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December 7, 2002

Showing signs of imagination

From: Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH - 07 Dec 2002

Janet Okoben
Plain Dealer Reporter

Comedian C.J. Jones didn't have to tell one joke to win over his audience at South High School.

Jones' life story provided plenty of material for his motivational speech there yesterday. Born to deaf parents and deaf himself since childhood because of spinal meningitis, Jones has managed to carve out an entertainment career - even with what he calls the "double whammy" of being deaf and black.
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Jones, who lives in Los Angeles, could not have found a more interested group than the 60 deaf students who gathered. They included students from Alexander Graham Bell Middle School as well from South High. All deaf high school students in the Cleveland district, except for a few who attend vocational schools, go to South.

Jones' message to them: Be creative. Be imaginative. Let the arts set you free.

He should know. He has traveled with the National Theater of the Deaf, directed plays and appeared in an independent film called "The Ride." Kim Kause, a deaf education teacher at South High, begged Jones to come to Cleveland after meeting him at a workshop in Columbus recently. She arranged a gig for him at Cuyahoga Community College last night and raised money from local businesses and Kent State University to help pay for his visit.

"They need good deaf role models, and especially because he's a black deaf male they need to see this," Kause said of her students.

Jones communicates by sign language, and he made students work hard during sessions yesterday. Groups were given four lines of poetry and told to interpret them onstage without words. Suddenly boys became the wind. Girls became leaves. Jones' lesson was not about acting but about being creative.

Motions, he said as he waved his arms to become water, "are more powerful than the words."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4535

© 2002 The Plain Dealer.