by Gerry Carolina Rivadeneira, 2015 Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellow
March 8, 2011. This was the day my activist self was born.
I remember it was a hot sunny day in the middle of Miami, Florida. I was standing on stage with a microphone in my hand and I told the crowd, “We are here for Women’s Rights! Women’s Rights here and worldwide!” The microphone became my tool for advocacy as I was standing there on top of the stage, rallying the participants before the 5k Walk 4 Women’s Rights began.
I felt so many emotions surging through my body as I rejoiced at the success of my first community awareness and fundraising event. These emotions came to life in front of my friends, teachers, and community partners. I had no idea one day I would be feeling these same emotions on stage standing next to the Kristof family as the 2015 Ladis Kristof Fellow. The Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellowship is awarded annually to a student activist for her or his outstanding efforts on behalf of human rights.
As an immigrant Latina, my experiences have shaped the values that call me to human rights activism. For my community, activism is a form of survival. I grew up with activism around me portrayed by the everyday resistance of the people in my immigrant community. But it was on March 8th of my junior year of high school that I was able to claim activism for myself.
Since that day, no one has been able to take the microphone of advocacy from my hand.
With Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) I have been able to start building the change I wish to see. I have been an Amnesty member since 2009 and a member leader since 2012. I have learned about student activism with Amnesty International USA and I choose to be a radical, unapologetic human rights activist.
I’m an activist that does not blame marginalized people for structural inequalities, but rather understands that we live in an oppressive system and marginalized people need to be supported. For this reason, I dedicated my summer’s fellowship work to the refugee legacy of Ladis Kristof and the legacy of all migrants that put their life on the line every day.
Many human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International are directly linked to migration. Amnesty’s engagement with migrant rights in the United States has been mostly through reports that have been released over the years. The last one being In Hostile Terrain: Human rights violations in immigration enforcement in the US Southwest. Our work highlights the connection between migrant rights and global human rights. As Amnesty International engages in a multi-dimensional approach to advocacy, community organizing must lie at the center of it.
A core goal of community organizing is to generate durable power and get community organizing groups a place at the table before important decisions are made.
My research, as the Ladis Kristof Fellow, focused on elevating migrant rights within Amnesty International USA’s current work. This project will begin the process of brainstorming how we can complement the work that is already taking place and help to further it. I have engaged in community-based outreach to leading migrant rights organizations by listening to and consulting them on the work they have done and thinking about the best way Amnesty International USA can support their work. With a comprehensive analysis and evidence supporting community based organizing for migrant rights it is easy to understand why the “People on the Move” campaign should be prioritized and centered around those directly affected.
As the Ladis Kristof Fellow, supported by the Director of Member Engagement, Jesús Canchola Sanchez, I have a commitment to maintain a relationship with the organizations consulted to build a bigger human rights network. As a member leader, I commit to continuing to build a migrant rights team of members and staff that can work to continue pushing migrant rights forward. Thank you Kristof family and Amnesty staff for an enlightening and transformative fellowship!
Gerry Carolina Rivadeneira is the 2015 Ladis Kristof Fellow, a migrant rights organizer and human rights activist. She is a Posse Scholar at Mount Holyoke College, where she is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in law, public policy and human rights. She has been an Amnesty member since 2009, joining the leadership team in 2012 as a Student Activist Coordinator and now serves as the National Youth Action Committee representative for the Northeast.
For more information on the 2016 Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellowship and application process, click here.