And Now, We Bid Adieu? – 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

When thinking of endings, I remind myself of how the journey began. For me, Victory Institue is a place where things never truly end. There is a continuation, an infinite amount of pouring into the cup of an inclusive, safe future for Queer folks. As we are coming to the end of the Victory Institute Congressional Internship program, I have a new sense of mobilization as my cup is overflowing. I can confidently say that the teachings, meetings, trainings, workshops, and check-ins have allowed me to dive deeper into what my identity means to me and how I can share that uniqueness with the world. 

Before joining the Victory Institute family, I was active in the grassroots scene combating environmental racism and increasing the visibility of Queer, Southern Black women. I always knew that I wanted to contribute to this work because of my upbringing in Memphis, TN. From an early age, I was exposed to the effects of faulty housing placements and the patriarchal hierarchy of crude oil. This experience made me seek a solution to these problems, which are not centered in Memphis politics or on a larger scale. Through years of having phenomenal mentors and engaging in politically-centered organizations, I knew that one day I wanted to be in elected office to change these issues and provide representation for my fellow citizens. However, this past year, I had a lengthy encounter with imposter syndrome. 

Coming back to Washington, D.C, was a culture shock after being gone for over a year. Upon arrival, I didn’t realize I had to readjust. I rushed back into a scene that didn’t know me anymore. I tried to affirm myself, but it wasn’t enough. This instance is when Victory Institute introduced itself to me. It is a place that was destined to cross paths with me. I belong here, and Lucy Arthur-Paratley reminded me of that every Friday during our professional development workshops. These workshops were designed for our benefit as young LGBTQ leaders. From learning Black LGBTQ history to talking to queer folks who shared my same passions and found themselves later in life, I realized there is no linear path. Without Victory, I wouldn’t be on this journey of renewal and finding purpose by engaging the younger generations of LGBTQ leaders at my university and back home. 

A few moments that stuck with me during my matriculation within the Victory Institute program were our trip to National African-American Museum, our at-home breakfast with Courtney Snowden and Joe Flud, and serving at Matha’s Table, a neighborhood empowerment organization based in Southeast DC.  My time at the National African-American museum with the Victory cohort and Lucy was a different trek than my first time visiting in the summer of 2019. To start the day, we each presented a Black figure in the LGBTQ movement. It was refreshing to hear about the contributions of my ancestors and the similarities we faced. After this, we entered the museum. I took my time and gave myself space to absorb the information in front of me. The long walk through the museum made me realize that my life is Black history, and I hope to inspire young students like myself to never give up on who weare and to shake the status quo. This experience informed my  service at Martha’s Table, a place full of love and hope. My service at Martha’s table made me feel like I was at home. Memphis and Southeast DC have very similar geographies and structures. From dilapidated property to the gentrification of the street around the block, it felt like I was back home. Meeting Ms. Alice, a Southeast native, I heard her stories of how her community was before Martha’s Table arrived. This made me think of the conversation the VCI intern cohort had with Courtney and Joe as they told us how different experiences change you and your ever-evolving path. It prompted me to think of why I’m waiting. I know now that I can’t wait. I have to move forward for my community, my peers, my university, Ms. Alice. So, there truly isn’t an ending. There is only growth and continuation.