We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.

Derek Zomer is a higher education professional at one of South Dakota’s largest universities

When did you first hear about the ACLU and why did you want to get involved?

I have heard about the ACLU in the news and through social media for many years, but never actually knew the scope of the organization or how it gives voices to those that do not have one. I wanted to get involved because after doing some research on the organization, I knew the good they were doing for people who are unfairly represented in mainstream society. Every human has a voice and should be treated in a way that is equal to any other person in the United States. Having been newly introduced to the ACLU and now getting involved will be something that will hopefully lead to a passion down the road.

How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?

Being an empathetic person, I can relate to a lot of issues that the ACLU fights for. The work I see the ACLU doing after being exposed to it initially is fantastic. Issues I am very passionate about are going to be freedom of expression and religion, rights for immigrants, and equality for the LGBTQ+ population. It is 2019. It is time to showcase that every individual has basic human rights like anyone else in the states. No matter what you believe in, where you come from, or who you want to love, we all deserve a chance at happiness. It’s our right. The ACLU has and will continue to fight for those rights. 

How do you plan on putting what you learned at the 2019 Activist Academy into action?

The Activist Academy was phenomenal. I had no idea what to expect going to it. Since this was my first actual experience working with members from South Dakota’s ACLU chapter, I was equipped to hit the ground running after the two-hour session. I learned about the legislative process in South Dakota, which always intrigued me. Libby’s presentation and visual aids were perfect for me to process the information. It makes me want to learn more about it. Additionally, the letter writing activity was incredibly helpful. I liked that I was given the guidelines on how to write a nicely worded letter to those that represent my district. I had no idea who represented me until going to the Activist Academy. Now I know how to easily look up that information and receive all of their contact info. I appreciate the ACLU of South Dakota for hosting this. I can’t wait to see the Activist Academy spread through South Dakota.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?

Do it! If you want to give back to the community and have your voice be heard, which can be hard in South Dakota, then volunteer or become a member. I’ve had nothing but positive communication from ACLU South Dakota and the team members that make this organization run. 

What are you most looking forward to as an ACLU volunteer?

With the ACLU of South Dakota being new to me, I am most excited to help out in any way I can. After doing more research on the issues they cover, I can easily see myself volunteering with a march, taking part in a phone bank, letter writing, or any other event that may arise. Just like the wonderful staff at the ACLU of South Dakota, I want to be another voice that cares. I’m happy to be a voice that can lead the next generation to a better, more inclusive world.

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