Kit O’Connor

Legislative Coordinator for Vermont, Trainer with Membership Empowerment Training Project
Burlington, VT

Why did you become an activist?

For me, becoming an activist wasn’t a conscious decision. With my background, and steeped in values I later realized were agency, dignity and empathy, it was a natural transition. I don’t believe you can care about being in relation to other people and not become an activist, something I define broadly and base on one’s capacity to take action.

What has inspired you to become a part of the human rights movement?

It’s corny, but for years a line from Neil Young’s “Ohio” has echoed in my head: “How can you run when you know?” Once I’d asked myself this often enough, in one form or another, I realized it was time to be more open with my activism. Amnesty International offered that space.

What skills has Amnesty International provided you in fighting for human rights?

Amnesty International has given me a platform, direction and incredible support in my positions as Legislative Coordinator and Trainer. This has allowed me to hone specific skills such as organizing and logistics management while capitalizing on my natural penchant to interact with people.  I can’t thank the membership or staff enough- they are amazing people.

What are you doing to stop policies like the Muslim Ban?

In Vermont, we are working with AIUSA’s “Refugees Welcome” resolutions in municipalities and have one pending at the state level to show support for refugees and resettlement agencies as well as to support policy makers who are speaking out against hateful legislation. We are also trying to use these resolutions as vehicles to combat misinformation about issues related to refugees.

How can we combat hate and xenophobia in our local communities?

It starts with you. Know your audience, find your voice and use it. Nonviolently, calmly, consistently, without judgment. Remember your purpose, and keep your eyes on it.