Perpetual Self-Renewal

Paras blog headshotPosted by John Gardner Fellow Paras Shah

In the season finale of his recently released Netflix mini-series, Master of None, writer and comedian Aziz Ansari grapples with the tendency to become complacent, what John Gardner characterized as lack of self-renewal. Month three of my Fellowship at Human Rights Watch brings new opportunities to work on disability rights in the context of emergencies and conflicts, but also gives me time to pause and ponder.

Increasingly, I am able to work on assignments with an eye toward what I find exhilarating and frustrating. Desk-based research, something my future promises a great deal of, can at times be isolating and requires that I constantly keep the bigger picture of a project or task in mind. On the other hand, advocacy strategy and writing media articles or press releases allows me to synthesize a narrative from many different sources, while collaborating with internal teams and external partners. As I note these preferences, I also question how my future career will unfold. Continue reading


Which Coast is Your Coast? A Comparison between NorCal and DC

Lucy headshot for blogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Lucy Song

In the past few months, a lot of my peers at the UCDC program and myself included have been debating between staying in the Bay Area after graduation, soaking under the glorious year-around sun and eating 99-cent avocados, or moving to the East Coast, experiencing actual seasons and living a more fast-paced life.

Alas, I thought I would write about something different this month. Since I have been in DC for almost three months, that makes me a semi-expert, right? Here is my comparison of DC and NorCal that might offer some suggestions if you ever consider living in DC! Continue reading

From Incarceration to Reentry: The Importance of Higher Education

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

A month after moving to the east coast to begin serving my fellowship, I’ve hit the ground running. In this short time I returned to the University of California, Berkeley to attend the 30th anniversary of the John W. Gardner Fellowship. I was invited to the White House by President and Mrs. Obama to attend the 50th anniversary of the White House Fellows. Lastly, I participated in a round table discussion with New Jersey Senator Corey Booker’s legal team to discuss best practices for reentry and higher education. In my personal experience with reentry I recognize this process is not an individual effort. The intellectual influence of my friends whom I was exposed to during my time in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison played a key role in my reentry process. In collaboration with those around me I overcame my learning insecurities and gained the confidence to participate in the education and reentry programs that were being offered in the SHU.

NJ-STEP & Mountainview Program Alum Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez greeting President Obama on his visit to Rutgers University-Newark to talk about prison reform policy.

NJ-STEP & Mountainview Program Alum Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez greeting President Obama on his visit to Rutgers University-Newark to talk about prison reform policy.

Continue reading

Part III: Fast-Paced City Life

Ozi for blogPosted by Matsui Washington Fellow Ozi Emeziem

Since I last wrote, my time in D. C. seems more eventful than what I thought it could possibly be. I have been tired often, however, it is actually really enjoyable to stay on my feet! As I said in my last post, my birthday passed and one of my best friends spent the week with me, which was such a nice reminder of home without actually having to go home. We spent a lot of time at the monuments and memorials, but our favorite was our visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was a special day as it was the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, so when we made it to the memorial, we met plenty of people from around the country who came to celebrate including some of my friends from Berkeley! The MLK memorial is beautiful. My favorite part are the engraved quotes from Dr. King…definitely words that will sit with me. I also got to finally visit the National Zoo as both of us love animals. In fact, we went there three times in her short stay! Continue reading

Brave in the Attempt

Paras blog headshotPosted by John Gardner Fellow Paras Shah

Disgust, then sorrow, and finally anger flashed across my face. I blamed this deluge of sudden emotions on a New York Times article—the white lettered headline, framed against a colorful rug and pair of shackled feet, declared “The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa.” This piece, authored by Benedict Carey, draws upon research by Human Rights Watch to document the use of chains and shackles for people with psychosocial disabilities throughout West Africa.

A deep stigma toward disability coupled with a lack of resources and cultural beliefs around mental health conditions have contributed to the conditions for widespread abuse in West Africa. According to the article, “At last count, Liberia had just one practicing psychiatrist. Niger had three, Togo four and Benin seven. Sierra Leone had none.” To fill the lacuna created by lack of formal medical treatment, religious retreats, known as prayer camps, are seemingly the only options for many families. These camps range from small family-run outlets to large, elaborate operations, often reflecting the personality and vision of the head pastor. Continue reading