Storytellers Spotlight: ASL artist showcases intersectionality, culture and music on stage

ByNzinga Blake, Shako Liu OTRC logo
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Storytellers Spotlight: ASL queer artist showcases intersectionality
Brandon Kazen-Maddox is a non-binary artist whose first language was American Sign Language (ASL). Kazen-Maddox highlights intersectionality through artistic performances.

In honor of Pride Month, performing artist Brandon Kazen-Maddox steps into the Storytellers Spotlight to showcase the beauty of what intersectionality looks like on stage. The New York-based artist is a GODA, which stands for grandchild of deaf adult(s).

Kazen-Maddox identifies as non-binary, who is also biracial and pronouns are they/them.

"It's important to me to sign basically, in almost everything that I do," said Kazen-Maddox. "It's how I communicate. If someone asked me not to sign, it's like they're asking me to quiet or suppress a part of me."

The New York-based artist was inspired to become a storyteller by their grandparents. First, on Kazen-Maddox's maternal side, both grandparents are deaf and taught them American Sign Language. Then, their paternal grandmother, a Black woman, who Kazen-Maddox describes as fierce and admirable, taught them to embrace culture, dance and music.

They got their start interpreting theater at Disney's Tony Award-winning musical, "Newsies" in San Francisco. They quickly fell in love with the art and level of inclusion that interpreting created.

"It's a skill. It's a talent, and a joy for me to have my my own personal relationship with music," said Kazen-Maddox. "My unique relationship with sign language, along with my relationship with dance, and to conjoin all of those things, to be able to express them for audiences."

Kazen-Maddox feels intersectionality is "complicated, yet beautiful."

"I identify as a two-spirit person. Male and female energy are within me," expressed Kazen-Maddox.

During Pride Month, Kazen-Maddox is honored to spotlight the queer, non-binary, deaf, Black and artistic communities.

Watch the entire story in the video above.