How to use your voice

Do you know how to use your voice?

“Of course!” you answer, “I know how to talk.”

I understand your disbelief in my question. No disrespect intended.  If you are reading this post, you are probably able to communicate, too.

But that doesn’t answer my question.

I’m asking if you know how to use your voice.

Your “voice” is your power. 

Talking is your ability to speak.  Important, yes, but it’s not your voice.

I repeat: your voice is your power.

What do I mean?

You can use your voice for many purposes:

To express happiness.

To express anger.

To express your views about an issue or event.

To demand change.

Your voice can be used in many different contexts ranging from communicating with another person to expressing your views to your government.

THIS is your power.

Here's an example:

Recently, after a game a tennis, I overheard a group of women talking about a few difficulties that they had been experiencing. One woman had just returned from a trip where she flew to Hawaii. She wasn’t happy with the pre-boarding process that didn’t allow elderly people to pre-board like families with young children were allowed.  She felt that people over the age of 75 should be able to pre-board. (She was 76.) She wanted to express this view to the flight staff but she declined to say anything. Instead she chose to struggle during the general boarding process.

Another woman is caring for an adult disabled adult child and was upset that there were no facilities available so that she could to handle her son’s personal care activities. She felt that the mall where she shopped should provide facilities for disabled adults and their caregivers while they shopped.  She plans to write a letter to the store manager about this situation.

On the radio, I listened to a story about a woman who is a member of parliament in Australia. She is caring for her 11-week old baby. As a working mother, she wanted facilities that would allow her to work AND care for her daughter.  She decided to breastfeed her baby during a parliamentary session. 

Let's review the situations:

In the first situation on the plane, the woman didn’t use her voice. (Kept quiet on the plan. Complained to friends.)

In the second situation in the mall, the woman is planning to use her voice. (Went home and cared for her son. Angered enough to write a letter? Perhaps.)

In the third situation in parliament, the woman is definitely using her voice.  (Breastfed in parliament. Wow!)

So, I ask again: do you know how to use your voice?

Everyone experiences situations of inconvenience, insensitivity and insecurity.  Some people experience unsafe situations. We might even witness these situations happening to others.

These are times when we all need to use our voice—for ourselves and for others!

Rememberinghistory.com is committed to honoring the people who have used their voices to change the world and supporting others who want to use their voice.

One of the most famous people that we remember who used her voice was Rosa Parks. On that fateful night on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, she used her voice to express discontent with segregation.  How? She refused to give up her seat on the bus to another passenger who was white.

And the African American citizens of Montgomery also used their voices to support Rosa Parks and their discontent with segregation. How? They refused to ride the Montgomery buses for 381 days! This was the iconic Montgomery bus boycott, which spearheaded the modern civil rights movement.

Marching is another way that we can use our voices—collectively or individually.

On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was one of the most memorable and biggest “voices” of the 20th century. And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a huge voice on that day. (Yes, your voice can be used to make a speech, too!) More than 250,000 people of all races came together to march, speak, sing and show unity in the demand for equality. The result: the Civil Rights Act of 1964!

Every voice can make a difference.

Also, in 1963, William Lewis Moore used his voice in a series of single-man marches throughout the southern United States to protest segregation. He wore a sandwich board that said “Equal Rights for all” and presented letters to governors asking them to end racial segregation.  One letter demanded of Mississippi governor Ross Barnett, “Be gracious and do more than is immediately demanded of you.”

Marching + letter = powerful voice

Your voice can sing and write. Let’s look at a song that changed generations of African Americans.

The Black American National Anthem (formerly the Negro National Anthem) by James Weldon Johnson is titled: “Lift Every Voice and Sing!” First written as a poem then turned into a song, Johnson used this song to encourage African Americans to use their power to fight for freedom and liberty. Just reading words can move people tears and determination:

 

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,

Till earth and heaven ring.

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise,

High as the list'ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on till victory is won.

James Weldon Johnson’s words gave voice to a movement in 1900 that continues today.

People around the world have been using their voices to end apartheid (Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko), to fight lynching (Ida B. Wells, Harry T. Moore), to demand independence (Mahatma Gandhi, Kwame Nkrumah), to demand equality (Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony), to demand the right to vote (Emily Davison, Sojourner Truth), to show the horrors of slavery (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Solomon Northrup), to help enslaved Africans get to freedom (Harriet Tubman) and so many other voices that have changed the world.

Many Americans have already started using their voices to express their views about immigration policies and practices, police violence, unsafe environmental practices, economic disparity and other issues affecting the country as a whole and as individuals.

People are finding their voices again.

And they are making history.

How are you using your voice?

It matters. Use it wisely.

If you want ideas about using your voice, click here.