Tag Archives: learning from each other

The Danger of Silence _ The One-Many (OM) Project

“It was the three things we lived by,” said Oisín: “the truth in our hearts, the strength in our hands, and fulfilment in our tongues.”

Next up in the One-Many Project is Clint Smith’s TED Talk, “The Danger of Silence.” From TED.com: “We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Watch the talk!

I’ve included the transcript in entirety as it’s short, beautifully written, and to the point.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1968 speech where he reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

As a teacher, I’ve internalized this message. Every day, all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide and war. In the classroom, I challenge my students to explore the silences in their own lives through poetry. We work together to fill those spaces, to recognize them, to name them, to understand that they don’t have to be sources of shame. In an effort to create a culture within my classroom where students feel safe sharing the intimacies of their own silences, I have four core principles posted on the board that sits in the front of my class, which every student signs at the beginning of the year: read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.

And I find myself thinking a lot about that last point, tell your truth. And I realized that if I was going to ask my students to speak up, I was going to have to tell my truth and be honest with them about the times where I failed to do so.

So I tell them that growing up, as a kid in a Catholic family in New Orleans, during Lent I was always taught that the most meaningful thing one could do was to give something up, sacrifice something you typically indulge in to prove to God you understand his sanctity. I’ve given up soda, McDonald’s, French fries, French kisses, and everything in between. But one year, I gave up speaking. I figured the most valuable thing I could sacrifice was my own voice, but it was like I hadn’t realized that I had given that up a long time ago. I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn’t meant to be anyone’s conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn’t say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence, unaware that validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence. When Christian was beat up for being gay, I put my hands in my pocket and walked with my head down as if I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t use my locker for weeks because the bolt on the lock reminded me of the one I had put on my lips when the homeless man on the corner looked at me with eyes up merely searching for an affirmation that he was worth seeing. I was more concerned with touching the screen on my Apple than actually feeding him one. When the woman at the fundraising gala said “I’m so proud of you. It must be so hard teaching those poor, unintelligent kids,” I bit my lip, because apparently we needed her money more than my students needed their dignity.

We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t. Silence is the residue of fear. It is feeling your flaws gut-wrench guillotine your tongue. It is the air retreating from your chest because it doesn’t feel safe in your lungs. Silence is Rwandan genocide. Silence is Katrina. It is what you hear when there aren’t enough body bags left. It is the sound after the noose is already tied. It is charring. It is chains. It is privilege. It is pain. There is no time to pick your battles when your battles have already picked you.

I will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision. I will tell Christian that he is a lion, a sanctuary of bravery and brilliance. I will ask that homeless man what his name is and how his day was, because sometimes all people want to be is human. I will tell that woman that my students can talk about transcendentalism like their last name was Thoreau, and just because you watched one episode of “The Wire” doesn’t mean you know anything about my kids. So this year, instead of giving something up, I will live every day as if there were a microphone tucked under my tongue, a stage on the underside of my inhibition. Because who has to have a soapbox when all you’ve ever needed is your voice?

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Inclusive Spaces Where Disability Is Simply Forgotten

Jim LeBrecht is a highly successful businessman.  He also has a disability.  You can find him on facebook here: ! <https://www.facebook.com/JimLeBrecht/posts/10152206635136182

 

<https://www.facebook.com/JimLeBrecht/posts/10152206635136182>

 

I resonated so much with his post that I’ve reblogged it below.  In this increasingly global world where inclusion is more often than not bantered about in business and professional circles, it is astounding how often disability is simply left out of the picture.  , Comments welcome.  Jim’s words follow. Unfortunately I have spent 40 minutes trying to make a blockquote with a screen reader to no avail, so just imagine that the text is quoted. Yes, this is ironically an issue of inclusion happening right here, right now.

I’ve started a conversation with a friend and came up with this thought that I want to share:

When you tout your workshop as being inclusive so that you can spread your knowledge about being an entrepreneur to underserved communities and you hold it up a flight of stairs, then you do more harm than good. Especially when you tell the group there that it’s more expensive to find a place that is wheelchair accessible. The attendees, some of whom will build businesses won’t see the qualified and smart folks with disabilities in the class with them. They won’t meet the people that have to improvise everyday and are good at problem solving on the spot. They didn’t have me there, the guy using the wheelchair that has run his own business for 18 years and has been a manager for over 30 years.

When you make an educational video that shows the harm of stereotypes in your profession and you don’t include one person with a disability, you tacitly say that it’s not important to include those with disabilities. Someone forgot to include us in the script. Why does that happen? The filmmaker is a wonderful, talented and very progressive person. I love that filmmaker. Will that person hate me for posting this if they see it?

When you build your urban farm but don’t put in a ramp to your offices, as much as you say you are for inclusion, I only see it as a slap in the face and a barrier for people like me to participate. I’m not wanted there.

What have we been fighting for all these years if the excuse is that they forgot to include us? Or that the money for access was better spent elsewhere.

It’s not hard how to figure out how to include us in your world. Think about how you want to be treated and then apply it to us. I’d like to sit in a wonderful location when I go to the movies. Well, put the handicapped seating there, not in the back of the theater where the latecomers come and go and the lobby noise destroys the film. (A special shout out to the wonderful Castro Theater).

 

Raise the money for the ramp so that you can afford to pay for a ramp and the health coverage of your employees.

 

Look around and see who is underrepresented and ask yourself why. And then ask how you can change the status quo.

 

I want my lawyer to understand my world. Will he or she understand if they don’t have a disability or of there is no one on their staff that can provide the needed perspective of my community? Are the disabled part of the bar association’s plan for improving diversity?

 

I want my doctor to be smarter about my disability because they have had to live with one themselves.

 

And I want to stop living in fear that if I ask for too much that I’ll be shut out of working at a facility that can make my career better than ever. I’ll be asking this later this week at a meeting. And it worries me. Is my talent and contribution going to be seen as a bigger asset than the cost of making a screening room a place where I can sit in the middle of the theater?

 

This fear won’t go away until people stop looking at inclusion as a problem to be dealt with. And I’m not saying that it should be done because it’s the right thing. It’s not about morality. It’s about doing the smart thing. It’s about being willing to invite everyone into your world so that you can both learn from each other. Can we look at inclusion as something positive where you find you are unearthing wonderful people and fresh ideas?

 

As my friend Lawrence Carter-Long <https://www.facebook.com/LawrenceCarterLong>  says, “Nothing Without Us.