Silent Struggles: The Quest for My Voice

Silent Struggles: The Quest for My Voice

Reflecting on my childhood, I often dreamed about the power and meaning my voice could have. Yet, more often than not, I saw it reduced to faint whispers, overshadowed by the noise of others. As a child, I turned to food to mask my feelings, which has been a lifelong struggle and battle with food since I was small. The unspoken rule among Black families has always been clear: "What goes on in this house, stays in this house!" In my parents' generation, family matters were kept private, leading me to internalize trauma and emotions before they even fully formed.

One of the most poignant moments where I felt my voice was truly unheard was when my sister stole from our grandmother during a summer visit in Memphis, TN. While I enjoyed my time at the pool with cousins, my sister was inside, taking things that didn't belong to her. She had gotten ahold of my grandmother’s Home Shopping Network card and decided to order things for herself. In all honesty, I saw what she was doing, although I couldn't put all the pieces together in my head, but my voice, already diminished, remained silent. Many more experiences just like this, along with witnessing my mom’s struggles with drug addiction, shaped my understanding of trust and communication within my family and even friendships. At 14, feeling isolated when I found myself alone living with my mom, who had locked herself in a room for a few days, I asked my dad, "Why don't you love me the same way you love Carol?" His response felt dismissive as it was pretty matter-of-fact: "That's not true," but we never dug deeper into the "why" I was calling my parent and asking. I believe these experiences revealed the lack of a safe space for honest dialogue from me to others, and I opted to just suppress my voice.

Trauma can go deep, as far back as you can remember, and I believe all of us have something we have experienced that causes trauma and shapes a negative trait you may find within yourself. I can go back as far as kindergarten. Once, I had a note for my mom, and I was missing a homework assignment. She immediately went from 0 to 100 on me before I could remind her, "We weren't in school that day," but before I could formulate those words, her hands landed on my face, and I remember falling and hitting my face on the bathtub, and blood coming out of my nose or tooth. This incident taught me that speaking up often made things worse. Such early experiences drove me to focus on school as an escape. I found solace in teachers like Ms. Tabor, my first Black teacher, who provided the dialogue I lacked at home. She asked me the "Who, what, when, where, and why's." In a previous blog, I mentioned how I felt my parents were just happy that I would leave them alone most days when I was younger—which I get—but that recurring theme more than likely shaped my inability to articulate my pain.

When I went to college in 2000, I was beginning to really find a voice. I was finding a woman who started to express what I liked and didn't like. That was a great time for me to open up and find "that voice." I discovered free writing, poetry, guitar, and expressing myself through music. I had always wondered why teachers said I could craft the greatest essay but could never craft the right way to tell someone, "You're hurting me." When I did try, I always had tears in my eyes or found myself shaking and backspacing or backtracking my words to explain hurt. I do believe it’s easy or easier to express the positive; it’s hard to express the pain and get it out. Sometimes, the person on the other side will not want to hear what you have to say anyway, which still leaves that voice "unheard."

After college, my first marriage brought its own challenges. I spent my college years finding my voice, even with men, and finding my voice in honestly expressing what I did and did not like. However, I regressed back in my first marriage. Why do some humans do that? We spend time doing some of the work and then we get into a romantic relationship and say, "Forget all that hard work you've done on yourself." In that marriage, my husband’s vile words and rage often drove me to hide in a closet, crying and begging him to stop. It wasn’t until a deep conversation with my friend Chas that I began to see how much of myself I had lost. He told me, "This is not the Geneva I know." That made sense. The Geneva he got to know in college was not the Geneva who allowed herself to go backward. However, Geneva in college was motherless; now Geneva was a mom, and that brings another set of fears. If you look back to the time I spoke about purchasing my first firearm, I never wanted to get into the details of what pushed me over the edge. I tried to tell my dad once when he moved back from Georgia, but he dealt with certain things with jokes, and at the time I couldn't even open up and give all the details. That is a lonely place to be, to go through something so traumatic and feel as if you're too embarrassed to tell your actual story of how someone hurt you. I remember saying, "Dad, it’s not funny to me." He apologized. I didn't fully give details about everything outside of my now husband and close friend about what that abuse looked like physically and mentally. I do know I looked myself in the mirror and said to myself a quote I heard from my bonus mom: "If you put your hands on me, I will make your mama cry." She always said that, and she doesn't know it’s something I live by to this day, and it’s the very reason why I am passionate about women protecting themselves and the driving voice behind my nonprofit, "Our Voice in Valor," which, now that I am reflecting, is a wonderful and fitting name.

During the first ten years of my corporate career, I felt excitement and happiness being part of a phenomenal team, making money, and escaping my childhood traumas. I was presenting with so much courage in front of large crowds with ease and confidence. However, that "unheard" voice still comes back into play when you enter the workforce. I was the woman pulled into one-on-one meetings for a "strategy session" and then watched that same person take my idea to the VPs and heads of departments as their own idea to make bonuses. After a while, I stopped doing that and reverted to "I don't have any ideas." There are many other corporate experiences that I can't touch on, but they were incredibly hurtful, and again, my voice was defined as being the "angry black woman."

Starting Redstone Creative in 2017 was a pivotal moment in this journey. As I started to age, my mental health required more attention. Somehow anxiety just pops up out of nowhere. How do you go so long not having panic attacks, sleeping like a baby every night, and not breaking down so much, and then one day your brain says, "Nope." I had to find something other than "eating." So I went back to what I did in college, but unknowingly. In college, it was slam poetry and music. Once I had a husband, children, and a growing business (Redstone Firearms), going to slam poetry nights wasn't going to work. So I found myself on YouTube, buying a heat press, a vinyl cutter, and a laser engraving machine, and I found joy. Creating art allowed me to escape my traumas. I can't tell you why, but it felt like 10 hours on a project was nothing, and my home office was this big craft room full of supplies. Crafting never felt like work.

I remember my best friend's bridal shower. I handmade all of the girls' T-shirts who attended. That felt like an escape from the growing and newly founded anxiety. I still find joy on my stressful days to design something new, even if it's taking my actual pain and turning it into an embroidered patch, T-shirt, or design for some wrapping paper. I smile at that because there are other people out there like me who must empathize with what I'm going through because either they're purchasing these items for themselves or for a loved one.

Reflecting on 22 years of therapy, I’ve learned to give myself time to process instead of jumping to immediate judgments. Therapy taught me to give myself grace and to heal from past traumas, ensuring they don't affect my relationships. I'm proud of myself today for opting to write this and make it "live." It’s showing I'm ready to get the truth all out and finally speak about the painful parts that helped me turn into the human I am right now.

Keep in mind that even through therapy and finding positive things to divert those anxious thoughts, life isn't going to suddenly stop handing you some trials. Currently, I'm facing challenges where my voice wasn't heard in some large business decisions. So I find myself being triggered more often now than ever before, but I know eventually I will find myself back on track and letting the tears from this storm wash over me and move on.


Looking back, finding my voice has been a continuous journey. To those struggling to find their voice, my advice is to avoid internalizing negativity. Write it down, start a blog, and seek groups where you feel comfortable expressing yourself. For those who might diminish the voices of others, sometimes just listening and validating their feelings without always providing answers is just fine.

Through all these experiences, I've learned that my voice can be powerful even when I'm not speaking. It’s about the energy and intention behind my words. And while I’m still navigating how to articulate myself without shrinking, I know that my words are impactful and my voice deserves to be heard. In my Chris Brown voice: "Look at me now..."

As a wife, business owner, and self-defense advocate, I continue to push past the pain and speak out. My journey is a testament to resilience, and I hope it inspires others to find and use their voice, no matter how challenging it may be.

Now, I invite you to reflect on your own journey. Consider these questions and, if you feel comfortable, share your thoughts in the comments:

  1. Have you provided a safe space for friends, children, or family to allow their voices to be heard? If not, do you believe an apology is necessary?
  2. Do you feel as if your voice has not been heard? If so, what is your plan to reclaim it?
  3. What steps can you take today to ensure that both you and those around you feel validated and heard?

Your voice matters. Let's create a dialogue that encourages understanding, empathy, and empowerment.

Geneva Solomon

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