This summer, I had the privilege of being selected as Amnesty International USA’s legislative coordinator for the State of Florida. Amnesty International is the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization focusing on advocacy, reporting, and organizing. My job as a legislative coordinator entailed a volunteer leadership position that served as part of a state’s larger membership leadership team. In this role, I lead the State of Florida’s advocacy efforts around Amnesty’s legislative priorities. This position involves training activists to lobby, organizing lobby meetings between Amnesty members and their representatives, meeting with legislators to discuss key issues, and disseminating actions (e.g. calls, letter writing) to Amnesty groups and my larger network, among other responsibilities. All of these activities are done with the goal of gaining broad legislative support for our non-partisan human rights agenda.
Assuming the role in May, I dove headfirst into legislative advocacy with Amnesty. The organization was hosting its first annual virtual lobby day for its “Rights Now” campaign and after only being in my role for a month, I was expected to schedule meetings with Members of Congress, recruit activists to participate in the lobby day, train said activists, and lead the lobby meetings themselves all while ensuring I stayed abreast of the pieces of legislation we were advocating for. Our organization was lobbying for the PEACE Act (part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act) and the Break the Cycle of Violence Act. The first act raises the standards for use of force by law enforcement officers and the second act authorizes grant programs to support gun violence intervention initiatives, specifically investing in community-based programs. Due to current events, the urgency of these issues raised the stakes of our lobbying efforts.
The first annual lobby day was a success and I during this campaign, I was able to lead lobby training for Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana activists, recruit about 15 Florida activists to participate in the lobby day, schedule meetings with ten Congressional offices (including Senator Rubio and Senator Scott’s office) and was able build meaningful relationships with Congressional staffers and the activists who participated. Due to efforts of activists through insitutional means, such as ours, and extra-insitutional means, such as the tireless protests, the Justice in Policing Act passed the House of Representatives that same week in May!
The Social Science Scholars program has been integral in supporting my efforts in human rights organizing this summer. In unprecedented times and with the fallout of my previous summer plans, the program’s constant support was essential. Having a community of driven individuals pushing me to find ways to make meaningful impacts despite new limitations encouraged me to think creatively about human rights advocacy. The lessons I gained this summer as a Social Science Scholar are ones that I will carry with me as I continue my work as a Legislative Coordinator, as Co-Director of Amnesty International at FSU, and in my future career in International Human Rights Law.
Giovanna is an undergraduate at Florida State University studying international affairs and political science. Giovanna is a 2020 Social Science Scholar as well as a legislative coordinator for Amnesty International. You can connect with Giovanna on LinkedIn.
The feature image is from Pexels.