Yesterday, I had the honor of being a guest on Black Hollywood Live’s talk show Phenomenal Women helmed by Ashida Onrae. Ashida is an extraordinary media hyphenate whose acumen includes motivational speaking, consulting, producing and TV hosting. Her show, Phenomenal Women, highlights women who have carved unique niches in their fields.

As Ashida and I discussed publicity, branding, creativity and all things Vanichi, I found myself in awe of our ability to communicate as a human species. I’ve always been inspired by the multi-faceted ways we can express ourselves. So, this is not the first time I’ve been overwhelmed by how wondrous and rare it is to connect to another person through your face, body language and voice.

7.2 billion humans exist on this planet where 6,500 languages are spoken. The human voice has evolved into this instrument that can literally break glass, create a room full of laughter, spit hate and vitriol at the oppressed or comfort and cradle a crying child. Beyond the voice, our body expressions can help bridge the gap between two people who speak different languages but lack an interpreter.

We all, regardless of race, language or dialect, share the same 6 basic human emotions: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness and sadness. The 42 muscles in our faces innately know how to express these emotions. This transcends every difference we think we have as a species. We are connected on this fundamental level just as we all are connected by the need to breathe oxygen and drink water. We enter this world with a birthright to read and understand each other without ever having to utter one word.

Yet, we still possess this magical talent to speak and sing in our unique voices. Each of us owns a distinct vocal signature that can never be duplicated, not even by a machine. Your voice is your voice alone. With it, you can offer your truth, reminisce about your journey through life, share words of encouragement, rally for what you believe, fight for your loved ones and even stand up for yourself.

Joy Donnell on Phenomenal Women

When I realized the depths of this gift that is the human voice and expression, I decided I wanted to use mine differently. I strive to not waste it on hate or dehumanization or hissyfits. I do my best to honor this gift and help those around me harness its power. We call it communication but it’s actually so much more.

When we give it the best of ourselves, communication is a bridge between two people. It is a gravity that can keep you grounded in the present. It is a hand that can open the door to your future self. It can even be medicine that heals the deepest atrocities of the human experience and replenishes parts of us once thought damaged beyond repair.

Each of us can make a choice about how we use it. We can spend all of our time making noise that demands our presence be known just for presence sake. Or we can contribute knowledge. Knowledge > Noise. – JD