I remember the first time my voice trembled, how thoughts inside my head seemed to swirl through my body, past a thumping heart and throaty vocal chords and a suddenly dry tongue.
I remember a fire rising up from my belly and the way my brain fought against its own set of should’s – of how I should act and what I should say and where I should and shouldn’t say what I needed to say.
I remember how an uprising bubbled within me, fighting alongside inner whispers of don’t you dare, how different versions of these truths first appeared in elementary school, then in middle school and high school and college.
I remember speaking up in classrooms and at dining room tables, in sanctuary pews and at staff meetings. And I remember how almost every time, if the injustice felt Really Big and Really Important, I fought back tears and wondered if sobs would betray me.
But I also remember how this isn’t just a thing of the past, but instead, it’s a thing of the present.
Maybe like you, I’m still finding my voice.
Because, oh, how I just want to be liked (and seen as brilliant, witty and hilarious, if I’m being honest with you). But learning to color outside the lines means learning to raise my voice, even if I’m scared, even if it’s going to decrease my chances of likability from strangers on the Internet.
For the love, man.
So, I raise my voice for those who continue to be marginalized and oppressed, even on my watch: for women, and for my black and brown brothers and sisters; for immigrants and refugees, for victims of domestic violence, and for those who identify as LGBTQ+. I raise my voice for all those who’ve been led to believe that they don’t belong, that they’re not enough, that they don’t qualify.
I raise my voice because humans are humans, beloved children of God who are welcomed at the table, just as they are, with what they have. No matter the human, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
When any one person experiences pain and injustice, we all experience pain and injustice, because we are bound together by the very stuff that makes us humans. And it is this deserved dignity of and for our collective humanity that makes me continue to speak up.
Of course, there are friends who’ve gone before me, who’ve taught me what it means to be brave and say what needs to be said, even if my voice trembles – even if people aren’t going to like what I have to say.
Kathy Khang is a friend and a mentor, and her new book, Raise Your Voice, which releases today, is everything a book about speaking up should be.
Because, here’s the deal: I’ve laughed with Kathy and I’ve shed tears alongside Kathy. I’ve listened to her stories on day-long bus rides up and down the East Coast, and I’ve received her wisdom when she’s had to raise her voice and speak hard truths to me.
I admire and I respect her more than she’ll ever know, and in that way, I can’t recommend her book more highly.
After all, the very essence of her humanity helped me to color outside the lines, and for that, my mouth can’t seem to say enough thank you’s to her as I exhort others to drink of her wisdom.
So, what do you say? You ready to raise your voice, too?
I’d love to get a copy of Raise Your Voice into your hands. Interested in reading Kathy’s new book? Leave a comment about raising YOUR voice and I’ll draw a winner on Friday, 8/3. Good luck!
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