Exchange Matters / February 21, 2023

Contributing to Civic and Social Justice Through Exchange

Compiled by Julia Jones, Communications Intern 

Through people-to-people exchanges like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Global Ties Network works hard to facilitate conversations around civic and social justice, and the role of individuals in creating change in their local and global communities. In the snapshots below, Global Ties Arkansas explores various aspects of human and civil rights organizations, International House emphasizes the immense impact youth engagement has in public policy and government, Global Ties Arizona shares how underrepresented communities in Arizona are being supported, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs discusses building community and changing systemic structures. 

Global Ties Arkansas

IVLP: Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities: A Regional Project for Africa
NPA:  World Learning
By Tommy Priakos, Program Coordinator

Global Ties Arkansas was selected to host a World Learning project for leaders from 10 African countries to explore various facets of human and civil rights organizations in Little Rock, Arkansas. The visit took place January 13-19 and coincided with celebrations for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which gave participants the opportunity to attend the Night of Unity Candlelight Ceremony and watch a spectacular fireworks display. At the celebration they met with Dushun Scarbrough, Executive Director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, who stepped away from media cameras to welcome our visitors. The cameras followed and the visitors were featured on the evening news for a brief minute on TV.  

For this International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) topic, we felt that a visit to the Central High School National Historic Site was a must for the participants. This civil rights landmark commemorates the “Little Rock Nine” and desegregation following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. At the site, the visitors learned about the strife nine black students endured during the 1957 Little Rock Crisis, when federal troops were called in to protect and enforce the integration of the students into the then all-white high school. The museum includes a civil rights timeline and a video showing television’s importance in protecting the lives of the Little Rock Nine.” 

Ally Thomlinson and Tom Masseau enjoyed talking to our African delegates on disability rights. Photo provided by Global Ties Arkansas.

Ally Thomlinson and Tom Masseau enjoyed talking to our African delegates on disability rights. Photo provided by Global Ties Arkansas.

One highlight of the project was when they visited with Sara Tariq, Ph.D. and discussed teaching diversity in the classroom. Sara hosted a youth summer retreat for high schoolers and college students from different backgrounds and faiths to help students learn how to appreciate diversity. At the meeting you could almost hear brains clicking on how the visitors could duplicate this type of retreat back in their home communities. The visitors also meet with Tom Masseau, Executive Director of Disability Rights Arkansas, and Ally Thomlinson, Director of Community of Champions for a panel on disability rights.  

Global Ties Arkansas takes pride in sharing our community with international visitors. We pay close attention to the needs and interests of our delegates and their interpreters/liaisons and help tailor the program to be as relevant as possible to their objectives. 

Global Ties Arizona

IVLP: Human Rights Across the Americas, a project for the Western Hemisphere
NPA: Cultural Vistas
By Paige Holtsclaw, Program Coordinator

In December 2022, Global Ties Arizona collaborated with Cultural Vistas to bring a group of 10 human rights leaders and activists to Central and Northern Arizona on an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The group met with local nonprofits, government agencies, and academic institutions that support underrepresented communities in Arizona. Meeting topics included advocacy efforts happening in the Latino community, health equity for immigrants and migrants at the border, and Arizona’s Indigenous communities. The meetings also covered inclusion, equity, and equality efforts for the LGBTQI+ community.  

The group met with Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), a nonprofit advocating for underserved individuals and communities. Here, the group met with Joseph Garcia, Executive Director of Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Action Fund to learn more about CPLC’s mission to advance Latino success through advocacy. CPLC’s advocacy efforts include community-based activism, events focusing on social justice and equity issues, and lobbying and leveraging elected officials and leaders. CPLC Action Fund is involved in voter engagement activities including voter registration, voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts within the Latino community. 

The group traveled north where they enjoyed breathtaking views of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon. While at the park, the group met with two First Nations Grand Canyon Park Rangers. The rangers shared the cultural and sacred connection Indigenous Peoples have with the Canyon and its surrounding areas, and discussed what park leadership is doing to be more inclusive. One step that has been taken is renaming “Indian Gardens” to “Havasupai Gardens” to pay tribute to the Havasupai people and their descendants who have lived in the region for thousands of years.

Human Rights Across the Americas’ participants pose for a picture in front of Grand Canyon National Headquarters. Both photos provided by Global Ties Arizona

Human Rights Across the Americas’ participants pose for a picture in front of Grand Canyon National Headquarters. Both photos provided by Global Ties Arizona

A trip to Flagstaff to visit one of Arizona’s three public state universities –Northern Arizona University (NAU) – was a memorable experience for the group and the NAU community alike. The participants met and exchanged knowledge with Associate Professor for the Department of Health Sciences and Center for Health Equity Research (CHER), Samantha Sabo, Ph.D. In an article published by CHER about the group’s visit, Samantha highlighted the strong connection felt between faculty and the IVLP participants, “We found common passions and partnerships with the human rights delegation from Latin America and hope to continue dialogue across the health and human rights of indigenous, LGBTQ, and immigrant and migrant peoples—we left inspired to be better and do more.” 

Back in the Phoenix area, the group participated in a workshop hosted by ONE Community, a coalition of socially responsible businesses, organizations and individuals who are moving diversity, inclusion, equity, and equality forward in Arizona. The interactive workshop focused on the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a special emphasis on coalition-building and media relations.  

Angela Hughey, Co-Founder and President of ONE Community shared how hosting and interacting with IVLP participants has impacted her work: “Hosting international visitors from…across Latin America, to hear their stories and to be able to share ONE Community’s message and best practices with them has been incredibly rewarding. We were grateful to listen and learn from their experiences as well. It has brought a new level of appreciation to the work that we do together in advancing LGBTQ+ rights here in Arizona, the United States, and around the world.” 

As a very noteworthy conclusion to their time in Arizona, the group attended a special reception along with the Director of the Office of International Visitors, Anne Grimes, hosted at the home of Global Ties Arizona board member, Sapna Gupta. Reception attendees heard from various members of the group about their time spent in Arizona. Emotions filled the room as the group expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the IVLP and to learn from and connect with Arizonans, sharing gifts from some of their home countries. 

Participants enjoy an unforgettable evening with Anne Grimes, Director of the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State.

Participants enjoy an unforgettable evening with Anne Grimes, Director of the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State.

Cleveland Council on World Affairs 

IVLP: Human and Civil Rights Advocacy and Awareness
NPA: Cultural Vistas
By Maria Garcia-Olalla, International Visitor Program Associate

In September of 2022, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs hosted a group of 14 amazing individuals from North Africa and the Middle East through an International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled “Human and Civil Rights Advocacy and Awareness,” in collaboration with Cultural Vistas. The Cleveland portion of the project examined youth and community relations with police, discrimination complaints and due process, and democratic and civic engagement in historically marginalized communities. 

During their time in Cleveland, they met with organizations in government, the private sector, and NGOs for collaborative and inspiring sessions. These organizations focus on building community, bringing down barriers to access, changing systematic structures, and creating platforms for open dialogue.  

One particularly inspiring session was with the Cleveland Community Relations Board (CCRB). The CCRB was founded in 1945 and was the first body of its kind in the country to be established by municipal ordinance. Its mission is to promote amicable relations among the racial and cultural groups within the community, with the goal to protect individual civil rights and to promote peaceful relations among cultural groups. This meeting stood out not only for the great work they are doing in Cleveland, but because of the connections the participants and speakers made through similar struggles their communities are facing. I was amazed by their passion and willingness to help their communities and exchange ideas on how to push through those challenges.  

This in-person project showed me how important the introductions we make through exchanges can be and how similar the challenges and disparities we are facing in our communities in the United States are to those happening abroad. It was an honor to host this wonderful group and I hope the connections they made in Cleveland keep them motivated to push for change back home. 

International House

IVLP: Youth and Civic Engagement – Youth Activism
NPA: Meridian International Center
By Alexandra Potter, Citizen Diplomacy Program Manager

In early December 2022, International House in Charlotte, NC welcomed a sub-regional group from Pakistan and India to the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project “Youth and Civic Engagement – Youth Activism” administered by Meridian International Center. The group attended meetings around Charlotte, touching on every aspect of youth engagement in public policy and government. This group—designed to, in part, boost cross-border understanding between Indians and Pakistanis through dialogue—engaged with one another and local leaders to have difficult conversations about supporting young people. The visitors met with nongovernmental organizations to learn about their young voter outreach, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department to discuss their efforts to increase opportunities for young people from underserved communities, and with an initiative program spearheaded by the Mayor of Charlotte. At each of these meetings, delegates and speakers tackled tough topics under the collective theme of youth engagement. This programmatic focus was perhaps best defined by Dawn Hill, Manager of Youth Programs and Business Partnerships for the city of Charlotte who said, “We say that we serve all youth. We have to mean that.”  

 Among these meetings included a powerful conversation with Charlotte Pride, one of the leaders in LGBTQ+ visibility in Charlotte and North Carolina. The organization works to empower LGBTQ+ youth in the Charlotte area. Participants engaged in deeply meaningful discussions about the role of LGBTQ+ individuals in communities and what steps can be taken, both abroad and in the United States, to protect LGBTQ+ youth and engage them in the civic process. Charlotte Pride’s Communications Manager, Liz Schob, summarized the issue when she said, “Things don’t live in bubbles; we have to stop pretending they do,” as participants asked important questions about how to support LGBTQ+ youth by bringing them into the fold of civic conversations. The meeting interlocutors stressed the continued visibility and acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ individuals and their basic human rights. Seeing visiting leaders from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds engage on an issue like LGBTQ+ youth further emphasize the relevance of exchanges. 

As long as programs continue to encourage difficult but important conversations on prominent issues of the time, international exchange will always be one of the best ways to build bridges across cultural divides. Participants may not leave their programs in complete agreement on every issue, but they will carry their experiences for the rest of their professional careers. International exchanges provide us all with a more worldly viewpoint on all issues, and the group that visited Charlotte in December 2022 surely gained this perspective.