Throughout my life, I have had many mentoring relationships. I have been both the mentee and the mentor. However, the mentorships I’ve had with I Am Why were the most transformative. My I Am Why mentorships were with individuals I had little to no connection with. We did not connect through our communities but through our passion for equity and policy change. We came from vastly different backgrounds, so our relationships focused on reciprocal growth. We each made an effort to learn from one another and support each other’s goals. We were neither the mentor nor the mentee. We were both. My mentorships allowed me to establish a community with consultants and affiliates of I Am Why. I was able to cultivate friendships, discuss my personal accomplishments and struggles, and develop professionally.
This encouraged me to reconcile with power. Each of us had a unique lived experience with different systems and structures of power. Although we bonded through our shared purpose of activism and policy change, we entered our mentorships with distinct relationships with power. Both of my mentorships were with individuals that were older than me. Within intergenerational relationships, there is already an assumed power dynamic. In one mentorship, I instinctively took the role of the mentee; however, in the other, I took on the role of the mentor. But as our relationships progressed, our dynamics changed. After reckoning with our positionalities, we abandoned the status quo. Our mentorships were flexible and adaptive, which allowed us to tailor our relationships to meet our personal and professional goals.
We chose to combat inequitable systems of power through our work and our relationships. We were cognizant of the power we held in the world and our relationships. We allowed our relationships with power to inform our work, but we refused to allow it to dictate our mentorships or our futures. We must recognize power; however, we should not assume stereotypical power dynamics. Instead, we should redistribute power equitably and sustainably.
– Aliyah Young, I Am Why Research Consultant