My journey into the world of activism officially began just two years ago, when I took a class called “Just Torture”. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had just released a summary of its report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program so while the class was designed to explore the issue of torture from various disciplines and time periods, we always returned to the United States and its use of torture in the post 9/11 era. By this time I was well aware that the U.S did not have a perfect track record on human rights, but I was disturbed that I had been virtually unaware of this issue up until the summary report was released in December of 2014. How was it that this atrocity was only on the news cycle for about a month after the report was released? And how is it that I only became knowledgeable about this issue because I took a class that cost about 646 dollars? It did not seem right to me and I knew that this could easily happen again if the American public was not fully informed on the issue.
A close friend of mine who was also in that class was equally disturbed by the lack of awareness concerning Guantanamo Bay and the CIA torture program so we decided to do something about it. We started a student organization focused on raising awareness on the issues of torture and Guantanamo and we collaborated closely with the Amnesty International chapter at FSU. We had weekly meetings designed to educate students about torture, Guantanamo and the CIA detention and interrogation program and we were already planning a human rights conference that would focus on those issues as well. Then came time for the Amnesty Southern Regional Conference in Miami and, on a whim, we decided that it would be fun to drive eight hours from Tallahassee to Miami and volunteer.
It will seem a little cliché but for me this was the pivotal moment that made me realize that human rights activism was the route I needed to go with my life. There was something about seeing all of these people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines that was inspiring to me. What brought them together was common worldview that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and that is up to all of us to make sure that happens. It made me realize that this is something people can and do dedicate their life to.
My involvement as an Amnesty activist escalated pretty quickly after that and now, about a year and half after my first regional conference, I will be one of those people running around the hotel with too much caffeine in my system and making connections with fellow activists. If I have learned anything from the past couple of years is that public opinion may not always be on our side, administrations change, and the world will seem hopeless at times but our goals do not change. Human rights principles stand regardless of the political situation and it is our collective responsibility as human beings to hold those in power accountable. So that is what I will dedicate my life to. My plan is to become an immigration attorney and represent asylum seekers in the U.S, all the while continuing to push for more human rights conscious policies as a member of AIUSA.
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