Introduction: In the making of this essay, it was very new to me. It brung me out of my comfort zone. My goal was to show versatility in my writing and do something different. I hope the reader enjoy
Til this day, I can still remember why my voice was a burden to literacy. Times where my classmates would giggle when I was called on to read because they thought I sound like a girl. When I stuttered while speaking about something that made me excited but would leave feeling sad because I overheard my friends mocking me. No one could understand what i was saying and that threw a lot of problems at me. Speaking is not a strength that I would put on a job application. Throughout my entire life, my different experiences with literacy would only be defined positive if I read it clearly. My words never mattered to people but if I could get them to fall in love with the way I said those words, I’d be a master at rocket science or at least got them to forget about my lypse. Literacy is not always what you write down but how you communicate it to the listener, something I learned the hard way.
Preschool was the first time I ever knew I had a problem talking. I remember saying the “A,B,C’s” over and over again because I talked different from the rest of the kids. Another kid and I shared a voice tutor. A fragile blonde would come every week to pull us out of class and teach us how to read words on a card out loud. I couldn't stop looking at the other boy head because he had this nasty braid on the top of his neck. In fact, I was more interested in imagining getting a pair of scissors and cutting that thing off than learning how to talk properly. The lady would put a card in my face and made weird tongue gestures at me to help me pronounciat. With word combinations like “ dirty and thirty, king and cane, trousers and trials, I designed a world of mistakes. Saying them out loud sounded like my tongue was putting two different words in a blender and trying to communicate with one. I could never say any of those words correctly or to the standards of dominant society. In this case, the classroom because my teachers believed I had a bad lypse, forgetting the fact that I can read the entire Dr. Seuss series without any mistakes.
That preschool experience had me really thinking that maybe I shouldn't speak at all. I was scared of reading anything out loud, especially in front of grown ups because that they felt like I didn't know how to talk.
My speaking problems followed me all the way through elementary school as that would be my first experience with reading passages. It was fourth grade, Mr. Kris class. We were face down in our text books. Mr. Kris was randomly choosing students to read. “What if people laugh? I don't know how to pronounce this word? I hope he doesnt call on me.”, is all I kept thinking while a student was being called on, one by one. Some were reading slow, fast, and even skipping words. I tend to notice that though they all had different styles of speech, their tones were acceptable. The girls sounded like girls and the guys sounded like guys, voices ranging from squeeky to creepy. Then the teacher called on me. My eyes locked on the words as if they were trying to hold on to a boat that is slowly sinking into an ocean full of snakes. My mouth begin to move as if it was being directed by my view. This is not how I imagine my voice sounding in my mind. It was fruity yet shrill and I stuttered a lot on words that I knew how to say, at least in my mind. Every word pass through my teeth as sweat fall an inch closer down my face. When I finished the section, I looked up like I just ran a marathon. We had free time after we were finish the class work. Everyone was talking to each other and not about the reading. I tried to socialize with my classmates but was quickly shut down by them. A boy asked me why do I talk like I have spit in my mouth? Then another one told me I sound like I just got finished drinking a gallon of maple syrup with a follow up question, “Are you gay?”. From then on, I never volunteered to read in class ever again.
Never truly knowing exactly why a voice can invent so much harm, I grew into a man that was expected to be raised by an stereotyped environment that reflected the color of my skin with no self confidence. Already dealing with identity problems, words were quickly taken away from my expression. A reality that will rip away a tongue that sounds different from what they know,I had to learn to just keep it to myself. What's the point in learning literature if the way someone sounds is the key to what defines them? That question rebirthed my way of thinking for all these years. It was my reason for not pursuing excellence or speaking up for myself. Missing out on so many opportunities, I knew I had to find an answer.
Growing up in the projects, I had to learn that certain tones of voice wasn't ok where I lived. Your voice had to be deep and sound like you highest education was a mcdonald's promotion to rapper. No matter what, a guy had to sound like a guy. Since I didn't, I was consider “soft” so everyone picked on me but this soft boy fought back. My mother always told me , “Never let another man run you into your own home.” In the environment I was raised in, I had to wear her words like they were tattooed on my forehead. It brung me enough courage to make friends. All the boys would go and play football in this neighbor’s lawn. One day, I decided to go over there to play football with the guys. Looking at a group of pit bulls and one bone, I knew I was getting myself into a deeper pool of uneasiness. I asked one of the guys if I could play and all he said in return was, “ You sound white. Why you always talking like a girl, you faggot?”. Standing in the corner with a group of eyes staring at me and mouths that produced only laughter, I couldn't help but have flashbacks of those words being thrown at me from different voices. I was fed up and just started fighting every boy that ever said that to me. That ever made a joke about my speech.
I thought being a fighter would work but quickly learned the other side of kids in middle school. Going to a strict private christian school, I quickly figured that some opinions of me just wasn't going to change. From the first day, my classmates had a problem with how I talk. They thought I sounded to ghetto and even mistaken my words for cuss words so they couldn't wait to tell a teacher. I never got snitched on so many times in my entire life. I felt to poor and ghetto to be in that school. I thought I would fit in because I was too white for the ghetto but now that I wasn't even welcome here, acceptance was my only option.
Letting my voice ring through the halls and streets, I try to let go of that hatred I had for my voice. I started writing again and made sure that english was always my favorite class. Coming into high school with a different attitude, my voice was shot down again and this time by a teacher. It was my spanish teacher. We always had to speak in different languages during the course of his class. Since my grade was a struggling C in his class, there was no question that I was one of his worst students. I couldn't understand spanish if it was to save my life. One day in class, I raised my hand to read out my sentences for that morning warm up. When finished, my eyes slowly looked over to my friend who was fluent in spanish. He gave me a thumb up so I thought I did a good job. Next thing to happen was a rain of laughter coming from the teacher. He stared at me and ask if I was from the south. I told him I have southern roots and he responded with “ I can tell. You remind me of when I used to teach in Alabama. You need to learn how to pronounce your words correctly and speak clearly because I didn't understand anything you just said. I hope you're not dreaming of being a reporter with that voice.” His criticism was followed by a room with eyes that covered its walls, staring through my clothes like I was naked. The only thing that I heard at that point was giggling that turned into laughter. At that moment, I just wanted to be lifted up and flown away from the world.
Either I talk like a girl, sound like i'm white, or read like I was just finished drinking a bottle of syrup. People were never interested in what I would actually say, making my opinions and statements irrelevant in society. I felt invisible to society even though I only aimed for average because average is cool, at least in yesterday society. Today I am fed up of yesterday’s society. I was so worried on my voice that I never got to finish that Dr. Seuss book. I never got to understand exactly how to write or tell the difference between a pronoun, adjective, and conjunction. No, I was told to be more worried about how I sound to other people. How can I truly master one of the beauties in literacy when i'm told that the only thing people care about is my voice? “ I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice. Just like Azadula said, in How To Tame a Wild Tongue, “ I will have my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.” . I love everything about my cold broken voice. Through my voice is a literacy of itself and unless you're reading it, don't tell me how to express it.