Cartoon Network’s ‘Craig of the Creek’ puts Black American Sign Language front and center
The Emmy Award-nominated series is known for its diversity and inclusion.
Cartoon Network’s “Craig of the Creek” has tackled many important subjects by examining different scenarios and issues surrounding inclusion and diversity.
Now in its fourth season, the animated series, which follows the adventures of Craig Williams and his friends living in a fictional Maryland neighborhood, highlighted a distinctive form of American Sign Language (ASL) used within the Black deaf community: Black American Sign Language (BASL).
It was the first time that BASL users were incorporated into a children’s program, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The characters in “Craig of the Creek” can be seen playing at a nearby creek and enduring adventures in the wilderness.
In the “The Champion’s Hike” episode, Williams reengages a friend, Jackie, who is Black and deaf. Jackie communicated with his father via BASL before departing his home with Williams.
For maximum authenticity, the show reached out to the Southern California Black Deaf Advocates to contribute to the episode as consultants. The advocates stated that including a Black family communicating through BASL was a watershed moment for their experience watching the show, according to the Times.
“I teach parents [who have deaf children] how to sign, so the fact that a Black father was signing to his son, that exposure and that emphasis was so amazing,” deaf mentor Bibi Ashley told The Los Angeles Times. “Just seeing that interaction, that was my favorite part.”
Alice Rash, a California School for the Deaf teacher, noted that the signing details were spot on.
“It’s very important for fingerspelling to be clear,” Rash said in the Times. “For ‘have fun,’ they fingerspelled the word ‘fun’ very clearly, which is very typical, instead of using the sign for ‘fun’ …It was perfect.”
“Craig of the Creek,” created by Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, has been recognized with various award nominations since its 2018 premiere. The show received nods for the Emmy Awards, NAACP Image Awards and GLAAD Awards.
Burnett said it is natural to use a diverse array of characters in the show so that many people can relate to it.
“We’re always interested in giving every kid an opportunity to see themselves or see other kids who are not like them but see how they are the same in some ways,” Burnett said, according to the Times. “So it made sense to do this.”
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