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User Spotlight: Elizabeth Wong, ACLU of Virginia

Get to know Elizabeth Wong, Deputy Director of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia in this week?s ConnectVA User Spotlight!

photograph by Kim Lee Photography

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

I?ve worked at the ACLU of Virginia for the past nine years in various positions.  Working for an organization with a relatively small staff size, I?ve had the pleasure of wearing many hats and gaining a wide array of experience, including in the areas of public education, communications, fundraising and development, and most recently, operations and finance. 

I grew up in a non-profit family in which my parents worked for organizations in New York City committed to developing affordable housing and advocating for equal rights for Asian-Americans.  I was ingrained with their sense of fairness, equality and philanthropy for the less fortunate.  I take these values with me every day in my work for the ACLU. 

Q. What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?

The ACLU of Virginia advances and protects the fundamental liberties and rights afforded to individuals in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Because our government is a republic in which governing power resides with the people at large, the ACLU is often an advocate for minority opinions and populations. 

Currently, our work is focused on advancing the rights of women, including reproductive freedom, of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals, and racial minorities.  We also seek to protect Virginians? privacy rights at a time when the government is using new technologies to track our whereabouts regardless of individualized suspicion, and reform the state?s criminal justice system, which disproportionately harms African-Americans, Latinos, and the poor. 

We continue to defend freedom of speech so that all voices can be heard, and advocate for religious liberty so that all feel free to practice their faith (or no faith) without government influence or interference. And by advocating on behalf of those with muted voices or no voice at all in society, the ACLU strengthens our communities by promoting the inclusion of all individuals in Virginia.  

Q. What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I?m most energized by our victories for the underdog and proud of our ability to stand on principle, even if it means defending the freedoms of individuals with whom I disagree.  Whether it?s helping all students feel welcome in public schools by ensuring that one religious belief isn?t promoted over others, defending the right of a student to wear t-shirts with controversial messages, advocating to restore the voting rights of convicted felons, working to improve the fairness of our criminal justice system through criminal law reforms, promoting equal rights for minority populations, or defending Virginians privacy rights as law enforcement increases its use of new technologies, I know we?re preserving the fundamental liberties and rights for all in Virginia.

Q. How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA has been a wonderful resource for us. We are able to post job opportunities to attract individuals committed to our work, promote events, and have used it to learn about classes to assist our staff in developing their professional skills. 

Q. What?s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

Our organization has grown tremendously in the past decade and continues to find ways to tackle major issues.  I?m excited about the possibilities of making some serious headway in criminal law reforms and advancing equal rights for minority populations while protecting privacy rights in the age of constantly advancing technologies and preserving reproductive freedom.  It?s hard to pick just one issue area when the organization?s client is the Constitution and Bill of Rights! 

I?d like to encourage members of the ConnectVA community and the general public to learn more about our work.  We?re holding our annual meeting on Saturday, September 20 with special guest speaker, Steve Shapiro, the national ACLU?s Legal Director coming to Richmond to speak about U.S. Supreme Court cases affecting all of our civil liberties and civil rights in the upcoming term.  The meeting will be held at the Gay Community Center of Richmond (1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, VA 23220) from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

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