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25 November 2018


Some nights, reading, I am intensely lonely, wishing someone was sitting next to me in bed, writing his own work, painting, planning, sculpting the world in the images he sees—manifesting his own voice, however he does it. Other times, I hear that author voice like she is my best friend or godmother, or grandmother… like I know her heart intimately. But then other nights, I think of the old ways. Old ways everywhere, Lakota, Catalan, Viking or Tibetan, when people sat in circles on dark, long, cold nights and told stories around fires. Where words breathed life, and children didn’t have to close their eyes to see the wolves and snakes and leopards in the stories weaving the histories of gods and humans and spiders. Words took form and breathed out into the world, made Anansi and Iktomi dance before us.

I think of the old Bible stories, how God breathed life into Eve and Adam. How Christians and Muslims blew the noses off Egypt’s great stone Pharaohs and Gods—to take their breath and their power. Breath and voice are entwined like truth and wisdom. They carry each other, they harmonize, they manifest. They are power.

I am not the only one speaking of taking back my voice. Far from it. I am far from the only one screaming to take back our voices. I am within a cacophony of women and men I hear rising in the media, on the train, during work conversations about art, politics, religion and education echoing Paulo Freire when he shouted out “persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor.” And Freire got it right, because the machine doesn’t try to take our voices from us only by leaving the ability to read off our student bill of rights, or by denying formerly incarcerated, Native and Black votes. They do it insidiously with gmail’s new predictive composition feature, and Stitchfix sending you clothes they think you should wear. Gmail and Stitchfix may seem innocuous, but I think that is because we are already so accustomed to capitalism telling us who we are, what we value, and who we should be. We have been bought, and sold. Are we aware that we gave up our voices long ago?

At first, they took them—separating tribal Africans so they lost their languages, cutting hair and abducting First Nations children to schools, making women property. They took our cultural languages so they could take our souls. Souls travel in stories, songs and words. And our souls know it.

So, why are we all saying it?
Why are we all feeling it?
Why are we all talking about taking back our voices?

Because our voices carry our souls. They are how we deliver ourselves out into the world. They are where we take our soul out from deep inside and put its power into the world. This voice is how the soul’s purpose makes it into the world to do its work, to realize the dream. The work our souls were put here to accomplish.

And the machine. The machine all around us would stop this. Has worked to stop it, to bulldoze it, to raze it and burn it. Because if we are free the machine dies. If we are our souls in the world, the machine cannot own, cannot steal, cannot rape, cannot control and destroy.

That is why they always come for the voice, the language, the stories. If they take them, our ancient souls stay caught inside us. Cannot work their magic on the world. Cannot change the world and pull it up into its next life. This is why the words are taken first, and why we are all screaming to take our voices back. Because we have souls that are made to love and change and grow ourselves and the world, and they must be heard. It is their very, only purpose.

When I saw Congressperson Deb Haaland post this, a new hope came up in me:

Newsweek quotes her as saying, “Congress has never heard a voice like mine.” But Ms. Haaland says, “it is such a privilege to be a voice to so many who thought they were forgotten.” She takes up the voice of her people. She takes up a bigger, deeper truth that is her own—and also ours. She takes up a truth that can be made manifest in the dark of night around the popping fire, because the voices are shared. The voices are a chorus, they are a shared humanity’s purpose. Because she remembers her people’s old way: the way that made many individuals one people. Because that truth is a deeper one, rooted in the wisdom of a people, of a long-lived people and our shared humanity.

They took our voices—the machine, the corporations, the power-holders—to silence us, but deeper, to take our souls. To dehumanize us. Language binds us, stories bind us, words bridge us, bring us closer, are the breath before a kiss and the moment of insight before genius. Words live in the fifth chakra, the throat, where we bring who we are out into the world, to make ourselves known, to walk our path on this earth.

One voice, one vision; but a thousand voices, one vision—this is where words walk from our souls into the world. Where the words stand up and become our new world. Where we become our new world. The truth is we are one humanity. The wisdom is in making that known. Take back your voice, not only because it’s yours, but because it’s the only way to live the truth of unity with all living things.