The other weekend, I celebrated my birthday at home with some friends, a karaoke app, and a mic. It was a bit of a risk. Most of these folks had never sung karaoke before. But in the comfort of my home, with some libations as encouragement, each of us eventually took our turn singing on the mic. The party was a blast.
I've done karaoke like this -- in a private room with friends -- many times before. Inevitably, the progression is always this way: shy folks turn into Vanilla Ice or Beyonce over the course of a couple hours. And by the end, it's those same newbies that are begging to sing one more song while everyone else is just ready to call it a night.
I remember the first time I sang karaoke. It was exhilarating. I spent the first half hour or so sipping a beer and having a bunch of internal dialogue: "She sounds amazing. I'm not singing after that." "Oh, he actually wasn't that great. But he looks like he's having a blast. Should I sing soon?" "Okay, if they keep singing Lady Gaga I am going to HAVE to do some Madonna to bring things back to basics." Next think I know, I'm belting out Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and I don't care how I sound. I just know my friends are cheering me on, the music's blasting, and I am feeling incredible.
We've all sung in the shower, haven't we? The electricity of singing karaoke comes in part from that jump from a private to public forum. What about our private hopes and frustrations with our community or world? How often do we leave those between our temples because we're too afraid or shy or just not bold enough to share them?
In light of the recent multi-city protests against police killings of unarmed citizens, I've thought about how liberated those protesters must feel. There were over 50,000 marching in Manhattan alone. Surely with so many people, there was an endless number of unique, valid reasons for protestors to feel they should keep their concerns and hopes to themselves. So, how did they get from the proverbial shower to the streets?
Maybe it's similar to a karaoke night. Someone is in the company of those she realizes she can trust. She hears friends sharing their views and concerns and realizes she can do the same. So she speaks her mind. And when she does, the world doesn't spontaneously combust. In fact, everything's fine. So she continues to speak, and she's emboldened. Soon, she's ready to take her thoughts to a bigger forum and invigorate others to get behind her mission. And eventually, she sends a ripple through her community as a result of sharing the thoughts she had previously been keeping to herself.
So with that, do karaoke. And articulate the matters of your heart, too. It might transform you, but you never know until you try.
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter@cafeaulazy.