I remember when I was 9 years old I jumped on the internet and printed all the lyrics to Changes and Keep Your Head Up by Tupac. I listened to the dial up connection, found the lyrics, printed them out, sat on the top bunk of my bunkbed, and committed the lyrics to memory.
My introduction to 90s hip-hop was a quick year of me judging my brother for the music he listened to. Growing up in a religious household as a child created the dichotomy of good and bad. Swearing was bad and not swearing was good. It was a quick lesson in my brief life that I realized morality was not based off of the dichotomy of good and evil. I abandoned my quickness to judge on a basis of black and white and understood that it was the gray areas that deserved attention. I learned early on—that people will fail you.
As a kid I recognized the lyrical and poetic beauty of these songs. I did not, however, understand the magnitude of the words just yet. I revisited the lyrics to these songs and a few others. I started crying thinking of that 9 year old and all the things she was going to go through in the next upcoming years that would impact her as she sits and types up this piece.
21 years later and I’m hurt that these words only mean more. That the messages weren’t heard. That we didn’t make many changes. That I still have to tell myself mantras to keep my head up and not to cry. To keep fighting to make systemic changes.
Then I think about the rhetoric of ignorance and oppression coming from all angles. Listening to people wonder why ‘women don’t come forward’ or ‘as soon as it happened to me I told someone’ or ‘I don’t get it, I wouldn’t be silent.’ You can stop at “I don’t get it.” That’s the only part you got right. To those that could speak out, I’m happy for you. Check yourself. There’s privilege in being able to speak out. Some of us speak out and then go home on holidays only to sit in a room with our abuser. Some of us speak out and get silenced anyway.
Courage and bravery is not about whether or not you were able to speak out, take advocacy on yourself, try to create change. Courage and bravery is the ability to survive.
It is not on the victim to speak out. It is on the perpetrators to STOP.