The Occidental community is home to a new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter, a nationwide organization that works to protect individual’s rights as set out by the laws and Constitution of the United States. Among the large range of topics it covers are First Amendment rights, racial justice and the criminal justice system.
The Occidental community chapter focused its first two events on incarceration awareness, including a dinner and presentation by the executive director of ACLU of Southern California in September and last night’s event, “Mass Incarceration in the ‘Post-Racial Era.’”
“We seem to think that putting people away for five, 10, even for life, is the solution to society’s problems rather than putting money into drug rehabilitation, education and other social programs,” founding member and sociology major Julia Gould (junior) said. “I think there’s a growing sort of concern on campus around that, and that was one of the issues that kept coming up in our first meeting.”
The panel was co-sponsored by the faith-based incarceration awareness organization “Justice Not Jails.” The speakers included ACLU of Southern California Jails Project Director Esther Lim, founder of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails Patrisse Cullors and co-founder of L.A. Progressive and board member for the Pasadena Foothills ACLU chapter Sharon Kyle.
Kyle and her husband, LA Progressive co–founder and Pasadena Foothills chapter president Dick Price, initially began pursuing the idea of an Occidental ACLU chapter about a year ago. They noticed a lack of ACLU membership within the Eagle Rock and Highland Park neighborhoods as well as a gap in the youth demographic within their own chapter. They contacted Politics Professor Thalia Gonzalez to discuss an Occidental chapter. Student support came when Gould and politics major Baillee Brown (junior) met Kyle and Price at a Justice Not Jails event over the summer. After discovering their mutual interest in incarceration, Kyle, Price, Gould and Brown united to officially establish the charter by recruiting additional students and planning events.
“I think that all major movements in this country had college student involvement, and all major movements really helped to push it over the top, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the fight against our involvement in Vietnam,” Kyle said. “We need their energy, we need their vision.”
Community involvement and the establishment of an official chapter distinguishes the group as a charter and not simply a campus club. Group members’ dues are $10 for students or $35 for other members.
“A club doesn’t have the same level of interaction, support, etc. from the actual affiliate, meaning the ACLU of Southern California in this instance … as opposed to a chapter that is really about educating a broad range of people about the issues that are relevant to their rights and civil liberties, engaging in activism … and just having a deeper interaction with the ACLU,” Gonzalez said.
The chapter aims to incorporate community members and organizations from the Eagle Rock area into their events and activities, acting as a hybrid that connects the surrounding area, professors and students.
“We’re trying to bring the closer community in and have it not just be a student organization,” chapter member and politics major Zak Buschbach (junior) said.
Republished with permission from the Occidental Weekly
Thursday, 20 November 2013