Growing Up in Silence (Part III)

Born of two deaf parents, Samme had to assume a lot of family responsibilities from a tender age.

By Frédéric Lebeuf

Now in her 30s, Samme decided to live out her dream and become a professional singer. She also decided to devote herself to a cause very close to her heart: since January of 2020, this singer-songwriter has been the ambassador for la Fondation des Sourds du Québec (the Quebec Foundation for the Deaf).

The Power of Music

She says her father instigated her music career: “It may sound weird, but my father loved music.”

In the 1980s, he would record videos from the program VideoDanse (on MusiquePlus) and play them loud on the stereo until the windows shook. Deaf people can feel vibrations, and he was fascinated by the videos’ visual effects. Even today he still plays these clips off of YouTube, and turns the volume up high.

“For me, music lets me escape into my dreams,” says Samme. “I’ve always listened to music. It’s therapeutic, and I need my daily dose. It’s helped me get over a bunch of things. It inspires my ideas. When I was young I was very shy and had trouble expressing myself. When I write or sing, it’s easier for me to open up.”

When she was age 4, Samme announced to her father that she wanted to become a singer. He encouraged her, and hasn’t stopped encouraging her since. “My parents always pushed me to do what I want to do. They never doubted my talent. When they come to my shows, they look at other people’s facial expressions. If they see them smiling or crying, for example, they know the song is emotionally moving.” 

Samme isn’t bitter that her parents can’t hear her work. “I know that deep down, they’re listening.”

Workshops

Samme thinks that sign language encourages good communication between deaf and hearing people: “It would be fantastic to teach everyone the basics of sign language so that we could help the deaf in a concrete way.” She suggests that elementary and high schools offer workshops on sign language. She thinks that combined with Cegep-level courses (one exists at Cégep Vieux-Montréal), it could help fight the shortage of interpreters, raising the profile of this type of job.

“Deaf culture isn’t well known,” she says. “A lot of people ask about this subject. For example, are deaf people illiterate? Some are, but not generally. Many deaf persons get involved in society, master French very well, and go to Cegep or University.”

Samme has chosen to get involved with issues surrounding the deaf because they have to face many social challenges. “Being deaf means needing an interpreter for all important meetings, trying to get a job you can do, and finding ways to pay for your further education. Sometimes, because of a lack of interpreters, the deaf don’t have access to services. They can’t get a gratifying job and have to accept minimum wage employment. They risk being afraid to speak up, and becoming isolated from their community,” she says.

“With all my heart, and with my creativity as a singer-songwriter, I hope to improve their quality of life. I encourage them to express themselves, and to reach out and achieve their deepest ambitions.” 

First seen in: Reflet de Société, Vol. 28, no. 3, été (summer) 2020, pages 12-14

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