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Award-Nominated Cartoon Network Show Showcases Black American Sign Language

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Editor's Note

This is a recap for “Craig of the Creek” season 4 episode 21. There will be spoilers beyond this point. Please proceed with caution (because we don’t want to be the ones who spoil you!)

Cartoon Network’s Emmy, GLAAD, and Annie nominated show “Craig of the Creek” follows a young boy, Craig, and his friends’ adventures around their favorite creek, and it recently highlighted Black American Sign Language (BASL) in one of their episodes.

In the episode, Craig’s friend Jackie speaks in a dialect of sign language, BASL, which is different from American Sign Language (ASL), due to cultural and historical differences which is credited to the segregation of deaf schools.  Jackie communicates with his dad, telling him that he’ll be safe when he’s out, and all of Jackie’s friends communicate to him using BASL throughout the clip and episode. The animation team consulted with Black Deaf Advocates, a deaf support group, for the episode.

BASL has recently been talked about more, which some credit to sites like Tik Tok where users like Nakia Smith have spoken about BASL, the key differentiations between BASL and ASL, while teaching others how to sign it.

A few of the major components that separate BASL from ASL are:

1. Facial expressions.

Facial expressions tend to play a larger role in conversation when it comes to BASL versus ASL. Whereas both dialects utilize facial expressions, in BASL the expressions are a part of the signing itself.

2. Two hands are used instead of one.

In BASL, two hands are typically used to sign instead of one hand primarily. 

3. BASL utilizes the forehead more versus the lower body.

When signing with BASL, many sign placements utilize the forehead, versus solely using the lower parts of the body.

All of this is seen in the “Craig of the Creek” episode where Jackie and his father are communicating, along with the rest of his friends.

BASL has been overlooked and ignored for generations, and we’re excited to see that it’s finally getting the attention and recognition that it deserves.

Lead image courtesy of Cartoon Network’s YouTube channel.

Originally published: July 13, 2022
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