Making role models

Vilma Jackson
Vilma Jackson was born in Mozambique and now lives in Enfield

Enfield performance artist Vilma Jackson on the launch of her all-deaf TV panel show

The Vilma Jackson Show aims to challenge societal norms, help the successes of deaf artists to be seen and celebrated on a wider scale, and to shine a light on the poor representation of people with black, Asian, and deaf identities in television and film.

Opportunity and representation has always been lacking in these industries. While I have been building a career performing on screen and stage, I have always been aware of these challenges, and I wanted to create a platform where they are acknowledged and debated, and hopefully to inspire action.

The Vilma Jackson Show is filmed in two episodes, and in the first I am joined by Kelsey Gordon, Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq and Signkid. I invited people to come along and it was just a natural communication. It wasn’t like it was too staged, it was just a natural flow. Once I started the first question, it became this beautiful conversation.

Our discussion highlights the talent within the hearing and deaf community and the barriers to progress within various industries, such as the favouritism that occurs with deaf representation. The second episode is due for release shortly, and addresses the wider 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.

This project is incredibly personal to me and I am so proud to be able to share it with the world. I am black, deaf, and a woman. Each of these present barriers but together they place me in a small minority.

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by television and the stars performing on it. I was fascinated by the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin (who were not actually deaf) but I never saw anyone like me. Things are improving, but very slowly, and I want to highlight these issues for both hearing and deaf people.

It’s so important to me that people of all backgrounds have role models in life and feel they can do anything they choose. As well as promoting diversity among the guests on my show, I have also employed a diverse production crew. These jobs are not easy to secure for those with hard of hearing or deafness, and that needs to change.

The development of The Vilma Jackson Show has been funded by Arts Council England and is my second commission from them. My first is called Triple Oppression and explores my personal struggles, aspirations and successes growing up. The show achieved critical acclaim and won four awards from the Los Angeles Film Awards, New York Film Awards, FilmCon Awards, and Festigious International Film Festival.

I really hope my show helps elevate people’s voices and improves understanding of the challenges of being a black or Asian deaf person.

Watch The Vilma Jackson Show:

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