HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Community College (HCC) will be hosting a free afternoon conference that celebrated Deaf culture on Saturday.

The conference will be co-hosted by Baystate Deaf Senior Citizens, New England Deaf Senior Citizens, and HCC’s Deaf Studies program and ASL Club, according to a news release sent to 22News from HCC.

Ivy Velez, a grassroots Latina Deaf community advocate from Marlboro, will begin the presentations with a workshop titled “Why is Social Advocacy Important in our Deaf Community?” at 1:00 p.m.

At 2:00 p.m., Ruth Moore, a Deaf advocate and retired educator from Hadley, will moderate a panel discussion about the Deaf community and how it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. From 3:15-4:00 p.m., there will be refreshments and attendees can visit the vendor booths in the lobby outside the theater.

At 4:00 p.m., actress and ASL interpreter and educator Janis Cole, Ph.D., will perform “Vision Through Deaf Eyes, Past, Present, Future.”

“We are very happy to be able to finally host this conference, which had been postponed since 2020 due to the pandemic,” said Carol-Ann Smalley, an ASL interpreter, and learning specialist in HCC’s Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services. “In past years, this was an annual conference that was held on a much larger scale at Hampshire College. The Deaf senior citizen’s groups really pushed to bring it back. By doing so we are honoring the historical legacy of the conference and also helping to preserve and share what it means to be part of the Massachusetts Deaf community for current and future generations.”

Over 100 people are expected to attend from all over New England.  Admission is free to the conference and advanced registration is not required.

The event will run from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the college’s Leslie Phillips Theater and the theater lobby on the second floor of the Fine & Performing Arts Building.