All Articles Tagged "black voices"

Do You Sound Like A Black Woman? The Way You Speak Is Having An Impact On Your Career

June 12th, 2015 - By Lauren McEwen
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I began working when I was 16, ringing up orders at a fast food chain. It was then that I first truly began to be cognizant of the impression my voice made, raising it a couple of octaves to communicate “friendliness” or “helpfulness” to my customers. I occasionally refer to this as my “Snow White Voice.” It has a lilting cadence with a girlish pitch, and while it does seem to help put people at ease, it’s grating on my ears.

Why do I think that voice conveys a willingness to assist when my naturally deeper tone with its often-noticeable Southern twang does not? It’s a topic I recently brought up while doing some part-time event work and my supervisor’s response was both spot-on and intriguing. She brought up the infantilization of women — how we are expected to play younger in order to seem sweet or approachable — and explained that she long ago stopped altering her speaking voice for others. “I speak in my exact same tone, but I’m just as polite. And I only laugh when I am amused,” she said. In that moment, she became my hero.

Speaking with a higher pitch was something that has come almost naturally to me. I instinctively do it when I speak with elders in informal settings and as I began working it just seemed natural to put strangers at ease by appearing as “sweet” as possible. It has only begun to bother me now that I am a full-fledged adult. But when I began to work in more diverse professional settings, I learned that there was one other thing people heard when I spoke: the inherent Blackness in my voice.

It started when I had one of my first, real internships. My supervisor was a man with one of the thickest Georgia accents I’ve ever heard. He loved my work. His only critique? I needed to “work on [my] diction.”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a Black accent, except that in a society where whiteness is normative, it’s judged as less desirable. Making a call without your “white” voice could mean the loss of a job, an apartment, any number of opportunities,” wrote Indianapolis writer and speech professor Tami Winfrey Harris in a 2010 Psychology Today piece,  “What’s so wrong with “sounding black?”

“At the time, I was a columnist for Psychology Today and I wrote a lot of articles regarding race and that topic was one that had long bothered me. There was this idea that even if you had perfect grammar, you spoke perfectly, if you had an accent that people associated with Blackness, then somehow, you were not professional,” said Harris in a phone interview.

I Googled “Black women diction” to research this article and one of the first results that popped up was the Urban Dictionary definition for “Ghetto Black People.” I’ll spare you the details because it’s just as gross as it sounds, but the point is this: speech patterns associated with Blackness are too often considered inferior. It seems that it is not enough to round ones gerunds and hit consonants firmly. Any trace of one’s cultural heritage in their voice or language could be deemed by some as “unprofessional” or “ghetto.”

“I think for a lot of us, it’s ingrained in how we present ourselves. Most of us code switch. You’re in the office and you have one voice and then you have another voice when you’re at home and you’re talking to your friend,” says Harris. Her upcoming book, The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, unpacks stereotypes about Black women, their historical contexts and anecdotes from individuals Harris interviewed. It will be released on July 7.

For many of us, code switching may not be totally regulated to the workplace. I find myself inadvertently altering my speech while doing everything from asking for directions at the airport to booking an appointment at a new salon.

Harris says this is a prime example of the way that Black women are at the intersection of sexism and racism. “Women face this idea about the way we speak and speaking too high, so that people think you’re childish and girlish and then don’t take you seriously, even if that’s your normal voice. You have to take it down a few octaves so you can sound ‘strong’ or ‘forceful,’” she says. That’s upspeak, or “the tendency to make your voice rise at the end of sentences so that statements sound like questions,” as an example.

Also referred to as “talking like a Valley girl,” upspeak is an affectation that has been said to make women sound dumb, less confident and often, shallow. The same blatantly sexist criticisms have been made about the U.S.’s newest “linguistic fad,” vocal fry.

“In regular speaking mode, the vocal folds rapidly vibrate between a more open and more closed position as the air passes through. In vocal fry, the vocal folds are shortened and slack so they close together completely and pop back open, with a little jitter, as the air comes through. That popping, jittery effect gives it a characteristic sizzling or frying sound,” writes linguist Arika Okrent in this comprehensive vocal fry explainer.

It goes by many names (including “creaky voice” and “talking like a Kardashian”) but the backlash against vocal fry has been so swift that “This American Life” did an entire segment on the trend. Listeners were complaining about the voices of young women, saying that they simply could not listen to reporters who spoke that way. Women who fry are at particularly risk of missing out on job opportunities because potential employers might not take them seriously. Of course, there are also men who also speak this way, but, young, college-educated white women are typically the face of the fad.

“I don’t think it’s an overall thing that women do. I think it’s just an affectation of a certain group of women that has gained importance because they are the women that are seen as important,” says Harris.

Contrast this with the persistent, negative connotation associated with African American Vernacular English (AAVE). During my freshman year of college, my psychology professor made a statement about language that has stuck with me for years. He referred to AAVE as a dialect of English — a dialect that is considered inferior because the people associated with it are seen as such.

Of course, this not a phenomenon that is unique to black people. Harris, cites both southern and Heavy New York accents is one example. A certain scene from “My Fair Lady” also comes to mind.

This balancing act I do, alternating between my work voice, my Snow White voice and my real voice, is tiring. So is worrying about it all. And, to be honest, I’m not even sure how much these efforts matter in the long run. My voice is my voice. My only goal is for people to listen to my words and not get caught up in the way they are pronounced, which is probably why I prefer to write rather than speak.

Tragedy: Missing Girl, Jade Morris Found Dead After Casino Stabbing

December 28th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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jade morris

Source: Las Vegas Police Department/AP Photo)

From Black Voices


The body of 10-year-old Jade Morris was found in a Nevada desert on Thursday, according to family members.

The discovery was made by a man walking his dog near an unfinished housing development in the northern stretches of the Las Vegas Valley, Las Vegas Metro Police said.

Family members told the Black and Missing Foundation that they visually identified the remains for police, who have not yet released a statement positively identifying the body.

Read the statement from the family and the rest of the story surrounding Jade’s disappearance and subsequent death at Black

Peep This List: Power Couples of Black Culture

November 12th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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Source: Shutterstock

From Black Voices

It’s often said there’s power in numbers, and in celebration of Black culture’s most dynamic duos, there is no shortage of power couple candidates. From television to film, music to politics, journalists to philanthropists, athletes to authors, the following are 21 runners-up to our list of America’s most famous and influential celebrity duos.


Brown Girls Can’t Wear Brown Leggings? Girl Kicked Out Of Class For Skin-Tone Tights

September 14th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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Source: BlackVoices

From BlackVoices

Deja, an 11-year-old in Sunland, California, was sent to the principal’s office at her middle school last week over a supposedly “racy” pair of clothing: her pants.

KTLA reports that the middle schooler was called in for discipline over the dark brown leggings she was wearing, which got her dismissed from class on Friday. She returned to school on Tuesday.

Deja’s mother, Yolanda Tunstill, says that the incident was related to her daughter’s skin color, as she’s never been called in for wearing leggings before she wore this dark brown pair. “I felt discriminated against,” she said. “I can understand if they said okay, this type of material, this type of clothing [was inappropriate]. But for you to make a remark to state because the pants were brown and to make a remark about my daughter’s skin color… That was not right to me.” She’s planning to take legal action.

Check out more on this story and the school’s policy on

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Did You Know These Black Celebs Were Republican?

August 27th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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From BlackVoices

Sure, we all know the major black republicans like Allen West, Artur Davisand Clarence Thomas. But some famous faces have managed to slip under the radar when it comes to their affiliation with the GOP. Even though the party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, is capturing zero percent of the black vote, there are still a number of African Americans who align themselves with the Republicans.

Check out the surprising list on

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Deuces! Venus And Serena Cover NY Times Magazine

August 24th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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Source: Black Voices

From BlackVoices

Given their record-breaking Olympic wins and a bevy of other championship titles, it’s safe to say that tennis titans Venus and Serena Williams are in a league of their own. Covering the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine, the glowing sisters posed defiantly aside one another, hands clenched and a formidable pair of rock-hard abs on display.

In the cover story titled “Venus and Serena Against the World,” the Williams sisters look back on their long journey to athletic stardom. Their parents and coachesRichard Williams and Oracene Price, who are also spoken about in detail, recalled the Williams’ earlier years when their daughters trained in the inner city neighborhood of Compton, California.

Check out the sisters’ real feelings on being black in a predominantly white sport on

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Sitcom Sneak Peek: TV Land’s New Series, ‘The Soul Man’

June 11th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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R&B superstar-turned-minister Reverend Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine (Cedric The Entertainer) was living the high life in Las Vegas at the top of the music charts when he got “the calling” and decided to relocate to St. Louis with his family to become a preacher in his father’s church. However, his family members – including wife Lolli (Niecy Nash) and daughter Lyric (Jazz Raycole) – are not exactly eager to give up the fabulous superstar life for their new humble one.

That’s the plot of the new comedy series “The Soul man” which also stars John Beasley (“Everwood”) as Boyce’s father, Barton, and Wesley Jonathan (“What I Like About You”) as his brother, Stamps. “The Soul Man” premieres Wednesday 10/9c on TV Land.

Check out the full pilot episode of the new series on and tell us if you’ll be tuning in.

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Lyrical Inspiration: Melanie Fiona Reveals Her Black Music Icons

June 6th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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Following in the footsteps of Whitney Houston, Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, Sade, and Lauryn Hill is something that Melanie Fiona has always admired throughout her career. In support of Black Music Month, the Canadian-bred Grammy Award-winner opened up to the Huffington Post exclusively on the five black music icons and how they have inspired her to embark on a recording career.

“I think each one of those artists brings something very unique to their story and what their story is and what their passion is,” the 28-year-old explained. “And I think that you know it stems from great song writing and great voices really. I just think that that’s definitely what I’m inspired by.

“You know Sam Cooke and Whitney Houston I’d probably say are my two ultimate favorite favorites for voices. Bob Marley is just so…so powerful in showing that music can have a message and how that can effect and change the world. Sade; grace and class, beauty…you know, just amazing.”

Check out what Melanie Fiona had to say about Lauryn Hill as well as an exclusive performance of five tracks from her new album, “The MF Life,” on

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Look and Listen: The Most Memorable Album Covers of All Time

June 4th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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"album covers"

The Ohio Players ‘Ecstacy’ made BlackVoice/Huffington Post’s Memorable Black Album Covers list.

From Black

Recording a masterful opus requires various elements upon completion including producers, songwriters, and musicians just to name a few. Not to mention an artist and a photographer to help showcase and convey the album’s visual concept for its front cover.

In celebration of Black Music Month, we gathered a vast collection of memorable album covers through the years, ranging from Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” to Nas’ 1994 debut hip-hop classic “Illmatic.”

See which albums made the cut at

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Where Are You Going This Summer?

June 1st, 2012 - By madamenoire
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For Teri Johnson and Andrea Adams, traveling the world is a year-round pursuit. But with summer (unofficially) underway, it’s as good a time as any to knock some cities off your travel bucket list. For the next eight weeks, the Travelistas are taking us along as they explore the sights and sounds and culinary delights of eight destinations, from the closer to home (New Orleans and Detroit) to the farther flung (Italy, Antigua, Mali and Johannesberg) — but first, New York City!

Find out where Teri and Andrea are vacationing this summer at 

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