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An Interactive Essay by Dayo Adeoye

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INTRODUCTION

        As a black woman, my unspokens have proven to be powerful. Some of my unspokens include when I was seven years old on the playground clad in wood chips and Sketchers Twinkle Toes but still not able to approach potential friends. Or when I was ten years old and told that if I didn’t lose weight, “big girls” like me would not get promotions and advance in my future career. Even when I was nineteen years old and informed that my accomplishments aren’t impressive enough to make it in the competitive job market, my natural hair too unprofessional. As a black girl, I see myself being raised on my unspokens. “Children are meant to be seen, not heard.” But unspokens are the building blocks of silence. And the silence of women of color has strength. It has the strength to proliferate systems of oppression. A force so great that it, in many ways, has become a cultural practice of those who benefit from it. Yet what must equally be considered is the energy even more powerful, more profound, more devastating - her voice. Her voice tells stories that can change trajectories and dismantle violence. Her voice disrupts and transforms. She is to be listened to, and history is her testimony.   

        “What is something that you always wished you said but never said it?” is a hard question. For some it’s hard to remember, hard to articulate, hard to recognize. It’s hard, for me, because it is assumed that there will be an answer. However, I ask this question, not only to uncover some of its immediate answer(s) but also to evaluate the “why” behind them. Why did I, she, feel like we could not speak out at the time and what are the implications of our silence? Not to mention the times when silence is our only means of protection. Therefore, with this essay, I will introduce two of my own narratives as a reparation for my “unspokens” and try to make sense of their whys. Finally, I will conclude with my solution for creating a community where women of color can be listened to.

 

Introduction
Unspoken #1: To Me

Unspoken #1: To my Younger Self

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Dear Dayo, 

Close your eyes and do what you do best. Imagine. Imagine what your life will be like 12 years from now. I know you do this often (but you usually don’t go past the age of 16). Dream further, think harder, visualize bigger. Now open your eyes. The truth is that whatever images that you painted just now will not even come close to encapsulating where you are now. This in many ways is the beauty of life. It is going to take you years to realize this of course, but the world is incredibly vast and diverse. Our God is made of a substance that you cannot begin to comprehend. Due to this fact, your life won’t necessarily be in your hands to control, but you do have the power to live it. So, with this power, I want you to know, that the "future you" is going to be the sum of all the experiences you choose to fully live. 

 

 I will not tell you too much now,  because I don’t want to ruin all the surprises that are in store- and trust me there will be a lot of them (some are prettier than others); however, I will leave you with this reflection: 

 

You are going to enter multiple periods in your life where you will be unsure of yourself. You will feel like you don’t have anything to offer, that you are not good enough, or even that you are your own enemy of progress. Dayo, you might not fully grasp the weight of these words right now, but you are loved.

 

You are loved in so many ways, and most importantly you will be loved. People will look to you for guidance, and also for the love that they don’t receive anywhere else. The great thing is that in the moments you don’t feel this love in return, keep looking. Love will be shown in the people that you least expect. Love will be understood in the way that you invest time into yourself, and how despite it all you still wake up the next morning. It is going to take you a very long time to believe that you love yourself. Admittingly, I am still on that journey currently. But it is a journey, and you will thank yourself by starting to embark on the adventure now.

 

Also, don’t be afraid to use your voice, but especially don’t be afraid to use your brain. One tip you will thank me for is "start reading now!" You love the library so much, so use it. Use it to your heart’s desires. Fill your mind with as many stories and ideas that you can get your hands on. They are guaranteed to change your life. You will also find that you achieve this by talking to more people and listening to what they have to say. When your voice meets your mind, you will be able to achieve your most authentic self. With this in thought, the best piece of advance that I can give you right now is don’t be afraid to get it wrong. It’s okay. It’s okay to miss a step-in dance class, to skip a note on the piano, it’s even okay to get rejected by a friend. Not only will you survive, but your missteps are also what will allow you to thrive. In fact, your successes and your failures are directly proportional, so fail more! Failing is really about living life to the fullest (however, I will say that this only works when you fail and learn from that failure). 

 

So, my love, right now you might be struggling with understanding the words that I am saying right now. That is totally okay! For now, if there is only one thing I want you do know is that please don’t worry about me at all. I am you and you are me and that will always be the case. Be you. Don’t listen to what others have to say or think about how you can be yourself. As a secret from me to you – they are wrong. I can assure you that in your nineteen years of life (the time in which I am writing this letter) NO ONE has yet to be able to capture your full essence nor describe your potential. Only you can do that.  (yet listen to your mom a bit more,  she’s great, and truly is the foundation that will keep you grounded). 

 

I love you and good luck. See you soon. 

A Letter the the 7-year-old Me

Unspoken #2: Vision 

Unspoken #2: Vision

click, move around, & play with images to learn more

CONCLUSION

Her voice tells stories that can change trajectories and dismantle institutions. This is why I created Foreign to connect women/girls to their power. From this, the next stage in our mission is the #ListenToHer Collective. The collective is designed to give a platform for women to share their own personal narratives and be supported in this endeavor. 

Starting The Collective

("The Solution")

In conclusion...