The Difference that Actor CJ Jones and Others are Making for the Deaf Community
Sometimes we go through life with blinders on. We don’t pay attention. We don’t observe the problems and we ignore simple messages that are really calls for help. Perhaps this is because we create narratives in our minds, which are just plain WRONG! That was me before I met the most incredible human being, actor CJ Jones. CJ is an actor with an amazing IMDB and is hard of hearing. He had a part in the movie Avatar. He has a remarkable story of perseverance and overcoming the challenges facing all members of the deaf community. Did you know that there is 70 percent unemployment rate for deaf people? This fact astounds me and something I knew so little about before I met CJ and became immersed for a day in the world of the deaf.
I was privileged to host CJ and Amber Galloway Gallegos, another hard of hearing celebrity, at a special assembly at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf this spring 2019. This visit was a reward to the school for raising the most money in a fundraising competition on our Fund Duel site. As the winners, they earned a well-deserved trophy and the surprise appearance of CJ and Amber. What was remarkable about this competition was that each school created their own hand-syncing (similar to lip-syncing) video. Each school picked a different song and created their own choreography to music that most of them could feel, but not hear. The campaign had a slow start but after CJ and Amber and other hard of hearing and deaf celebrities posted the campaign on their social media, the awareness of the campaign heightened and donations came rolling in.
Attending this assembly was breathtaking. I was startled at first at the lack of sound during this assembly. I was used to going to events where speeches were blasted over the microphone and music and other sounds grabbed attention. I was mesmerized as I sat in silence and yet witnessed enthusiastic responses of precious kindergartners flickering their fingers from outstretched arms as they clapped in excitement. CJ was remarkably charismatic. He took the stage and used gestures and amazing facial expressions to get his point across to the engaged and spellbound student body.
Amber Galloway Gallegos was equally exceptional on stage as she danced and signed to music. She is an expert interpreter of sound and is a committed translator of music for the hard of hearing at concerts and festivals all across the globe. Both CJ and Amber inspired the children and teenagers of the school with positive messages. They reminded the students that barriers presented to them could be overcome and that with tenacity and hard work they could lead successful professional lives.
What I learned from both CJ and Amber is that there is a ridiculous lack of access to communication and support from members of the majority-hearing world. A large number of deaf children have parents who do not learn sign language and many deaf students attend schools that have limited or no services to assist them. So many events, concerts, movies, etc.… are not accessible to the deaf community. The resources are limited beyond grade school for training and employment. It is appalling and the problems are not well publicized or known. As a result of this experience, I decided that our first monthly campaign that we sponsored by our celebrity ambassador and television producer Wendy Wheaton would champion a deaf cause. We chose to raise money and social awareness of CJ Jones non-profit called Elevate.
CJ tells us that this is what Elevate is all about: We are a deaf and hard-of-hearing 501c3 non-profit organization that specializes in and focuses on the advancement and education of children of all ages in the fields of TV and motion picture entertainment as possible career choices. We celebrate and honor companies and organizations that hire hard of hearing employees. We advise, consult, and educate the entertainment industry on hiring, promoting and advocating for the advancement of deaf and hard of hearing community. SPECIFICALLY: We are raising money for our first-ever hard of hearing Sign Language Film Festival which is meant to elevate the awareness of Hollywood executives as to the talents and capabilities of our deaf and hard of hearing actors, writers, producers, directors. Check out our live campaign under Trending Duels on www.fundduel.com.
The lesson I learned from my visit to the warm community of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf is that learned is that I had formerly shut my eyes, closed my ears, and had not paid attention to an amazing community that suffers adversity in ways that I could never have imagined.
By Linda Hansen
CEO and Co-Founder of FundDuel.com
Links to videos created by some of the Schools for the Deaf:
Ohio School for Deaf:
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf:
Mill Neck Manor:
Something just like this https://youtu.be/SB_BL5QSbew