By: Duvalier Malone
For thirty years, I spent my life, not standing in my complete truth. I allowed my southern roots along with the public view to cultivate my truth instead of finding my own voice. I spent the first half of my life in my home state of Mississippi, where I attended college, started a career, and begin my work as a public servant. My voice was cultivated by religious views, status quo, and the opinion of the public. It was not until the Governor of Mississippi and lawmakers attempted to put in place HB 1523, a bill that allows discrimination against the LGBTQ community based on their sexuality, that I realized it was time for me to stand in my truth and speak up on this issue. I will never forget I was home in Mississippi receiving the Top 50 under 40 Award from the Mississippi Business Journal when the Governor and lawmakers placed this bill on the house floor. I received a message from a young man who said his mother looked up to me but hated him for being gay. I then realized it was vital for me to stand in my truth even more. I released a letter to my fellow LGBTQ family in my home state of Mississippi. In this letter, I talked about my lack of support and speaking out on behalf of the LGBTQ community and using my platform to support and help fight discrimination. This step to stand in my truth was very scary, and I thought I would lose everything I had worked so hard for over the course of my thirty years on this earth. Indeed, that happened, I lost speaking engagements across the south, and many distanced themselves from my company.
As a result of this, I began the journey of finding my voice within my truth in 2017. I quickly realized that over the course of my 30 years of life, my view had been cultivated by a community who doesn’t fully stand in their own truth. After speaking my truth, I began to find strength and a sense of boldness to speak up and speak out like never before. On this journey, I started to speak up louder in regards to the Confederate flag, health care, racial reconciliation, poverty, education, economic development, Emmett Till, and helping to educate citizens across the South on how crucial it was to speak up and hold their political leaders accountable.
The most powerful moment in 2017, was when I organized and planned the Emmett Till Rally, this moment was when my voice became full circle. I heard the news of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who claimed Emmett Till whistled at her and attacked her, admitted that she lied. I spent a few weeks after hearing this news battling with the idea of how could I use my voice, my platform to speak up and to speak out against this injustice. I started by researching the case, speaking with different activist, and other organizations. After doing all my research, I found that so many were afraid to touch this issue instead they were okay with staying quiet. At that moment I was quickly reminded of Congressman John Lewis words to me “When you see injustice within your community, speak up, speak out- find a way to get in the way and make some noise for change.” As a result, I planned and organized the Emmett Till Rally demanding justice and an apology for the lie of Carolyn Bryant Donham that led to the murder of Emmett Till. At this moment, I learned the power of using your voice for change, ignoring the negative noise that comes with the territory of initiating change within your community. I also found the depth of my voice and how important it is always to step up and make noise when you see injustices within your community.
Today, I want to encourage all the readers that no matter what area of society in which you influence always to use your voice to speak up and to speak out. True change-makers don’t get discouraged with noise and distractions. Instead, they ignore the noise because they understand true change-makers must stay the course and speak up even when it seems like things are not changing. I want to challenge you all to find your voice by standing in your authentic truth. Remember this- we must never stop speaking up against injustices within our community. What if civil right activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis would have stopped speaking up against injustices within America would we have seen a Barack Obama? Keep speaking truth to power.
Duvalier Malone, a Mississippi native, is a Washington, D.C.-based motivational speaker, political consultant and community activist.