Last month, the ACLU Conference brought together ACLU members and activists alike for learning, mobilization, and inspiration. The event was an opportunity for members from around the country, including Wyoming, to exchange ideas, to celebrate the extraordinary history of the ACLU, and to look forward to the challenges ahead.
With a renewed and fortified spirit, Dalia Pedro Trujillo of Casper shares what she learned from the conference.
The politically charged times that we’re living through can be overwhelming, discouraging and disheartening. It can even seem easy to stop caring and become apathetic. Fighting for our communities is hard, and oftentimes, exhausting work. And yet, there are events, situations, and moments that rekindle our passion for the work we do on an everyday basis. For me, one of those moments came from attending the ACLU National Conference. Below are some key takeaways and highlights.
Living in Wyoming during the age of Trump can be really challenging. At the same time, showing up in Washington, D.C., and meeting up with people who are doing inspiring work in our state was so rewarding. In Wyoming, a lot of the work we do is coordinated with the work being done across the state, but we don’t often get a chance to meet people face-to-face. Being able to connect with the very people who are paving the way for a more just society was inspiring.
Bryan Stevenson was inspirational
As someone who is headed to law school this fall, Bryan Stevenson’s keynote message really spoke to me. Not only is he a talented speaker, but also he addressed the very issue that we as a society has chosen to ignore – mass incarceration. In talking about how we can bring change about society, Stevenson mentioned that we need to be in the communities that we want to bring change to, we have to resist the narrative of fear and anger, we need to be hopeful, and that we have to be willing to do uncomfortable things. While Stevenson talked about each of these points in the context of the work he does with mass incarceration, these four pieces of advice can be applied to any issue that we are working on.
Mass Incarceration is a topic that can no longer be ignore
I was in the middle of reading, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander when I showed up to the ACLU Conference. Attending the workshop on smart justice reinforced everything I was reading. Mass incarceration is an issue that we as a society have not talked about, even as thousands of black and brown men continue to be incarcerated in our communities. Being able to listen to real people talk about their experiences being caught up in our criminal justice system really brought it home. It’s easy to theorize about criminal justice reform, but it’s another to listen to individuals talk about how the current policies don’t work and how their lives were affected by them.
Immigrant youth are the future of this country
One of the most powerful workshops I attended was “Dreamers: Telling our Stories to Create Change.” It was awesome to learn about the immigration work being done around the country and to learn about the success communities have had. As someone who does immigration advocacy work in Wyoming, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the lack of change. Attending this workshop was a way to regain hope and be inspired.
I loved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before going to the ACLU Conference, but getting a chance to watch the RBG film was amazing. There’s so much we can learn from Justice Ginsburg, in particular that patience and persistence in the face of adversity are really important as we fight for justice.
Women who stand together can change the world
On the last day of the ACLU conference we finished with a morning plenary titled, “Time’s Up[, Say Her Name and Leaders of Today’s Women’s Movement.” To have women like Andrea Ritchie, Kerri Washington, and Saru Jayaraman engage in conversations about how we fight for women’s rights was inspiring. There is so much happening in our country right now that it’s easy to lose track of it. And yet there are women out there fighting for what they believe in. We have to trust that just as we are out there fighting for our communities, there are others doing the same, and together, we will change the world.
The ACLU conference helped me reiterate that the work I’m doing in Wyoming is important, and much needed. It also was reassuring to see so many people from all over the country come together and address the issues that are affecting our communities and learn what the ACLU is doing to fight for our civil liberties.