Something that I have always loved about words is how they have the power to create these powerful images that you can see almost as clearly as if they are right in front of you. That’s something that drew me to poetry – having the ability to string words together like stars in a constellation or seashells on a necklace. And I’m sure both of those descriptions were something you could picture without any effort.
But what I have realized lately, in the era of this global Black Lives Matter movement, is that words have more than just the power to create images. They have the power to create change. Think about it. Your name on a petition – two words. Signs calling for justice, for equal treatment, for recognizing black lives as human lives – those are words, and they are powerful. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it, that putting together a collection of sounds and letters can have the impact to spark a worldwide movement. George Floyd said three words as he was murdered that have ignited so much protest to make sure police brutality ends now – “I can’t breathe.”
I am the first to admit that I have never done much in the way of activism before. I have friends who would consistently post on their social medias or attend marches, but I never thought about contributing like that. And that’s my privilege as a white female to be able to have that choice. The past few weeks have really made me think long and hard about that privilege, and I am finding it staring back at me in almost everything I do. I think that recognizing your privilege is the first step you can take to causing change. From there, it’s a matter of educating yourself, learning, listening, and amplifying black voices because their words have been drowned out in the past. Personally, I have taken to listening to podcasts that have really made me think about situations I never needed to think about and micro-aggressions that I never realized existed.
What we all need to realize, however, is that Black Lives Matter is not just a social media trend. Post a black square on a Tuesday, mute yourself for a week to listen, and share the same Instagram stories over and over again – those are steps in the right direction, but they cannot end after that one week. I do think that activism can take many different forms. In my own experience, I know that I don’t like to talk on the phone, so I am not calling government officials to plead my case for change. I am educating myself, helping to spread resources to educate others, and trying my best to amplify black voices and creators.
As a writer, I know the power of words and the impact they can have. As a white writer, I know I have the privilege to be listened to more than my black counterparts. I want to be able to use my voice and my writing to spread the message and cause change. I have pledged to myself and my followers on Instagram that I will continue to spread resources and awareness in my Stories as often as I can. I want to start to highlight black writers of the past and present, sharing their words and their experiences with my community.
Words can be beautiful, yes, but they can be powerful. Why waste that power when you have the opportunity and the privilege to be able to use it?