Del Williams


Truth Demands We Find Our Voice

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One of the things that stayed with me long after I left my family was the inability to speak up for myself without getting frustrated because I couldn’t say exactly what I wanted to convey. I could do it in writing, I later learned, but not verbally. I had no problem sticking up for others, but could not give myself that same courtesy or compassion. 

I remember once I was in 7th or 8th grade and I was getting ready for gym, and was taking far too long. Some girls came in and were banging on lockers and such and since I was in there the teacher, Ms. Goldberg, thought I was doing it too. No matter what I said, they did not believe me. I remember the anger I felt at being blamed for something I didn’t do. 

Sadly, this was a thing that was blown out of proportion because it was a school where Black students were bused in, and we were not wanted there. Let me add this school was not in the deep South, but in Queens, NY and it was the late 70s. So my two years at Elizabeth Blackwell, JHS was filled with Black students being unfairly punished, suspended, given failing grades, and more. It was made clear to me that truth did not matter as much as the color of my skin.

I learned not to speak up since it didn’t matter. I saw my grades from that time decades later, and how on earth I ever made it to high school is a mystery. My grades suffered for being in a hostile environment for two years. A place where except when things went wrong, I was invisible.

My point of telling about that time is that, we have to instill in our children that their voices matter. The  uprisings in various cities around the Country is complicated, but one reason is that they are not heard, and are trying to get someone to listen.

After the whole “Dark Side of the Light Chaser” thing I noticed I could speak up. But I also noticed I was more selective on when I did. Or, I didn’t feel the necessity of it for whatever reason. I spent far too much of my life being silent when my voice was needed.

I should have learned how to communicate so that I was heard. I was able to do it for others, so clearly the capability was there, but low self-esteem and feeling devalued and dismissed held me back.

I remember when Oprah did her last show, one of the first things she spoke about we that every person she interviewed asked the same question, “Was that alright.?” She explained that they needed to be assured that they had been heard.

When I was watching a multi-part documentary about Tatler Magazine, Kate Reardon, the Editor, was giving a speech to some students. She stressed the need of making sure we listen so that people are heard.

My days of silence are long gone. I have my voice, and I am not afraid to use it for myself as well as for others. If ever there was a time for people to use their voice, we seem to be in it.

We have a choice between sitting there and taking the blame for things we didn’t do, or actually fight our corner, not to be right, but because truth and the voiceless demand we speak.
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