The Evolution of Articulation
I can remember it like it was yesterday. The way his eyes watched me as I spoke. Naturally, my stare skated away from his questing eyes as my hands moved rhythmically. I had captured the room’s attention and I wasn’t turning back now. When I was finally done, I sat back and looked at him once more as if challenging him to speak his mind.
“You know. You is so articulate.” He said with a warm smile and I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself. I had only been at the high school in this neighborhood for two years but hearing from a neighborhood native that my articulation was a good thing meant a lot. Finally, I wasn’t talking “white” or “proper” anymore. I was respected.
Six Months Later…
We were kissing on the front porch of an abandoned building around the corner from class. He had convinced me to ditch my fifth period: Economics. I pulled out of the kiss and simply wanted him to hear it again… I opened my mouth to speak but he put his fingers to my lips giving me a lustful stare before saying: “Sh. Don’t talk.”
My First Big Girl Job:
“You know.” My boss stood beside me and smiled at me. “You’re not like other girls from your neighborhood.” She looked at me then and although I imagine that the word to describe it was an appreciative glare, it felt anything but.
I played coy and asked “What do you mean?”
“You know because black people speak really ghetto most of the time. We always have to hire people who can’t say library. Lie-berry.” She giggled at it. I didn’t want to tell her that that’s the way I pronounced it until I was in kindergarten and went to a suburban school where my teacher gave me a failing mark each time I mispronounced a word the way I’d heard my grandma say it. I didn’t tell her about how every time my damn tongue didn’t touch the tip of the back of my teeth, I’d cringe because “Ask” always came back out as “axe.”
It’s not as easy to shut off living in a neighborhood where people have trained you to believe that it’s okay when it’s not. No one was telling my neighbors that they were pronouncing “library” incorrectly. They were too busy trying to survive and the concept of correcting someone who probably had a gun hidden on him somewhere wasn’t inviting. This was my reality she was giggling at.
I’ll never forget the day I put my two week notice in. Good riddance to the world of privilege that didn’t understand that if you weren’t taught, you didn’t know why “everyone knows that” when you weren’t ever given a school system that provided you with a chance to learn that.
“Move over guys!” I called out as a group of black men and women stood in the rain in their Sunday’s best.
“Girl! Hurry up and take this picture!” One of them called out but I paused and smiled. These were a group of black excellent adults just like me who had grown away from the system. In it were college graduates, full time job working people, and most of all an articulate group of male and female leaders. Each and everyone of them face the same thing I face everyday. Standing out.
Later that day, I had a consultation with a new client. She was from a different neighborhood than I was but I wasn’t uneasy. The events of that morning had made me confident that my articulation would surpass my address because one outweighed the other.
“Why should I choose you over other photographers?” She asked as she crossed one leg over the other. It felt like a challenge but I didn’t care. For once in my life, I had the strength to identify the one quality that had given me mixed emotions my whole life..
“I can articulate your vision. I can give people a shock factor you wouldn’t believe. If there’s one thing I’ve been told my entire life, it’s that I’m articulative and that’s a common misconception among young people in our demographic.” I stated sternly before crossing my own arms in an effort to mimic the gesture of challenge. She smiled and said:
“It’s impressive that you can identify that quality in yourself.”
Well. It wasn’t always like that as you can see. Society, interactions, and previous work relationships created this strange feeling of inadequacy so when I finally was complimented, I was almost stunned into silence and submission because I had to learn what a positive thing articulation was.
Articulation isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t make you anymore attractive in a relationship or anymore desirable in a work place. It makes you project a form of excellence everywhere. It is a quality that no one should be talking down to you.
Don’t allow anyone to take your excellence away.