By Liana Shivers, VA Middle and High School Program Coordinator
Photo courtesy of Liana Shivers
Tenth grade, as I was sitting in my AP European History class, scribbled in white on a blackboard, there’s a quote:
Backed by my growing awareness of human rights and the unsettling stories that follow them, I left class that day wondering: which stories are true? Which stories are lies? How do I know what I do not know?
Hello everyone! My name is Liana Shivers, the new Virginia Middle and High School Program Coordinator. Today, I will be taking over the blog with a little insight into what led me to AALEAD.
Growing up, people questioned my identity a lot. It was an intrusion that I grew familiar with, from the strangers that petted my hair to the assumptions that my mother must be White. It did not bother me at first. But, one day my mother revealed that my stepfather had felt uncomfortable at a parent-teacher event at school. Why? He was the only Black person in the room. Thus began my hyper-awareness to the people around me and the pigment of my skin.
I left high school feeling wronged. What understanding had I gained about the world, myself, or the people around me? My education was not a failure. It was not lost on me. I learned exactly what I was meant to learn: U.S. history, literature, and so forth, as told by those in power. So when I first came to George Mason University and saw the diversity there, it felt like a new world had been placed before me.
And oh, how it changed the game.
From hearing history told from a non-Eurocentric perspective to interviewing solitary confinement inmates for research to retracing the wake of slavery and racial violence in the United States and grappling with my own biases. College was a journey of unlearning and relearning and acknowledging the truths that had been denied to me throughout my education.
A journey that ended with a trip that completely shifted my thoughts on my future. My senior year, I decided to study abroad in the Philippines. As a first generation college student, it was not something my mother and I could afford but belief, two jobs, and a miracle got me there. The program focused on human trafficking and community engagement led by a professor who welcomed us into the beautiful country he calls home. It left me full of love for the people I met. More so, I found in myself a need to address the apathy, biases, and discarded truths that contribute to the state of our world, and engage with communities directly. When the opportunity to join AALEAD came, I leapt at it.
AALEAD is the kind of support that many people, myself included, would have benefited from growing up, and I am so thankful to be working here because empowering youth and communities directly to understand the multiple truths out there and within themselves is vital. Often, the world needs a reminder that it is not just about history.
It is about our stories.