Hello, first of all, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Vilma Jackson. I am Deaf and a performance artist; I have worked as a performing artist for 12 years in many different roles including TV, Film and Theatre. I work with both hearing and deaf actors and directors. As a child, I watched so many artists in this medium that inspired me like the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin (who was not actually deaf) but I never saw anyone like me; Black, Deaf and a Woman. Also, my parents gave me the confidence and ability to follow these dreams and I feel blessed that they never told me I could not do anything because I was Deaf.
Recently (2 years ago) I decided to use the knowledge I have built up throughout my career working in both worlds to write, produce and direct my own work, under the Vilma Jackson Productions umbrella. I have been lucky enough to work with amazing people and so many different projects that I wanted to use this experience to create opportunity and raise awareness. The Arts Council England commissioned me to write and direct a short film ‘Triple Oppression’. The work is about my struggles, aspirations and successes growing up Black, Deaf and a Woman. I was blessed that ‘Triple Oppression’ was critically acclaimed and won four awards including Los Angeles Film Awards, New York Film Awards, FilmCon Awards and Festigious International Film Festival.
The Arts Council then commissioned “The Vilma Jackson Show”. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to write, direct and produce this project which features a panel of Deaf artists who discuss their work and their experiences. Episode 1 of the “Vilma Jackson Show” is available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VCRJ90/videos/3832222603480341/. The show covers the debate around diversity, inclusion and equality to highlight that these issues do not only apply to the hearing world; they run deep into the Deaf community and every corner of our society.
I’m explaining my background and my recent success because I want everyone to know that opportunity does not fall into your lap, being Deaf, Black and a woman. You have to work for it and be prepared to suffer many rejections with a smile not letting this get you down. It is not an easy journey. There isn’t a right or wrong way to overcome it, but I learned to be resilient and to pave my way as I go. There is a famous poem by Juan Manuel Serrat that says, “Traveller, there is no path. You make the path by walking it”. Unfortunately, discrimination is part of life and everyone has to deal with it one way or another. I am always aware of it in the back of my mind but try to keep a positive attitude and keep moving. Being happy is the best revenge as they say.
As I said I have been a performing artist for 12 years, doing a variety of things including film, theatre, music, TV presenting and other fields. I would say that I have loved the variety of experiences gained by working on so many fantastic projects. My experiences have shaped my goals for the future. I want my new company (Vilma Jackson Productions) and projects to provide opportunity and raise awareness. I am aware of the lack of opportunity and lack of representation of the Black and Asian members of the Deaf community. So, as well as promoting diversity amongst the guests on the ‘Vilma Jackson Show’, I have also employed a diverse production crew too.
I hope my story will inspire people, I hope people find the fire inside themselves and don’t allow society to stop them achieving. I want people to be fierce, in a positive way. I wish to be a role model for future generations. So, they believe in themselves. We should embrace and celebrate our differences and moving towards a more equitable society. There is a beautiful a message which says “God made us different so we could get to know one another better”. What a boring world it would be if everyone was the same. For example, sign language is a rich, very expressive, and beautiful language which combines signs, body language and facial expression. Hearing people are really missing out by not understanding and appreciating its nuance and complexity. Did you know there are regional accents in sign language and that every country has its own sign language developed over the centuries? I can speak Portuguese and British sign language. Knowing both of them teaches you something about the difference between Portuguese and British culture.
Success is not money or possessions, it is something that you have to define for yourself, and no one can do it for you. Success could mean a sense of giving back to the world and making a difference. You can inspire children or adults to accomplish their goals regardless their race, disability and gender. At the end of the day, success is a feeling. It is the satisfaction of accomplishment that you did a good job, worked with good people and produced a beautiful work of art whether film, music, tv or theatre.
I have been lucky to learn from great directors and actors in both the hearing world and the deaf world these lessons inspired me to start Vilma Jackson Productions. So far, I have created “Triple Oppression” and “The Vilma Jackson Show” through Vilma Jackson Productions. I would like to form a bridge between the hearing world and the deaf world. The work is for both to enjoy. I am planning more projects under the umbrella of Vilma Jackson Productions to explore my creativity further. I want to produce surprising and challenging work for deaf and hearing audiences. I also plan to employ diverse casts and production crews to expand opportunity. Wait and see what is coming next!!
To watch my work or follow me please see the links below. Stay tuned for the second episode of ‘The Vilma Jackson Show’ and exciting new developments.
To find more about me – https://www.vilmajacksonproductions.com