Seventy-five minutes of discourse paired with New Tactics in Human Rights significantly shifted my life course. A newfound interest in anti-torture and anti-incarceration advocacy was sparked by a lecture in an upper-level political science course I took last spring. I was overwhelmed with repulsion at our nation’s shameless abuse of other human beings, and infuriated that we were not held accountable for doing so. My open-ended future became a bit more focused, and I began organizing my plans for the next twenty years based on one sole lecture. My professor wisely encouraged me to pursue contact with the Center for Victims of Torture. I was going to be in St. Paul during summer 2016, and he thought communicating with the organization might help me find some clarity within my very abstract future.
I am incredibly fortunate to have spent eight influential weeks as an intern with New Tactics in Human Rights, a program within the Center for Victims of Torture. My time with the organization was composed of a number of different projects, including conducting research on diverse human rights issues, compiling comprehensive lists of global experts in said fields, and assisting my supervisor within various interviews and meetings. Looking back now, I would have to say that the most influential aspect of my internship was researching and writing articles for New Tactics’ online Tactical Database. The database is composed of over two hundred tactics featuring the utilization of unique approaches to combating specific human rights issues, in order to highlight accessible ideas and models for future campaigns and goals.
I’ve always loved to write, be it essays, poetry, or music, yet in recent years I let that passion escape from my academic and occupational quests. Instead of viewing writing as a tool and pursuit, I began to consider it a pastime. I persuaded myself that there were many other more direct, influential ways to create positive social change than my written words. Writing for New Tactics changed that mentality for me. I saw these pieces as being a medium that conveyed the importance of human rights to a world broader than my own. I remembered what it was like to write about what mattered to me, and have an audience be receptive to that. It was a very empowering experience, and I recognize it as being fostered specifically within the New Tactics community.
In addition to reigniting my love of writing, New Tactics gave me insight as to how both nonprofit and human rights organizations function in the modern world. The work of small and large, domestic and international organizations of this sort can often seem abstract. It becomes easy to focus only on the end result of a campaign, rather than the individual people who collectively work to achieve a common goal. New Tactics very much focuses on empowering the activists themselves; by aiding them to perform their work more efficiently and effectively, it allows for fewer violations, such as torture, to occur. Seeing this approach firsthand very much grounded me in my perspective of local and international organizations as a whole.
My internship at New Tactics coincided with the United States’ election cycle. This experience provided me with a unique view and perspective regarding my country. The past year was flooded with political promises that the American public has heard before; however, many – including myself – find the promises that won to be dark and unsettling. I now find myself, activists, advocacy workers, and others working to maintain an equal and just society; there is this incredible weight that their efforts have become insurmountably more difficult. There are far too many people who now feel victimized and vulnerable in the nation they call home. Yet it must be recognized that perhaps the most vulnerable people in this nation are those we imprison. They are the people whose feet will not be marching the streets at rallies, whose written words rarely make columns and airwaves, and whose chants of protest are too often silenced within prison walls. Both domestically and abroad, our imprisoned are among our most vulnerable, and they too deserve to have their voices heard and their human rights upheld.
I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to work for New Tactics in Human Rights. This experience deepened my appreciation for domestic and international human rights organizations, as well as the influence written words can have within a movement for justice. I look forward to taking what I learned here with me as I embark on a future of advocating on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable.