MACON – Mercer University junior Jaz Buckley was one of 30 American and European university students recently awarded the John Lewis Fellowship to participate July 5-30 in an intensive program about diversity and civil rights at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
“Jaz Buckley has a profound sense of social justice, and the John Lewis Fellowship recognizes her commitment to securing equal rights for all people,” said Dr. David A. Davis, director of fellowships and scholarships and associate professor of English. “This summer, she will have the opportunity to make connections with other young activists and to develop her own skills, which will enhance her future career. In the future, we expect her to be a powerful voice devoted to service.”
The John Lewis Fellowship, honoring the U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights Movement icon, is the American program of the Humanity in Action Fellowship. European programs take place annually in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris, Sarajevo and Warsaw.
In its first two years, the program explored the history of the Civil Rights Movement, diversity and minority rights in Atlanta. Currently in its third year, the fellowship is expanding to focus on restorative justice in Atlanta.
The four-week inquiry will involve a multidisciplinary approach as fellows, speakers and staff produce a blueprint – “An Appeal for Human Rights and Restorative Justice” – for the city. They will explore key issues and subjects, including education, health, the law, urban and residential planning, police practices, local and state government, religious institutions, and the arts.
Fellows will attend discussions with renowned scholars and activists at the Center, visit historical sites around Atlanta and engage in discussions on a range of political and social issues. They will also draw upon the immense resources of the Center and contribute to its extensive and innovative outreach initiatives.
Buckley, from Columbus, is a political science and women's and gender studies double-major with a minor in French. She is a recipient of the Cox Scholarship in Political Science.
“Being accepted into the John Lewis Fellowship is an incredible honor. Not only will I be able to further my education about diversity and civil rights in America, but I will be able to work with other students and professionals in the field,” said Buckley. “The collaborative nature of this fellowship is especially exciting because it acknowledges that social justice work of this nature requires collaboration to be effective. The key issues we'll be exploring are also issues that I have researched and find incredibly interesting.”
As an undergraduate, Buckley has served as captain of Mercer's debate team and is a decorated debater at the state and national levels. In April 2015, she was the first freshman and first African-American to be named top speaker at the National Parliamentary Debate Association tournament, which is the nation's largest parliamentary debate tournament.
Buckley teaches public speaking skills as part of the Peach Place after-school arts program developed by Mercer students in Macon, and she previously organized debate teams for primary school students as part of a Mercer On Mission trip to South Africa.
Upon her graduation next spring, she plans to attend law school with a focus on critical race theory as it pertains to the U.S. legal system. She aspires to become a civil rights attorney for a nongovernmental organization such as the American Civil Liberties Union that specializes in the protection of individual rights and civil liberties.
“From this fellowship program, I hope to learn more about issues such as education, police practices and urban and residential planning,” said Buckley. “I strongly believe that this program will not only help me achieve my career goals, but also aid in my personal development and make me a better person.”
The John Lewis Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided through the Center for Civil and Human Rights. For more information, visit www.humanityinaction.org/programs/75-the-john-lewis-fellowship.