Deaf students hit the prom to 'feel the beats'
FENTON, Mich. — Most of the students couldn’t hear a note, but chances are it was the loudest prom in Genesee County.
Kaitlin Wears is a junior at Michigan School for the Deaf and took charge of a lot of the planning for the school’s prom. As with any prom, there was a lot to decide — what to eat, where to have it, what theme to have. But there was one aspect that was non-negotiable: a wooden dance floor, according to The Flint Journal.
While the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” played in the background, she said it’s easier to feel the vibrations through a wooden floor and that they chose music “mostly with a beat” that can be felt through the air and floor.
“The kids feel the beats, they can feel it through the floor. You can feel it through your body,” said Tammy Delikta, one of the mothers who helped plan the prom, adding that the kids tend to cluster near the speakers where the vibrations are most easily felt. “If you go to a regular bar or a party at a hearing place, you’re going to be dancing the same. There’s really no difference. They feel the beat.”
Jessica Kales, a senior, was among the girls who couldn’t wait to hit the floor, even though she called her dancing “pathetic.”
Dancing, in fact, was her favorite part. “We all look silly,” she said.
“I’m awkward. I don’t move,” she said, and demonstrated flat-footed dance moves, drawing laughter from friends nearby.
“I live with them 24/7 in the dorms, so they’ve seen me at my best and worst times.” she said.
Tyrus Hudkins, who can hear, used to be a teacher aide at MSD and had two stepdaughters at the dance. While he said most people might expect a prom for deaf students to be quiet, it’s quite the opposite.
“That’s how I grew up. I have deaf parents. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the same kind of culture my friends had. My manners are different, my habits are different. I’m a lot louder. Most deaf people are,” he said. He pounded his hand on the bar where he was serving drinks, saying that while it may bother hearing people, doing things like that or stomping on the floor, making vibrations, is a common way to get the attention of someone who cannot hear.
“Most people think deaf people are quiet, but in a lot of ways they’re louder,” he said. “They’re all going to want the music super loud.”
But it wasn’t all about the music.
Christian Hamby didn’t hesitate to point to his date when asked what his favorite part of prom was.
You can’t blame the guy. He wasn’t even supposed to go to prom. Doctors told his parents that his muscular dystrophy wouldn’t allow him to live past 2 years old. Yet here he was, with the girl who had traveled to Ann Arbor to surprise him during a stay in the hospital, carrying a poster board sign reading simply, “Prom?”
“I was trying to find out the best way to do it, and then I found out he was in the hospital,” said Christian’s date, sophomore Kassie Ross, standing next to him wearing a glittering silver and black dress and the kind of smile that only comes on prom night. “So I like planned it out with his grandma. I went in with my sister, and we had the sign or whatever, and he kind of just stared, then he said, ‘Yeah.’”
Christian said it was hard to describe what the moment was like.
“I was so happy,” Christian said in sign language through an interpreter.
He might have been the happiest, but he wasn’t the only happy one there. About 60 kids from MSD, freshmen through seniors, milled around the country club, enjoying the food, dancing and taking silly pictures, sometimes with props — big hats, funny glasses and so on — at a table near the photo stand.
Most of the girls said they were most excited to be dressed up, while many of the boys said they were just ready to party and have a good time — the last chance to do so at a prom for the seniors.
For some high schools, that might seem a clich￩, but when you’re surrounded all the time by people who are a part of your own unique culture day in and day out, it takes on a new meaning.
“I’m excited to graduate, but it’s sad to leave all these kids,” Jessica said before hitting the dance floor to feel the beat.