By: Kelly Streck
This month’s issue is rich. Black History Month, March is Women’s History Month and the theme from the Civic Circle is Voice. But February is also the month of love, of children sharing little squares of paper that say “I like you as much as chicken nuggets, and that’s a lot!” And I’ve committed to kindness in every issue this year. So read on and we’ll talk about it all; black history and women, love and kindness, chicken nuggets and even dinosaurs through many different voices.
The first voice that comes to mind, bringing tears to my eyes, was Amanda Gorman’s, reciting her poem The Hill We Climb at the 2020 Presidential inauguration in which the first African-American/Asian-American woman was sworn in as Vice President. Her poem was powerful, speaking of truth and hope. I choose her first and last lines to share: “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?…when the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Brave enough like Elizabeth Freeman, a slave in Massachusetts in 1780 who sued and won her freedom. She overheard a speech in the town square and possibly her owner’s home declaring that “mankind in a state of nature are equal, free and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, liberty and property.” Elizabeth and another slave sued for their freedom from their owner, Colonel Ashley and not only won, but established that slavery is not legal under the Massachusetts constitution.
Brave enough like Emma Gonzalez, the face of this month’s Points of Light Magazine and a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida who became an activist and advocate for gun control. Her 11 minute speech at the March for Our Lives was doubly brave for the 6 minutes she stood silent in front of the entire country, 6 minutes for the time it took the shooter to kill 17 people and wound 17 others.
Brave enough like Jenn Graham who started Civic Dinners after her dad unfriended her on Facebook. Highlighted in this month’s Points of Light Magazine, p. 6, Civic Dinners is “a community organizing platform designed to bring people together for conversations that matter…-to meet those outside of our usual bubbles, and open ourselves to perspectives that we may not agree with.” It takes courage to talk to someone who may not agree with you without setting out to burn the bridge. It’s much easier to talk to people who share our views and don’t challenge us, and easy to tell someone we don’t know and don’t agree with to go shave a goat. It’s hard to engage with a challenger. It’s uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. But as Dr. Melinda Joy Mingo says, “there is no comfort when we are in a growth zone, and no growth if we choose to remain in the place of comfort.”
And, finally, brave enough like 8 year-old Leo Shidla who wrote to NPR about the lack of dinosaur stories on the show All Things Considered. NPR heard Leo and responded, inviting him to speak to a paleontologist and ask her his most pressing dinosaur questions. Leo learned that he has a voice, people will listen, and today he’s using his voice for dinosaurs. Tomorrow, in 5 years, who knows?
Whether you’re using your voice for global, national, or familial issues, or to stand up for the person in line ahead of you, remember to be kind. Dylan Baca p. 22, an advocate for equality and a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe says “every time I approach a conversation with anyone, I treat them with the same kindness, decency and respect that I would want to be treated with. When we disagree on topics, I respect their views, explain why I disagree and allow time to share their viewpoint. It’s fine to disagree on the vision and issues, but find common ground in human decency’s fundamental principles of kindness and respect.” I know this is easier said then done. I wasn’t as respectful as I’d like to be when I was recently caught in the middle of a heated debate. But perhaps I could invite my family member to a Civic Dinner, or send a chicken nugget valentine to remind us we love each other overall, and help pave the pathway a little bit to help us both use our voices respectfully, and listen.