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Finding Your Voice

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” ~Karen Kaiser Clark

Part of my writing over the years has been about wandering out loud.  I’ve expressed more words than I ever thought imaginable, stumbling along, learning lessons (sometimes several times), and finding inspiration in as many places as possible.

In 2012, I began a new chapter in my career: as solopreneur.  I am turning pages in this book.  Things I’ve put into the universe are coming back to me in beautiful ways.  And I am continuing to find my voice.

Someone called me an inspiration a few years ago and it tripped me out.  Someone told me I should write a book once and it made me laugh.  I suppose when you’re the one on the journey, it’s hard to see the effect you have on others who have not been by your side the whole time.  And a few things happened recently that caught my breath – those touching expressions of gratitude for my work that make up for all the hard times – and gave me the extra push I needed to keep going, confidently, in the direction of my dreams.

And it made me think of those many women who have inspired me on my path to find and develop my voice.  So, rather than paraphrase, I wanted to share with you a portion of the Dream in Color African American Heritage Project talk that Maya Angelou gave...

What advice would you give to students to help them find their creative voice?

I would say to young people and to old people or upper middle age, that we have seriously crippled ourselves and our children by telling people, “don’t try all these different things. You’ll become a jack of all trades and a master of none”.  That’s ridiculous. You can become the master of everything. The best you can be.

You know, we don’t understand talent. We don’t understand electricity. We probably use about one millionth of one billionth percent of the electricity around us. However, you can plug into two little holes in the wall, or three. You can light up a church, a cathedral, a synagogue, a temple. You can light up a surgery. You can light up a…..a bedroom. Or you can electrocute a person strapped in a chair. Electricity makes no demands. It says if you are intelligent you will use me intelligently. If you’re not, you will use me destructively. But I’m here.

Talent is like that. If you study the craft and you like…think you’d like to paint, study the craft, respect it, and then get the best materials you can afford and paint. You will do a good job. You’re not going to become maybe John Biggers or Matisse or Van Gogh, or Romare Bearden, but you can do a good job. Well, I believe that for all the arts. I mean I…might not be able to sing because of my voice. I might not have the voice, but if voice was in it Ray Charles and Willie Nelson wouldn’t even be listened to. So, it is something other than that which has made certain singers beloved. I think I would say to young men and women study. First, study yourself. See who you really want to be and as soon as you say, see it, say it, put it out into the universe. I want to be a dancer. I want to be a mathematician. I want to be an inventor. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a writer. You must say it, and then go about the business of becoming it. Study it….and bring all your energies to it. Sooner or later someone will say, “Are you the kid…over there, I think I heard you speak one time. Well, you know, I have an opening in my school for someone just like you, or at my plant, or at my job”. You see?

Who inspired you to find your creative voice?

I’m still being inspired to find my creative voice. I…I find that I love being a human being and I accept the statement made by Terence, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me”. The statement was made in Latin, (Homo sum). It is interesting that the statement was made by Terence, and when you look in the encyclopedia you see under Terence, with one ‘r’, Terentius Afer. He was an African, a slave. He was sold to a Roman Senator. The Senator freed him. He became the most popular playwright in Rome. Five of his plays and that statement have come down to us from 154 BC. “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me”. If you ingest any portion of that you are liberated...once you accept that you are a human being then you are free. You are liberated. Never again to be kept into this little mean little capsule where you’re only black, or you’re only white, or you’re only a male or you’re a female, or you’re only an American, or you’re only this tall, or you’re only that short. I mean as far as I can see it life loves the liver of it. They have to live it. Take life by the lapels and say, “I’m with you kid. I’m with you. Let’s go.” They all….are going to live about that long as far as I see it, and I think we should so live that we will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity and ignorance, and in dying we can each say, all my conscious life and energies have been devoted to the most noble cause in the world, deliberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own."

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