Changing the World One Idea at a Time

At the beginning of this semester, I posted a blog post “The Power of Sound” about Toni Morrison’s epigraph  “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Through this epigraph, I talked about how important it is to use the sound of our voices to portray messages. An example I used was of Fannie Lou Hamer, she was an activist who tried to register to vote and she got fired from her farming job for doing this. So, by using her sound and her language she became an activist and was able to extend her message to the world; through this, she became a role model for many people. This goes along perfectly with what we have been doing this whole semester in Dr. McCoy’s class. All of our voices matter and if we use them to spread the messages about what we believe in we can have the possibility to change someone’s world. One idea that I brought up in my past blog post is that “Just by using our sound, our voices can go a long way and we could inspire other people too.” This is still very true, when writing my blog posts, I always try to write in a way that I use my voice/ language to convey a message to whoever wants to read it, with the possibility of bringing a new idea to someone.

When choosing an epigraph to use for this reflection we were asked by Dr. McCoy “Does your chosen epigraph form a through line for the amazingly varied literature we’ve engaged this semester? If so, how? If not, how not?” I feel that this epigraph connects to everything we have been doing in class this semester and not just one passage. I feel this epigraph does form a through line for the literature we’ve engaged in this semester. One way it connects is through a reading we did for class called “African American Women’s Quilting” by Elsa Barkley Brown, in this article Brown talks about how African American quilting can be a representation of how they should be represented in the world. Brown goes on to explain that “A people’s culture aesthetic is not different from their economic or political aesthetic; it is just visible to us in a different form. Elements of material culture, such as quilting, are in fact illustrative of a particular way of seeing, of ordering the world.” In this passage, Brown is showing that African Americans should be seen as equal, but the way people view African American quilting views all African Americans in the same sense in the world. Yet that is not how it is shown, in fact, Brown explains that while teaching about this material it “often invalidates the concepts they wish to convey.” If they teach it in a way that is tribalist is may seem to be structured toward that one idea and convey it in one strict way which is not true, and this is showing why it may invalidate the concept if they teach it this way. But over time people can learn and make their own sense of a situation. Brown expresses this when stating “I believe that all people can learn to center in another experience, validate it, and judge it by its framework as their own.” When I read this, I see it as Brown saying that everyone has a different viewpoint about the same thing, but it can still be unfair.

It’s so important to use our voices to express our views of why we should stand up and fight for the things we learn and value. This made me think about a handout we retrieved in class explaining that “You never know how your story might change the world for someone, especially someone who might be struggling; you also never know when you might be confronted with someone’s skepticism (that of, let’s say, an employer, a friend, a family member) about endeavors such as ours; being prepared with a response to such skepticism can yield lots of benefits.” Our language and voices are a way that we can express our ideas to share our stories that could possibly change someone’s idea of African American culture. Everything we have been learning in class and our discussions are real and valid. These discussions can lead us to help change people’s views or ideas and notice that we all can be a part of the change. One instance that I have learned this is through Bernice Johnson Reagon’s video we watched in class called The Songs Are Free. I talked about this video in another one of my blog posts, but I think this video is very critical to showing how important our voices are. Her video is just so powerful and her message for me seems perfect for the point I am trying to portray to you as a reader. Reagon explains that “Sound is the way to extend the territory that you can affect.” I believe that this quote is very powerful in showing that our voices can change the world. Reagon uses the Freedom song to show that they too deserve freedom and power in the world. She says that “Freedom song is the Freedom song that expresses your need to change a situation.” Reagon is showing that if you want freedom you will fight for it and use your sound and language to show people that you won’t stop or back down.

When going back through my notes of all the materials we have used this semester, I have seen a big difference in how I write my notes. I used to just write what we were saying in class but over time it changed to writing what we did in class but also adding my own viewpoints and notes about African Americans and how unfair it has been for them in the world and how it is still unfair today. I have even started adding my own idea of how this can also connect with the LGBTQ+ community. I feel that due to my being a part of the LGBTQ+ community I could get a very small sliver of the same understanding of what African Americans have had to go through their whole entire lives. This can be shown in Pat Parker’s poem “For the Straight Folks: For the straight folks who don’t mind gays but wish they weren’t so blatant.” in which I talked about how Parker’s ways of fighting for equality in the LGBTQ+ and the African American community is still very relevant in today’s world. I talked a little more about this in a past blog post “Parker’s Fight For Equality“, which you can read if you would like to know more about. They always have to fight for what they believe in and how they too deserve to be equal. I feel that by making these small connections I started to better understand how important it is to use our voices and fight for what is right.

If we are fighting for what is right, then we should look at this from a global perspective but also a Geneseo perspective. This is another question that we were asked in class on the handout, it asked “Does this reflective process matter given GLOBE’s instance that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon how changes in learning and outlook over time’?” To answer this question, yes, I believe that this reflective process does matter. It matters everywhere, on campus, in New York State, in America, even in our world. I feel that when talking about this Dionne Brand’s epigraph goes along perfectly with what we are trying to show. She states that “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” When reading this I see it as that our job is to notice all the ways that African Americans are being treated and how it is unfair and still happening even in 2019. The reason I used this epigraph was to show that our job is to notice and when we notice then we can use our sound, voice, language, etc. to show other people that they can notice it as well and can help change the world if they too used their voices.

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