By Natalie Cohen
Posted in Mental Health Resources
I come from a loud family – not just in volume but also in presence.
I love that we share this quality because despite having to battle for center stage, each of our voices is valued and heard with open ears and open hearts.
Until recently, I haven’t considered ‘having a voice’ to be a privilege afforded to me because my skin is white and my lungs are filled with air.
Under normal circumstances, my voice would be loud in supporting the protests and riots happening in solidarity with the black and brown communities. I would be loud in questioning why skin color negatively impacts the quality and duration of so many American lives. I’d be loud in sharing resources and the burden of educating others. My voice would be loud marching down the streets screaming, “I CAN’T BREATHE” for George Floyd, who was denied life-sustaining breath because of the color of his skin.
As my social media feed fills with cries for justice and equality, I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet. You see, my sweet father is fighting for his life. Not at the hands of ignorant police, but from the ICU where he relies on a ventilator to support his lungs.
While he remains in the hospital unable to speak, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of a voice. A voice can arouse, engage, ignite, advocate, comfort, and coo. A voice can welcome and spew hate. A voice can degrade and it can elevate.
During this difficult time, a physical illness prevents my father from letting the nurse know when he is in pain or when he is scared or anxious. He is unable to speak for himself so it is my voice – and the voice of my family members – that advocate for his needs.
Our friends of color can speak but until now, nobody has listened.
The black community and allies have been trying to gain the attention necessary to provoke real change for centuries. There were peaceful protests, educational rallies, and pleas for reform. These efforts were either ignored or heard incorrectly through the ears of systematic racism. Now that violent protests have gotten the attention of the world, the mic has finally been passed into the worthy hands of black and brown communities. It is up to us to listen, learn, and continue helping to spread the message that all lives don’t matter until black lives do.
All voices are mighty – Let us advocate for those who can’t, pass the mic to elevate the voices of the marginalized, and never take for granted our own ability to initiate change.
Meet the Author
Natalie Cohen is Director of Intake at O’Connor Professional Group (OPG). In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the referral process for clients and our professional partners. Natalie works in an efficient and clinically informed way with prospective clients to understand their unique needs and guide them towards appropriate services. A graduate of the University of Maine in Orono, Natalie earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in Child and Family Relations. For seven years, she held positions in Marketing, Community Outreach, Intake, and Communications at Walden Behavioral Care, an eating disorder treatment center based out of Massachusetts. Natalie enjoys practicing yoga, exploring the restaurant scene in Boston, and doting on her Pomeranian mix, Bella.