I’ve been blessed with the wonderful opportunity of working with the American Civil Liberties Union of PA this summer.
The ACLU is one of LILAC’s partner organizations, so I applied to the position through the school. The position is split between two essential departments of the ACLU: legal intake and policy/advocacy. I worked under the Senior Policy Advocate for reproductive freedom and LGBT+ issues. Through her mentorship, I have been introduced to many folks in the reproductive justice movement. I have attended coalition meetings, taken notes on webinars, participated in rallies, and crafted memos grounded in unsettlement of interlocking systems of oppression. I came to find that because no identity exists in a silo and no oppression exists in a silo, organizing could not exist in a silo either. Organizing happened in different spaces, but the majority of these spaces were shared, which allowed for an exchange of knowledge, ideas, and resources. This work was neverending—constant planning, constant reacting, constant re-evaluating, constant, constant, constant. But still, this work could be rewarding, or even affirming. And, in order to even reach this affirmation, I would need to rely on resources developed from collaborating with other folks and groups.
Fun Fact from the Summer: Group projects never end … but that also isn’t such a bad thing?
Some time ago, Arlie Hochschild coined the term emotional labor. Despite holding prior positions as a dining hall worker, a Community Diversity Assistant, and a camp counselor, only as a legal intake intern at the ACLU of Pa. did i feel the weight of such work. Legal Intake reviews potential cases for attorneys. For the ACLU, this is an essential process because, as I would mention to every complainant I interviewed on the phone, the ACLU has a small legal team with limited resources. This meant though someone might have a really urgent issue that fell within the civil liberties framework, the ACLU might not take up that case. For certain phone calls this fact was a blessing, while for others it was disheartening. I had to consistently put aside my personal feelings around issues that people raised, be it a traffic ticket, “reverse racism,” or wrongful termination. More importantly, I had to consistently put aside my personal feelings about who the folks were who called in, whether they were living in an alternate reality, extremely angry for how long it took for us to call them back, or emotionally distraught.
Fun Fact from the Summer: Phone operators are people!
When back at Bryn Mawr, I might be too busy with work, extracurriculars, and academics to catch SEPTA to and from the city during the week, but I will still be able to offer support to folks who are interested in working legal intake with the ACLU, which may be in the works (wink, wink). In terms of working with policy and advocacy, I will continue working with one of the organizations on the reproductive table next semester in a Praxis III independent study.
Fun Fact from the Summer (and beyond): the ACLU of PA will continue to advocate and litigate for change, and you can learn more about what this change is here.