Postion: GoSouth Summer Fellow
Tell us a little bit about your background:
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama with my younger brother and sister. I had always lived in a place where I could see inequality, but I never understood it as structural until I started competing on my school’s debate team. No matter what issue we confronted—the electoral college, searches in schools, military policy—I was always forced to confront an understanding of inequality as more than individual, as more than the result of a few bad actors. I was able to start connecting this understanding to what I saw in my daily life, but I grew increasingly frustrated by how little I felt I could do to help.
When I got to college I started studying philosophy, and freshman year, I took a class that changed the way I saw the world again. It was called Race, Politics, and Law and it was the first time I was formally taught how observable inequalities were connected to a changeable system. I started to understand the history of the legal system as a tool of oppression, and the history of its potential for change.
This summer, I applied almost exclusively to internships that would help me begin to understand how legal advocacy work gets done in the real world, and especially in my home the South. Earlier this summer, I worked at an organization called Alabama Appleseed. During my time there, I researched the appeals of people sentenced to life without parole under Alabama’s three strikes law and helped do additional research for potential resentencing cases. It was a phenomenal introduction to some of the challenges in reforming the American justice system, and I am very excited to help the ACLU of WV with similar work this summer.
What about the ACLU of WV’s mission most resonates with you?
I most appreciate the ACLU’s presence as a check against a changeable government. The rights that the ACLU fights for are absolutely necessary to achieve positive change. There are no movements without freedom to assemble, and there is little dissent without a right to privacy. While I believe important change can be made from within the government, it is organizations like the ACLU, with a single, unchanging mission to protect individual liberties that so often prevent a political turnover form undermining the rights of minorities. Especially in times where It may make more sense for the government to grab some power, the ACLU can make sure it doesn’t use the crisis as an opportunity. The job of organizations like this one is not just to keep our democracy strong, but to keep it going at all.
What are you most looking forward to about this internship?
There are two things I’m really looking forward to in this internship. The first is just learning more about legal advocacy. I’m excited that I have a career path in mind, one where I think I can make a difference. I want to learn how to do that the best I can, and I’m so excited just to be working with individuals and with an organization that does the exact work I want to help do every day.
The next thing I’m looking forward to is fulfilling a promise to myself. I’ve known about problems for too long without doing anything to help. I did research on inequality years before I started working in it. Working for ACLU-WV has made me begin to feel, in the smallest way, like I’m making a difference.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
One thing I’m enjoying about being home during quarantine is having real access to a kitchen. I love to cook, especially for my family. Usually I try to cook meals they won’t notice are vegetarian, although sometimes I try to convince them that tofu is actually really good (which it is). I’m still very much a beginner, but I’ve been loving building up my skills.
I also like taking walks and listening to podcasts about history, justice issues, and politics. Some of my favorites are Codeswitch, Throughline, and 538.