“There’s no bathroom for me here…” Finding Your Voice

I sat down to watch a movie a week or so ago with my husband.  I average getting through about one full movie a year (apart from the Disney movies that are constantly playing at my house…. “Let it go, Let it go…. Oh, I digress….) so I’m ahead of schedule this year.

It was a movie I asked my husband to get, Hidden Figures, and after three months of it sitting in its Netflix case he told me it was time to watch it or he was simply going to send it back.

So we watched it. I thought I’d fall asleep in the middle of it, but talk about a powerful film. If you haven’t seen it, see it.

It’s the story of three brilliant black women working for NASA as the USA sought to get a person into space.

Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, is assigned to an important job and of course is the only African American female in the department. Her boss, played by Ken Costner realizes how smart she is and begins to rely heavily on her skills.

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To be authentic, we have to find our voice.  We can’t shy away from it.  But, as we see from this scene, there are some important things to consider in finding and expressing our voice.

  1. For our voice to have power, we can’t force in on people. Katherine didn’t come right out and complain immediately about the bathroom situation. She worked to handle it the best she could.
  2. Sometimes our voice has to be solicited to be heard. And our voice is solicited when we demonstrate our competency and commitment. Katherine expressed her voice when her boss solicited it. Not before.  Because she was solicited it was heard.  I’m not saying this is at all right or fair.  Everyone should have a voice, especially when injustices exist, but to be heard we need to consider these first two points.
  3. Expressing our voice often allows us to address the big picture issues not just the current situation. This scene shows that Katherine not only addresses the specific issue of the bathroom, but she also addresses pay inequities and overall injustices and prejudices.
  4. Expressing our voice in an authentic way causes other people to act. You don’t see it in this clip, but if you’ve seen the movie you know the boss played by Kevin Costner addresses the inequities Katherine exposes through her voice.  He tears down the bathroom sign that doesn’t allow “coloreds” to use it.  He doesn’t let it go, and he doesn’t address it through his voice.  He addresses it through action.
  5. Which shows us, often our voice is loudest through our actions not our words. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”  Especially when you’re a leader like the boss in this film.   He was setting an example and precedent to show others what acceptable (and unacceptable) behavior in the organization looks like.

 

When has the power of your voice led others to act?

 

 

 

Mary Ila Ward

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