“ ‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that I do is the longest sentence,” says author George Carlin.
This somewhat philosophical quote on first glance seems to pose a great meaning that only the greatest professors or distinguished learners would be able to understand. If I were to have seen it just a couple of weeks ago it would have made me really have to think hard, or probably just continue on as it would not have made sense. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a clarification on something that never was a problem or even a thought before. The voice. My voice. The simple yet powerful substance that I have lived with for fifteen years after one day in English class proved to develop into something so incredibly new.
Succeeding the reading of the James Baldwin text on African American language, we watched a short documentary on the differentiating accents in specific regions throughout the United States. The film did not surprise me much as the stereotypical country southern accent, the rough and tough new york accent, and that of that of the “normal” person who chronicled. All of which I’m familiar with. It was the question Ms.Pahomav asked after the ending of the film that sparked that my interest in the voice. “ Do you have an accent?” This once seemed straightforward question lead into an energetic debate between myself and friend Tk.
“ I don’t have an accent, but you do,” I said.
“What! I don’t have an accent!” Tk hastily replied.
“Yes you do Tk.”
“Well if I have a accent then you do to.”
“ No Tk you definitely have an accent, I sound like me.”
The defiance Tk had in telling me that I did have an accent just did not make sense as I did not have anything too special or unique coming through. For me an accent was something that was distinct in giving a listener your history as of where you come from. The typical british, australian, or even south african accent. Those that give the severe sense of personality, and are without a doubt what the average person would call an accent. Me on the other hand felt that my “accent” was nonexistent. I heard people from Philadelphia have a certain type of speech so if anything I believed that is what Tk was referring to, but was there more. That night I went home thinking of whether I sounded of something that I had yet to hear. Even going as far as recording myself a few times saying different things trying to detect an oddity. Even then it was still similar to what I have been hearing my entire life. I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to know if I my voice was more than I knew it was. A few days later me and friends Ajanae and Tk were discussing Tk’s valley girl voice, and how she sounds like a girl from Seattle. Being that Tk told me that I had an accent I decided to get a second opinion by asking Ajanae what she thought of my voice.
“ You have a philly accent I guess.”
“ That’s what I thought but Tk said I had an big accent.” I replied.
With this I understood that there was a Philly sense in my voice. One that I had never picked up on since most people I encounter on a regular basis sound pretty similar. Although I had an answer I still felt that there was still something more to be discovered. The question had grown from the simple do I have an accent to what about my voice makes me...me. What about my voice set me apart from the millions of other people in Philadelphia, how different is it from those all across the country, across the world. The question of what about my voice made made me the individual I am. For most of my life I had not cared to much because as people we usually think of something like our voice as just something. Not much. That thing that we always had and will always have. The thing that if you’re lucky can lead to a successful music career or even make you the state’s most watched news anchor, but nothing ever to serious. It was now that I became so interested in discovering the answer to this simple yet extremely complex question. First thing I did after spending hours pondering this question was ask other people not specifically about them, but what they actually felt about their own voices, and how it made them who they are. Starting with my mother who gave me the simple “I don’t know, it’s just my voice,” to my friend Fatimah who believes “ I sound like I sound because that’s way I sound.” These answers not offering me as much help as I originally sought out. Finally I went to my close friend Danielle who I have known for a long time in hopes that she could give me what I was looking for. It was her answer that finally did it for me. All she said was “ your voice is just you I guess. You’re the only one who has it.” It was at that moment that I finally realized that my accent and my voice is me. Jevon. I kept trying to compare myself to everyone else, when everyone else is not me. The problem I faced was attempting to group myself into a category of people instead of seeing that everyone is their own group and they are all their own person. My accent might not be the most common one but it is not meant or supposed to be. The accent I have is mine and it’s one that only I’m supposed to have, and that I’m supposed to make as me. Throughout this I have learned that everyone has their accent, their voice, their ways, and their personalities that set them apart, and it is when you look at yourself that you realize you are you and nobody can be that.