A Day of Identity: The Intersections of Blackness and Queerness – Allyson Smith

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

Victory Institute has been an experience that my inner child is thankful for every day. Whenever I see the faces of my cohort or Lucy, I am met with wisdom and respect. As we check in with one another, it seems as though we are on the same accord and are going through the same things. Whether we discuss our identities, family dynamics, or academics, we find commonality with one another. 

Thinking of all the times I have spent in Victory so far, the trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture was a grounding experience that I will never forget. The theme of the third week of our educational leadership programming was Black LGBTQ advocates who were pivotal through history. For me, Marsha P. Johnson immediately resonated with me. Being a pioneer in the creative and activism space, her story was hard to digest for me, but hearing her resilience, instilled a sense of change within me. As we all talked about our respective Black heroes, we focused closely on how the willpower of each individual allowed us to thrive in the spaces we are currently occupying. After we dove deep into how we resonated with each individual, we went into the National African American Museum. 

This was not my first time in this sacred space. The summer before my freshman year of college at Howard University, I visited this museum. The same feelings of nostalgia and hopefulness consumed me as we stepped foot inside. To start this journey, I began at the bottom of the museum. The bottom consists of the way that African Americans affirmed themselves before they were involuntarily brought into the Americas. As I was walking through these exhibitions, I kept having a strange sense of remembering. I kept reminiscing on my family tree and how they have also made me who I am today. I thought about those ancestors who created their ways of living before they were taken from the world they knew, and how they are still working through me so those traditions do not die. It didn’t take me very long to go through this portion twice and each time opened my mind more to knowledge that I have never been introduced to before. 

As I made my way to the top, I stopped for a minute to take in what I just encountered. The feelings that were going through me were mostly anger as I thought of the whys and the what-ifs but through it all, I was surprisingly desensitized to the narrative that stood before me. The desensitization could have been rooted in the glossing over of Black people’s feelings and how we tell to get over our feelings by this capitalistic, white supremacist structure called America. 

After I took this deep breath, I decided to go to the art portion of the museum. This part of the visit was by far my favorite portion of the entire trip. There, I saw the beautiful picture of Breonna Taylor by Amy Sherald. I sat at this picture for about twenty minutes, teary-eyed yet enamored with Breonna’s beauty. After this, I went downstairs and met back up with my cohort. It was exciting to hear and feel everything they felt. We shared similarities in our museum experiences, and I can say that I left fulfilled.