Jamie Miller joined our staff in February after years of volunteering for our organization. We recently sat down with her to learn more about what drives her to work for a more just Mountain State.

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, but moved to West Virginia at a young age to my grandparents’ house in Campbells creek. I was an artistic kid and always felt a bit out of place. You could usually find me dressing up in my glitter Converse shoes and black Goodwill dresses, dancing on the old trains and reenacting Bananarama videos, climbing coal piles in Amherst where I lived, crying over We are the World videos on MTV or writing sad poetry. I was trying to escape the reality of parents with mental health struggles, a grandmother with breast cancer and a grandfather dealing with and eventually passing from black lung.

We were poor and things were a struggle. When I left the Creek to study art at Marshall University, I said I’d never go back. I got married and had children early, and I fell into an abusive domestic cycle for 14 years. I found the strength to leave and started over on my own terms, my own narrative.

I started focusing on art and communicating the struggles of my family and community via paintings and installations. I eventually started organizing shows, opened my own store and worked as a gallery manager.

Activism has always been central to my art. I could easily bring into focus a social issue and then solve it with paint. It wasn't until the Brett Kavanaugh hearings that I discovered I could also use my voice, body, and personal stories to help create movement toward solving issues. So, I started to speak up.

I also sat down, literally. I was arrested with several others during a sit-in at Senator Joe Manchin’s office in 2018. We were demanding a meeting with him to ask him to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination.  

Of course, we all know that Manchin wound up voting “yes” and Kavanaugh is now a sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, but I did finally get my meeting with the senator. The ACLU of West Virginia organized a bus trip to Washington, D.C. and I was able to speak with him face to face. I feel like that was the day that I became a part of ACLU-WV, a group of like-minded people who held people up and fought for the rights for everyone. It was a place where I felt like I belonged. Three years later, here I am with an office and a desk.