Voice is powerful! And with that power comes many responsibilities.
And in this moment, I’m feeling a responsibility to allow my voice in this blog post to be pulled in a slightly different direction than I had originally intended.
As I am writing this piece, news of the passing of the legendary Cicely Tyson is sweeping across the globe. And I can’t possibly publish this without mentioning her.
To call her legendary or iconic seems inadequate. Her Voice was a force. It was a gift to us all. And she executed that gift gracefully, masterfully, and purposefully. She was the embodiment of The Responsibility of Voice.
As I consider the 5 main responsibilities of Voice that we all should be implementing daily, I cannot help but reflect upon the way in which Ms. Tyson so eloquently used her platform to model them. But before I get into the list, let’s be sure you understand what Voice really is and why its force is so dynamic.
WHAT IS VOICE?
Voice is not just the audible sound made while speaking or singing. It represents the individual. Voice gives us a snapshot of the unique personality behind the sound.
In short…your Voice is your identity.
It’s who you are; how you think; what you feel, and how you carry yourself. Voice is not just the sound you create, it’s the self-portrait you paint.
It’s your one-of-a-kindness, your presence, your attitudes, and your expressions. How you walk, talk, laugh, and dress. Voice is your character. It’s your treatment of others and how you respond to life around you.
Voice is the vehicle through which YOU are delivered and communicated to the world.
Your identity can be conveyed through words, art, dance, or song. It can be communicated through your style of dress or how you walk into the boardroom. It can be how you design a home or manage a business. It’s how you carry yourself on social media, at work, and in the privacy of your home.
Voice is how you show up in the world. And how you show up in the world influences others. And that influence…that impact…has the power to either build or destroy, and thus, must be handled responsibly.
I am certain Ms. Tyson would agree.
Read what she said in her last interview with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King:
Whenever I’m offered a script, what I am interested in when I get it is why me…who was that character and why did they want me to play it. And when I get to the point where I feel like her skin has fitted my arm or my mind, then I know there’s something about her.
Y’all! That’s Voice! That’s identity! And Ms. Tyson understood that even connecting with the Voice of a fictional character required a responsible approach.
I can’t help but be intrigued by Ms. Tyson’s reference to the character’s skin. On episode 3 of my podcast, The Chrysalis Experience, my guest–vocalist, recording artist, songwriter, and youth educator-mentor–Mahoganee and I discussed The Responsibility of Voice. She, too, referenced skin as it relates to voice.
That is powerful! And Cicely Tyson’s skin was undoubtedly a profound element of her Voice. One that she used to successfully burn down barriers and blaze trails for Black and Brown girls who would follow in her footsteps. Wow! But that’s a separate blog post.
For now, let’s get into what I feel are the 5 main Responsibilities of Voice and practical ways to begin practicing them today.
5 RESPONSIBILITIES OF VOICE
The Responsibility to FEED Voice
In order to be healthy, our voices need to be nourished. A responsible voice is one that is cultivated and nurtured. Examine how you’re feeding your voice. What are you watching? Reading? Listening to? Who are you around? Who or what is influencing you? Are you praying and spending time with God? From where are you drawing inspiration?
Once you’ve taken an honest assessment, consider making changes. Start small. If you’re not doing so already, begin your day with a scripture devotion and prayer. Or perhaps pull away from the negativity on social media or the evening news and opt for some time spent reading something inspirational, like Ms. Tyson’s memoir Just as I Am, released just 2 days before her death.
Remember, what we take in is what we put out. We can’t ingest toxicity and then foolishly think our voices won’t become poisonous and destructive.
The Responsibility to SHARE Voice
Our voice is a representation of who we are. It’s an expression of our gifting. It’s our light. And we are supposed to share that light for all men to see. Sharing voice isn’t just about sharing our gifts and shining our lights for our own personal benefit. It’s also about shining our lights in dark situations. Sometimes it means standing for what’s right by standing up for others and advocating for those who are weaker. It’s about sharing our stories of tragedy and triumph in order to encourage and empower another. Sometimes it’s about teaching.
Commit to finding ways to share your unique voice daily. What are your gifts? What are your talents or strengths? Are you an artist? Draw something that conveys your voice…your light. Are you a gifted speaker? Speak up on behalf of a cause that needs attention. Perhaps you are an actor like Ms. Tyson. Follow her example and commit to using your platform for purpose.
The Responsibility to REST Voice
There is great value in knowing when to be seen and heard and when not to. Sometimes our voices need time to rest and recharge. At other times, we need the space in which to process information we’ve received. There’s a time for everything. A time to speak, as well as a time to be silent. In those times of silence, self-care is necessary.
This requires self-awareness and intentionality. Are you pulling away from all the busyness and noise of life? Or are you remaining in the center of all the chaos? Stepping away allows time to think…to connect with, sort through and deal with your thoughts and feelings. It’s gives you time to work through information before formulating and delivering a response. You have to know when you need a break and be purposeful about implementing that time of rest. A walk on the beach; quiet time alone; a nap; a pedicure or massage…all are ways to care for yourself while resting your voice.
The Responsibility to RESPECT Voice
Respecting voice means showing honor. We will not always agree with those around us, but it is imperative that we allow others the freedom to share their identities, thoughts, and ideas without harsh criticism and negativity. This requires effective and positive communication.
Respecting voice isn’t only about honoring the voices of others. It’s about showing honor to our own voices, as well. We respect our own voices through our actions and word choice. It’s portraying yourself positively and intelligently.
You can begin implementing this by considering how you respond to those who hold and express differing views than you. When confronted with this situation on social media, do you name call? Do you communicate your thoughts in a rude or disrespectful manner? Instead, treat the person with dignity. Thank them for sharing their opinion and respectfully share your viewpoint. If we could all begin listening and responding with respect, then we may find we have more in common than not.
The Responsibility to UNITE Voice
Again, Voice is powerful. And that power is intensified when we collaborate and join forces with other voices. We have the ability to make a significant impact and dynamic effect on the world around us if we would only come together in unity.
One way you can begin doing this is by finding voices that are similar to yours or believe in similar causes. Uncover ways to work together towards a common goal. This could be as simple as gathering with a small group and participating in a discussion on particular topic. Or perhaps lending your skills to a community project. Whatever the situation, seek out opportunities to bring your voice together with those of others. Your contribution could make all the difference.
Rest in perfect peace, Madame Cicely Tyson. The legacy of your Voice will generate power for years to come!
Thank you for using it responsibly!