Storm Smith: A Powerful Silence
By Storm Smith on Jul 31, 2020
Black and Deaf producer paves the way for greater diversity.
Throughout the month of July, our Instagram channel had been transformed into a Black Creatives Showcase, highlighting an underrepresented but far from underskilled segment of our creative community. And while all of the people we've featured have been incredible and their work inspiring, we wanted to close out the month by shining a spotlight on one Storm Smith, an artist who has thrived in our industry, where being Black is uncommon, but being Black and Deaf? A rarity indeed.
Did you know that some studies suggest that between one third and one-half of all of the people killed by police in the U.S. every year are disabled? Deaf people are at a higher risk because they often cannot understand spoken commands, and need their hands and bodies to communicate. As a Deaf person, we are often at the bottom of the barrel; intersect that with race, and additional roadblocks go up, particularly in medical, education, political, entertainment, and other fields. And amid the significance of the current Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, it is important to note that there is a lack of visibility on the Black Deaf & Disabled community, who share the same struggles and oppressive challenges of systemic, structural, and institutional racism in America as the larger Black community in general.
My foray into the advertising industry is a unique one. I pursued a BA in Psychology at Gallaudet University, the only fully accredited university for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the world. Shortly afterward, I found my passion for creative storytelling in short films and media, and I started my career at University Communications with a focus on marketing and public relations. While I elevated my career and sharpened my skills in branding and video production for nearly six years, I decided to go back to school to further my education. I earned my Master’s degree in Media Entrepreneurship at American University in Washington D.C.. After graduate school, I worked for the University President’s office as a creative video producer. My work garnered attention from New York City and then my life took an incredible change.
That change occurred the day I was offered a position at BBDO. I was recruited by Jd Michaels, a Diversity executive at the time — and a mentor of mine to this very day. Jd believed in my talents, and saw the value I could bring to the agency, its teams, and its clients. Being given this opportunity, I knew I had the responsibility to make a difference and create an influential impact within and outside the agency, both in my role as a creative storyteller and as an advocate for the Deaf. My many passions and leadership skills have given me the ability to cultivate an innovative and inclusive environment at BBDO, in creative spaces during collaborations, and presently, at high-profile and large-scale speaking engagements.
"Being given this opportunity, I knew I had the responsibility to make a difference and create an influential impact within and outside the agency, both in my role as a creative storyteller and as an advocate for the Deaf."
I have always extended my time to hone my craft, with a focus on advocacy and social change via creative collaborations for both the Deaf and Black communities. This has included working with the likes of Tony Award nominee Lauren Ridloff and Harlem Globetrotter Crissa Jackson, among many others. I am very proud of my involvement with BBDO's International Women's Day campaign, "It's Time to Redefine," which generated millions of impressions worldwide, including calling Google's attention to remove the negative connotation the day after the launch. Most recently, I have teamed with Natasha Ofili, a Black Deaf actress, writer, and advocate who appeared and featured in Netflix’s “Politician” and Amazon Original’s “Undone”. Together the two of us produced and co-wrote “Am I Next?”, a video supporting Black Lives Matter that tells a story of the Black Deaf community's collective struggles, fear, and pain of the injustice with the law enforcement and systematic racism. All of these projects are consistent with the theme of pushing for change on different levels, transforming the way we tell stories centered around human truths, and challenging behaviors in the television, film, media, and digital platforms.
I want to continue to light fires for the younger generation of BIPOC with disabilities with new goals and heights, which led me to the incredible opportunity to be the advisor for Crip Camp x Adobe Fellowship. It is important to me because all of this advocacy work is not only to dismantle barriers, but to elevate equality and disability justice.
It all goes back to recognizing that I, along with so many others, share the same dreams to thrive in advertising and other creative industries. We want to generate incredibly impactful work and do great things to make a difference in this world. These dreams and all of the effort we put in to achieve them would pave roads for other people of color with disabilities to come through and reach new goals and heights. There is always an opportunity to elevate our collective spirit in the work we do, and with every accomplishment, we ask, "Is there anything that we can’t do?”
At the end of the day, I am here. As a Black Deaf Woman.