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.