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High Road 2021- Still Shaping Stories Miles Away

by Samantha Ivey

“Stories are everywhere, and I look for them everywhere.” - Karima Amin, Monday Orientation

At 9:29 AM I stared at the email and zoom link that would bring me to the High Roads Orientation with a sense of dread. How could clicking a button start my entire summer experience?

Variations of that same question have been running through my head since last March: How could one button mean that I graduated high school? How could one button mean I was magically going to college? How could one button end my entire freshman year? Even though we’re a year into the pandemic and even with things opening back up, I still feel a pang of sadness when I think of all the things we have all collectively lost and missed out on. In the weeks leading up to this past Monday, I had learned so much about the city of Buffalo that I could almost imagine what it would be like to go to a concert at Canalside. I wanted to be able to meet all the other High Road Fellows and explore Buffalo with them, not keep looking at a computer screen.

So there I sat, dreading having to experience one more thing online. Eventually, 9:30 came, I clicked the button and orientation started. But my dread began to fade away as time passed. My day began to change as Karima Amin popped up on my screen. For about an hour she spoke to us about her life, shared some of her stories, and guided us to explore the power of storytelling. Fun fact: I have been obsessed with stories of all forms since I was a little girl. To hear someone who dedicated their lives to storytelling and was able to narrate a story so beautifully made 10-year-old Sam cry for joy.

As Karima’s time with us ended and she exited with a swift click of a button, the sense of awe I felt from listening to Karima stayed with me throughout the day. By the time 4:30 came around, I was so beyond excited to explore the possibilities of this online experience. But one thing stuck with me long after I closed my computer screen. It was something Karima had said about how she finds new stories to tell. She shared that she creates stories everywhere all the time--from music, the people she sees in the library, and from her family. She said, “Stories are everywhere, and I look for them everywhere”.

As I reflected more about what she said, I started to connect her words more to the High Road experience this summer. Ultimately, new stories are being written every day as people everywhere make decisions that shape each story. We’ve all built this perception of what our stories should look like. Before the pandemic, these stories often meant being physically close to people or going to in-person events. With our new reality, the stories that we imagined weren’t the same as the stories that were being written. I think because of that, we forgot that stories are being created everywhere, every day, and aren’t limited to the versions we pre-create for ourselves. I believe that it’s up to us to live and shape our own stories without the restrictions that we create through our ideas of perfection. By doing this, I feel that we can also live life more like Karima and discover what stories of the world are currently being written, and explore what roles we play in shaping them.

I will admit that I still get scared about feeling disconnected from my work with my wonderful organization, Colored Girls Bike Too. But I want to live this summer through the lens that every story of the world is unique and has the possibility to be shaped by unconventional means. I realize that I have the opportunity to be a part of the story of my organization and the ability to shape so many stories through my everyday actions. Working with Colored Girls Bike Too means that I can apply my passion for social justice and equality to my work and assist my organization in shaping the story of social justice in Buffalo.

This summer, we all participate in shaping the stories of our different organizations, the City of Buffalo, the High Roads Fellowship program, ourselves, and so many more. These stories are all still being written, regardless of the circumstances they are placed in.

I hope that this summer, I feel more comfortable knowing that I can shape the stories I’m involved in through the work I can do, albeit online. I hope we all can continue to find and understand the stories of Buffalo and learn how we can all do our part to shape our stories in the best possible way.

Samantha Ivey