Finishing Up at the MCAD

Time flew by, and now my internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is coming to a close. At the beginning of the summer, one of my personal goals was to educate people about their civil rights so that they could be their own advocates. I soon realized, as cliché as it may sound, that I was the one learning from these presentations. Over the course of the summer, I gave presentations to hundreds of people, and these individual interactions—listening to people’s stories and feeling their gratitude—truly made me realize the difficulty but importance of this work.

One particular presentation stands out in my mind. At this presentation at a halfway house, I found it very hard to focus; the women had not been informed that I would be coming, the childcare volunteers cancelled last minute, and two of the women did not speak any English. I almost wanted to call it a day, seeing as I had to keep pausing and trying to engage the audience and ignore the distractions.  Then I noticed during one of the brief moments of calm two women suddenly paid close attention, one exclaiming that she never knew that she had these rights, while the other nodded vigorously in agreement. They then mentioned that they had to inform the other women who could not attend the presentation.
While I may not have discovered through this internship what it is exactly I want to do career-wise, moments like these offered clarity as to what sort of feelings I want to have and elicit at a job. I think that if I focus less on what field I want to go into, or what particular job I think I might like, and concentrate instead on what issues I am passionate about, and how I can have the most impact on an individual level, I will be better able to determine what I want to study, where I want to work, and what type of job I want to have.

Now that I have a taste of what civil rights advocacy on the enforcement side of the law is like, I am interested in experiencing what goes on in order to pass a policy or a law. Now I can better comprehend the necessity of education and advocacy even after a law or policy is passed, which will prepare me if I want to advocate for changes in policies.

For anybody interested in working at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, I would recommend doing as many presentations as you can with another intern—it is very useful to have another perspective, and you will be less nervous with somebody else there to help. After one summer working at a government law enforcement agency, I am hardly an expert, but if somebody is interested in this field, I think it is important to have as many personal interactions as possible to remind you why you are doing all of the other (perhaps less exciting) work.

In psychology, there is a term called co-morbidity—when two conditions occur simultaneously. That is, when you have one condition, it is likely that you have another particular one. In my short time at the MCAD, I learned something that perhaps I already knew, albeit subconsciously. The people who stood to benefit the most from the information I provided were the very ones who had many other pressing issues (e.g., poor health, poverty, domestic violence, etc.). At times, this was a bit discouraging, because I felt like the information I wanted to spread would not help somebody with his or her other issues.
I realized, sadly, that it is not possible to help every single person with every single issue, but if there were nobody doing this type of education and outreach, it would add to that list of struggles that people face daily. Simply letting people know that there are organizations and people out there to help them can be important, and educating one person can lead to a whole family, and eventually a whole community being educated. Achieving social justice in its many forms—equal opportunity being one of them—is not something that can occur overnight. While this is not a novel idea by any means, this internship brought it to the forefront of my mind, and has only made me determined to work harder in every capacity to try to achieve social justice.

Discrimination Law 101: Educational Presentations

I cannot believe that it is halfway through my internship already! The summer is really flying by.  Since my last post, a lot has developed in terms of my responsibilities at the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

When I first began calling human services organizations, it was a bit frustrating because it was not always easy to reach the right person, or sometimes anybody at all! After a frustrating day of unsuccessful calls without feeling like I was truly connecting with people, I tried to have more natural conversations with program coordinators and directors.

Soon, I began to schedule many presentations, which gets to the heart of what my responsibilities are as a public education and outreach intern. Now, I have given six presentations, and I have over ten more scheduled for the upcoming weeks.  Each presentation that I give is different depending on the population; the settings are as varied as ESOL classes, youth programs, and homeless shelters, just to name a few.

The presentations are really fun since they are interactive and the audience often becomes very involved.  It is nice to be able to see how much more comfortable I am giving these presentations—now I don’t need to use the notes much at all, and I know the right questions to ask to engage the people listening.  I’ve also become more accustomed to fielding difficult questions and determining the appropriate responses.  My public speaking skills have certainly improved from all of these phone calls and presentations.

Probably the best part, though, is seeing how beneficial these presentations are for the people attending.  While it can often be a bit upsetting for somebody to realize that they were not only treated unfairly, but were discriminated against, it is really inspiring to see people taking notes and asking questions so that they can be better equipped to stand up for their rights.



Explaining the four types of discrimination during a presentation.

I have also been able to expand my own knowledge and understanding of the legal proceedings that take place at the MCAD.  My supervisor has been especially helpful in this regard.  All of the interns get to observe various parts of the complaint process, and I was able to sit in on a public hearing and an appeal hearing last week, both of which involved some very interesting cases.  I have attended a few lunches with commissioners and hearing officers, where I’ve been able to ask specific questions, and learn about interesting cases that the MCAD has received. This is a great way to see how the law is continuously progressing and being redefined.

Even though my internship duties are focused on outreach and are more informational than involved with changing the laws, I’ve realized that I am more interested in policy change as opposed to its enforcement. 

I have also recognized though, that even if a particular law is in place, education is essential in ensuring that the law is enforced, and that people actually benefit from that law’s protections.  Many of the people I have spoken to at these presentations did not even realize that illegal actions may have been taken against them, because they were unaware of their protections under the law. 

Thus, it is not simply enough to create a law for it to actually make change. I hope that I will use this knowledge in the future if I decide to pursue a career in policy change, and will remember the importance of spreading education and awareness in bringing about a law or policy’s full potential.

 I am looking forward to the next few weeks of my internship, and I am very excited to see what else I will learn!

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Helping answer a question regarding housing discrimination.

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Kelley answers a question about whether a particular scenario might be discrimination.

My First Week at the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination

This summer, I am interning at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in Boston.  MCAD is the state’s main civil rights law enforcement agency.  Its mission is to eliminate discrimination in housing, education, and employment, as well as other areas.  The Commission accepts and investigates complaints of discrimination.  MCAD also performs outreach education to groups that may be likely to experience discrimination, and provides workplace-based training for employees and employers.  Here is a link to the Commission’s homepage, which provides information for employees, individuals, and employers about discrimination law.


One of the conference rooms where we had housing discrimination training.

As an Outreach Intern, I will be working on the Commission’s SEED (Spreading Education to End Discrimination) project, which aims to provide information about civil rights to members of populations that are likely to experience discrimination.  For the next few weeks, my responsibilities will include contacting various community organizations that serve marginalized populations, and planning outreach programs with them.  As I begin to schedule these programs, I will travel to these sites to give informational presentations. This is a brief description of the intake process, for an individual who decides to file a complaint.

I found this internship through  I was looking for a job that combined advocacy, social justice, and the law, and this one seemed particularly intriguing.  I emailed the Director my resume, cover letter, and a writing sample, and she responded requesting an interview.  About a week after my interview, and after some dialogue between us, the Director emailed me offering the position.

My first week included four days of intensive training.  I learned a great deal about discrimination law, the complaint process at MCAD (from the initial complaint through the investigative hearings), and presentation skills.  While I received a lot of important information that I have to remember and understand, the training was very interesting, and will be useful when I inform others about their rights, and their ability to utilize the Commission in seeking justice.


The pamphlets and handouts that we give to the participants during our presentations.

There are only three other undergraduates interning at the Commission, as well as several law school students.  I learned what brought each student to this opportunity as well as the particular roles and responsibilities of each position.

My expectations for this summer include improving my verbal presentation skills, and learning how to succinctly explain people’s civil rights in a way that is understandable for people of various backgrounds.  I also hope to expand my own knowledge and understanding of discrimination law.  Mostly, though, I want to leave the internship feeling that I have actually helped people more effectively stand up for their rights, and not feel powerless at the hands of discriminatory landowners or employers.