Celebrating Blackness with Aaliyah and Rasheeda
Every February, National Black History Month serves as a time to remember Black history, celebrate Black culture, and remind us of how vital Black stories are to the ongoing story of America.
MSA recently sat down with Aaliyah, an AmeriCorps member, and Rasheeda, a Commonwealth Corps member, to talk about service, representation, and celebrating Black History Month.
Inspired to Serve
Aaliyah, an AmeriCorps member serving at Youth Enrichment Services (YES) in Boston, shared that in high school, she was deeply impacted by an AmeriCorps member at a local Boys & Girls Club. "I was a first-generation college student, so I was very appreciative of Lauren for all the help that she gave me. Ever since that interaction, I wanted to give back to my community. I’ll be honest and admit that [serving in AmeriCorps] can be strenuous, but the payoff is incredible. Creating connections with [my] youth and seeing that impact in the broader community makes it all worth it."
Rasheeda, a Commonwealth Corps member serving at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro South's Freight Farm, had a similar story: "Some of my best memories growing up... [came from] being a youth member [of a] Boys and Girls club. What better place to give back than at the organization that never let me slip through the cracks?" Rasheeda explained how service through Commonwealth Corps has been hugely rewarding to her, letting her showcase her creativity and talents.
Why Representation Matters
"I grew up in a time where color mattered," Rasheeda said. "All my teachers and fellow students were all white, and I never felt like I belonged. Later on, I realized I wanted to be part of the reason the world sees me and other beautiful girls and woman [like me] as the amazing beings we most definitely are in our own right." Today in Commonwealth Corps, Rasheeda works to make Boys and Girls Club youth feel seen and have fun. One of her recent ideas was to start growing tea leaf plants on the farm, which bloomed into her creating fresh tea bags with youth and providing tea to staff.
"Representation in all aspects is extremely important," Aaliyah added. "It means that youth of color see their future selves in new positions they’ve never seen before." In her AmeriCorps member role at YES, Aaliyah serves as a college counselor for predominantly low-to-moderate-income youth — helping and inspiring youth of color and future first-generation college students as they work towards their goals.
Celebrating Beyond Black History Month
"Black History Month means a celebration of all things Black," Aaliyah said. "[It's] an ode to our history and our future as a community."
"Black History Month lasts 365 days a year for me," Rasheeda added. "I educate myself and my family daily on the struggle others before us had, and what we still face because of the color of our skin today. It's always hard to see that... but after reading and researching, I can only feel blessed to live in a time where I am viewed and considered free."
As Black History Month wraps up, we encourage you to join Rasheeda and Aaliyah in using this month as a springboard to celebrating Blackness every day of the year and committing to make our world a more equitable place.