social justice · writing workshop

Look Harder, Be Braver, and Speak Louder: My Challenge to Myself

My focus is off. How about yours? I’ve been waiting all week for a post to come to me, and instead, I’ve immersed myself in the brilliant words of others. Of others sharing resources. Of others sharing experiences. Of others sharing reflections and challenges and ideas for moving forward in a world that is inspiring me to put my head down in my arms more that put one foot in front of another. My focus is off, but I’m working to regain it. To find words that move myself forward and maybe validate others in feeling overwhelmed but compel someone to move forward.

James Prochaska is Director of Cancer Prevention Research Center and Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Rhode Island with over 400 publications and countless citations. I’ve been reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and she references Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. While the five stages are aimed at individuals, as I read about them both from Gottlieb and then also on Prochaska’s website, I thought about how the stages could apply to where our country stands in terms of racism.

James Prochaska is credited with the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change.

Maybe this thought is just of my own making in order to give myself hope, but maybe there are enough people in our country who are know ready to prepare or take action on systems that are oppressive, racist, and deadly. Maybe we as a country are moving beyond contemplation, and action will begin to happen that creates a more equitable existence for all Americans.

Resources for Anti-Racist Work

I thought at one point this week I would create a compilation of resources, but that’s been done. Here are a few that will drive my work forward:

Jen Serravallo, a writer and educator, has created a document entitled Goals and Strategies for White Educators Working Toward Antiracism and Social Justice. There are resources here that cover many aspects and approaches to the work, and I especially love her charge at the end. She does not ask for appreciation; instead Serravallo asks for a commitment to action.

 Sarah Sophie Flicker, an actress and activist, and Alyssa Klein, a writer and social media specialist compiled a collection of Anti-Racism Resources in May 2020. While this document overlaps other collections, it’s an incredible collection of resources. At the top of the document, they write:

This document is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work. If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now. Feel free to circulate this document on social media and with your friends, family, and colleagues.

Nicole Cooke, the Augusta Baker Chair at the University of South Carolina, has created a Padlet of Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages. Again, there are overlaps with some of the resources in the compilations that are above, there are also additional resources, as this collections spans ages, stages, and various populations.

Articles That Can Serve as Mentor Texts

As our district’s writing coordinator, I am frequently asked for mentor texts for argument/opinion writing. In the last few days, I have been overwhelmed with pieces of writing that are written with not only important messages, but also with beautiful craft moves and powerful language usage. I value writing that serve multiple purposes, and I have been collecting pieces of writing that not only provide messages that I want to read and share, but also teach and inspire writers.

In this piece, published by the LA Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explains the anger of Black people, and he also demonstrates how to hook a reader, talk directly to an audience, use parallel structure, and leverage the power of punctuation.

And once you’ve read this piece from Chad Everett once– no, twice– no, several times– so that you can get through it without crying and analyze the meaning of each crafted line, then maybe you can listen to Chad read it, and then consider the brilliant use of figurative language throughout the piece.

Gary Armida’s post that pleads for teachers to rise up is a call to action and also a powerful mentor text for argument writing. First read Armida’s post for the powerful call to action that it is. Then, consider his intentional word choices, his repetition, his powerful punctuation, and his calls to action as he comes to the end of his piece.

Jess Lifshitz wrote Remember Your Anger at the end of May, and as I wrote about Armida’s post, read it first for the message. Yes, many of us are angry right not, but there have been issues to be angry about that have been going on for a long time within the educational world. Her piece contains masterful repetition sentence variation, and a call to action.

Kelisa Wing is an author and a State Teacher of the Year, and she wrote this piece that appeared in Education Post, entitled: Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable. Her post reminds readers of the historical struggles and events with a message of action and responsibility. Her writing exemplifies the use of parallel events, the blending of story-telling with message, and the use of powerful quotes to strengthen that message.

My Closing Thoughts for Today

My closing thoughts for the last several days have varied, as I’m sure many of yours have, as well. I’m trying hard to make sense of events and take on my own personal action steps.

I lean on Maya Angelou’s words, When we know better, we do better, but right now, I’m also considering the choice involved with doing better.

One of my mentors in this work, Deacon Art Miller, FaceTimed with me yesterday afternoon, and among other important things he said to me, is “you can’t bring more then you have, but you can bring all that you have.” My challenge to myself is to create more than I’ve had so I can bring more.

My pledge to myself, inspired by Jen Serravallo’s closing words in the document that she so generously put together involve three short sentences:

  • Look harder.
  • Be braver.
  • Speak louder.

The words I write and share in this public space are an accountability measure — how am I living up to the expectations I have set for myself and the change I have committed to by participating in this trend? I am grateful for the challenge Jen Serravallo has at the end of her collection of resources, and I am sharing her idea. What is your commitment? And how will you hold yourself accountable?

I have kept the following quote close by when the world has seemed off kilter and I’m struggling to find the impact I can have.

Right now, I want more than Hallie did when she wrote to her sister, Codi in one of my favorite books of all times, Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. That being said, I will continue down my own hallway, running harder, stretching my arms further. And my hope is that there are more of us who are doing the same.

3 thoughts on “Look Harder, Be Braver, and Speak Louder: My Challenge to Myself

  1. Melanie – I want to thank you for the passion and power in your post. You capture the initial sense of despair of recent weeks and how hard it is to move forward under the weight of a burden we cannot bear alone … moving forward will be a collective effort. I have had a hard time writing anything recently … but I wrote. You reached for hope and share it here in such clear and practical terms. The steps to behavior change – mighty. Easy to ingest. A beginning place. The anti-racist resources – a vast representation of hope, the building blocks for a foundation that must be laid today, now, if there are to be better tomorrows. Many more of these resources are currently being shared; my fervent hope is that they will be used wisely and well, and will be sustained (that final, necessary step in the behavior model, if change is to last). And – Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors!

    I am grateful for you, your words, and your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I loved this heartfelt, honest post that also contains a generous supply of resources. So mAny if us are striving to understand, help and be part of the healing process in our country. Many thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.