Alisha Jury head shot

Growing Up as that "Token Black Girl"

As a child, it is difficult to see all of the injustices in the world. As a person of color, one young woman looked back on her life and realized the prejudice actions she faced in her daily life. 

Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Alisha Jury says she endures a prejudice act almost every day, but tries to see the best in people. In recent years she says she has become more sensitive to even the “slightest hint of racism” as the issue has worsened. 

Although she is black, she grew up with some privileges that other people of color might not have, she said. She saw this first hand when she visited her grandparents often in the South Side of Chicago growing up.

Head shot of Alisha Jury Original photo by Emily Addington “It was intriguing to see and learn about the different lives people lived within my race and culture,” said Jury. “That not everyone had it as easy as I did. I had a very normal but blessed family life.” 

Like most parents, Jury’s parents wanted the best for their daughter. They put her in private school through 8th grade, and supported her choice to attend a broadcast academy high school. Jury says they constantly supported her through her various interests growing up from figuring skating and cheerleading to whatever instrument she wanted for Christmas that year. 

“If I was happy my parents were happy,” said Jury. 

As she grew up, Jury said she wanted to narrow down her interests to something she could fully invest in. That turned out to be musical theater which she started at 8-years-old, and studied through college. She is now a proud graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a BFA in Musical Theater. 

While Jury has had a successful career in musical theater thus far, she said part of it is because she has always been that “token black girl.”

“They always needed me since I lived in white suburbia and they used me to their advantage,” said Jury. “But at such a young age you don’t really realize those things.”

As a young girl feeling like she is thriving in a possible career choice, Jury explains it could be a huge disadvantage when considering her future. 

“You spent your whole life thinking you’re good at something or that you’re really wanted and needed, when in reality you were just a prize possession,” said Jury. 

Although she did a wide range of activities, she experienced some of the same prejudice in each of them. In figure skating, while she was evidently at a higher skill level than most on her team, they refused to move her up a level.

A similar occurrence happened in her dance competitions. 

“When I went to competitions and always got second,” said Jury. “Like you were almost good enough or you were really good, but you’re black.” 

 The black lives matter movement has caused people including Alisha Jury to take a step back and look at the big picture. 

A large focus in the movement is de-funding the police in order to reform the criminal justice system. She says she personally has not had a bad encounter with the police yet, but is more cautious now when even just driving home late from a friend’s house.

She worries that she might appear suspicious. 

“Which is definitely not, in any form, okay. Now I have to choose to live my life in fear every time I walk out the door and get into my car,” said Jury. 

Jury feels joy seeing the support for the black lives matter movement from people all over on social media. 

“It brings me to tears seeing non people of color writing articles on ways you can become an ally or how to continue to fight,” said Jury.

While overjoyed by the support of many, she was not surprised by the lack of support from others in her life. 

“When you vote for someone you vote for everything they believe in, so I already knew that certain people I associated with didn’t really care about my life and what could be at stake for me,” said Jury. 

She can’t keep people in her life who refuse to be educated on the subject and stay silent, she said. 

The BLM movement has several meanings for Jury. 

“It means hope. It means a future, and most importantly it means change,” said Jury. “It means that even though I may be shut down and repressed by other people that view me differently, I still have a mighty force behind me who is willing to stand up and be a voice when I can’t fight anymore and say enough is enough.” 

In the future, Jury hopes the fight is persistent. She also hopes to see that fight carried into the polls come November. 

“I want us to not have to continue to create these protests and petitions because those that are indifferent finally start to see that exploiting, shaming, diminishing, and exclusion is no longer acceptable in our world.”