Christelle Etienne is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Legal Studies. She is an advocate of social justice and continues to work with various organizations on immigration, criminal justice, domestic violence, poverty alleviation, and tobacco related policies. Her blueprint project focuses on investigating and exploring the challenges of Haitian Immigrants in deportation and removal proceedings in the United States. As a YP4 fellow, Christelle wants to learn more about coalition building in empowering our community to fight for policies that inhibit the fair and just treatment of all.
Campus: University of California, Berkeley- Berkeley, California
Fellowship Class Year: 2017
Featured Fellow Spotlight
1. What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?
Political turmoil in my country led to civil unrests that lasted for many years. I remember walking home from school in the midst of burning barricades and violent demonstrations. I saw young people marching bravely to protest the social injustice in the country and demand the resignation of corrupt leaders. Those young folks were mostly high school kids like myself, and college students, who were disgusted by the deeply divisive socio-economic situation in our country. They were progressive young leaders tirelessly working to achieve change and advocating for democracy. When I immigrated to the United States, I realized that different approaches and strategies are used by protesters and activists here that lay the groundwork for change. For example: perpetual education and tactical training of activists on how to gain support; strategic approaches to shift focus as a movement gain momentum; and clear demands that can influence policies. I applied to become a YP4 fellow because the YP4 Fellowship program provides tools and resources to its fellows to help them effectively build impact for a cause and create lasting change.
2.What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
I am working to raise funds to assist Haitian immigrants in deportation and removal proceedings to pay bail/bond as part of my Blueprint. The United States does not currently extend constitutional protections to immigrants, and therefore denies them the right to counsel. Lack of access to counsel makes it nearly impossible for immigrants to obtain a fair trial during a deportation and removal and thus almost guarantees a negative outcome. Also, the inability to afford bail means that some immigrants can be detained for an indefinite time. Detention causes great hardships to immigrants and their families: they get separated, face abuse, and are at risk of violence in jails.
I also work with Breathe California of the Bay Area as a Policy Advocate in pushing for a proposed ordinance that prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products and menthol cigarettes in San Francisco County. I conduct research, analyze current health policies on tobacco control, create guiding materials and surveys, and partner with community organizations to help bring awareness on how tobacco companies use loopholes in regulations to target youth with their products. Youth of color, disadvantaged and minority youth are disproportionately and unethically targeted by the tobacco industry.
I volunteer with La Casa De Las Madres, an organization that provide services to women, teens, and children who are victims of abuse and facing domestic violence.
I volunteer as an interpreter with the African Advocacy Network, an organization that offers legal services and support to immigrants of African Descent.
3.What are you passionate about/what motivates you to do public service?
I have always felt that Public services is a calling; it chose me, I did not choose it. Growing up my understanding of what democracy ought to look like came from history. As I continue to learn about my ancestors and the other brave men and women from around the world who have fought for liberation and justice, so grew my commitment to public service work. I am passionate about honoring those legacies by fighting against injustice, discrimination, oppression, racism, and hate alongside members of my community regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, and etc.
4.What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
In the best of all worlds, I would like to bring about social justice, but I will settle for a few bricks in the wall. I want to assist and build partnership with nonprofit organizations and other community organizations to develop an effective paradigm for the improvement of lives and the contribution to social justice in the world as a way to more effectively help those in need.
5.If you could have dinner with any organizer past or present, who would it be?
I would be honored to have dinner with Sojourner Truth because she symbolizes how women of color use their strengths, a voices, and bodies to fight oppression and shift gender power. As a member of a marginalized group, a former slave, a black woman, and a disabled woman, Sojourner Truth was strong and powerful. I would also invite a group of women and girls of all ages to listen to her experiences and I would seek her advice and understanding of the work for justice and rights. Most importantly, I would want Ms. Truth to feel honored, loved, and appreciated for her fight in abolishing slavery, demanding women’s rights, advocating for universal suffrage, pushing for prison reforms, criticizing capital punishment, and devoting her life to address human rights issues. My last request would be to hear her recite her famous “Ain’t I A Woman” speech delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
6.What was the most eye-opening experience for you during your Regional Training?
I was impressed by how effortlessly and genuinely everyone accepted each other. When we entered the training, we were strangers. Though each of us came from very different backgrounds. We engaged in highly charged conversations that had the potential to trigger vehement arguments, yet we were all able to rise to the challenge and respect each other’s’ viewpoint without rancor.
7.What do you hope to give and what do you hope to gain during your YP4 Fellowship year?
During my fellowship year, I hope to support my cohort members in whatever capacity possible, sharing resources, exchanging ideas, or cheering them on as they continue to lead for change.
I hope to learn how to motivate members of my community to be supportive of one another. My goal is that they will work together and take actions to protect immigrants’ rights and guarantee them fair and equal treatment under the law.
8.What brings you joy?
Although I have yet to see the world, I do find joy in traveling. I have experienced as much excitement in planning future trips as I have in hearing about friends’ voyages. On a regular day, what brings me joy is enjoying good food and good company, watching an episode from some of my favorite shows like Maude, Living Single, A Different World, The Golden Girls, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and House M.D. -to name a few- or reading detective fiction.
9.Where do you think your YP4 training will take you in the future?
My YP4 training will be crucial in helping me manage, sustain, and expand my work in communities locally and globally. The insights that I am gaining in promoting myself; adding value to my work; maximizing and utilizing my network are valuable to its success. Most importantly, my YP4 training will shape me to always strive to be a better public servant. During the regional training, I realized that in working toward lasting change, I need to always think hard about the changes I want to see or bring, and take the time to consult and listen to the members of which group I want to work with because they are my most valuable resources.
10.What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my work in the community and for being a good person. I would hope to have positively impacted the lives of those that I have met.
11.Why should someone apply to be a YP4 Fellow?
Anyone with a passion, interest, or commitment to a social movement should apply to become a YP4 Fellow. The YP4 fellowship celebrate the uniqueness of its fellows and allows them to use their own voices to engage in leadership trainings to gain skills, network, organize around social justice; and explore areas of strategic planning and financial management that will help each fellow to become a better leader and better ally in his/her/their community. One of my favorite aspect of the YP4 fellowship is the fact that you are surrounded by other strong advocates who are determined, innovative, and supportive. The relationship with your cohort members can develop into lifelong friendships!