I’m known for being outspoken. In my friends group, I’m the person who’s gonna ask the tough questions, give the side-eye, and accidentally flash the “that-don’t-make-no-sense” face before I even think to apply my poker face.
Internally, I am compelled to speak out, catapulted to raise my voice in whatever space I find myself. It’s my superpower.
And my Achilles' heel.
This has been true of me since I was a teenager.
I didn’t always know how to do it well, though. Sometimes I lacked tact, or wisdom, or love. Sometimes I had to apologize, if only for my attitude or the timing.
Learning to speak up is an art as much as it is a sometimes act of courage, even for those of us who embrace it like iced lattes on a scorched summer day.
I met author Kathy Khang a couple of months ago, on the eve of the release of her new book. We were Facebook friends with dozens of friends in common and meeting for the first time in real life (IRL). She shared about her time working as a university chaplain, about motherhood, and life as a writer and yoga instructor.
I shared about my time as a university chaplain (with the same organization), about my convoluted journey to becoming a writer, entertainer, and writing instructor.
We were sipping our chai teas for less than an hour when she challenged me — When are you going to write your book?
It was as if my therapist had asked me a question that I was not prepared to answer. It also seemed that the question wasn’t as much about timing as it was about courage.
I scrambled for an answer and then said, semi-confidently, “This fall. I’m going write my book proposal this fall.”
I felt relief saying it out aloud, committing to it before another. I also felt a tinge of fear.
Then Kathy whipped out her phone.
I didn’t need to ask her what she was doing. I knew she was setting a reminder to follow-up with me, cuz that’s what university chaplains do. They hold you accountable.
In that singular interaction, Kathy challenged me to raise my voice and vowed to hold me accountable. She confronted the self-doubt that tells me that I’m not ready: that I’m not a skilled enough writer, that my platform isn’t large enough, that I need not bother because I’m no expert.
She raised her voice to embolden me to raise mine.
Reading her book, “Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent & How To Speak Up” affirmed the many ways I’m already raising my voice: as a writer, teacher, actor, and black woman who refuses to retreat from spaces that aren’t inherently hospitable to me.
The book reminded me that sometimes just being present in a space is a way we raise our voices, that sometimes silence is a conduit for voice.
Kathy is the epitome of her book — a singular, vibrant model for how a life can speak.
Her voice is a gift to our generation and a blessing to me. I’m elated I got to meet her IRL.