Word Shakers


Don’t you just love when everything in your life begins to coexist with each other? These past two weeks for me have exemplified the power of words, from the theme of the last novel I read, to the virtues I learned from personal experiences, and the topic of the documentary about African American rights we watched in my journalism class. In a world where we claim to fight for peace, pursuit our meaning of happiness, and discover what role we are meant to play; there are the words that escape each others mouths or transcend onto to a sheet of paper in the midst of it all. These combinations of letters that have surrounded us and our ancestors have had more of an impact than one could ever fathom to imagine.

Like the Book Thief described,

“The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.” – Markus Zusak, the Book Thief

Liesel Memminger, the protagonist of the book, was categorized as a word shaker, like Adolf Hitler. If you were a word shaker, you understood that words were the most powerful weapon anyone could own, what a word shaker did then with the power was exclusively up to them. Liesel Memminger was a 10-year-old girl living in Nazi Germany infatuated with books, but learns that while words had the power to bring life and friends together, there were word shakers that used them to spread hatred and fear. Adolf Hitler was a prime example of a word shaker, because as Liesel Memminger came to realize, if words had not existed, he would never had had the power to speak the cruelty and discrimination reach the thousands that it did.

However, sometimes words have the power to change the world for the better rather then unravel it into despair and wretchedness. We watched a documentary in our journalism class about African American’s right’s and role in the world of journalism before the civil rights movement. Robert Abbott, the editor and founder of a paper titled the Chicago Defender in the early 1900’s, was greatly responsible for the great migration of southern African American’s to travel to the north for better life opportunities. The paper pinned Chicago as the destination spot, and blatantly expressed the demand for racial equality. Robert Abbott was a word shaker, he opened the eyes of many African American folk in the south by writing about the lynchings in the south, and other injustices committed due to racism and inequality. He inspired them to see there should be great discontentment in their lives and that they should hope for better.


In a world where African American’s hardly had any rights, the Founding Fathers did well by providing one of the most treasured amendments, that of free speech. Just imagine a protest, what are they screaming? What is on those signs? Those are words, being carried by the word shakers. Robert Abbott, and later the influential poet Gwendolyn Brooks, had every right to write and shake the world up with their words in the paper. The Chicago Defender provided hope to thousands of African Americans, and something for all to read and remind them that there was a sense of unity, there was something worth fighting for together. The paper allowed anyone to contribute their migration stories and poetry, everyone was becoming a little bit of a word shaker in the early 20’s. If it weren’t Robert Abbott and the first contributors to the paper, other word shakers would never have been inspired to become exemplified and treasured journalists or just discovering the freedom and power of words.

I have never felt more honored, illustrious and proud to declare myself an aspiring journalist. This past month I have learned from every direction that words undoubtedly have the power to influence the world in all senses of variety. There are countless memorable word shakers that I know you can think of, and now in the 21st century, everyone has the ability to become a word shaker in ways they never did before. Not just by publishing novels, or writing articles, but by tweeting, updating a facebook status, sending a text message, or blogging. Write about your day, write about what you stand for, what you can’t stand, what you believe in, everything and anything. There are endless and infinite outlets in our time and age in order to express our freedom of speech, what kind of word shaker we become is indefinitely up to us. My favorite quote is my favorite quote because of this reason, there have been bountiful atrocious word shakers, just as there have been exceptional and life changing ones, and I want to leave this world behind with my own.

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

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