It’s Personal: How The Center is Making Movements
by Dina Tyson, NCCHR Program Intern
The personal is political. This is the mantra I learned and adapted as a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Barnard College, and it has shaped my approach towards social justice ever since. It means that our personal experiences in society are not isolated, but are embedded in broad systems that perpetuate inequality, for which we are all accountable. When I began my internship at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, because of the obvious link to the beliefs I already hold, I was so pleased to see that this institution’s mission was to inspire people to take the protection of everyone’s human rights personally. As the program intern and coordinator, over the past year I have had the privilege of watching our program participants get to make a personal connection to the fight for human rights and have found this to be the most rewarding work I’ve ever partaken in.
This past fall, our program “Changing Landscapes: Conversations on Immigration,” a part of the National Dialogues on Immigration, brought together twenty-one individuals from a variety of backgrounds, professions and generations to learn, share and grow together around the topic of immigrants’ rights. Deeper than just learning about the issues, our program participants (most of whom were not immigrants themselves) made personal connections to the struggle of those trying to come to this country and live a fulfilling life. Participants were inspired to take action in their own communities. By creating a safe space where participants could share their own narratives and feelings, we built a cohort of compassionate individuals deeply committed to fighting for justice for immigrants.
Similarly, our programs around women’s and girls’ issues, such as International Day of the Girl, address the issues faced by women and girls on personal, local, national and global scales, weaving together the importance of our personal narratives and our collective struggle for equality. At International Day of the Girl on October 11th, our speakers and workshop facilitators empowered an intergenerational group of participants to find the leaders in themselves and embark on a personal journey of leadership. At the conclusion of the event, participants wrote their goals for themselves and for the world on paper chains. Each goal was connected into a 30-foot long chain. This paper chain provided a powerful visual representation of the interconnectedness of our stories, and the power of our solidarity in the movement for women's rights. If every individual woman and girl left that program to became a leader and inspired others to do the same, we’ve already helped address the issue of the lack of female leadership in society.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to have coordinated these and other programs this year. The Center has this incredible, unique ability to connect with and move individuals to band together and create positive change. By breaking down the notion that human rights are not everyone’s responsibilities to uphold, we can tap into the powerful tool that is human compassion and harness it to make the world a safer, more inclusive place for all.