In this short essay “The Right to Be Me”, Mammatli Molefi talks about the power and importance of creative expression.

Thousands and thousands of years ago humans used drawings, songs, dance, and simple gestures to tell stories, stories of hunting expeditions, love and death, and a brighter future. If they hadn’t applied creativity, their tales might still live in caves today. Everything we do begins as a thought and some of the best ideas were developed first by being written down. Even Sesotho folk-tales are preserved in books and continue to shape young children as they grow.

In the movie business, thoughts are conceived and written down before they are shot on film. Behind every “genius” leader, politician, famous or infamous celebrity there is a script, written with the intention to be memorable and mind-blowing. The greatest speeches – some for good and some for bad – have changed the world. Martin Luther King Jr. is still celebrated for his speeches because through his creative expression, he did change the world. He influenced many people’s views on racism and equal rights. Formidable leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama also challenged the stigma attached to their ethnicity. These are men who heal people with their words.
Another such inspirational figure is Malala Yousafzai. In early 2009, she was about 12 years old, but she wrote a blog under a fictitious name for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban occupation and her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley. Among many accolades her writings got her noticed by journalist Adam B. Ellick, who shot a documentary on her life and struggles. She received the International Children’s Peace Prize and a UN petition was launched in Yousafzai’s name which said that every child worldwide should be in school by the end of 2015 – a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. Malala Yousafzai went on to be the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. If one child can effect change in the world through a creative mind, imagine the odds that would be against us without the freedom to be creative.

If we lost our creative freedom we would lose our future. We would be slaves to the thought and beliefs of anyone who hides behind the barrel of a gun or anyone who blends into the shadows of an already darkened world. Creativity is the light that gives us hope and reason. Creativity is the air we all breathe and the heart as it continues to beat. It is life and I for one breathe and live through creative expression.

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