Submitted by Stacy Suh, 2012 Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow
It’s difficult for me to put into words what the Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellowship for Organizing and Activism has meant and will mean to me. I spent 6 weeks in New York and 2 weeks in DC to immerse myself completely in the world of human rights work and activism. I collaborated with inspirational activists and Amnesty staff, feeling very much at home despite the fact that I was thousands of miles away from Los Angeles. The Student Group Starter Kit that I created in collaboration with youth activists–created by youth for youth–has been mailed to registered Amnesty student groups last Friday. The Starter Kit will help student groups begin the school year with inspirational and meaningful human rights activism from the start of the school year. After the amazing 8 weeks as the Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow, I am more certain than ever that human rights work will always be a central piece of my life.
This past Saturday, I visited the Kristof family in Oregon and Amnesty Local Group 48. Surrounded by great company and nature, I was humbled to be invited to this gathering. Learning more about Ladis Kristof and his great legacy and work on human rights, I felt a greater sense of responsibility and commitment to human rights, more than ever before. I have worked incredibly hard to juggle schoolwork, a job, and student and human rights work. And yet hearing about the great passion, energy, and commitment that Ladis embodied for human rights made me realize that I still have a long way to go to fully honor his great legacy. Human rights activism is my history: it has defined my worldviews and has transformed me as an individual.
At the Kristof family home, I had the opportunity to share my personal journey as an Amnesty activist and as the Kristof Fellow. My family and I moved to the US in 2001 shortly before 9/11, hoping to live out the American dream. 9/11 changed everything: anyone who was deemed to “look like a terrorist” was ostracized and alienated; the anti-immigrant sentiment was stronger than ever. Fear was widespread, and reactionary policies and laws that disregarded human rights were enacted for security’s sake. When I discovered Amnesty International at my club fair at my high school freshman year, I finally discovered a way to productively channel my anger and frustration into activism to protect and promote human rights.
As I complete my final year at UC Berkeley and prepare myself for the “real world,” I look forward to sharing all that I have learned this summer as the Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow and replace the death penalty in California this November.