Yacub Elmi, Sociology; Public Service and Community Engagement ’20
To be in the inaugural cohort of the Leo T. McCarthy Center’s Community Engagement Advocate (CEA) program has been an honor and quite honestly exciting. As a CEA, the focus on community advocacy and community-engaged learning has been heavily emphasized in our curriculum.
The CEA program has allowed me to actively participate and set the direction of my education. I’ve had the privilege to work at the Transgender Gender-Variant and Intersex Justice Inclusion Project (TGIJP) this year as a Community Engagement Advocate. I call my participation in this organization a privilege rather than just an opportunity because TGIJP has taught me the power of community engaged learning and the impact it has on communities as a whole. TGIJP works with others to forge, empower, and create a culture of resistance and resilience to strengthen us for the fight against human rights abuses, imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures.
From administrative support, to the large projects that I had the privilege to participate on, TGIJP introduced me to frameworks of organization necessary for non-profits to operate. Going beyond that, I’ve met wonderful, empowering, and structural community leaders, members and people with my time at TGIJP. They were able to empathize with all of their members and constituents, and even gave me the space to express my identities in the workplace. Ms. Earl, the mail night administrator, and I shared our narratives of coming from conservative, cultural homes and the backlash absorbed from that. From those small, but impactful conversations, I was able to solidify more parts of my ever-growing identity and feel pride for who I am and who I’m becoming.
To come to a social justice-oriented institutions, the influence you want to have, the lessons you want to learn, and the community you want to participate in are all questions that battle in your thoughts. With TGIJP, and with CEA as a whole, these questions became initiatives to answer constantly. I want to continue with community-engaged based work in the future and use it to create my platform to destroy and reconstruct oppressive systems.