Nureen in Atlanta

Nureen, a sophomore in Dedman College who plans to major in advertising, has an internship in Atlanta with the American Civil Liberties Union. Nureen is one of nine SMU students awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Public Service Internship for Summer 2009 from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. She says she is looking forward to seeing the ACLU’s commitment, devotion, passion and service for human rights in action.

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Tearing down the wall

CIMG7595.JPG This summer, I’ve had the privilege of participating in many activating events during my internship at the ACLU of Georgia. This weekend, I attended the Stonewall 40 movie screening and march/rally, something I had also had the honor of helping plan.

The Stonewall 40 campaign was a Human Rights Atlanta (an affiliate organization of the ACLU) initiative that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the day the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans) community stood up for the rights they knew they deserved. The ACLU of Georgia helped plan the event and also played a large part in both the movie screening, as well as the actual march and rally.

The Friday, June 26, event was a movie screening of Unveiled, a foreign film documenting the struggles of both immigrants seeking asylum as well as people of transgender identity. I brought along an excited friend from high school, and we both walked into Manuel’s Tavern (the venue for the event) with an idea of about 20 people watching a film and then participating in a panel discussion afterward.

We both were shocked to see a room filled with over 100 people – both with the LGBT community, as well as with allies such as myself. It was a wonderful sight to see so many people interested in educating themselves! The room was literally packed to the point where several people were left seat-less. Instead of getting up and leaving, however, they hung around and stood for the duration of the entire one-and-a-half-hour-long film.

My heart warmed to the thought that we were truly making such a great difference in the community. The room remained absolutely silent during the film – there was a feeling of mutual respect and understanding that was unlike any other. The panelists were all absolutely wonderful and unique in each of their perspectives.

The next day (June 27) was the big day that we had all worked so hard for – the Stonewall 40 March and Rally. I brought the same friend as the night before, and he was even more anxious than the previous night. We both hoped the event would show all of the hard work that was put into it. It didn’t. It proved to be even more wonderful than anything we had expected!

CIMG7583.JPG The Human Rights Atlanta and Stonewall 40 Committee members beautifully set up the many tables of information and a table for drinks and food. Encompassing the church were pictures and books about Stonewall and its significance in history.

CIMG7614.JPG After setting up, my friend and I set off to Freedom Park, where the pre-rally was being held and where we would begin our march for Transgender rights. There were some 100 or so people waiting to make a difference in the world – little did they know, they already had.

The marchers and rally attendees consisted of the LGBT community, allies, and supporting politicians alike. The speakers for the pre-rally were just what we all needed to get our blood pumping, and the band began the march with their jiving music. We marched through the streets of Little Five Points, Georgia, with one purpose, one cause. We held varying signs of splendid colors that held one message: We will not wait for equal rights any longer.

CIMG7670.JPGWe walked in unity and found that, instead of encountering hatred and opposition on the streets, the community embraced our message and took it in as their own mission. The support that we found that day warmed my heart like never before – for once, there was no hate. There was only the simple cause of human rights – something that no human should never be denied.

By the end of the march, we had over 200 marchers – many of whom had joined us on the streets. It was awe-inspiring to see what one group of people managed to do and the impact it had on the community.

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