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For anyone who has been in spaces where their presence is tolerated but their voices are minimized, uttering those words in the moment to assert your space and your validity takes great courage.
Saying those two words with full authority throws a dagger into unchecked privilege. People who have benefitted from privilege may not understand or think it is rude. I assure you, it is necessary.
It has taken me several years to find the courage to own my space, claim my time and say those words at the moment they needed to be said. Prior to that, I would sit quietly, fuming as people constantly talked over me. They would stop me mid-sentence, promising to return to me — knowing they never would. At work, I often would listen to roundabout conversations while holding the answer between my locked lips.
I was marginalized, and I started to believe the folks who hushed me did not deserve my solutions.
Perhaps they did not. But the customers I worked with every day sure did.
Claiming my space and speaking my truth are issues that keep coming up in my life. From the boardroom to political roundtables to the crafting of language and shaping of narrative in my current work, stopping the line of privilege by speaking with truth and love is my reminder that I work for a greater good, not any company or organization.
Even with this column, there are people who think it is their right to tell me what I should and should not write about each week. But this is my space. I’m speaking here. There is plenty of space carved out for response and comment. This space is mine.
Addressing the implied or explicit hush of privilege is a bold and necessary action for the people of God, and especially the women of God. Too often, we don’t hear our issues and needs being addressed in thoughtful, innovative ways that move us forward toward an equitable society while honoring who we are as followers of Christ. And to be honest, many of the people who claim to speak for us in that capacity have obviously not studied to show themselves approved as the Bible teaches us.
But I’ve studied. I am far from perfect, but I am speaking.
Waiting for perfection keeps us silent. I refuse to wait for a day that will never arrive. Instead, I find my courage in the knowledge that I am constantly being perfected and molded into the woman I was meant to be. I find my voice in the connections God has provided, the rooms where I have been placed and the tables where I sit.
I speak the reality of where we are. And when God speaks to me about my role in providing solutions, I speak on it with full confidence.
Claim your time. Claim your voice. Speak.
LaMonique Hamilton is a Wilson resident and former Times reporter and copy editor. She is the national deputy director of communications for Repairers of the Breach and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.