The Network’s membership community invests every day in the future we are building together, for all of us. This happens through the work they do and the way they do it. By investing in Voice, Repair, Freedom, Justice and Community, Vermont’s local sexual and domestic violence advocacy organizations are living into a world where all people can thrive.
Advocacy Organization Appreciation Week is a time to shine a light on these investments. Each day we’ll hear from people doing the work in their communities. Their insights can help propel us all to consider where and how we are investing in the future we need, and fuel the joyful collective work of building it together. Today, advocates from the organizations Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services (DVAS), NewStory Center, PAVE and Clarina Howard Nichols Center talk about investing in the idea of voice.
INVESTING IN OUR VISION: VOICE
By Chani Waterhouse, Director of Member Relations
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” –Arundhati Roy
“My voice is my identity and my choice,” explained Rebecca Lalanne, Director of Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services (DVAS). “What you decide shows who you are and what you want to do. It’s how people see who I am – through how I use my voice.”
The Vermont Network’s membership community invests in Voice as a foundation of their daily work and their life-giving vision for the future. Sara Green of the NewStory Center agreed that Voice is “the expression of one’s beliefs, opinions, thoughts, unique experiences and choices you want to make for yourself, and the freedom in being able to do that.”
Raquel Marquez from PAVE sees two parts to voice, “the listening part and the actively speaking up part. As an advocate, you have to make sure that you balance both. Ninety percent of what you need to do is actively listen so you are centering that voice and not your own biases.” Jess Ellis, from NewStory Center, added that “Communication is more about being heard than about how you are communicating. That speaks to Voice. A lot of what I’m doing in my work is helping people to be heard above the noise.” Raquel spoke about how our communities devalue and silence many voices through structural racism and other systemic oppression, while PAVE invests in making space for those voices at the tables where they have a seat. “As a brown person living in this community, it’s not just about the voice that I bring to the table but also thinking about who I am and where I’m coming from, and how I can make the effort to actively listen even more to the people that I’m not representing given my background.”
Ally Scanlon, a youth advocate from the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, noted that when we invest in voice, we create space for children, youth and adults to get to know their own innate value and their own power. These moments of liberation help heal the ruptures created by violence, abuse and systemic oppression. Ally noted that “Voices are strongest when we feel like others have our backs and are validating and celebrating us for exactly who we are.” In her work with children and youth she often focuses on growing self-love and “feeling comfortable in our own skin,” through embodiment practices that engage the senses and help people stay present to their experience.
For all these individuals, Voice is a vital part of the future toward which they are working. Jess and Sara noted that NewStory’s central philosophy is about the power in “writing new chapters” in our individual and collective stories through voicing and living our dreams for the future. Rebecca shared her vision of a future where the voices of Deaf people are honored as vital parts of our communities. Raquel shared a similar vision, where all voices are heard, loved and valued and “everyone in the community comes together to acknowledge that [violence, abuse and oppression] is happening, think about how to move forward and how to create accountability.” “This investment is so important because every single person and child deserves to know that their voice matters and to feel unashamed to express it,” added Ally. “Our world thrives and gains so much more when each of us knows our own value and how much we have to contribute.”