“A teacher’s inability to hear the funds of knowledge, strength, joy, and love from students’ voices is not the fault of the student.”
Silence is both a noun and a verb—defined as the absence of sound and the prohibition of speech, respectively. Silence is a gift and a curse. It is a tool for liberation and a tool of oppression. Silence is complex; it can communicate both rest and labor, compliance and resilience, humility and pride. Silence is a provocative strategy used by the powerful to exclude the less powerful and render them voiceless, outside the dominant narrative. Simultaneously, however, it is a revolutionary tactic of reflection and imagination, used by the historically marginalized to develop and center their own stories. How we interpret and respond to silence speaks to our individual identities, our intersectional narratives, and our work as a community. We are a collective of Black educators in North Carolina fighting to dismantle an educational system rooted in white supremacy. Throughout this essay, we demonstrate how silence can be used as a pedagogical practice centering and amplifying the lived experiences of historically marginalized groups. Soundscapes are not monolithic, so the practices we use are diverse. In oppressive schooling spaces, we understand that educators must utilize both the presence and absence of sound to create soundscapes where silent mindfulness is harmless, wait time is sacred, racial identity is honored, and multiple perspectives are given voice.