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ACLU: A Time for Action

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Many adults and children entered the Community High School media center on March 11 at 4:30 p.m. in anticipation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) livestream. The ACLU is a non-profit organization that helps to that ensure each and every person lives with rights and dignity. According to their website, the ACLU takes on all civil liberty cases to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. The livestream was mainly focused on addressing immigration laws and rights as well as basic human and women’s rights.

The 10 female students in Cindy Haidu-Banks’s social justice Community Resource class (CR) quieted the crowd and introduced themselves following their grade and personal pronouns. The CR, which is student led, started off as a Social Justice class taught by CHS teachers Haidu-Banks and Janelle Johnson. According to Haidu-Banks, the CR mostly covers the necessary skill sets needed to explore their identity and learning to facilitate discussions. As the course goes on, the class covers many topics: gender, race, immigration etc.

Participants of the ACLU meeting gather in small groups to discuss their future hopes and fears for their country. The groups are being led by one or two of the girls who are running the event.

“I think it’s important for us to actually see what this resistance training is talking about, especially in light of everything that’s going on in the country,” Johnson said.

ACLU reached out to Haidu-Banks a few weeks back, offering her an opportunity to host one of the 10 ACLU events being held in Ann Arbor, MI.

“We knew they were a good, solid, longstanding organization in our country that was formed to protect our civil liberties,” Haidu-Banks said.

She added that ACLU’s ideal of getting people to stand up in the local level plays a large part in making changes.

The ACLU livestream event was held in Miami and had hundreds of people in attendance as well an immense amount of people tuning in to learn more about their rights and what they can do to help immigrants rights.

Anthony Romero, the ACLU Executive Director, began speaking about the history of ACLU, which has been around for 97 years and defends freedom of expression for all groups. He then goes on to talk about fighting for what is he believes is right.

“We must never despair,” Romero said. “Even when we lose we must take courage in what is worth fighting for.” He went on to say that the ACLU speaks truth to the government and stands up to the values that make this country great.

Afterwards, Faiz Shakir, the National Political Director for the ACLU, stepped on stage and immediately asks the crowd to yell “People Power,” showing the unity within the people in attendance. His lecture included topics of immigration and explained the violations that Donald Trump has put upon America’s morals, Constitution and values. He explained his trust in the community, and said he believes in our ability to progress as communities.

The ACLU Free Speech Attorney, Lee Roland, characterized herself as a “true believer” and focused her speech on the First Amendment and resistance in America.

“Our First Amendment rights are truly indivisible,” Roland said. She explained that the public is a full constitutional organization and the importance for equality and justice for all. She closed by thanking the crowd and emphasized on our job as Americans to go out on the streets and exercise our First Amendment rights.

Louise Melling, Deputy Legal Director of The Center for Liberty, focused her speech on affordable healthcare and women’s reproductive rights. She claimed this is to be the most significant civil liberties and rights movement of this century. She highlighted Trump’s actions of providing fewer services for of the most essential things: the health of the people. Trump’s action attacks the structure and finance of the Affordable Care Act, which provides Americans with payment and support to go to work and live independently. Melling ended her portion of the program by asking the crowd to reach out to Congress and speak about what motivates them to come forward. “Whether you speak matters,” Melling said.

Next, ACLU Immigrant Rights Attorney, Andre Segura, talked about protecting the rights of immigrants and the constitutional rights for everyone. Segura said that Trump’s executive immigration bans have hit home for many people. He urged the crowd to voice their support, educate others about their rights and stand up to racial profiling of officials as well as pushing more cities to enact better policies, stronger policies and demand for better immigration laws.

Padma Lakshmi, an immigrant from India and host for Top Chef spoke about her experience with immigration laws and being an immigrant in New York. She talked about why she and her mother moved to the U.S. when she was only four years old. She recently felt like an outsider to a city and country she used to feel very welcomed in. Lakshmi emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion and how it makes America great.

“We must resist discrimination of any kind,” Lakshmi said. “We must not tolerate the intolerance. We must say enough is enough. To do nothing is a crime against our nation. The time for any of us to be silent is over.” She encouraged people to stand up for their rights.

With the help of their advisor Cindy Haidu-Banks ten girls planned an ACLU event in 2 weeks. The girls presented necessary information to the audience about social justice rights. They then helped lead a discussion about their hopes and fears for the future.

The livestream came to a close and the students from Community High School’s social justice CR lead a workshop discussing the livestream, making sure to set norms first. One of the rules emphasized on being respectful of the ideas and assuming positive intent. The crowd split up into three groups, sitting in separate circles while students handed out two pieces of paper to each person. The papers said:  “ACLU’s nine ‘model’ state and local law enforcement policies and rules” and “Sneak peek: Your next People power action meeting.” Next, Nyah Selassie, a junior at CHS, read the People Power tactics to the audience. To close, the crowd was asked what they learned and to express their feelings regarding the future.

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A student voice.
ACLU: A Time for Action