The Quiet Voice- Part 2

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My Dear Daughter,

The other day I wrote you a letter about voice, and here I am again writing you another one – still on the topic of voice. I guess, I can’t help but think about the voices that we have – and how they have been silenced.

It is the start of Black History Month and as I reflect on the many voices, black ones in particular, that have been silenced through fear and oppression, I begin to think about ways that we can liberate our voices.

I remember, sometime ago – when I was much younger, I was “out and about” and I ran into a situation where someone made derogatory remarks to me. It was very upsetting and afterwards I was angry with myself for not responding – I said nothing. Later, I thought of all the bright, smart clever things that I could have said – but by then it was too late. I had thrown away my voice.

We may throw away our voices for many different reasons:
· when we can’t think of an appropriate response quickly enough;
· when we are afraid that we might look silly or be attacked for responding;
· when we feel that we don’t have enough information, we don’t know what to say or how to say it; or
· when we feel that we are alone in the situation or we do not have allies around to rely on.

However, the reality is that I allowed fear to steal my voice. I made a resolve to be brave and develop the courage to find and use my voice. I remembered that Maya Angelou said “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” I also realized that I needed to have tools that would help me develop the courage and confidence to have an effective voice. Once I made that realization, I began to gather tools for both finding my voice and using my voice – now people commend me for speaking out.

So, let me share my 5 essential tools with you:

1. The first and most import tool that we must have, is one of Self-reflection. Self-reflections helps us know and appreciate ourselves – both our strengths and our weaknesses. It helps us evaluate our actions, activities and interests, determine what we value and why we do the things we do. Self-knowledge holds the key to having an effective and authentic voice because it allows us to understand who we are and what we stand for.

2. The tool of education is also an important tool to have, because we must first educate ourselves before we dare to educate others. Education comes to us in many forms – formal and informal. There are some who say that informal or experiential education is the most lasting because it covers our entire lifetime. We must use knowledge to engage with the issues that interest us and think critically about the communities and societies within which we find ourselves. Educating ourselves helps us hone our message and have the confidence to present an informed voice. It gives us facts and the assurance that we know what we want to say.

3. Although we may know what we want to say, we also need to know how to use our voice in an effective and productive manner. We should learn the art of using our voice in an authentic way that fits our personal style and rests easy in our heart. It may mean taking a course or two (even from on-line sources), or finding mentors and associates who can and will help us present effectively. The third tool is therefore one of process – knowing how to be genuine, effective and sensitive to the audience we are trying to reach.

4. Of course, to find our audience and those support structures and allies that we need, we will need the tool of networking. When we feel alone and afraid, our courage may be diminished, so we need allies that we can turn to for support. When we become part of a sharing circle, willing to exchange knowledge with others, we become engaged with allies and potential allies. The tool of networking helps us broaden our base and allows us to find allies and like-minded supports.

5. We each have different voices, and different ways to use them; self-knowledge helps us perceive the most appropriate way to use our voice. There is an old saying that “if the only tool that you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” so we need to make sure that we use different voices to deliver our message. We need to know when to use our “soft” voice, and when to use our “loud” voice. We should have a tool of flexibility and perception and become aware of the conditions under which our different voices can be effective.

If we use the five tools in our tool-box we will be confidently courageous!

We will know when and how to use our voice, we will use our voice as a matter of choice, when we need to – and when we think it is appropriate. There will be times when we choose not to use our voice – not because we are afraid, but because we want to make a positive impact. Having choice makes our voice powerful.

Our voice must be “authentic“ and can be effectively expressed in different ways – loud or soft, big or small, written or spoken. Our voice can be expressed in many ways.

Although we express through writing or speaking, we can also express ourselves through “the Arts” – through music, dance, song, drama, art, etc. In addition, how we carry ourselves – stance, demeanour and dress – can also be a powerful expression of our voice. So my dear, walk forward with confidence and courage, and as always – take care of yourself.

G’ma Trica

Pat Wright, B.Sc., M.Ed. is an educator, community activist and diversity trainer with a keen interest in people, places and things. Pat has been the Toastmasters Area Governor and was recognized in the first "Who’s Who in Black Canada – 2002 edition”.

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