A couple of weeks ago, I became aware of a young woman named Dr. Lampra Jones who holds monthly “silent dinners” in Atlanta.
Having never heard of these, I decided to get in touch with her and ask if she would allow us to interview her for D/T. I was excited to interview Dr. Jones because it was a chance to further inform you, our readers, on something else pertaining to the deaf community and, perhaps, a chance to connect and join in on the silent dinners!
Shawn: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Lampra: My name is Lampra (motions her Sign name) I started with sign language when I was five years old. I lived in Tampa, Florida and I went to a mainstream hearing school and I noticed a woman doing signing and I thought to myself, “That’s beautiful” because of the way her hands moved and it looked like dancing. I asked my teacher if she could teach me how to do it. She said she didn’t know sign language, but that she’d buy me a book so we could learn together. And that’s how I started my journey to learning at 5 yrs old. And it has continued with me for life.
Shawn: What was it like to develop your passion over the years, from your youth to your teens and then through college until now?
Lampra: It was amazing. My parents didn’t really care. They thought it was weird that this 5 yr old wanted to learn sign language. This crazy kid! But no one in the family is deaf but this crazy kid wants to learn? Then when I went to college at USF, I saw that there was a major in ASL (American Sign Language) and I said to myself, “I’m taking that!” LOL So I majored in biology and minored in ASL. I was so excited and loved it. I got to meet many deaf people and we became friends. My sign language skills improved greatly! And now my passion continues and I’ve passed it onto my son who is 4 yrs old. I started teaching him ASL when he was a few days old and he’s VERY skilled. He started signing at 8 months old.
S: That’s very impressive!
L: Yes, thank you!
S: Moving on, I’d like to talk about the Silent Dinner events. I’ve been to one before years ago with a friend, but for the people reading this, could you tell them about it? Where did the idea come from and what are they like?
L: Silent dinners are where the deaf and hard of hearing community is able to meet with each other, with others who are learning ASL and other hearing people who already know ASL. Its a very interesting way for people to come together and meet different people. We do this every month. It builds relationships. I started it 3 yrs ago. It’s weird because I’m a hearing person and when people come they ask “who’s in charge? Who’s in charge?” and I say “Me!” and they’re like “But you’re hearing! You’re not deaf!” And I say “Yes”. In that way it’s weird because most have never heard of a hearing person starting something for the deaf. And that’s amazing. Just wow! Here in Atlanta I saw that there was a need in Marietta and Kennesaw and other areas, because things are so far apart and so I established the Silent Dinner here at Cumberland Mall. It’s been 3 yrs now and it’s been going good. Yes, there’s been ups and downs but I feel that God has blessed me and this endeavor. I’m very proud of it all and I believe that God will continue to bless it.
S: God is truly awesome.
L: Yes, I agree.
S: How has your faith in God helped you in sustaining the Silent Dinner events?
L: It’s been hard. When I first started, no one showed up. It took maybe 3 months until ONE person showed up. So it was just me and my 1 yr old sitting here, waiting for people to show up. So my faith in God kept me continuing it. Then finally after 3 months, someone finally showed up! And then more people kept showing up and it became popular. But sometimes no one shows up or maybe one or 5 people might show up. But for me, it doesn’t matter how many people come. You only need one person to communicate with for a silent dinner. You don’t need 100 people. It’s only important that they show up. That’s my focus. And I believe that I should continue it because it helps the deaf community.
S: Do you have any other plans akin to this?
L: Yes, and it’s weird that you ask me that. I work as a chiropractor and my dream growing up was doing my work as a doctor for the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. So my goal in the very near future is to have my own office to service the deaf community.
S: Do you have any last words for us before we leave?
L: It’s been an honor to have been interviewed by you for your blog. Secondly, if anyone in Atlanta wants to experience a silent dinner, they can come. I have it once a month at Cumberland Mall in the food court. It’s a great learning experience and great camaraderie.
S: Thank you, Lampra and I appreciate you joining us.
L: Thank you very much!
It was a pleasure interviewing Dr. Jones. She had so much energy and is such a genuine soul. After the interview was over we continued to speak and I’m planning to attend her next silent dinner. If you want to attend, contact her via email at: email@example.com to learn more about the silent dinners in the Atlanta area.