Activism: Stronger Than Steel

September 06, 2017

Hana Mangat, 17, is a junior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. In 2012, she co-founded the youth-run organization, Sikh Kid 2 Kid, with the mission of eradicating ignorance with the power of education. Through Sikh Kid 2 Kid, she has played a key role in developing and implementing a cultural and religious literacy training program for educators. Hana is also the president of her class, the founder of Cultural Society, an active public speaker for bullying prevention initiatives, an officer of the Minority Scholars Program, and a delegate of the Anti Defamation League’s National Youth Leadership Mission.

What does strength look like? The image of a bodybuilder perhaps comes to mind. Or maybe, it looks like steel. Wonder Woman and Batman might be a close second.

What about young people lobbying? More specifically, what about transgender boys and girls lobbying the Texas state legislature against a bill that targets transgender youth?

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Sarah McBride, National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, recalls feeling empowered by the strength found in these little boys and girls’ eyes as they “[held] in one hand such pride in their identity and in the other, all of the hate that exists in the world.” They directly challenged legislators, demanding to know why they were being targeted.

They spoke from a place of “history, urgency, and authenticity.” Sarah described the history as “not from a place of the past, but of the history of tomorrow that is yet to be written.” She explained that young people’s sense of urgency supplements activism, because oftentimes in history, impatience can be a virtue. And of course, an authentic love for equality must exist in the uphill battle to achieve it.

As someone who works for the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in America, history, urgency, and authenticity play a large role in Sarah’s life. The foundation of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) mission is to achieve true lived equality, which is reflected in a wide range of projects. This includes workplace equality programs through which HRC evaluates businesses, employers, and employees to create a corporate equality index. Similarly, in their health equity program, data is collected to release evaluations of equity in hospitals. HRC also focuses on the lives of young people, as their “Welcoming Schools” project works to ensure that staff, administration, and students are inclusive of people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Historically, HRC worked to pass LGBTQ friendly laws, elect pro-LGBTQ candidates, and create a foundation to ensure that rights are upheld. Most recently, they have launched a new program called HRC Rising. HRC Rising is the largest expansion and investment in HRC history. As described by the HRC website,  HRC Rising is an initiative to “fight for LGBTQ equality to victory in 2018, 2020 and beyond.” The grassroots campaign will take place in all 50 states, with a special focus on a handful of states that are at higher risk for targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

Through this program, as well as through HRC’s other initiatives, Sarah is able to travel around the country to meet and work with activists. One of her favorite parts of the job is the people she meets. She explains that she is, “perpetually in awe of the people that [she] gets to work with.”  They all have an incredible amount of passion for their work, creating a very wholesome work environment. Her co-workers understand that identity is made up of many different aspects and can thus be impacted in a variety of ways (i.e. politics, entertainment, education, etc.). For this reason, intersectionality plays a large role in HRC’s work. As Sarah described,  “LGBTQ people bring their whole selves to work. We have to make sure we recognize the multiplicity of identities we have and make sure we are speaking out against all injustices.”

Equality is a principle that is easy to talk about, but much harder to fight for. HRC is an organization that walks the walk. They are on the forefront of the fight for change, providing a voice to those many wish to keep silenced. Their compassion and dedication to the liberation of all people is unmatched and must be supported by those who wish to make a change.