georgia Morikawa. She worked hard for many years. Now she is gone. We are not sure who will be the next leader.
Thank you for choosing me as a deaf person and woman of color. Thank you.
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