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Ayanna Legros

Hometown: New York City

Majors: African American studies and international studies

Big picture: Ayanna Legros spent this past year as co-director of the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights, which hosts the largest undergraduate student–organized and student-attended conference on human rights in the United States. While studying abroad in Madrid, she served as an intern at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, where she translated international development projects from Spanish to English (she also speaks Haitian Creole and French) and taught an English class to recent immigrants at the Center for Integration and Employment. With a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace, Legros will begin working with Northwestern senior Leslie Clark in the Dominican Republic in July at the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women, a nongovernmental organization that helps Dominican Republic–born women of Haitian descent who have no legal status. 

In her own words: “My parents immigrated to the States to escape the Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. When I was young, they talked about the political turmoil in Haiti and explained their reasons for leaving. So human rights was often a topic of conversation in my home. Those issues were just a part of my daily life.

“I traveled to Haiti at ages 6, 12 and 17, and those three trips helped shape how I see the world around me. My parents made sure that my brother and I knew Haitian history — and more broadly, Latin American and Caribbean history.”

“Growing up in New York City during the ’90s, I was constantly surrounded by issues of race and social justice, and attending protests or watching news about these issues was not uncommon in my household.”

On human rights: “At times it is easy to feel discouraged about fighting for human rights. What is a human right? It means different things to different people. Yet, as someone who is about to graduate, it was important to see at the NU Conference on Human Rights both college students and adults in various fields talk about what it means and who is responsible for protecting these ‘rights.’ When you get all these people from all different backgrounds in the same room, that’s when the magic really begins.”

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