Talila Lewis

Portrait of Talila Lewis

A desire to work with young people and involve them in social justice advocacy brought Talila Lewis to RIT/NTID.

A 2007 graduate of American University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Lewis earned a law degree from American University Washington College of Law in May 2014, and began teaching at RIT/NTID this fall.

“I am an activist-entrepreneur whose research and advocacy focuses on correcting and preventing wrongful convictions of deaf people, and on ending discrimination against deaf and disabled people affected by mass incarceration,” Lewis says. “I founded and direct Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that develops contemporary and transformative approaches to creating a universally accessible justice system. HEARD primarily focuses on correcting and preventing wrongful convictions of individuals who are deaf; ending deaf prisoner abuse; decreasing recidivism rates for deaf citizens released from prison; and increasing representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions.”

Lewis also is a young activist-organizer who gains energy and inspiration from engaging students in changing the world.

“I think my students are drawn to my passion and are happy to find a medium in which their voices are heard,” Lewis says.

It is crucial to Lewis that students learn and understand the most effective methods to successfully advocate for issues they believe in. And that they become involved in the process as young people.

“Advocacy that does not feature youth leadership is shortsighted and unlikely to succeed in the long term,” Lewis says. “I want to share my knowledge with others, so we can fight for and win our freedom together.”

Lewis’ passion and devotion are reminiscent of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead who said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Or as Lewis says, “Never underestimate the power of collective activism.” 

This story appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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