From the PSA "Unspeakable" by Emmai Alaquiva.

The idea for “Unspeakable” began after conversations Emmai Alaquiva had with his 8-year-old daughter about the current racial climate.

He was inspired by watching her make BLM signs and use art to express her feelings. Being a witness, he said he was moved to find creative ways to augment the voices that often get overlooked. The father-daughter duo takes ASL classes together and to this day, it remains very dear to their relationship.

“As fathers, we must expose our children to different environments and explore ways to creatively express provocative emotion through the channels of art that promote change,” Alaquiva says.

So he created a powerful, 60-second public service announcement he calls “Unspeakable,” to bring awareness to the voices of the Deaf community and their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is estimated that one-third to one-half of people who are killed by police have disabilities, he says. Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Tanisha Anderson all had disabilities, as did many others.

Sign language has many nuances, notes Alaquiva. “For example, the word ‘black,’ used for the color, can be signed with one finger pointed out in the ASL ‘1’ handshape moving horizontally across the forehead. While, the word ‘Black,’ used as a cultural and race identifier, is signed using four fingers pressed together in the ASL ‘b’ handshape moving horizontally across the forehead, and out of respect, is exclusively signed by Black people.”

While the Emmy-Award winner wrote and directed the PSA, he had an impressive team of collaborators, including a diverse cast of members of the Deaf community. They collectively proclaim, through American Sign Language (ASL), that changes need to be made when it comes to Black lives.

“This movement is about saving lives and it is imperative that the lives of all minorities who are disproportionately at risk are included,” says co-producer Danielle Filip.“It is my hope that ‘Unspeakable’ brings attention to the basic human right of communication access as a thread which connects us all.”

In addition to Alaquiva, the production crew includes: Ya Momz House, Inc./OpticVoices (producers); Cydney Cooper (production manager); Amy Crawford, Danielle Filip and Greg Pollock (co-producers/script consultants); Jack Ohrman (associate producer); and Amy Crawford and JoAnna Neeley (interpreters). The PSA also includes subtitles and some additional audio, including vocals by Disney’s Emmy Award-winning songwriter Bianca “Blush” Atterberry and original music by multi-platinum composer, Stephen “Bud’da” Anderson.

The group proclaimed a call to action: “We are looking for organizations/influencers/individuals that can aid in our
mission” to:

• Share and amplify Black Deaf Voices; to be included in more conversations of diversity.
• Learn more about ASL/BASL; to be more inclusive citizens.
• Support organizations that champion the Deaf and Disabled; through volunteering, donations and training.

See more in their website.

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people...