Building Bridges, Not Walls
by Dr. Loni
Welcome to August 13th, the 225th day of the year, Fidel Castro’s birthday, and in 1961, the day construction of the Berlin Wall began in East Germany.
Given the tragically eventful world in which we now live, the time is upon every person to help shift the tide, with an added responsibility falling upon influential creatives such as writers. So how, you might ask, can writers, many who cannot get friends and family to look at – let alone buy and read – our books, exert transformational influence in this world? Let’s remember that freedom of speech and freedom of the press, protected by The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, are the most influential tools we have at our disposal. When work together that influence and power can only multiply.
Many would readily argue that mass media, consisting of words and images, is the only real tool we have to affect change. Political strategists now spend billions, not millions, but billions of dollars every four years on media to elect an American president. Folks spending this kind of $,$$$,$$$,$$$ cannot be all wrong. So if we follow their lead to harness the power of the media, how might we begin to build bridges, and not walls, with the words we choose to write?
The first thing we must continue to do as writers is to demonstrate a tenacity in our writing, similar to that shown by the Cuban people under the leadership of Fidel Castro and the millions of Germans who refused to allow a wall to shake their resolve. We all have a rant about something that is not right in the world. You know… that thing where you feel, “Let me just be quiet… no one wants to hear me talk/write about that again.”
If you choose to build a bridge of communication, and not a wall to stifle it, DO NOT BE QUIET! Every chance you get, find a way to write about the wrong in society that you want righted. Use your writing to lay out practical steps for viable solutions, and every time you hear someone say, “Oh well, what can you do?” refer them to your writing!
It took the United States 54 years to restore the diplomatic relations with Cuba which were severed in 1961, the same year construction on the Berlin Wall began, and 28 years before that wall was torn down in 1989. So find the rant that will be the undertone of your writing and lay out the practical strategies for building bridges. When the walls finally come tumbling down, your writing will be an important part of building new bridges for better communication.
The second thing each writer must do to become more influential is to address the wall-building we do in our own lives. Only because I could, I was working on this piece while riding the NYC subway. Sitting next to me was a “typical New York woman,” the kind who exudes intellect and class, while being effortlessly chic and stunning just wearing jeans. In her case, she punctuated her look with neon pink wedge sneakers! So, it behooved me, a person who practices tearing down walls by speaking to strangers, to ask the woman next to me wearing neon pink sneakers…
“What is the single most important kind thing a person can do to tear down the walls between us?
She paused only slightly before saying, “The regular expression and communication of love and admiration toward the people in our lives could definitely change the world. Even if it’s just a hug, but telling them is also important.”
So I ask you, the writer with pen or laptop in hand, to consider what the walls are within your life that you are willing to tear town to make your writing more effective? To Sister Natasha, wherever you are with your neon pink high-top wedgies, I want to publicly say I admire and appreciate you for making a fashion choice that makes the world a happier place. Your sneakers are an invitation to smile and a bridge for conversations with strangers. As writers, may we use our craft to tear down walls and build bridges that make the world a better place. And so it is.
Dr. Loni is the author of For the Sake of My Sanity: One Woman’s Journey of Speaking Truth to Power and Ignorance. When not engaged in a creative pursuit, she dedicates her time to growing the Sisters Reading Sisters organization. Visit DrLoni.com and SistersReadingSisters.com for more information.