How to Make Your Voice Heard When Big Media, Big Tech, and Mainstream Society Shut You Down
It's National Women's History Month, and an important time to reflect on all the ways women's voices are silenced and shut down from being heard. More importantly, it's a time to honor those women who refused to allow it and fought to make their voices - and the voices of other women - heard. Finally, it's a time to ask ourselves: What can we do about the situation and how can we be sure that never again will women - or any marginalized group - find themselves without a seat at the table where society's decisions are being made?
Silenced By Big Tech
Perhaps I’m especially mindful of this because of something that happened to my friend, Joylynn M. Ross, during Black History Month. We’d worked hard to craft a social media campaign that would showcase Black women making a difference in the publishing world throughout history. It featured stories from two historical figures, Phyllis Wheatley and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, as well as Joylynn’s own personal story of triumphing over the odds against black female entrepreneurs and keeping her company, Path To Publishing, going strong for over 21 years.
The two that reflected Black women making their voices heard despite the odds – the story of Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Joylynn’s own story – were rejected by two of the biggest social media platforms on the grounds that they might “influence votes.” Neither post was political in any way. Neither post was attempting to do anything other than share their story and draw the reader back to Joylynn’s site if they needed her publishing assistance.
We appealed and our ads were rejected again. We were informed that we could appeal a third time but if we did and these social media giants still didn’t approve, we risked having her account banned from advertising on them at all. We were also informed that if Joylynn would simply verify her identity and the source of her ad funding – ironically those social media giants were the source of her ad funding via a grant – they MIGHT be willing to approve them.
All because she wanted to promote the story of a powerful female historical figure and her own story of triumph over the odds against her.
The Unexpected Gift of the Situation
I recognized that in their own way, these social media giants had just handed us a gift on a silver platter if we could just get the story in front of enough people. Using ads on those platforms to promote the story probably wasn’t going to work, so I put this aside for the moment while I thought through the best way to approach it. I wanted to do that during Black History Month but time got away from me as the work piled up.
However, her story stuck with me. It’s not that people haven’t been screaming about Big Tech and Big Media and Mainstream Society shutting them down for one reason or another. It’s that this time it hit a little closer to home. I’d written those ads for Joylynn and encouraged her to run the campaign. It was not just her voice being silenced by them. It was mine, too.
Inspired By The And I Thought Ladies
March arrived and with it the approaching launch of The 25 Hottest Magazine featuring the works of indie authors, artists, advocates, founders, poets, influences, supporters, and – this year – fashion designers.
This magazine exists because my friends, the And I Thought Ladies, found themselves shut out of publishing by Big Media and weren’t going to sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to listen to them. They were going to make their voices heard whether Big Media supported them or not.
It is because of their hard work and their “Out of the Box PR Strategies” that provide so many other independents who have also found themselves shut down by Big Media an opportunity to make themselves heard. The Ladies are an amazing and inspiring pair of women, and I am proud to support them in their efforts by editing and assembling the magazine each year.
When they couldn’t get podcast interviews, they started one. When they couldn’t get into magazines, they started one. When Hollywood turned them down for a reality TV show about writing life, they made their own. Just Writin’ Life made it onto Roku and developed a following.
Inspired By EmpoweringHumanityTV.Com
I thought, too, about my friend, Aimmee Kodachian. She never finished the 4th grade due to severe learning disabilities and the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 which lasted more than 13 years. When she arrived in America, she had less than $200, no job skills, a 10-year-old daughter to raise, and she couldn’t read, write, or speak English.
Everyone told her she would never make it in America and she needed to go back home to Lebanon. However, she knew that there was nothing for her or her daughter back there. She had to either give up or step up, and stepping up is what she chose to do.
It would have been very easy for her to allow her voice to be silenced, but Aimmee rose to the challenges. She not only became a successful businesswoman, but the author of Tears of Hope, a keynote speaker, and the founder of EmpoweringHumanityTV.com. Her goal is to inspire, educate, and transform the world by providing the tools, training, and resources needed to empower others to rise above their own challenges like she has.
Like the And I Thought Ladies and Joylynn, she didn’t quit when others rejected her. She found another way by creating her own opportunity and developing a platform for other voices to be heard.
If I Don't Find the Courage, Who Will?
A third friend of mine, Tonya Todd, is stepping up to create the opportunities that didn’t exist for her. As a young woman, she didn’t think publishing a book was a possibility for her because there was nobody who looked or acted or spoke like her in the books that she read and there weren’t that many Black authors at the time. She nearly quit on her dream, but was saved – ironically – by a dream.
That dream inspired her writing but she struggled with the main character who was a biracial beauty. She didn’t think that character would have widespread acceptability because there were no biracial main characters in the stories she’d read. If biracial characters existed in those books at all, it was to showcase how good the main character was because she’d noticed that character and acknowledged her beauty.
Then came a day when Tonya realized that if she didn’t write that character, if she didn’t find the courage to give her character a voice, who else was going to do it? Future generations would grow up feeling just as marginalized as she did.
Pathfinders Leading the Way Forward
Joylynn would call these women Pathfinders, after the military personnel that are deployed into areas where there is no path with the sole mission of creating one for the forces who will be coming behind them. She would know.
Path To Publishing’s business is all about creating paths for writers and authors where none exists, and she and I are opening up a set of training programs to create even more Pathfinders. My friends are all Pathfinders on a mission to make the world a better place for the people who come behind them.
Give Up...or Step Up
Big Tech silenced Joylynn and me. Big Media silenced The And I Thought Ladies, Aimmee, and Tonya. Like Aimmee, I could either give up on the story and let them win or I could step up and make sure that these stories got out there. National Women's History Month is the perfect time to celebrate these women of courage who are making a difference for others.
To those who are facing the challenges of being silenced by Big Media, Big Tech, or Mainstream Society, I say this: Take a page from Joylynn, the And I Thought Ladies, Aimmee, and Tonya. Refuse to let them.
Step up. Take control over your destiny. Don't waste time blaming those who try to silence you. Don't try to force them to see things your way.
Focus on creating your own opportunities to make your voices heard. Empower others to be heard and ask yourself, "If I don't find the courage to give them a voice, who else is going to do it?"
Brandy M. Miller is an international speaker and award-winning author of more than 13 books. She is also a Path To Publishing Verified Literary Consultant and Certified Literary Instructor. She was recently appointed as the Path To Publishing's Training Program Coordinator.