When Samantha Chapman was a senior in high school, she volunteered for the successful campaign to defeat the 2006 referred measure that would have banned all abortions in South Dakota.
It was this volunteer work that sparked Sam’s passion for reproductive rights – and introduced her to the ACLU of South Dakota.
Fast forward 17 years, and Sam’s thrilled to be working for the ACLU as South Dakota’s advocacy manager.
“What draws me to working for the ACLU now is the opportunity to work with activists to propel actions into strategy to produce sustainable, large-scale change defending and advancing the rights of our most vulnerable communities,” she said.
With potential anti-abortion bills coming during the 2023 legislative session, it seems as if Sam’s advocacy work is now coming full circle.
“I’ve been an activist for years, attending rallies and protests and volunteering to make phone calls and knock on doors, and I’ve always been vocal about issues and causes I believe in,” she said. “Now more than ever, the ACLU’s unrelenting commitment to protecting the constitutional rights of all people is vital to the future of our democracy and the well-being of our most vulnerable communities,” she said. “Justice is not an elusive dream and it is my privilege to pursue it.”
Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about and why?
Given South Dakota lawmakers’ hostility toward bodily autonomy, abortion rights, reproductive justice, and trans rights immediately come to mind. Despite documented disparities between relentless anti-choice and transphobic legislation and the preferences of South Dakota voters, we continue to see new laws passed each year that chip away at the rights we have to make decisions about our own bodies. On top of that, Indigenous Justice is affected not only by abortion and trans rights, but also by countless intersections between Indigenous justice and criminal law reform and human rights. The Očeti Šakówiŋ people have been and continue to be intentionally barred from justice. I want to change that.
What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?
I love to participate in community building events! Bringing people together who share values but bring different life experiences almost always results in new ideas and a refreshed commitment to making spaces better for everyone. It’s especially heartening to engage with high school youth and young adults to hear their dreams for our collective future.
What does advocacy mean to you?
In my mind, advocacy is a lifelong pursuit to amplify voices that aren’t being heard and share knowledge with impacted communities to empower them to pursue justice at every level. Strategic advocacy involves organizing, activism, legislative engagement, community building, and leadership development.
Why do you think it’s important for people to be involved in their communities?
Communities thrive when their laws, ordinances, policies, and culture are informed by their people. When community members don’t vocalize concerns or share their ideas with decision makers, we end up with spaces that can be hostile to the very people who inhabit them. Getting to know your neighbors (both literally and figuratively) facilitates clear communication and collaboration.
How do you plan on using the work you do at the ACLU to advance civil rights and civil liberties for all South Dakotans?
I hope to engage with more communities across the state to identify the specific impacts of current and proposed laws and work together to bring forward solutions. I plan to focus on identifying and building up new leaders across the state to help energize their communities to join our work.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?
When you join us as a member or volunteer, you’re joining a union of passionate supporters of justice and liberty for all. You’ll meet like-minded individuals while also encountering folks with opinions and viewpoints different than your own, all of which will provide opportunities to expand your knowledge and become part of a movement marching toward a more perfect union. You’ll become part of an organization with the history and power to effectuate real, large-scale change.
Which of the Constitution’s amendments are most important to you and why?
The Fourteenth Amendment provides numerous protections to private individuals from the government. It has served as a bedrock of several high-profile Supreme Court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and Obergefell v. Hodges. The Fourteenth Amendment is home to the Equal Protection Clause, which requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people, including all non-citizens; this clause has protected many groups against harmful discrimination since its passage in 1868.
What are you most looking forward to as a new member to the team?
I am most looking forward to exchanging knowledge and ideas with my new team of highly-skilled individuals. I love to collaborate. It is my privilege to work with others who are equally energized by this work.