What I learned from my joint speech at the Santa Cruz's Women's March 2019
When the email came across my inbox, I didn't hesitate to reply. Would I speak at the local Women's March? Of course! The message was from a trusted community partner who I respect and admire. While my initial response was yes, in my heart I really meant, "Of course I will help you find someone else to speak in my place!" I immediately started to think of everyone more qualified to speak in front of such an audience.
What was behind those feelings?
This knee-jerk reaction is partly because I am much more of a behind the scenes person and partly because I had feelings of unworthiness. I love helping others craft their message and get it out into the world. This time I had the chance to share my own message but was I good enough to do it? I had some hesitations.
For one, while much appreciated the invite was late in the game. I wouldn't have much time to prepare. Second, I wasn't sure the crowd was ready to hear my message about my experience as a woman of color. I have a deep desire for all of us to do more than talk about our values. I want us all to LIVE our values.
For me, this meant touching on tough topics like a culture of white privilege and the ways well meaning allies make underrepresented folks like myself feel unwelcome or unseen.
Not easy stuff to say to a large crowd with an expected attendance of mostly white women.
In the end, I decided to go for it! And I invited two other amazing women of color to join me on stage. Annabelle Rodriguez and Antonia Franco were dream collaborators in many ways for this project. There were willing to get real, willing to do the work, and willing to bear it all in front of a crowd of thousands.
Shaping the message
To shape our message for this crowd we did a few things:
1. Pictured our audience - Our local march is mostly white women, among many things they are open to change and passionate about equality
2. Found a meaningful message - This message was NOT about what we thought they wanted to hear. It was about what we perceived they needed to hear to walk away from the march more empowered and thoughtful as they fought for equality in our community
3. Created a theme - The theme we came up with evolved a few times. We started with "From compassion to shared power," then as our conversations evolved we realized this was really about empowering allies. Our new theme became, "how to be a badass ally."
4. Found a cadence - For this speech three of us would take the stage for 2-3 minutes at a time, so it was important to tie us all together beyond the theme. We chose a word cadence built on phrases:
Create shared power
5. Got real brave, real fast - We teetered between being inspiring and unapologetically speaking our truth a lot. The upside of a compressed timeline is that we didn’t have a lot of time to go back and forth on the messaging. We needed to get on our big girl pants and just go for it!
In the end, I'm so very proud of our speech. Take a look! I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak and connect with my community and myself in a new way. Writing this speech made me dig deep and reflect on the many ways I can continue the journey of living into my values while bringing others along for the ride.