Cover Story

Three Summers of Activism and Beyond

Alanna Jackson ’23

Seven young activists stand in front of a parade car holding signs and pride flags.
Alanna Jackson ’23 and their fellow CC Activism Institute interns participated with the ACLU in the Albuquerque Pride parade. Photo submitted by Jackson.

Back during J Block* of my sophomore year in 2021, I took a Sociology course called Crimmigration: Criminalization of Immigration, taught by Dr. Rojo. The class specifically focused on dissecting the different immigration policies throughout history and presently in place in the United States, ultimately exposing the racist, violent, and profit-motivated underbelly of the U.S. immigration system. From that point forward, I knew that I wanted to become more involved in migrant justice, while also being critical of my position as a white person in academia — a practice and ethic of care instilled in me through my coursework in Feminist and Gender Studies. Thus, my engagement with the CC Activism Institute (then, the Summer Immigration Institute) began, which allowed me to contribute to the migrant justice movement in a more peripheral position through research rather than central position.

During my first summer with the program in 2021, I virtually conducted research for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based nonprofit focused on dismantling mass incarceration and surveillance of BIPOC communities. My research team and I sought to understand and document the financial relationship between Taylor, Texas and the Hutto Detention Center. I found this work to be exhilarating as I filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, spoke with community members, and sifted through documents to then create a more comprehensive story about the relationship between the town and the detention center. During the Crimmigration course, my class learned that rural areas that depend on prisons for their financial livelihood do not usually thrive in the long-run. Learning how deeply this relationship affected the Taylor community was an important step toward brainstorming ways to divest from the detention center and ultimately shut it down.

During my second year with the program in 2022, I worked virtually for Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and in-person at Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) in Denver. At SPLC, I completed in-take interviews with detained individuals and drafted a bond payment guide for those with detained loved ones. At CIRC, I gathered evidence to determine if Colorado law enforcement officers were breaching sanctuary state policy by continuing to uphold detainer requests. I also started a project to investigate whether government entities like the DMV were selling consumer data to LexusNexus. This potential collaboration between the DMV and LexusNexus was particularly concerning since legislation had just passed in Colorado that allows undocumented folks to receive their drivers’ licenses, and LexusNexus is known for selling migrant data to ICE. At CIRC, my supervisor Siena and I had wonderful conversations, including one about the prevalence of burnout in nonprofit organizations and in community organizing work. In fact, this conversation inspired my senior thesis, which was a sociological qualitative study to better understand embodied (un)wellness and dreams of community wellness according to queer individuals who work in nonprofit organizations.

Through this amazing program I have grown into myself and hope to continue this work beyond my time at Colorado College.”

Alanna Jackson ’23

During this past summer, I interned for the ACLU of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I investigated contract accountability issues regarding ICE detention and organized public records regarding labor conditions, living conditions, and mental health concerns at the Torrance County Detention Center. Throughout this project, I continually came back to my Feminist and Gender Studies course, Critical Disability Studies, and my Sociology course, Visual Ethnography, as I learned about how unwellness is often ignored or even punished in Torrance County Detention Center. Likewise, I reflected on my Sociology course, Community-Based Research, when I canvassed with Innovation Law Lab for their Torrance County Listening Project. During these two days of canvassing, volunteers like myself walked from door to door in Torrance County to listen to what residents love about their community and what they need or would like to improve in their community. Given that the Torrance County Detention Center is one of the main employers in this county, the project invited residents to imagine what it would mean for their community to thrive outside of depending on the detention center. I loved this project because it felt organic and community-centered by treating each resident as an expert in their own lived experiences and meeting each community member with genuine empathy and curiosity.

I adored being a part of the CC Activism Institute. Not only did I learn tangible skills like how to file FOIA requests, how to canvass, or how to create comprehensive sharable materials for community members, but I also met some of the most compassionate and determined people I have ever met. From the students who have completed the program alongside me — especially one of my best friends Mazlyn and my Albuquerque housemates — to the incredible nonprofit leaders and community organizers — Bethany, Siena, Jacqueline, Rebecca, Max, and Ariel — who mentored and encouraged me, I conclude my time with the program carrying with me some of the best community-organizing networks and friendships I could ask for. l am so thankful for Eric Popkin for always believing in me, challenging me, and keeping it real. Through this amazing program I have grown into myself and hope to continue this work beyond my time at Colorado College. In fact, I still volunteer for the Torrance County Listening Project. Even though organizing toward social change and mass liberation can be grueling and discouraging, I am forever inspired and grateful for the folks who continue to persevere with gentleness, tenacity, and joy.

*J Block was an extra block taught virtually during the early years of the Covid pandemic that occurred between Winter Break and Block 5 (separate from Half Block).

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