The stakes are as high as they have ever been. As Alaskans, we are challenged every day to make our voices heard and protect our most fundamental rights.
The changing colors and slightly chillier weather remind me that it has been almost fIve months since I joined the ACLU of Alaska. As we embrace a busy fall, I wanted to share some thoughts about what drives our work and our continuing commitment to civil rights and liberties.
When I first moved to Fairbanks more than three decades ago, I had the chance to see one of my favorite poets, Nikki Giovanni, an activist in national racial and social justice movements. I will never forget her saying, "Wow, as one of the newest states, you have the chance to do things right." She was talking about the way we could treat people, recognizing and respecting the rights and dignity inherent in all of us who make Alaska home.
That enthusiasm for Alaska, for our potential, has framed my work ever since. We live in a state where it is possible for us to know almost every one of our neighbors. Our relationships with each other mean that we can do right by each other. That unique reality builds our resilience as we move through seasons and cycles of change. When we come together, we have the power to make a positive difference in each other's lives.
The stakes are as high as they have ever been. Throughout our nation, we face persistent racism and othering, a climate crisis, gun violence, and forced migration caused by unrest. In Alaska, we are challenged to make sure our votes count, our voices matter, that traditional lifeways are thriving, and that our fundamental rights are respected.
It is a lot. But our ability to deal with all of it comes down to the one core value I know we share as Alaskans: as independent as we are, we need each other.
This summer, we filed a lawsuit to make sure that all of our voices count as we cast our ballots in critical elections. This fall, much of our effort is focused on protecting constitutional rights, including the right to equal protection, and a justice system that works for all of us. We do this work because we know that the ACLU of Alaska's mission – to protect the civil rights and liberties of Alaskans – is foundational to our future. And as I settle into this position, I am excited to learn more about your vision for our state, and how the ACLU of Alaska fits into that future.
Thinking about how we come together through these challenging times, I am drawn to the words of another poet, Amanda Gorman, in Hymn for the Hurting:
"May we not just grieve, but give; May we not just ache, but act; May our signed right to bear arms Never blind our sight from shared harm; May we choose our children over chaos. May another innocent never be lost.
Maybe everything hurts, Our hearts shadowed & strange. But only when everything hurts May everything change."
This change is the work of the ACLU of Alaska. That is where my hope lies. We need each other. I'm honored to be part of this work and grateful that you are too.
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Executive Director, ACLU of Alaska