Finding inspiration is easy when every day you work with people who volunteer their time to protecting our civil liberties. I should know—as the ACLU/SC’s Manager of Activist Networks, I coordinate and facilitate a wide range of volunteer advocacy activities. Some of the activists I work with will be honored at our upcoming 48th Annual Garden Party for their long-standing commitment to liberty and their accomplishments in the name of civil rights.
Our activist of the year, Kate MacQueen, has volunteered her time to the Westside Chapter for more than 10 years. A few years ago, when the chapter was struggling, Kate rallied chapter members around a simple idea that everyone could get behind: a book club. Her actions reminded chapter members that the most important part of being a part of the ACLU is commitment to the principles enshrined in the Constitution.
Our Santa Barbara chapter will be recognized as the Chapter of The Year. The Santa Barbara chapter has been diligent in working to end abuses against tenants, immigrant families, and inmates, but its most recent victory came in a form of the ability to monitor the conditions at Santa Barbara County Jail.
Advocates spent more than two years writing letters and lobbying before Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown granted them access to operate the ombuds program. The purpose of the program is to resolve inmate complaints with regard to the conditions, restrictions or nature of their confinement. A secondary purpose is to assist inmates with non-litigation-based communication with the public defenders or other defense council, probation/parole officers, or appropriate public agencies. Incarcerated populations occupy a vulnerable position in our society, so inmates in Santa Barbara jails have significant need for the protection the program provides.
ACLU activism is usually thankless, and always selfless. I’m most excited to attend the Garden Party not to meet Gore Vidal and other celebrities, but instead to honor the capacity of ordinary citizens to change the world.
Our chapter activists weren’t expecting this award, but they genuinely deserve it. I hope it encourages them to another year of commitment to civil rights.