Volume 5 • Issue 9 • September 2020
Uplift Family Services is a trauma-informed agency, providing whole person care through resilience-oriented, data-driven, culturally sensitive services. We believe in the power of staff investment, advocacy and collaboration as we partner with individuals, families, and communities to heal from the widespread impact of trauma.
Jenae Ailia is a young singer/songwriter and daughter of Janelle Surrey, an Uplift CPM in Sacramento. Here, in their own words, is Jenae’s story of resilience.
I grew up an only child so I really had no choice but to constantly rely on my imagination. I would write songs when I was little with my dad, but I didn’t take them seriously until I was 12 years old. The first was called “California” –maybe I’ll release it sometime.
I still wear the hat of a fearlessly self-expressive kid. I enjoy writing and hope to be published one day, I still look up to my father as artistic inspiration, I still find myself getting lost in clothes and books.
My father writes about current events and our ever-changing political climate and suggested that I do the same. After George Floyd’s death, I was shattered and went to the place that I knew best. Writing New Revolution had a certain impatience and felt almost effortless as if it had been anxious to get out.
I am constantly seeking answers to understand the world around me. I’ve yet to understand hatred, whether in the form of racism, homophobia, misogyny. I do not understand how someone can look another human in the eyes and decide they have the power to dictate whether or not that person sees another day.
My goal with the song is to raise awareness and inspire longevity. Our movements tend to function in sprints–the same small group fights hard for a bit, inevitably gets tired (or silenced) and we move onto something else. I would like to encourage listeners to walk with me through the movement. There is a lot of talk about privilege. Our lives, our voices are privilege enough.
My political identity has greatly contributed to my mental health, which I did not realize until recently. As a queer, Black person, I was often left with a feeling of otherness. I grew up in the suburbs, I went to predominantly white schools, I was raised in a loving home by both of my parents, but that isn’t the Black experience that’s majorly portrayed. I wanted nothing more than to be someone else. I didn’t feel “Black enough” because I wasn’t who white people expected me to be. I’ve since learned to reclaim my skin and existence for what it is: mine. I am a walking statement. To some I am fascinating, I am Beyoncè, Normani, Oprah. To others I am the feral “Angry Black Woman.” And to a few I do not matter at all. Before I am a person, I am Black; Before I am an artist, I am Black and I pay the price everyday.
What perpetuates the cycle of institutional racism is a lack of willingness to expand logic beyond personal experience–the mindset of “no that’s not true” with a justification of a special circumstance. Black people have been gaslit for decades. Listen and let marginalized groups tell their own stories. If we begin to look at our interactions as those of a relationship as opposed to war we will make significant progress.
If you’re unsure of how you can do your part in the movement, or don’t know where to start I ask that you begin by looking within. Ask yourself: What pain am I still holding onto? When was the last time I did something out of the pure goodness of my heart? What parts of my routine no longer serve me? Do not ask yourself with the intention of answering, let your mind ponder and answers will come.
We cannot heal as a society until we work to heal ourselves.