In the quest for civil rights and liberties, the ACLU of Connecticut’s work functions most often as a three-legged stool of integrated advocacy – together, our litigation, public policy and advocacy, and communications teams work to hold up existing progress and push for more. In a few weeks, one of the legs of that stool will undergo some changes.
Melvin Medina, the ACLU of Connecticut’s public policy and advocacy director, will be transitioning from his position on February 5 in order to move on to a new role within the wider ACLU family. Mel, the ACLU of Connecticut’s self-proclaimed “unofficial Smart Justice hype machine,” has been with the organization for seven years, beginning as office manager, then as advocacy director, then as director of strategic initiatives, and finally in his current position. I am grateful to have worked with Mel during his tenure, and for how his vision and dedication have spurred the evolution of our organization during my years as executive director.
In that time, he has made an indelible mark on our organization and on the state of Connecticut as a whole. As Mel’s department grew from one person to five, he brought passion and humor to the daily task of moving Connecticut closer toward the best possible version of itself. With Mel’s political strategy, he made organizing – building power with and for the people most impacted – into the heartbeat of the ACLU of Connecticut’s public policy and advocacy work. By building a program that centers racial justice in every decision, he not only helped to usher in critical changes to Connecticut’s policies and laws, but most importantly created space for many others to step into their leadership as advocates, organizers, policy analysts, and more, both within the ACLU and outside of it.
To that end, with Mel’s departure comes a new chapter in the ACLU of Connecticut’s public policy and advocacy work. Like a true organizer, Mel worked in community with a talented team, and we are thrilled that his leaving makes space for their leadership to shine.
Beginning on February 5, Claudine Fox, our current campaign manager, will become the new interim public policy and advocacy director, where she will bring her empathy, deep policy and advocacy knowledge and experience, unique organizing talent, and strategic vision, including her strong sense of racial justice to carry the organization’s policy and advocacy work forward. Claudine is a leader in every sense of the word and has proven that time and again as she supported the Smart Justice campaign and as she worked daily to center the leadership of people who are most impacted by the criminal legal system, including policing. Kelly McConney Moore will become our interim senior policy counsel, a role in which she will lead our legislative program. In her current role as policy counsel, Kelly has shown a unique ability to home in on critical details and finer points of legislation and policy while maintaining the bigger picture of where those tools fit in the broader work toward liberation. Gus Marks-Hamilton, with his combination of astute policy knowledge and organizing expertise, will be moving from his current role as Smart Justice field organizer to become the ACLU of Connecticut’s interim campaign manager, where he will expand his roles and responsibilities in the Smart Justice campaign. Anderson Curtis, our field organizer, will also be expanding his role and leadership in facilitating connections among key constituency groups that are vital to increasing the ACLU of Connecticut's political power. Together, Gus and Anderson will be organizing in and with justice-impacted people and supporters to sustain the powerhouse that is Smart Justice, a campaign that Gus and Anderson have already been instrumental in building from the ground up with Smart Justice leaders.
Together, this public policy and advocacy team – Claudine, Kelly, Gus, and Anderson, with our Smart Justice leaders – is a force to be reckoned with. Individually and collectively, they have already made their marks on the fights for equity and justice and against white supremacy, at the legislature, in Connecticut’s laws and policies, and in towns and cities across our state. I know that the ethos they share, of continuing to center organizing and racial justice at the core of what we do, why we do it, and how we do it, will be a beacon for the ACLU of Connecticut and for the state as a whole. At its best, the ACLU Connecticut is an organization that fights with the most marginalized, not just for them, and that brings heart and heat to everything we do. The public policy and advocacy team has shown that time and again, and I, for one, cannot wait to be there for what they do next.
The vision and work of creating a world that values Black and Latinx lives is bigger than any one person. Mel has contributed greatly to that cause, as have Claudine, Kelly, Gus, Anderson, Smart Justice’s leaders, and others past and present who have worked with them. In an organization like the ACLU, where litigation and communications also play instrumental roles in pushing for progress and the legs of our three-pronged stool cannot stand without each other, that work is also much bigger than one department.
I am excited for our future, when the ACLU of Connecticut will continue doubling down on racial justice and on becoming an ACLU that puts the question of liberation of oppressed people first in every decision. But more importantly, I'm excited for our new team who will contribute to our necessary work of fighting white supremacy. We are all in, together.