Update: Meyer was named one of six finalists for her project, earning $2,000 in prize money.
Allison Meyer took the stage at an open mic night a year and a half after her mother passed away, finally feeling ready to talk about it after months of struggling to do so. She walked off stage feeling a renewed sense of strength—and an appreciation for the power of sharing one’s story.
“Sometimes you just need a place where others can bear witness,” said Meyer, now a second-year Case Western Reserve University School of Law student.
That night eventually became Meyer’s inspiration for Never, Ever Give Up, a storytelling platform she launched this past fall to encourage others to talk about the difficulties they’ve faced—and how they overcame them.
Meyer was one of 28 individuals recently selected to compete next week in the Cleveland Leadership Center’s 2019 Accelerate competition, which is a pitch contest to help Northeast Ohioans make their ideas to improve the region a reality. Her project is part of Accelerate’s Authentic Cleveland Experiences category.
Through Never, Ever Give Up, Meyer shares the anonymous stories of Northeast Ohioans, whom she asks: What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
To collect them, Meyer accepts submissions via a website or in person at community events and through scheduled programming with community organizations. Meyer then posts them—without identifying the individuals behind the powerful recollections—on Instagram.
Meyer wants those who share their stories to have a weight lifted off their shoulders. And for those who read them? She hopes they’ll start to look at people differently, just like she has.
“Everybody’s got something,” she said. “It forces me to remember to try and always lead with kindness. You don’t know why someone’s upset today or what’s going on.”
In Cleveland, Meyer (who is originally from Strongsville, Ohio) thinks the message of Never, Ever Give Up is particularly powerful.
“Northeast Ohio has this distinct ability to make it through tough times, and we’re known for that,” she said.
The project also times up with the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, which Meyer said is an example of Cleveland’s comeback story.
Should Meyer win the Accelerate competition (either as an overall winner or in her category), she will use the prize money to create a public art installation with some of the submitted stories printed on it. The installation would initially have a temporary home at Hart Crane Park—right along the river—and eventually she hopes to move to new spots across the city. It would also have a bright yellow mailbox, where even more residents and visitors can submit their memories. Meyer also hopes to host community events to open the mailbox and read out the letters.
Whether she wins or not, Meyer will keep the online community going.
But before you do, take a look at Meyer’s answers to this week’s five questions.
1. What new hobby would you pursue if you had more time?
I’ve run my whole life and I just ran my first ultra marathon this past summer, so if I had more time, I would do more for sure. I’m running my first 50-miler this summer.
If I had more time this semester, I would probably run another race. It just takes a lot of time.
2. Where is your favorite spot on or near campus to work, read or study?
I like the Algebra Tea House. It’s so fun in there.
3. What new place would you most like to travel?
I’ve had a very lucky life to have lived for a year in Vienna, Austria, and for eight months in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I feel like I have a lot of international travel, but I’d like to do more traveling in the U.S.
One thing I learned living in those places is that—in Austria, in Germany—it’s pretty easy to go to a Holocaust museum. It’s pretty easy to learn about the truth if you want to. In Phnom Penh, you can go to the Tuol Sleng, which is a genocide museum. You can go to different places to learn about the truth of the Khmer Rouge. Here, it’s really hard to do that with slavery and I think it’s so important.
There’s a new museum called the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and it’s from the perspective of enslaved people. It has to be profound and it tells the truth about our history, so I’d like to go and learn more about what life must have been life to be enslaved and how that impacts our country today and the descendants of enslaved people.
4. If you could learn another language, what would you choose?
Spanish—it’s so pretty. I wish I knew it better—or at all.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The fact that it’s in Cleveland—an amazing part of Cleveland. I played in The Music Settlement orchestra Saturday mornings growing up. We’d go to Presti’s. I have so many good memories of Cleveland.