Shaniece Holmes-Brown: Finding her voice

For years, Shaniece was bullied and stayed silent. She used writing as her outlet — and later discovered how powerful her voice could be.

Presented by: Our York Media
Written by: Kate Penn
Shaniece Holmes-Brown (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)

When Shaniece Holmes-Brown found her voice, her world changed.

She remembers the day so clearly.

It was her high school talent show, freshman year.

As she walked out on to the stage, she saw nothing, only black. Everything else faded away — it was just her and a single spotlight.

She was completely calm, completely comfortable.

She opened her mouth — and spoke her truth.

***

For years, Shaniece had stayed quiet.

When kids called her ugly or dirty or told her she wasn’t black enough or talked too white, she stayed quiet.

When kids threw basketballs at her face and threw their food at her, she stayed quiet.

She didn’t want to give her bullies the satisfaction of knowing how much it hurt.

“I felt like I didn’t have a voice,” Shaniece says, “so I wrote.”

At home, she poured her feelings out into poems, messily scribbled in pen and pencil in notebooks from her grandfather.  The one had an inscription: “Let love guide your heart, let God lead the way.” It was her escape.

Day after day, page after page, Shaniece slowly strengthened her voice.

I felt like I didn’t have a voice, so I wrote.

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Shaniece Holmes-Brown

That first time on the stage, she saw that spotlight and focused on it.

She spoke about finding her voice, about finding God, about her purpose.

When she was done, it was silent. She put her head down as the light on her dimmed.

She walked off the stage.

And then she heard the roar from the crowd, cheering for her, cheering for her voice.

***

Now, her voice is her power.

Shaniece is studying at Lincoln University with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and English in Creative Writing, with a minor in music. She performs her poems regularly and speaks at events and camps about her experience.

Words are powerful, she says, and she wants to use that power for good. She has ideas on how to use creative writing to boost literacy in York.

When she performs, Shaniece wants to leave an impact on her audience.

“I want them to connect with what I’m saying,” she says. “I want them to know my story.”

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