After Number Two Son played in a basketball tournament that had a team from California School for the Deaf (CSD), I was immediately intrigued when I saw this video by Tama Irie from Silicon Valley De-Bug. The video features Easter Fa’afiti, a deaf Samoan American who played basketball at Gallaudet University. Asian American Pacific Islanders often talk about having to deal with different worlds, but Fa’afiti has one more world than most to deal with. I found it interesting for a number of reasons.
First, she has a number of perspectives that I don’t hear much about. It’s seems rare enough to hear Asian American perspectives in the mainstream media, and in my opinion, even rarer to hear about those from Pacific Islanders. Also, while many Samoan American athletes play college and professional football, you don’t hear about many Samoan American basketball players, with Peyton Siva of Louisville being a notable exception. Finally, you don’t hear much about female Samoan American athletes, much less ones who are deaf.
Second, Fa’afiti talked about how having issues of acceptance in her own family and community. While she can hear some, having a hearing aid and not being able to follow conversations in the hearing world lead her to be treated differently. She said it was a revelation to see a deaf girl whose family could sign and treated her like a regular person. I thought that statement was really sad. I know in my own community, some people will make fun of deaf people, which is equally sad.
Finally, I also was interested on her take on basketball and being deaf. Fa’afiti said that teams try to take advantage of their deafness but that Gallaudet could read lips and body language. I’m not sure how those other teams could really take advantage. When I watched the CSD team play at Number Two Son’s tournament, I didn’t see the refs really having to do anything particularly different to manage the game. As a point guard, Number Two Son was curious as to how they would call plays and defense. CSD team would sign their plays, which is not much different from what he does as a point guard. Even when he is calling a play, he often needs to gesture or point out the direction.
Easter Fa’afiti had a terrific 2010-2011 season, averaging 20 points a game. She now works as a student assistant coach for Gallaudet’s women’s basketball team. Silicon Valley De-Bug is a media, community organizing, and entrepreneurial collective based out of San Jose, California.