May 11, 2017
You have a voice: Use it!

Do you know how to use your voice?

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

I understand the misunderstanding and your disbelief in my question. No disrespect intended.

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?

I mean that you can use your voice in many ways:

To express happiness.

To show 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.

But many people don’t use their voice.

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 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 child. She was upset that there were no facilities available so that she could to handle her son’s personal care needs at the shopping mall. She felt that the mall should provide facilities for disabled adults and their caregivers while they shopped. She plans to write a letter to the mall manager about this situation.

On the radio, I listened to a story about Australian Senator Larissa Waters. She is also mother to her 11-week old baby. As a working mother, she wanted facilities that would allow her both to work AND care for her daughter. She decided to breastfeed her baby during a federal parliamentary session.

Let’s review how each woman used her voice:

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 store, 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 Senator 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 voices—for ourselves and for others! is committed to honoring the people who have used their voices to change the world.

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—either 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 one of the loudest voices 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 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 write and sing. Let’s look at a song that changed generations of African Americans.

The Black American National Anthem (formerly 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 everywhere have been using their voices to change the world:

To end apartheid (Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko);

To fight lynching (Ida B. Wells);

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);

To help enslaved Africans escape to freedom (Harriet Tubman);

To stop wars (Jerry Rubin–Vietnam War);

And so many other voices have changed the world.

This year, Americans have 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 people as individuals.

People are finding their voices again–and they are using their voices.

And they are making history.

I ask again: how do you use your voice?

Think about it.

Your voice matters. Use it wisely.

PS: Click here to learn more ways to use your voice.


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