Voice. It is at the heart of journalism. As a columnist, this couldn’t be any clearer. My voice, my thoughts, my ideas and perspective are what I seek to share with readers each week.
I also get to share sometimes the voices of others I encounter on this journey called life. I see each column as an opportunity to think out loud, to try to touch the hearts of readers, to engage them, maybe to help them see the world — even if only a slice of it — a little differently. To evoke not only thought but also feelings.
I seek to wrap my commentary in storytelling. Mostly they are stories about everyday life. I write about moral decline and its impact on us all. About fatherhood and fatherlessness. About gun violence and murder. About faith and religion.
I seek to write about the everyday stuff that fills our lives.
“You touch topics that most people are afraid to talk about,” one reader writes.
I don’t always get to write readers back — between my day job as a professor and what can sometimes seem like a million tasks. But I am deeply appreciative of readers’ responses — the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly, which often challenges me to re-evaluate.
Still, I write what I see. What I feel. What I believe.
I get fewer than 600 words. I sometimes wish it were more. But I have come to appreciate the challenge of brevity in storytelling. And yet, writing for a newspaper is still a privilege.
When asked to write a column four years ago, I was hesitant. Honestly, I didn’t think readers would really want to hear what I had to say as a black man.
Greater than my fear, however, was my passion and belief in the power of the pen. Greater my love for words that can inform and sometimes move readers, like the melodies and the lyrics of songs.
The last four-plus years as a columnist have been a rewarding journey in ways I might never have imagined. None is greater than coming to see through readers’ responses our kinship in human suffering, struggles and triumph — whether rich or poor, black or white, male or female.
A friend who happens to be white recently told me that he sometimes shares my columns and his enthusiasm for some of them with friends.
“But he’s black,” my friend told me some of his friends have responded.
But his words aren’t, he said he explained. “He’s a man.”
Readers have reaffirmed, for me, my belief that there really are no white stories, no black stories — only human stories.
“Thank you for being a voice for many who do not have one. Your analysis of the conditions in the inner city are dead on for African Americans and more specifically men who are trying to do something about them,” one reader writes.
Writes another: “As a white suburban 60-yr-old professional man, I always love your perspective on ‘Mankind’. It applies to all of us.”
“I want to personally thank you for writing this article,” a man writes regarding a column on fatherhood. “You spoke directly to me as if you had a window into my life. Thank you for giving me hope for the future.”
No, thank you. My sincerest thanks to all of you for reassuring me that somebody out there is indeed listening to me — a writer and simply a man.