Kevin Ashley Ellison
Saint Louis, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
“There but for the grace of god go I”. If people really examine themselves I think they will find that their identities provide them with a mixed bag that systematically advantages them in some circumstances and disadvantages them in others. My mixed bag is being a straight, middle-class, atheist, Black male. I have a responsibility use my positions of privilege to benefit those not privileged in that way just as those who are privileged in ways that I am not have a responsibility to use their privilege. Through that trust and collaboration we try to achieve some type of balance.
Unfortunately, far to many people don’t understand their privilege and it’s up to activists and advocates to draw attention and educate folks.
Amnesty International USA has invested a lot in people like myself and the other legislative coordinators. We’ve been held to high standards in regards to accountability for our work and how it ties in to the work of the larger movement and how we represent the organization. We receive regular training and have regular contact with the Member Advocacy staff where we talk about goals of the organization and goals we have set for ourselves to make sure were on course to contribute to this movement. A lot of what I have learned though is not so much from the formal trainings and briefings, which are important and necessary, as what I have learned through just having relationships with fellow LCs. We are more than just friends or collegues. We’re a family. We support each other and trade ideas and best practices in and outside of our formal meeting sessions. It’s a relationship that has been really encouraged and I think that’s part of what has made the LC program as effective as it has been.
A girl. No really. I met this girl. She was beautiful, and smart, and fun to be around. I called her one afternoon to arrange a date later in the evening. She said she wanted to see me too but she had a meeting with her Amnesty International group and she couldn’t miss because she was the group leader. Against my better judgement I said I would go with her then. While there I met these totally normal people who were not weird sort of tree loving hippie people. They were just regular folks who felt they were in a position to help change the world that they lived in for the better. Also, I ended up marrying the girl and we are expecting our second child in September.
In St. Louis we do a lot as far as having physical presence and showing up for our Muslim brothers and sisters at rallies and events that being organized in the community. It’s important that this movement for human rights, for equal rights, is not tied to any one religion or any religion. It’s not tied to a particular skin color or ethnicity or background.
Additionally, as Legislative Coordinator, I am organizing and encouraging folks to build relationships with their elected officials in the US Congress and urge their member to support measures that counter the President’s Muslim ban.
I think you’ve got to identify problematic behaviors and beliefs when you see them. Certainly you have to start with yourself, but you also have to engage with folks in you friend group and family circles. We have to also understand that it’s a process that folks go through. One conversation, one debate probably isn’t going to turn someone around. But the more you engage with those people and engage them from a place of love and not of anger, you can help bring them along.