Human Rights First Welcomes Its Emerging Leaders Advisory Board

The Next Generation of World Shapers is Already Here

By Jayshawn Lee and Isaac Todd

Importance & Promise 

Young people have always been vanguards in the battle for human rights. From the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins and Vietnam War protests to the Velvet Revolution, Tiananmen Square, Arab Spring, and countless other calls for justice throughout history, emergent leaders in America and around the world have often been catalysts for societal change. 

Today’s pressing challenges—authoritarianism, extremism, systemic injustice, abuse of technology—are more complex, dynamic, and interdisciplinary than ever before, and comprehensive solutions will once again require input from the next generation of leaders. Our voices are loud. Because even on issues where the worst impacts of inaction will not be seen for decades, we will witness those consequences first-hand. Our energy is boundless. Because we are driven by ideals and are not satisfied with the status quo. Look around and you will see rising changemakers leveraging global networks and the latest innovations to overcome obstacles and improve countless lives.

Human Rights First recognizes the imperative to fully integrate talented young professionals at all levels of the organization, applying fresh ideas to hold oppressors accountable and free people from injustice. In that spirit, Human Rights First is proud to launch its inaugural Emerging Leaders Advisory Board (ELAB).

The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board is a cohort of organizers, advocates, lawyers, creatives, veterans, scholars, and thought leaders, each striving every day to create a better world. ELAB’s collective identities are exponential when you consider our diverse skills, broad education, international origins, and myriad cultural experiences. So much of the world can be seen through us. So much of the world will be impacted by us.

Amplifying the Mission

Human Rights First has extensive reach. Its programming and initiatives offer tangible redress for those whose human rights have been violated. Yet we will not stop until injustice everywhere is eliminated. The grim reality is this objective will not be realized today or tomorrow, so we must continue building intentional relationships with those who will carry our ideals into the future. That means bringing young professionals dedicated to human dignity and freedom into the fold, expanding further the breadth and depth of Human Rights First’s impact. The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board will help lead the effort to expand our demographics and strengthen our organizational resilience. 

The world is entering a new era of extreme and authoritarian tendencies. Human Rights First is evolving to face these new threats, and iterations of persistent threats we’ve seen before. Human Rights First’s focus on systemic injustice and the ways modern technology amplifies intolerance and undermines democracy will  be priority issues for the Emerging Leaders Advisory Board. ELAB members are native technologists, raised in an interconnected world. We bring an innovative skillset to modern challenges. 

In contrast to the relative stability of the post-Cold War unipolar era, ELAB members came of age under the shadow of 9/11, with a rising China and increasingly hostile Russia offering alternative visions to a rules-based international order grounded in liberal values. That upbringing provides us with a unique lens through which to view our shifting world. We see the repercussions these changes will have on human lives in the coming years and bring a new perspective that may illuminate the path through these darker times. The American ideal of universal human rights has not always held true in practice. Yet, even today, it remains an ideal worth striving for and a beacon of hope for those seeking a better life at home and abroad. 

Fortifying Change

It is our duty to take action and shift the narrative around human rights. The struggles we face vary, seemingly distinct but in many ways interconnected. Harmful U.S. Immigration policies impact asylum seekers at home while being strikingly similar to refugee resettlement practices across Europe. Autocrats abroad imitate American demagogues and are in turn invited back to spread antidemocratic extremism. International solidarity is key to addressing transnational challenges. The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board has global reach and will partner with like-minded organizations to identify common threads and generate lasting solutions. Although human cultures, creeds, and customs are richly varied, each of our lives deserve a common standard of care. 

ELAB comprises three committees: Advocacy, Fundraising, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.), highlighting our core competencies and streamlining our priority initiatives. As you may be aware, significant dates like Giving Tuesday (November 29th) and Human Rights Day (December 10th) are fast approaching. We look forward to joining you, the broader human rights community, at events and in calls to action on these dates and others in the coming months. We are throwing our considerable weight into the fight for human rights; ready to pick up the torch from those in whose footsteps we follow. 

The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board will connect with new generations of donors, highlighting the work of Human Rights First through in-person events and online media campaigns. We are Zoomers. The TikTok generation. And with technology platforms like Twitter and Facebook cutting budgets and shedding thousands of jobs (including content monitoring and human rights teams), ELAB is launching at an opportune moment to provide additional social media support to Human Rights First. 

Around the globe, our most cherished values are under relentless pressure, putting lives at stake. Human Rights First’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Board will not be complacent—we will not accept continued violations of human rights. We emerge as the next generation of advocates for change, ready to do the hard work necessary to make the world a more just place for those struggling each day to live in dignity. We demand that human rights be put first.

To inquire about board initiatives, join, or support in any capacity please connect with our executive chair members. 

Nathan dos Santos, Individual Giving Associate at Human Rights First 

Jayshawn Lee, Advocacy Committee Chair

Marvelous Maeze, Executive Co-Chair & DEI Committee Chair 

Isaac H. Todd, Executive Co-Chair 



Published on November 23, 2022


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