I heard a young black woman say something on the MARTA train last Tuesday that took my breath away. It was something that deserved a megaphone. It was something the world needs to hear.
It was one of those quotes, one of those soundbytes that you can see on an image and you can see retweeted and tumbling all over the internet. It was a quote worth sharing.
I’m not going to share it.
No, this isn’t because I’m a master of suspense. It’s because it’s her quote.
Those are her words. I don’t have permission to use them.
If I generate that quote, without her permission, and without knowing her name, I anonymize her. I take her voice. I take the power of her words away from her. I steal what is hers.
There is a part of me – the part of me that stares at her words like a glowing ember hot in my heart – that wants to share them.
I want to share them because they burn.
I want to dissipate the heat and make the flame burn only a little bit across a lot of people.
Instead, they burn inside of me. I’m responsible for them. Instead, they transform me, and I have to do something about those words. When someone says something that touches on those words, I have to act.
I will have no choice, because the contagious fire of her voice is inside me. I will have to be the one who acts because she won’t be there to say something. That is the gift and the burden of her words. Of my having heard them.
That is what it takes – the not-sharing of those words. The not-stealing of her power.