Bree K. Jones: “You will lose friends along the way”

Governmentally, better accessibility can be made more available, through the usage of captioning for all video platforms. Individually, taking time to learn ASL basics, like greetings, salutations, and simple sentences can go a long way in bridging the communication and comfort gap. As a society, we can decide to celebrate one another’s differences, instead of allowing […]

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Governmentally, better accessibility can be made more available, through the usage of captioning for all video platforms.

Individually, taking time to learn ASL basics, like greetings, salutations, and simple sentences can go a long way in bridging the communication and comfort gap.

As a society, we can decide to celebrate one another’s differences, instead of allowing those differences to ostracize us.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bree K. Jones. Bree is a Deaf Culture Merger, one of the Creators of I Hear You, and Biola University Psychology graduate. Understanding the challenges that are before the Deaf community, Bree’s mission is to merge both the hearing and the Deaf communities together by breaking down stereotypes and easing social anxieties between both worlds through media.

Bree received the Encouragement Award from Black Women Rock Nationally Women’s Organization for her work, as well as a Certificate of Recognition from Council Member Mike Gipson of the 64th District for raising awareness of the importance of sign communications for the Deaf community. Bree has interviewed on several empowering radio shows, sharing her expertise. She has also been featured in the HuffPost, PopSugar, Ai-Media, Voyage LA, Deaf Boss, the RiRi Show, and other media outlets.

In the Spring of 2019, Bree became a graduate of El Camino’s Interpreting Training Program (ITP) receiving her Certificate of Achievement.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

My career path is actually interesting because I never envisioned this. I always say my story began when I was in 7th grade, but the journey actually started much earlier than that. I was 3 years old when I opened my first ASL book; teaching myself how to sign alphabets, numbers, and greetings.

My official introduction to ASL, however… was 7th grade. My teacher at the time saw a natural ability in me when it came to understanding and learning the language. She encouraged me to continue and become fluent. Unfortunately, I transferred schools the following year and no resources were available. The desire, however, to know more about Deaf culture and its language had been sparked. It was a flame that would continue to burn as years went on.

My junior year of college is when things changed. I was able to immerse myself in the beauty of Deaf culture and become more consistent with learning ASL. The university I attended offered ASL as a foreign language and I didn’t hesitate to enroll in every class! Post-graduation, I enrolled in an Interpreter Training Program (ITP), graduating this past June with my Certificate of Achievement (this particular certificate does not make me a certified interpreter).

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway that you took out of that story?

One day, I was in the car with one of my Hard of Hearing (HOH) friends (he’s culturally Deaf). While he was driving, he switched lanes to the intersection. When he crossed over, I told him (in ASL) “you know switching lanes in the intersection can get you a big-ticket right? That’s illegal”. His response to me was “What? I’ve never heard of that”. I replied, “Yea, I bet there’s a lot of things you haven’t heard of”. He gave me this side eye and told me to shut up LOL.

We were very close friends and he often made jokes about me being hearing and I returned the favor to him lol.

The greatest lesson in this story is…we don’t have to sugarcoat our differences. It’s “ok” to know that we aren’t the same. We can still appreciate one another’s differences and even laugh.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I would advise them to remember their why. Remembering your why is what will wake you up every morning. When you’ve reached a place of burn out and continue to face obstacle after obstacle, remembering your why is what will keep you going.

I would also advise them to focus on the “bigger picture”. Whatever your work is, there is usually something greater connected to it. It’s bigger than just, you. You’re not doing this work for yourself. You’re doing it for the breakthrough of the next generation.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Since it’s cliché to say, my mother, I won’t talk about her this time lol. The person I would like to share a story about is my 7th-grade teacher. Without her planting the seeds in me, I would not have yearned so much for this field. She’s the one who saw something special in me. She encouraged me and continuously spoke life words, not only into who I was (at the time) but into who she foresaw that I could be. Just talking about her makes my eyes swell because even though I’ve told her a million times, she’ll never truly understand the role she has played in my present and future achievements.

I’ll never forget when this same teacher taught our class how to sign the song I Believe I Can Fly for a school assembly. She gave me the solo. I can still hear the sounds of the cheers during my solo. My classmates congratulated me and spoke so many words of encouragement. That moment definitely boosted my little 11-year-old self-confidence.

Once the assembly was done, I remember my teacher expressing to my parents and grandmother (who were also in the audience) the potential she saw in me. She believed that I could do great things by continuing to sign. And because of her…I did too.

Thank you, D’Yann Crosby. I can’t even imagine where I’d be without your influence.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I still have so much work to do, I haven’t even scratched the surface yet (in my opinion) so I don’t think of myself as successful just yet. I’m working towards that tirelessly. However, with the work I am doing, I am bringing goodness to the world through my web series, and by sharing the knowledge I have about the Deaf community and its culture with the hearing community. My goal is to help bridge the communication, information and opportunity gap so that there is equal access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.

I’m excited about my current project, I Hear You. I truly believe that this web-series forces us all to take a closer look within ourselves and confront some of the silent prejudices that we may hold against those who aren’t “like us”.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

It’s interesting, because around 5, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I grew up watching my mom perform. She also worked for several entertainment companies so acting really seemed like a natural path for me. After elementary school, however, I lost that desire.

It’s funny how life comes full circle sometimes. I am now involved in entertainment; attempting to merge Hollywood, with the Deaf community. There are so many talented Deaf actors, writers, producers…you name it. I want to do my part to help ensure that their stories are told.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Yes! It was actually a very influential casting director who inadvertently gave me the idea of creating a show. My original thought was to host workshops for behind the scenes professionals, providing information on how to better communicate with Deaf/HOH talent on set.

During our conversation, she asked “Why is this important? “I” know why it’s important, but why is it important to the industry? Have you ever thought about doing a web series? That will help show it’s important”.

The next day, I Hear You was birthed. I’ve been running with it ever since.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Governmentally, better accessibility can be made more available, through the usage of captioning for all video platforms.

Individually, taking time to learn ASL basics, like greetings, salutations, and simple sentences can go a long way in bridging the communication and comfort gap.

As a society, we can decide to celebrate one another’s differences, instead of allowing those differences to ostracize us.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. You need a budget: I really wish someone had told me that I needed a concrete budget for filmmaking. I know this seems obvious, but I was so excited after speaking with that casting director, I just leaped in. Didn’t even think. I had a dream and a drive…but no budget. lol.

2. People talk…a lot: I came into this believing the words that industry people said. If someone said they were going to do something…I believed them. I wish I had known that there are many people in the industry that simply do a lot of talking. There are people who will try to take advantage of you, steal your money, make empty promises…and the list goes on. You can’t depend on what people say. You just have to continue doing your part and the right…honest people will eventually cross paths with you.

3. You will lose friends along the way: People always say, “You will lose friends along your journey”, but I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of this until it began to happen. I was prepared to possibly lose people who I had loose friendships with. What I wasn’t prepared for, was losing some of my inner circle. Losing people who I loved with all of me, was hurtful. My heart was broken. But at the end of the day, I chose ME; my destiny. I refuse to let anything or anyone come between me and what I was put here on earth to do.

4. The deepest hurt comes from those you trust: Sometimes, the very person that you trust and look up to can end up being the very person to hurt you the most. Unfortunately, this happened to me. I wish I had been better mentally and emotionally prepared because I definitely didn’t see that coming.

5. The “in’s” and “out’s”: I think overall, I wish that someone had been there to school me on the ins and outs of filmmaking. I was unaware of how much work needed to take place in the pre-production stage. Although I was aware of many legal aspects and have always kept legal paperwork in order, there were other things that I wasn’t aware of; small things that could leave room for “loopholes”. Had I not been so zealous and had I had a mentor, I may have been able to bypass certain things that experience had to teach me.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve already started my movement. My movement is what I am currently doing. I definitely have plans for expansion as I move forward. All of my ideas are written and ready for execution…when it’s time. I don’t want to dive into what those plans are at the moment. I’m keeping that on the hush hush for now lol.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I recently saw a meme on Instagram (I’m not sure who the originator of the post is) that said: “If you try to fit in, you’ll disappear”. As an adolescent/teen, I wanted to be a “cool kid” so bad. Maybe some of it was in my mind, but I felt like I always stood out like a sore thumb. I adopted the mannerisms of people in my different friend groups so that I could be like them.

The more I tried to fit in, the more awkward I looked (in my opinion). I didn’t really know who I was as a person, (which I feel most adolescents don’t) so I tried to be other people. Once I gained self-confidence, I realized I was never meant to fit in…I was always meant to just be Bree. Being Bree is what makes me stand out. No one would ever see me if I continued to attempt to be and look like others.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have breakfast or lunch with Issa Rae, Grace Byers, and Marlee Matlin. Ever since the start of my filmmaking career, people I’ve come in contact with have told me I remind them of Issa Rae.

After studying her career, our paths are somewhat similar. Other than the obvious (both of us being black women), my journey started off similar to hers…through a web series. Due to Issa already accomplishing career goals that I am striving to reach, I think she would be a perfect person to seek wisdom from. Not just as a filmmaker, but as a fellow back woman.

If I had an opportunity to sit down with Grace Byers and Marlee Matlin, I would probably faint. Grace Byers is a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA) and Marlee Matlin is the first and only Deaf actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. I would love to sit and soak up their stories. I admire both women very much. They’ve both had trials and triumphs in their careers and due to their relationship with the Deaf community, I think it would be a no brainer for me to grab ahold of some of their incredible insight.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

About The Author:

Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and founder & Editor-In-Chief of Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, which has guided dozens of leaders to become trusted authorities in their field after becoming syndicated columnists, authors, and media commentators. Yitzi is also the author of five books.

At Authority Magazine, Yitzi has conducted or coordinated more than 4000 empowering interviews with prominent Authorities like Shaquille O’Neal, Floyd Mayweather, Kelly Rowland, Bobbi Brown, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Lindsay Lohan, Cal Ripken Jr., Jillian Michaels, Derek Hough, and the C-Suite executives of companies like eBay, Kroger, American Express, MasterCard, 3M, L’Oréal, Walgreens, Intuit, Virgin, Campbell, Walmart, CVS, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Oracle, ZOOM, Udemy, Samuel Adams Beer, Zappos, Adobe, Capital One, Lockheed Martin, Gallup, Procter & Gamble , Anheuser-Busch, Chipotle, Starbucks, and thousands others.

A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher, and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

If you are a successful leader in your field and think you would be a good fit for the Thought leader Incubator, feel free to reach out to Yitzi anytime.

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