This post is a reflection and appreciation of a person who has had a tremendous influence on my life, someone I now realize helped to shape my personality and ability to express myself. I write this because every day on the news, another person of color is violently murdered. Like the tragedy of Philando Castile, each day a community member is ripped away because of racism, hate and violence, fear and guns.
Who are you taking away? I write this, and I hope you'll share it, because I owe the way I listen and speak to an African-American women, Mrs. Oglesby. I'll admit, I'm a little vain about my voice. No, I can't carry a tune, but I can speak loudly and clearly to a class, calmly and patiently to an individual, crazily and happily to plants and pets and objects. Like most academics, I am guilty of enjoying the sound of my voice when I'm holding forth on topics dear to my heart, but in this case, I will admit to that vanity because my voice is not just an accident or a gift, it was shaped by a skillful teacher.
The figure in my life that literally shaped me was my beautiful speech therapist, Mrs. Oglesby. When I was missing some crucial front teeth as a first grader, I had the privilege of getting to spend a couple of hours each week with her and some other lucky students. We had no idea we were getting additional attention because we couldn't pronounce words properly, getting to spend time with this tall lovely woman was like play. We colored worksheets, we sang songs about Sammy the Snake, we had one on one time with her when we practiced sounds and words, and at the end, she would take our hand and pour m&m candies into it, making us laugh the whole time. I had no idea she was teaching me to listen, to pay attention to how taking a breath before I spoke would change what I said or how I said it...I just remembered I adored getting to spend time with this kind and elegant person.
I get up and talk in front of City Councils. I use my voice to welcome new students to a large school. To give directions to a stranger, or to ask questions I need answers.
And this morning, people standing up for their First Amendment right to assemble and protest are in jail.
What can we do help?
Use social media to support Black Lives Matter. Speak up.
Be in community. Whether your place of worship is a church, a garden, a choir, get yourself there and raise your voice.