By Monica Smith
As an activist in the South, I’ve learned that it can be difficult to find an organization that prepares you for the reality of work in this part of the country. In recent years, my home state of Florida has been at the forefront of oppressive legislation, and it is daunting to begin to work in that political climate.
I felt the call for activism during my sophomore year of college when Florida passed an anti-trans sports bill. Getting involved was easy, as there were several organizations seeking volunteers to help them combat this legislation. These moments throughout my sophomore year brought me into close contact with local leaders. I became very inspired by the work around me, and as time went on, I realized I wanted to do more.
Americans United stood out
As I searched for opportunities to grow, Americans United stood out to me for several reasons. First, its core goals focus on an area of advocacy in which I had been unknowingly engaging. Most of the legislation that was being passed in my state focused on church-state separation issues – but I hadn’t made that connection. It was inspiring to see a new way of viewing these policies. Now I see that these policies are fueled by a larger white Christian Nationalist movement. By understanding the motivation behind this movement, it has become easier for me to advocate on these issues. In Florida specifically, the attacks on education have been created entirely to appease the large right-wing base in the state. Americans United changed how I approached these issues and especially how I spoke to my community about them.
The second reason I connected with AU is its dedication to youth organizing. AU not only offers support to young activists but actively gives them a platform with which to advocate on a variety of church-state separation issues. Looking at the work former fellows and interns had done was moving. It is hard to see positive news come out of Florida, but being connected to a national organization quickly showed me all the victories happening around the country.
Become a Youth Organizing Fellow
As a Youth Organizing Fellow, I’ve had the opportunity to further develop my skills as an activist. AU has given me opportunities to further my communication skills and allowed me to engage with people directly. I enjoyed the opportunity to table events and connect with other like-minded individuals. Furthermore, it was incredibly fulfilling to be given all the training and tools needed to further engage in activism. AU has had the largest positive impacts on my professional career and really has set me on the right path for a long-term career in activism.
Note: Applications are now open for the 2023-24 Youth Organizing Fellowship. Learn more and apply at www.au.org/youthfellows/.