By Eden Duncan-Smith
There is something about being heard. There is something about someone outside of your head hearing the most amazing and beautifully confused thoughts that dance around and quake in your mind—aching to come out. I’m brave … but sometimes I feel like my voice is lost in the clanging noise of the adults around me. I don’t feel so brave and I retreat into my thoughts and thinking is good, but there is not always action attached to those thoughts. But it does feels like Malala hears me. She not only hears me, but she understands me. From that understanding, she takes the mic on the stage of the world and speaks for me.
Malala said that she raises her voice not so that she can shout, but so that those of us without a voice can be heard. And yes, I am sure that on the surface this is about little girls in oppressive Islamic states, but indeed she is also speaking for me.
Everyone needs someone to shout for them.
This is why it is with enormous pride that I salute her for her recent Nobel Peace Prize honor. She deserves it. I say this because even after those savage people of the Taliban attempted in so many ways to terrorize her, she never bid them evil. I am talking about shooting this young warrior in the head, leaving her within inches of her life because she wanted to get an education … and she uttered, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”
Do you understand how powerful that is?
Even as people sought to snuff out her life, she still stood firm on the principles of a peaceful lifestyle and carried a message to the world of strength, civility, enlightenment, self-control and fortitude. She is for me who Dr. King is for my grandparents’ generation. She for me is who Assata Shakur is for my mother. Her spirit, as proven by the accolade, might be to the world a quick glimpse into what God must look like: Immovably Courageous.
I was moved to write something, a tribute, because this triumph for girl power has been lost in the justifiable outrage about Michael Brown and the Ebola epidemic. Those things are important. In the news cycles, her celebration was a flash pan online and on television. In the same token that Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa’s divorce was everywhere. In Brooklyn, my hometown and the greatest borough in the world, my friends were more interested in doing the Shmoney dance than dancing a victorious up rock to the news of this teenager. But I should not be so shocked; I have been here before.
I was here six months ago, when I tried to engage my folk in the horrible kidnapping of over 200 African girls who too were terrorized for wanting to get the education that far too many girls I know don’t value. In that case, it was my hope, to be a voice for them as she, Malala, had been a voice for me. After all, I believed her when I read that she said, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” So I gave my one voice. It joined others on a global level, but in my community for a while, I was the only one. And it is hard to be that one voice.
When you are that one voice, people laugh at you. When you are that one voice, you hear things differently and you speak out on things that are not popular. When you are that one voice, well the world thinks you are brave, but usually you think that you are going insane. So my bravery and that voice often times gets stuck in my throat and moves out through my tears.
On those precious times I do speak out, it is the Malala in me that simply can’t be controlled. It is my mother in me that won’t just shut up. It is that Harriet in me. That Angela Davis in me. That Ruby Dee in me. That Rhoda from the books of Acts in me. It is that JUSTICE in me that will not be quieted, that rumbles in my gut and pangs in my head and begs to get out of me.
It is simply that Malala in me that desires to make peace a lifestyle … so I salute her and at the same time I salute myself. Where is the Malala in you and can I salute her, too?