The Time to Be Alive – Janiah Miller

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 I reflect on my time as a Victory Congressional Intern it feels surreal. I no longer feel alone navigating the world, I feel liberated. One can liberate themselves by finding acceptance within themselves, and that is exactly what I did.  

I woke up on the last day of the internship program and thought, “Wow, it’s really the last day. It feels odd that it doesn’t feel like it’s over. Just a few months ago, I wrapped up 2.5 years in the Student Government Association. At our end of the year banquet, it felt like it was the last day. I felt uncertain about what my future as a leader entailed. I got used to leading in that capacity. When I think about the Victory Congressional Intern program ending I don’t think about it being over, I think about the rest of my life beginning. This is the start of a new beginning. I’ll return home to be a part of a social justice residency program in Cincinnati, begin my membership with the Southwest Ohio Black Democrats, and in the spring, I’ll be in the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission intern program. After that I’ll turn my tassel. The future is bright — this is the time to be alive, to be a young Black queer woman in the politics. 

This summer, participating in the DC and NYC DYKE March was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. I felt the most empowered in my Black, Queer womanhood. I loved seeing alternative forms of policing at the marches, through the use of community members serving as marshals. I was able to march with other Black folx while holding a sign that said, “Decriminalize Blackness.” I felt love to the point where I almost cried when a woman approached, shared that she’s an old dyke, smiled and shook my hand. Another older woman wanted to take a picture with me. 

Congressional Interns pose with Representative Ayanna Pressley

Being able to attend the Black Women’s Congressional Association week event with Ayanna Pressley was amazing. The conversation was nuanced in what it means to be a Black girl and woman. My biggest takeaway is that Ayanna Pressley can be aauthentic Black women while in a white space. I was tearing up as she spoke and felt like I was being over the top, but then looked over at Alexis, and for the first time in my life, I felt my shoulders go down and didn’t feel alone, particularly in navigating the political world.  

VCI Janiah poses below a Shirley Chisholm portrait with the same crossed arm pose as Shirley ChisholmThey don’t want you to have joy– they want you walking with your head down. I live by Shirley Chisholm’s mantra, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” When thinking about this mantra, I think about the legacy and what it means to continue it. To me this means not only sitting at the table,but building your own table that allows you to be unapologetic. It has been 50 years since Shirley Chisholm was elected to be the first Black woman to be in the United States House of Representatives, as well as the first woman and Black person to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party. We must, as women of color, as Black women, continue to change the way leadership looks and presents itself.