There was an outpouring of love for Warren “Wawa” Snipe online Sunday night after he performed the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” in American Sign Language (ASL) at the Super Bowl pregame alongside Jazmine Sullivan, H.E.R. and Eric Church.
ASL has gained significant prominence over the last year as people tuned in to their local government press conferences for information about the coronavirus pandemic. ASL translators are now a permanent presence at most press conferences, and Snipe said he was honored when the National Association of the Deaf chose him to perform in Tampa, Florida.
“To rep the deaf and hard-of-hearing community on that level is an honor. Oftentimes our deaf artists are overlooked, and yet we still push on towards greatness. We hope this will wake people up that we’re capable and hire for different performances, be it TV, film, theater, music,” Snipe told The Washington Post.
“When you’ve worked so hard on your craft, giving everything you’ve got for your community and they ask you to do the Super Bowl, to me that’s an honor and some recognition of your hard work,” Snipe added.
He was chosen by the organization after submitting videos of himself performing the songs in ASL in December.
Snipe explained that performing the national anthem in ASL took weeks of translating and practice. He watched videos of Sullivan, H.E.R. and Church in order to have his ASL performance mimic their singing patterns.
“I would listen to the music over and over to get a feel of the music and the singing. This takes a lot of time and you want to make sure you’re understood, so playing with various ways to interpret a song is warranted!” the 50-year-old said in a text interview with The Washington Post.
“Body movement helps a lot. Lyrics help pick their brains. And understanding what they’re trying to say in their song creates a being,” he added about his preparation.
He went through an exhaustive process of filming himself performing it and then watching it back in order to cut and add things to the performance.
Snipe is an accomplished rapper and actor, launching his career after getting his degree from Gallaudet University. He has a recurring role on the widely beloved CW show Black Lightning.
His music is an innovative mix of audio and photo images that he calls “Dip Hop” or “Hip Hop through the deaf eyes.” He founded an all-deaf dance company called Wild Zappers and has released multiple “Dip Hop” albums, according to People.
“Everyone knows hip hop through hearing culture but what about deaf culture? So this [opens] doors for you to come inside our world and see the similarities and the [contrasts] of both worlds,” he explained.
“The point is I’m a multitalented person and CAN do many things. [It’s] just when people find out I’m [deaf] they start to limit me. I’m asking them NOT to do that,” he noted.
Many people online adored Snipe’s performance.
— stacy nowak (@starrymountains) February 7, 2021