The mission of the We’re Here Project is to empower and amplify the voices of young Black women in our community. In Southwest Missouri, there are still strides to be made with representation, diversity, and equity and the goal of this project is to raise the visibility of young Black women who wish to be a part of that conversation. Each woman selected for the project gets to share her story and perspective on beauty and strength as a Black woman in the Southwest Missouri area. This is Aaliyah’s interview:
I believe true beauty exists within the soul and the mind. It comes down to who we want to be as a person for ourselves and other people and how we want that reflected in our lives. Then that is expressed outwardly in our actions and appearance. For example I see myself as someone who just wants to exist honestly and through love and purpose so I find beauty within myself by simply being honest with myself about my desires for my body, clothing, hair, friendships, etc and just live in that.
I am a graduate student and preschool teacher at Missouri State University.
I came here to attend Missouri State in 2015 and got my Bachelors degree last year and have since decided to stay and work here while completing my masters degree.
My involvement in the community is fairly recently, because my intentions to stay here have grown. I am involved with Black Lives Matter Southwest Missouri and increasing my involvement in organizations and initiatives at Missouri State University to fight for equity.
I think throughout my undergraduate experience I lived in fear and defeat which gave me room to compartmentalize the bias I was experiencing at MSU to focus on the education I had spent my whole life working towards, and was finally experiencing and the opportunity I had to study abroad. I have come to a place in my life where my fear has taken a backseat and I am recognizing the wrong in my experiences and how they resemble so many students of color at Missouri State and I am doing what I can to further educate myself and be action orientated so that students don’t have to continue to experience it.
I could be doing more to take care of myself but I think right now I am simply relying on the support of my friends and likeminded individuals to keep me focused and motivated.
I want to be known for my ability to unconditionally love and support people. Obviously I prioritize my mental and physical health in all situations, but I live most of my life just trying to be good to people because I believe that’s the way the world should be.