In T. Marie’s shoes: Being The Change, Not Waiting On It

Name – T. Marie King

Hometown – Birmingham, Alabama

Where do you live? Birmingham, Alabama

What does it mean to have a voice? Voice is one’s own personal, unique expression that comes through words in conversation, song, or the written word.

How did you find your voice? I found my voice as a child through the strength of the women in my family.

What event or series of events led to you finding your voice?
I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. The Civil Rights history of my community plays a role in how I approach my work but it’s the women in my family that have really impacted my voice. From my mother’s strong will and breaking barriers for black women in radio, to my grandmother’s giving heart, to my aunt overcoming going blind and not allowing it to stop her, and so on. I come from a line of strong women. Sometimes that strong willed spirit is a heavy torch to bear but I have learned to ask for what I need, and I know that it’s okay to put the torch down sometimes. 

Some pieces of my identity are louder than others at times. Often pieces of my identity surface in groups and every now and then one key piece may take center stage. I am an American of African descendent, a Christian that comes from a family of ministers, middle class (give or take, depending on the decade), overly educated in my opinion, and from the South. I am also a film snob, hip hop connoisseur, and Funko collector. All of these pieces of me make it easy for me to connect with others because I embrace who I am. I like me.

Tell me about when you finally found your voice.
I am sure I started expressing my voice when I was very young. I was quiet and observant but never a shy kid. I didn’t like seeing other children get picked on. I played with students that had different levels of ability physically or intellectually because they were my friends. Sometimes I was bullied for being their friend but right was right. I am still that person willing to stand up for others. One of my values is integrity and my personal mission is to assist people to examine how they think about and treat others. It takes integrity within oneself to be conscious of how you think about and treat others that are not like you. I advocate for others every chance I can. Often, I am in meetings and notice that certain groups are not present, and I will ask why or tell them who they need to reach out to. I love being a bridge to connect people.

In my work I have had people ask me to endorse them or publicly say something because they know I have a following. If what is being asked of me does not align with my values and the person I am and constantly working to be, then the answer is no. I know saying no has cost me opportunities and money and I am fine with that. I think my phrase at this place is my life is, “all money isn’t good money and just because the door is open doesn’t mean you walk through it.”

Define “voice” and why it is important?
Voice is one’s own personal, unique sound that comes from within. It is the expression that comes through words in conversation, song, or the written word. Voice is important because it provides each of us with an opportunity to leave a bit of ourselves behind.

What advice do you have for someone trying to find their voice?
For some it may take time to find your voice and that’s okay. I would suggest writing everything in your heart and mind in a journal. Let the journal hold your voice until you are ready to share it out loud. 

Also, don’t be afraid of disagreement. It’s frustrating to get push-back but understand that it’s rooted in something else. It’s either ignorance or fear.

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