Deafhood: Synergy of Deaf Communities.


The Deafhood Foundation is dedicated to achieving economic and social justice for all Deaf people.


The Deafhood Foundation will provide financial, educational and social opportunities to end the economic exploitation of Deaf people. The Foundation aims to free the world from audism and recreate a society where everyone experiences full humanity and celebrates Sign Language.


Deafhood Foundation promotes the empowering concept of DEAFHOOD which is described as a journey that each Deaf person undertakes to discover his/her identity and purpose in this life as a Deaf person among other people and is a positive approach to re-affirming Deaf people’s role and place in society, history and the world. Deafhood also focuses on the historical, cultural and linguistic reality of Deaf people, and maintains a larger worldview as opposed to minimizing the community into miserable (or glorified) individuals who seek access solely through hearing. Before Deafhood Foundation, practically all foundations associated with Deaf people focused on their hearing loss, which are DEAFNESS-centered which viewed the identity as negative, a deficit, and in need of a cure.

Starting during the 1960’s, the world experienced a resurgence of positive views on Deaf people when linguists scientifically proved what Deaf people have long known, that our Sign Languages are bona fide languages with their distinctive grammar and vocabulary. Since then, Deaf people’s creativity and activism have been increasing in confidence and being visible in public. Positive changes in Deaf education, jobs, wellness have emerged.

However, between the 1970’s and the 2000’s the Deaf community has been hit with three main backlashes: mainstreaming, cochlear implants and genetic engineering. While the community continues its vibrancy and connections, these powerful backlashes have been eating away the foundation of Deaf collectivism, joy and existence. According to Paddy Ladd, we need to keep on building a mountain of positive Deaf philosophies, creativity, arts, politics, so tall that the tsunami from those three backlashes will not totally erode the livelihood and existence of Deaf people from the earth.

The Foundation adds to the building of that mountain by providing Deaf people and our allies tools through education, dialogues, arts, and grants.


Painting by Nancy Rouke

DHF Board’s 1st Retreat

The first gathering to create the Foundation  at Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California in February 2007.

Front: (l to r): Judy Gough and Ella Mae Lentz
Middle row (l to r): Colin Piotrowski, Danny Lacey, Marvin Miller, Kathy Say, Clark Brooke, Joey Baer
Back Row (l to r): Kevin Clark, Don Grushkin, Nancy Mitchell, David Eberwein, Butch Zein


The idea for the Deafhood Foundation began in 2007 after a few years of examining and re-framing the political, economic and ideological powers surrounding Deaf communities, inspired in great part by the book “Understanding Deaf Culture: in search of Deafhood” (Ladd 2003). Fifteen Deaf people with expertise and passion in economics, social justice, organizational development, Deaf culture and American Sign Language, came to a few weekend retreats and created the mission, vision and goals for the Foundation. In 2009, the Foundation was incorporated in California and granted a tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. Most of the original group became founding board members. A

Since its inception until 2017, the Foundation has given out annual grants ranging from $2500 to $5000, provided Deafhood 101 and 201 classes to almost 1000 Deaf people, organized several Allies in Deafhood presentations, produced several The Deafhood Monologues shows in various cities, hosted two Deafhood Banquets and a Deafhood Film Festival, translated the first third of Ladd’s book, introduced the idea of DEJI (Deaf Economic Justice Indicator) and received an award from the California Association of the Deaf.

In 2017 and beyond, the Foundation aims to steadily increase the amount and number of grants to give out to the community, create an Institute with expanded class offerings, complete the translation work of Ladd’s book, continue with the Banquets, and continue to provide the community with spaces for essential and healing dialogues to bring economic and social justice to ALL Deaf people.


  • MJ Bienvenu
    MJ Bienvenu Recording Chair

    A native ASL signer, originally from Baton Rouge, LA, MJ received her BA in English and MA in Linguistics from Gallaudet in 1974 and 1983, respectively. She worked at Gallaudet in various departments; including Linguistics Research Lab and English, for a total of 11 years. She then moved to be a co-director of The Bicultural Center for seven years. She later became a director of Language and Culture Center for three years before she came back to Gallaudet.

    MJ has published several ASL teaching materials (Faces of ASL and ASL Numerical Systems) and several American Deaf Culture videos and workbooks. She was also a sign model for the first ASL instruction books, also known as the Green Books.. She also presented to schools, colleges and universities and centers around the country, Canada, Europe, Japan, Israel, and Cyprus on topics of Sign Language Instruction, Culture, Oppression and Empowerment, Cross-cultural Interactions and Interpretation.

  • Matt Ellis
    Matt Ellis Member

    Matt Ellis hails from the sunny southern part of California, born Deaf to a Deaf family. Matt has experienced the full spectrum of Deaf education, attending a Deaf program at a mainstreamed setting at Taft in Santa Ana then attending a Deaf school, California School for the Deaf, Riverside til graduation in 1997.

    Matt is a proud alumna of Gallaudet University. He has experience as a cottage counselor at California School for the Deaf Fremont, Teacher’s Aide and ASL teacher at the Tripod program in Burbank. Matt is proud to call the beautiful city of San Diego his home, in which he currently holds the position of Customer Relations Manager at a Deaf-owned and operated business, DawnSignPress, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities.

    As a long-time staunch advocate of the betterment of Deaf people, taking the Deafhood 101 course in 2013 was a life-altering and empowering event for Matt, in which it helped shift his perception regarding the existence of Deaf people on Earth. With the new lens that he has, Matt now has a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards the unique Deaf experience. His Deafhood journey has fueled his conviction that every single Deaf person should take the class at least once for the sake of truly understanding, strengthening, empowering and therefore protecting our beloved community, language and culture.

  • Judy Gough
    Judy Gough Founding

    Born Deaf to Deaf parents in Oakland, CA, Judy enrolled in and graduated from the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe, KS. She then went to Gallaudet University and obtained a B.A. degree in Sociology in 1969.

    Although now retired, her work history includes being a history and geography High School teacher and a middle school general education teacher at her alma mater (KSD), a rehabilitation instructor at a sheltered workshop in Kansas and in Tulsa, OK, a work evaluator in Columbus, Ohio, and Morganton, North Carolina, an ASL instructor at the Tulsa Junior College, Johnson County Community College (Kansas), and Vista College (now Berkeley City College in CA); and a cottage counselor at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont.

    She has been life partners with Ella Mae Lentz since 1983 (married since 2008). She is a proud mother of five children and a grandmother of twelve. Her interests include caring for animals and reading books.

  • Ella Mae Lentz
    Ella Mae Lentz Founding & Organizing Chair

    Upon discovering the word “Deafhood” (coined by Dr. Paddy Ladd), Ella was challenged to stop the injustices done to Deaf people by Audism and Oralism. She set out to unshackle the Deaf community in which she grew up and identifies with.

    Born in Berkeley, California, to wonderful Deaf parents and a vibrant Deaf community in the mid-1950’s, she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1960’s. There she witnessed not only protests against war and racism but the beginning of the Deaf Resurgence. Upon graduating from the California School for the Deaf, Berkeley, in 1971, she went on to Gallaudet University. It was at Gallaudet that she had an epiphany about American Sign Language which launched her into a career of teaching, training instructors, and interpreters, performing poetry and helping with linguistic research.

    Retired in 2007 from Berkeley City College (formerly Vista Community College), after 16 years of full-time teaching ASL and Deaf Culture, Ella formed ASL Presents LLC. Her immediate goal is to complete the major updating of the Signing Naturally curriculum series of which she is a co-author. Her long-term goals include promoting academic excellence in American Sign Language and healthy Deafhood discourse among all Deaf people as well as in the general public.

    Ella has been blessed to raise five kids with her wife, Judy Gough, and is a proud grandmother of twelve kids (three are Deaf). She also enjoys her many pets: five dogs (one is deaf), four cats and five goats (none is deaf).

  • Alyce Slater Reynolds
    Alyce Slater Reynolds Member

    As a native of St. Augustine FL and from Deaf family, she attended Florida School for the Deaf for six years before being mainstreamed at a parochial school (the word “mainstreamed” in a school was unheard of) for the next six years, before completing her HS education at St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati OH. She obtained her BA in Psychology and a MA in Deaf Education at Gallaudet University. After one year at Louisiana School for the Deaf as an elementary teacher, she spent 16 years teaching at California School for the Deaf Fremont, and finally 18 ½ years at Ohlone College as a Professor. She’s married to David O. Reynolds. She has three sons and three stepsons, all in their 30’s.

    Taking Deafhood in Spring 2008 was the turning point of her life. She became very involved with the journey by participating as one of the narrators of Deafhood Discussions, teaching Deafhood course, presenting “Introduction to Deafhood 101” workshops numerous times at several state association conferences, YLC, Gallaudet’s 150/125 Anniversary Reunion, and several other places. From these experiences, she has become an activist, along with her like-minded husband, fighting against injustices in the world.

    Alyce retired in December 2012. She has been busy with volunteering as a docent of two museums in San Francisco, extensive traveling with her husband and being grandma to adorable but rambunctious twins, one of them is Deaf.

  • Marilyn Jean Smith
    Marilyn Jean Smith Finance Chair

    Born in Seattle, Washington, Marilyn Jean Smith was raised as an oralist and found her identity as a Deaf person at Gallaudet University where she graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English and in 1977 with an M.A. in Counseling. She has been on her Deafhood journey ever since.

    Marilyn is the Founder and former Executive Director (1986-2011) of the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services (ADWAS) in Seattle and is considered the “Mother” of the anti- violence movement in Deaf America. She has served on the boards of Deaf Women United, the National Association of the Deaf and Discovering Deaf Worlds. In addition to being on the board of the Deafhood Foundation since the fall of 2011, she is also on the board of Communication Service for the Deaf. Her commitment to social activism and community volunteer work is a big priority in her life.

    She has been widely recognized for her work including an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Gallaudet University, the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World award, a special award from President Clinton and many others.

    After retiring from ADWAS Marilyn was a Distinguished Alumnus Fellow at Gallaudet University during 2012. She also created a new company with her partner Karen in Seattle. The Leading Edge, LLC provides consultation and services to non-profit organizations throughout the United States including grant writing, board development, strategic planning, conflict resolution, and fund and donor development. She is also a motivational speaker.

    She has been married since 1984 and is mom to a darling Labradoodle named Max. She is a voracious reader, loves British television and movies, enjoys cooking and hosting parties, spends winters on her beloved island of Maui, and calls Norway her second home.

  • Barry Solomon
    Barry Solomon Member

    Barry Solomon, originally from north central Pennsylvania, but has called Washington, DC his home for the last 20 years. A native signer, Barry graduated from Gallaudet University in 1994 and worked with several Deaf national organizations such as Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc and DeafNation.

    After working in the publishing and public relations field for over 10 years, Barry went back to school, this time at Villanova Law School in Pennsylvania.
    Taking a Deafhood course in 2012 was a big eye-opener, which allowed Barry to gain a more deeper insight of himself and others, in their journey.

    Barry, in addition to working full-time for the federal government, also maintains his small private practice, teaches a course at Gallaudet University, as well as trying to keep up with two beautiful children and his wife. In what little personal time remains, Barry enjoys cooking (and eating!), reading books and comic books.

  • Terri Waddell-Motter
    Terri Waddell-Motter Marketing & Public Relations Chair

    When taking a Deafhood class in 2011, Terri gained a profound awakening of her old ways of allowing fear to stop her growing and evolving. Terri was born in the sixties to hearing, Spanish speaking parents living in a small town in Glendale, Arizona. Terri grew up in an intense Oralism environment with the introduction of hearing aids and mainstreaming with no stimulation to ASL or any other visual communications.

    After obtaining these degrees from Gallaudet University (B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Developmental Psychology, and a Specialist Degree in School Psychology), Terri was fortunate to live and work in a community with other Deaf adults and children in Indiana as a licensed Deaf School Psychologist at Indiana School for the Deaf for twenty years. She also taught General Psychology at Vincennes University ASL program for fifteen years. Despite her never returning to Arizona, her family and 29 first cousins, located throughout Arizona, southern California, and Mexico, continued to instill the values of being proud of her Mexican ancestors, culture, and arts, enabling her to celebrate her survival as a Deaf Mexican female.

    In addition to serving on the Deafhood Foundation board since 2013, Terri is currently a doctoral student studying to become an independent psychologist and is married to Scott Motter, with two KODA sons, Caleb and Noah. During her free time, Terri enjoys processing powerful thoughts with close friends, and playing with her Boston Terrier dog, Lola.

    Terri stresses the importance of raising all Deaf children present and future to value Deafhood leadership, achievement, critical thinking skills and confidence. Her long term goal is to align with Deaf people with similar background as hers in cherishing and celebrating their Deafhood journeys.

Dr. Paddy Ladd
Honorary Member, Author & Creator of “Deafhood”

Paddy was a lecturer and MSC Coordinator at the now Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol. He completed his Ph.D. in Deaf Culture at Bristol University in 1998 and had written, edited and contributed to numerous publications in the field. Both his writing and his Deaf activism have received international recognition.

He received the Francis Maginn Award “For Lifetime Achievement for the Deaf Community” from the British Deaf Association (2004); the E.M. Gallaudet Award for “International Leadership in Promoting the Well-Being of Deaf People of the World” from Gallaudet University (2009); and the Deaf Lifetime Achievement Award from the Federation of Deaf People for activities which have extended the possibilities for Deaf communities in the UK and worldwide (1998). He was also added to the British Deaf Association Roll of Honour for “Outstanding Contributions to the Deaf Community in Deaf Education” (2007).

Founding Board Members

Dr. Patrick Boudreault served 2007 – 2010
Clark Brooke served 2007 – 2010
Mel Carter served 2008 – 2014
Kevin Clark served 2007 – 2017
David Eberwein served 2007 – 2013
Dr. Genie N. Gertz served 2007 – 2011
Judy Gough serves 2007 – present
Ella Mae Lentz serves 2007 – present
Marvin T. Miller served 2007 – 2017
Colin Piotrowski served 2007 – 2013
Kathy Say served 2007 – 2014
Butch Zein served 2007 – 2014

Past Board Members

Ritchie Bryant served 2013 – 2015
Leang Hu Ngov served 2015
Melvin Patterson served 2013 – 2014
Timothy Riker served 2013 – 2017
Kristen Weiner (Rajarajeshwari) served 2013 – 2015