Eight Questions with Alanna Barlow- CARTA REAL Triumph Graduate Summer 2022
A true testament to triumph, Alanna Barlow has seen both the brightest and darkest days as a young black woman in America. Struggles with identity and mental health clouded Alanna’s path to greatness until clarity and confidence guided her to where she is today.
CARTA News caught up with Alanna a few days before graduation to talk about her past, present, and future.
Growing up, you attended a school where you were the only person who looked like you (the only Black student). I can imagine it must have been difficult to navigate?
I was not the only black student in my elementary school, but we were peppered across the school in so few numbers that it felt like it at times. It was definitely a tough time for me because I was beginning to understand my identity and image of myself around the ages of 5 to 7. It was very troubling for me. I sometimes wished that I were white, so I could feel like I fit in. I am super grateful for the journey that God has had me on since that time of early identity crisis. I feel much more confident in my skin, and I am growing to appreciate the beauty in everyone!
Mental Health can be a sensitive issue in minority communities, especially the Black community. Was it difficult to open to your family about your mental hardship?
Oh, for sure! It was also super hard because my immediate family are Christian, so I felt like there was this connotation that we could just pray my pain away at once. The journey that God has had me on, however, is learning how to constantly surrender my pain to Him. I would say doing that and learning more about myself through therapy has helped me tremendously. Even now it is hard for me to discuss with extended family, so this award will help me to continue the conversation around it.
Who are the most influential people in your life?
My mom, dad, and all my grandparents for sure. Each of them has been an integral part of who I am, and each has either directly or indirectly called me to persevere through my trials in and out of the classroom.
You have a Mantra you recite when you are facing adversity, what is it? What inspired it?
Well, I would not call it a mantra but some of the things that I like to remind myself is that at the end of the day are that: I am a child of God, I am loved, I am not perfect but there is so much room for grace and for me to grow.
You have quite the singing voice. You are a part of FIUnity Gospel Choir, and you won FIU’s Blaze the Stage singing contest in 2019! Among your many aspirations, have you considered becoming a professional singer?
Thank you! I was a part of the FIUnity Gospel choir from 2018 to 2019. That was an incredible experience for me because I was able to perform my first solo performance in a collegiate setting. I soon transitioned into other solo performances like Blaze the Stage. I had so much fun there too! I was not trying to win; I just wanted more solo experience on campus so I could use my voice. However, I am so grateful for that experience because it opened doors for me. After Blaze the Stage I was able to perform at Bayfest in 2019 and at another FIU event where rapper T.I. spoke.
I am training for professional singing right now. I do not know where this will go but I love Broadway and Disney movies. Whatever God wants me to do, I pray I can be humble enough to pursue that.
After graduating from FIU this summer, you plan to take a gap year. Do you have any plans for your time off?
Yes, I need a break (laughs). I plan to take two gap years before making my next career move. I have been planning to go to law school since my junior year of high school. I was able to attend an invitation-only Law and Advocacy camp at Georgetown University, take a prelaw class in high school, and recently, tour Harvard Law. I want to take my time to explore the best way I can glorify God with my gifts.
You want to be a lawyer in the field of restorative justice. For those who may not know about the field, what does it entail?
Restorative Justice is “a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.” What I want to focus on would be justice for offenders who are falsely accused and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. So, it is restoring them to their original status in society, and less about their rehabilitation with victims.
If you could describe your FIU experience in three words, what would they be?