Social Impact Internships: Lucky Deignan (’26)
My name is Lucky Deignan, a rising Sophomore majoring in Computation and Cognition (6-9). This summer I interned for Emmett Till Interpretive Center, a non-profit organization dedicated towards racial healing and reconciliation through widespread education, monument memorialization, and the art of storytelling. My internship title was Racial Healing Digital Media and Journalist Intern.
As alluded to, the company I worked for clearly fights for greater racial justice in America. The primary method in which they continue this mission is through telling the story of Emmett Till. They have worked hard to establish official sites which memorialize the tragic story of Emmett Till, and for increased education and awareness of his legacy and the lasting impact it has made on this country. This very summer was particularly rewarding for the company, as their campaign to establish Emmett Till-related monuments finally came to fruition on July 25, when President Biden officially created the Emmett Till & Mamie-Till Mobley National Monument. My role within the team this summer was primarily to redesign their official website, as well as to create and format weekly newsletters, occasionally contributing personally written articles to them as well. I was able to travel for a weekend as a part of my internship – I experienced the opening of the Emmett Till & Mamie-Till Mobley: Let the World See traveling exhibit in the Atlanta History Center.
The biggest takeaway I learned from the past summer was just the importance of creating a culture that truthfully honors and embraces its own history. As someone who has always lived in northern states and in relatively liberal areas, the simple notion of openly and honestly addressing our nation’s past always felt embraced in my education and upbringing. However, after learning more about the company’s work and the obstacles it still faces today to overcome racial barriers and discrimination – particularly ones that are deep rooted in the South – I’ve come to appreciate the importance of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center’s work. The center aims to work towards racial healing and reconciliation through sharing the story and legacy of Emmett Till. They argue that in order to enable change for the future, there must be widespread remembrance and honor for the mistakes of our past.
This method of change is not just supported by the center’s work, it is also a proven example of progress in other countries – namely Germany. As a part of my work that contributed towards the company’s weekly newsletter, I was able to interview the Emmett Till Interpretive Center’s Executive Director Patrick Weems during my time with them in the summer. We talked about the center’s work, but also his recent trip to Germany, which he took to learn more about their culture and how their country has been able to make strides towards healing after the discriminatory atrocities of their own past in the context of the Holocaust. A primary takeaway from this trip, Weems expressed to me, was that Germany has made great progress in the very dynamic that the Interpretive Center strives to promote: public remembrance and reflection of their own history.
In Germany, public memorials, acknowledgements, and education curriculums were all indicative of a culture that openly acknowledges its past. This public remembrance allows for a culture and country to learn from its history to make strides towards progress of the future. As a result, Germany does not hold the same type of racial divide (both systemic and individualistic) that is present in America. After talking with Weems, it was especially apparent how important the Emmett Till Interpretive Center’s work is. The story of Emmett Till is central to the civil rights movement in America, and is a clear example of the standard of prejudice and bigotry that has been rooted in this country for decades. It is imperative for this story to be known and reflected upon in the widespread population, so that we as a culture can better understand our past in order to enable change for a better future.