Around the age of 2-3, we start to know ourselves as someone with an identity where we look in the mirror and say, “That’s me!” I am somebody with a name. Our name becomes part of who we are, what we are called by our parents, our brothers and sisters and then by everyone whom we meet along the way.
We start to know people by their names and we begin to identify objects and experiences by using names that we learn from those closest to us. When we name something, we can identify it and deal with it.
Two books come to mind about knowing our names. One is by James Baldwin. “Nobody Knows My Name.” Told with Baldwin’s unflinching honesty, this collection of illuminating, essays examines topics ranging from race relations in the United States to the role of the writer in society, and offers personal accounts of Richard Wright, Norman Mailer and other writers.
The second is the recent book by Chanel Miller, “Know My Name.” Her story of trauma and transcendence illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicting a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shining with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.
There are also two documentaries that tell these stories with first person accounts that give added depth and breadth to these powerful experiences as commentaries on two of the more pressing issues of our time. The James Baldwin documentary can be found here:
Chanel Miller, in her own words, via an Australian interviewer on “60 Minutes” here:
Those two names, plus the ten below, represent power for having a positive and lasting impact on the lives of many others. We may not know the names of all the others, but we can name racism and sexual assault for what they are and for what they do to our brothers and sisters. We can call them out by their name and when we see something, say something.
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair Be hopeful, Be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime., Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. John Lewis, June, 2018
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.” Nelson Mandela
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” Helen Keller
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction”. Bill Gates
“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” – Madeline Albright
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere…Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank