I can think of a few situations, when I was younger, where I lacked a voice. Times when I could not find the right words (or sometimes any words) to make myself heard when it felt important to do so. Times when I felt sad, pissed off or helpless because of it.
Does language have a power to transform? I believe it does. Because when we lack a command over language we are less empowered.
To label and make sense of things.
To question and challenge them.
To make a point.
To point out the absurd. And the unfair.
To laugh at these things if we need to, to release ourselves from the tension they cause.
To lay our souls bare.
To be understood.
And to make ourselves heard.
Sometimes finding the right words for what happened and the feelings associated with it can even be what helps us to feel different about it, because our brain is actually processing and working through the situation in the very act of assigning language to it.
“If you don’t learn to write your own life story, someone else will write it for you”.
This is the motto of a wonderful South Bronx poetry class called “Power Writing”. It is taught by a trio of outsider teachers, though not as part of any school faculty or formal curriculum, and it is a class that is less about instruction and more about empowerment. “To Be Heard” is a very moving documentary which centres on the stories of three teens taking part in the Power Writing class. Pearl, Karina and Anthony are a trio of friends who affectionately refer to themselves as the “tripod”. Their lives begin to change when they start to write and recite poetry, using it as a vehicle for powerful self-expression and self-awareness, and ultimately, as a means to alter their circumstances.