"Exclusion among the excluded": sign language poetry at the COSP

Her Abilities Award winner, educational leader and author Bernice Adekeye Oyeleke has written a powerful poem. In it, she reflects on her experiences of deafness and exclusion and shares her vision of an inclusive society: "with all hands on deck, we stand united for inclusion".
graphic of hands black on yellow background saying inclusion in International Sign. Hashtag below says Representation Matters

Bernice, winner of the 2020 Her Abilities Award, has made it her mission to inspire Deaf students to unleash their literary potential and promote their educational rights. As founder of the non-profit LUDESI – Luminous Deaf Scholastic Initiative she has set up a literacy club for Deaf students, and written an affecting new poem together with two of its members.

The poem premiered at the United Nations’ most significant disability rights conference, the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP). Its message for “a change where inclusion is fostered, embracing all” is a vivid call to action for everyone: let’s be the change, let’s realise inclusion for all. 

We bring you the poem in writing and performed in Nigerian Sign Language by Bernice Oyeleke and two members of the LUDESI Deaf Literacy Club.

Exclusion among the excluded

A poem by Bernice Adekeye Oyeleke, Godwin Daniel, Uyohoini Akpabio for Deaf Literary Club, an arm of Luminous Deaf Scholastic Initiative, Nigeria 

Performed in Nigerian Sign Language by Bernice Adekeye Oyeleke, Douglas Ozoigboanugo and Aanuoluwapo Omeleye. 


Silence may proclaim its existence, but we hear,
Words may elude us, yet we speak. 
With eyes that hear and hands that speak, 
We have been excluded for a long while, 
A hope for change, we fan alive. 
With the inclusion of the Deaf, a difference assured. 


Visions of a better future, we see, 
With all hands and all minds working as one, 
A change where inclusion is fostered embracing all, 
Promoting equal participation in all exertions. 
We know we are able, 
For if others can, so we can. 
In our domain, no light is less significant. 


The decree mandates the right to all, 
Yet, deprived and denied a small remain. 
Exclusion among the excluded never refraining, 
Grievances of the aggrieved yet we wailing. 
Inclusion and recognition is all we hailing, 
Equal representation never debating. 


We have a vision, we have a dream, 
Of a disability group where every cluster equally represented, 
Of a place where every difference matters, 
Where we all plan and work together, 
And with all hands on deck, we stand united for inclusion together, 
Till the exclusion is completely gone into extinction. 

Bernice Oyeleke is signing her poem in Nigerian Sign Language.