Community columnist Karen Neff: Finding Your Voice

Compassionate St. AugustineBy Karen Neff

A sign on a church along Old Moultrie announced the next Sunday’s sermon topic: Discover Your Voice. And it has given me pause because that’s just what I am about to do, thanks to Renee Unsworth  and  the staff of Totally St. Augustine. Off and on for the last two years I wrote for The Record, first specifically reporting on events in West Augustine, and most recently, simply sharing my ruminations about the goings-on around town.

When The Record underwent a staffing change, I went too.  But now I am back and feel very fortunate indeed to be  given this opportunity to share my two cent’s worth and point of view.  And I invite you to agree or disagree, contact or ignore me.  I will not write about political or religious matters, local or otherwise, although it may become clear what my leanings are.  And in the vein of full disclosure, the ruminations of Bob Tis always give me food for thought and very often, goose bumps.

As for discovering one’s voice, I was lucky enough to attend an event on Wednesday, July 13 at the Grace Methodist Church on Carrera St. downtown.

Sponsored by the St. Augustine Interfaith Community along with the Compassionate St. Augustine group, about 300 persons of all sizes, colors and genders gathered to give voice to the pain, anger, frustration, and hope surrounding the racially-related events that have shocked our country over the last few weeks.  We sang.  We prayed.  We heard from several local pastors, and St. Augustine’s City Manager.  But most importantly, we heard from Mr. Jackson, the man who, for the last several days in horrible heat, has stood at the corner of US 1 and King St. with his signs stating that ALL lives matter.

This man, now in his seventh decade, spoke quietly and clearly about his life here in St. Augustine.  At the age of 18 he was kidnapped by the KKK and almost lynched. He was an aide to Dr. ML King. He was in Selma.  You get the general idea.  Our idyllic little community here wasn’t always so idyllic.  And Mr. Jackson has re-discovered his voice in order to speak his truth, educate those of us who don’t have black or brown skin, and lead by example  He seems unassuming in his manner but his actions show the courage of his convictions and serve as a model for each of us to find our voices on this and other topics that matter.

So, I ask you:  what are the people, places, or things in your life these days that bug you?  Have you been handling the situation by ignoring it and hoping it’ll just go away?  I know I have a few issues going around and around in my head  that need addressing.  BUT, the ‘what ifs’ seem to have taken hold and paint a frightening picture of all the things that might go wrong, blow up, or fall apart if I were to discover my voice and speak my truth.  It’s kinda scary to make myself so transparent.  BUT (again) if nothing changes, then nothing changes and those situations continue to rent too much space in my head.

So I figure that if Mr. Jackson can continue to stand out there on that hot pavement day after day giving voice to his truth, the least I can do is skew up my courage and follow suit.  As long as I am respectful, it’s kinda exciting to think that people will get to know the ‘real me’ (and so will I).  And so will you when you discover your voice.




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