Standing Tall and Speaking Loud
Speaking up for what we believe in has never been an easy feat. Standing by our values, beliefs, and mores can be risky; History has shown us time and time again speaking publicly against injustices can put us in danger. Fear and all, so many of us jump into the void of the unknown that is self-advocacy. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which we celebrate every third Monday in January, is a powerful reminder of why self-advocacy can ultimately be for the world.
Dr. King fought for civil rights and advocated nonviolence even in the face of violence, oppression, and ignorance. Even while he was facing threats of death he never allowed another persons aggression to derail his ultimate goal: achieving equal rights for all through nonviolence. Dr. King changed the course of civil rights in the United States and his legacy of nonviolent protests, teamwork, and using his voice as an agent for change lives on.
Advocacy is public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. Speaking openly about a cause or policy that you’re passionate about can be daunting and scary; If there are people or groups that oppose you, advocating in front of others can even be overwhelming. For us at Childhood Victories, we have found that self-advocacy was the beginning of our journey to change the way the world views sexual violence and survivors.
Before we could get up in front of thousands of students and advocate for resilience, empowerment, and change we had to do it for ourselves first. These are three steps we took to self-advocacy:
1. Identify the Unsafe Secrets and Talking About it
We began by deciding to relieve ourselves of the burden of unsafe secrets. I don’t know how we could have encouraged students and staff to have the courage to tell if we ourselves were not “walking the walk”.
2. Reaching out for Support in the Community and Connecting to Others
By asking for help from friends, families, and counselors we began to understand that change was needed not only within our own lives but the lives of people around us. Wading through our own coping mechanisms and finding new patterns of healthy behaviors definitely helped our selves but we began to see a bigger picture: those who struggled with the same trauma we endured need these resources too.
3. Speak openly and advocate for change outside of yourself
Finally, we decided we wanted our journey of self-advocacy to reach others. We wanted to make the path of self-advocacy easier on others than it had been on us. Speaking in schools, colleges, and with community groups we hope to see change that was independent of us. Our advocacy, which began with our own trauma and healing, is now spreading to help others around the world.
Whatever it is that you have endured, struggled with, or told yourself, “that just isn’t right” is the beginning of your path to self-advocacy. Dr. King lived with oppression, violence, and inequality. To fulfill his goal and advocate for a better world he demanded change on a level outside of his personal experience. When he advocated for change in civil rights, he ultimately changed the world by using his voice.
We want to honor that legacy. We want to encourage children to find their voice. In a perfect world, children would never have to advocate for themselves cease they would never be mistreated, abused, or taken advantage of. Since we live in an imperfect world, we will keep teaching children to use their voice as an agent for change. The shift may start with helping individuals, but that change does not stop with them. For once we advocate for ourselves, we inspire others to do the same and raise their voice.
is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hi it’s Victor, welcome to another Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you so much for being here with me today. This is a special episode of the BSH Journey because today is Martin Luther King Jr. day, and this is a very important day. We all know what he stood for. We all know what he did to change the world. And yesterday I was listening to excerpts from his speeches, and I’m just so inspired because he was someone who shared his voice. And I recall many, many years ago when I started presenting in schools, he actually inspired me to create a program called My Dreams, where I actually talk to kids about their dreams and what some of their goals. I always used to put up Martin Luther King Jr. quotes because he really, really inspired me.
And what he taught me was we can all dream, but know that it’s not always going to be easy to obtain the dream. There is going to be adversity along the way and we all know that he had a lot of that in his life. But today I want to talk about the impact of what I believe was one of the most important tools he had and that was his voice. His voice changed the world. When you heard him speak, everyone listened. What would have happened if he never had the courage to use his voice? And that’s what today’s episode is all about. I really think the lesson is the very fact that if you want something to happen in your life, you have to first start by sharing that dream or sharing what is on your mind. And I think as adults we have to advocate for our children because I know growing up I never really had a voice. I was never asked, “What do you think Victor?” No one ever asked me that because I was just a kid.
I think it’s time that we really understand that children deserve that voice. And I think we need to advocate for them and help them create the courage to share, to share when something isn’t right in their life and not to keep it locked up inside. What would have happened if Martin Luther King Jr. was afraid to put it out there? I’m telling you, it’s very powerful.
So today, as I think about Martin Luther King Jr. I want to go out and share my voice with the world and I get the opportunity to do that every day. So with that being said, please share your voice. And remember, everyone, younger children, older children, we all have the right to be seen and heard. Use that voice. Please share this with your friends and family. Thank you so much and have an amazing day.