I spoke in court for the first time when I was twelve years old. A pipe burst had left our rented apartment and belongings in ruins without compensation, and I was the closest alternative we had to a lawyer. I had been reluctant to take on the position, for we had come to Canada less than a year before, and I was far from fluency, let alone the eloquence one needed in a legal battle. It was my first taste of defeat and injustice, and I was angry.
I couldn’t understand how one could be so clearly in the right and yet ruled to be in the wrong, all because of one line on one sheet of paper. While I can now accept it as reality, it is one I am unwilling to celebrate complacently.
Without language is without light in a scavenger hunt—the next clue can be dangling an inch away and we may never find it. It is screaming into a crowd only to be drowned out by sounds of feet tapping against the pavement. It takes power away from us, then our voice, then visibility altogether.
But the reverse is also true. Having language empowers us, gives us a voice, and compels people to listen. It is a right and a privilege, one I wish I had six years ago. It is the medium through which the Human Library strives to break down stereotypes and prejudices. While I couldn’t tell my story that day, I am elated to be able to help others tell their stories.
So if you haven’t already, mark down April 4th for some snacks and insightful conversations!
- Karen Li (Logistics Team Member)