North Central College alumna NeAngela L. Marshall ’04 Dixon, J.D., delivered a TEDx talk encouraging people to cut through the din of messages to find a personal connection to a social justice cause and become passionate about it.
Dixon was one of 12 presenters Feb. 13 at the inaugural TEDxNorthCentralCollege event. Topics were inspired by the theme “Changing the World for Good.” The message of her talk, titled “Intimate Advocacy,” was that information overload can undermine the support needed to sustain movements.
“What do we do in this day and age when information about advocacy can be tuned out and turned off just as easily as it can be accessed?” Dixon asked during her TEDx talk. “Advocacy needs to be personal. It has to be close to and connected to the very deepest nature of our being. Advocacy has to be intimate.”
Marshall is an assistant state’s attorney with the Domestic Violence Division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. As a prosecutor, she handles criminal appeals and trials related to sexual violence, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect. Prior to attending law school, she worked for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program where she recruited and trained volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the Cook County Juvenile Court system.
She first became involved in advocacy while studying organizational communication at North Central College when she volunteered for a sexual assault crisis hotline.
“I was so passionate about this work (but) I learned everyone wouldn’t share the same passion,” she said. “As someone once scolded me, ‘NeAngela, not everybody wants to talk about rape at the dinner table.’”
The explosion of social media channels helps advocacy organizations communicate their messages, but it can overwhelm users who become complacent and tune out the din, she said.
“The best outcome is when an individual can be exposed to some type of issue and make a long-lasting connection to it,” Dixon said. “Hearing and sharing stories of personal struggle is vital to sustaining social movements.”
Dixon holds a law degree from the Northern Illinois University College of Law, and during law school she clerked for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as well as the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Justice Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Through her work she discovered how personal stories impact audiences and can move people to action, like a 9-year-old Latin American girl she met who was brutalized in the sex trafficking trade.
“When we listen to stories of personal struggle it impacts us like no headline or number can,” she said. “And once we are impacted when we hear these stories we help ourselves to remain passionate and connected to the work that needs to be done.”
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers topics ranging from science to business to global issues. Independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.