B.A. Media Studies ’18
Ayah is the new social media assistant for the McCarthy Center and worked on the co-sponsored speaker’s event with Congressman John Lewis on the campus of USF on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
John Lewis was not a big part of my life growing up, he was not my idol and truthfully, I did not know who he was outside from what I read online about him.
Now, John Lewis is one of the biggest influences I have in my life, and it only took him one night of speaking for 20 minutes to a crowd of 200 people for me to realize that. I did not know what I was missing before hearing his voice resonate to a crowd of people of all races, gender and socio-economic class.
I walked into the event not knowing what to expect. Would there be a ton of suit and tie high profile people looking for photo ops, or important donors for USF that we had to impress? And to my surprise the first person that greeted me was a 6th grader named Heaven who I mentored while working for Magic Zone, an afterschool program dedicated to aiding students in the community with homework.
Heaven reminded me of someone I wish I was when I was in 6th grade. Growing up in New Jersey I was nervous and anxious for the future and I kept that anxiety with me for a long time, I was afraid to speak in public, I was afraid to have people know how I was feeling and Heaven was the exact opposite. She knew when she wanted to be heard, she articulated her ideas with such force that whoever she was talking to would have to remain silent to fully grasp what she wanted to say. She was hopeful, bright, smart and funny. Every quality I desperately needed when I was growing up.
Heaven was excited to hear and see John Lewis, an opportunity she said was like “meeting a celebrity.” Her joy, the light in her eyes and the excitement in her tone of voice reassured me that the future generation is not a lost cause, they are not phone addicts who are addicted to social media, but they are young, hopeful individuals who are hungry for knowledge and Heaven was the prime example of that.
If I took anything away from the John Lewis event it was not a quote from John Lewis himself, but rather a quote from his co writer, Andrew Aydin.
There was a portion during the event where people in the crowd could write anonymous questions/comments, so I took a notecard, wrote a question I thought would never get answered and handed it back to the program director. Ironically, my question was the first to be answered, “When I was younger I was so afraid of not having my voice heard, and now, being a Black Muslim woman in America I’m just afraid. What do you do to not only conquer your fears but to make sure your voice is heard?”
When prompted with the question he replied with a quote that will resonate with me forever, “Be you as loud as you can. Make everyone know who you are. If they don’t like it, they will get out of the way.”
I will be me – and be as loud as I can, and I will do so knowing that I have the support from Andrew Aydin and John Lewis himself.
For more photos visit our Flickr album at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94892181@N02/albums