An Interactive Essay by Dayo Adeoye
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.