ASL Slam is a monthly event that offers the stage to audience members to come up and rap, rhapsodize and rehash or just relate in sign language.
We provide a safe space for Sign Language community to play with our language.
In March of 2005, Bob Arnold (one of the creators behind the Sign Writing movement) founded ASLian Poetry & Storytelling Night at the famed Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan. After running it for 6 months, he relocated, and Jason Norman took over, hosting the open mic event on a monthly basis and changing the name to ASL Slam. Douglas Ridloff, then an emerging poet, artist, and performer, joined the ASL Slam family in 2006 to help with the event.
By 2009, Douglas became the sole host, and ASL Slam became a brand, garnering national and international attention, and attracting audiences and performers from all over the world with its rotation of monthly events, ranging from open mics to fully staged performances.
In 2013, ASL Slam kicked off its first tour, visiting Michigan, Austin, France, and many other locales. ASL Slam is still growing, and has officially franchised events in Boston and Chicago while the NYC Slam continues to thrive.
In 2019, ASL Slam officially became a non-profit organization, with Douglas Ridloff as the founder, joined by a designated board and ongoing support team.
ASL Slam continues to maintain its monthly event in New York City, now hosted at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The project brings together established Deaf poets and performers to share their material with a wider community, and also offers the stage to audience members. Slam is a safe space for the Deaf community to play, experiment and share in their native American Sign Language.
Building off the momentum and community engagement of ASL Slam’s monthly shows, we seek to expand the reach and potential of ASL Slam as a catalyst for new artistic production in American Sign Language.
Under the leadership of Douglas Ridloff, ASL Slam has collaborated on projects, workshops and events with the Whitney Museum, the Jewish Museum, Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center and many more.
Recognizing the need for more opportunities for Deaf creatives, as well as the lack of educational resources for Deaf children, ASL Slam seeks to expand its scope through four main project initiatives: Educational Programs, Artist Residences, Digital Archives, and an expansion of ASL Slam’s monthly events.
ASL Slam aims to expand the scope of its monthly mainstage shows by inviting at least 6 distinguished Deaf poets and performers from outside the metropolitan area to share their work and talent with New York audiences. ASL Slam would cover flights and accommodations for the performers’ stay, and provide one-day workshops with Slam guests for interested parties. In addition, Slam seeks to create permanent positions to coordinate monthly shows and for the interpreters who provide their services for English-speaking audience members.
ASL Slam believes in promoting the creative aspects of American Sign Language for all ages. Since most schools prioritize English language acquisition, literature and creative writing, and the majority of Deaf students are the only ASL users in their families, there are limited opportunities for Deaf children to play creatively with American Sign Language. Through educational programming in collaboration with the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, ASL Slam offers workshops at schools for the Deaf to teach techniques in storytelling, crafting poetry and finding their own creative expression in ASL--culminating in an annual ASL Slam Junior competition.
ASL Slam seeks to create a signature curriculum to accomplish this goal, developing assessment tools, training facilitators, and offering workshops to students of all ages. ASL Slam’s teaching curriculum offers diverse and dynamic approaches to learning.
In addition, Slam also seeks to offer learning opportunities to adult Deaf audiences as well. Stories and poems created by both adult and student populations in workshops will be given the limelight on ASL Slam’s monthly stage.