SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are many groups of people in South Dakota that have been underrepresented or marginalized by the laws and regulations passed in the last few years.
One Sioux Falls organization advocates within these communities to provide legal representation, support and gives a voice for all to hear.
South Dakota Voices for Peace has continued to expand with the goal of giving more representation to marginalized groups.
The organization has a full legal team that handles cases from all across South Dakota. Many of the staff are first generation citizens or immigrants.
“We are our communities, we understand what their fears are, we understand what issues to access information and services that they have, and we go into communities and make sure our assumptions are correct or incorrect and build our programs around that,” Taneeza Islam, founder of SDVFP said.
“We’ve been able to make a difference by providing opportunities for collaboration and discussion on pretty stressful topics,” said Jen Dreiske, Deputy Director for SDVFP.
Deputy Director Jen Dreiske has worked with Voices for Peace since 2017. Her latest project Cohorts of Courage involves advocacy and education.
“Cohorts of Courage is a program that provides a safe and brave space for people to come together to share feelings, to share thoughts and ideas and collaborate and strategize on solutions,” Dreiske said.
Lorena Diaz-Martinez was a student participant in the program, now she joins the team as a legal case coordinator.
“Some of those big topics were education, transportation, food services, and those conversations led up to how we could solve those problems or how we could really help,” Diaz-Martinez said.
“This is just creating so many opportunities for us. We started in 2017 with me as a volunteer creating an organization,” Islam said.
Immigration lawyer, Taneeza Islam, founded South Dakota Voices for Peace in 2017.
“I received a phone call from some lobbyist friends in Pierre letting me know they were seeing some really ugly bills and resolutions that directly targeted refugees and Muslims in South Dakota,” said Taneeza Islam, executive director for South Dakota Voices for Peace.
She and others began to advocate against these bills…
“This group that organically formed to fight legislation in Pierre decided we needed to continue doing that work. That really set the foundation for what our organization’s work was going to look like,” Islam said.
Forming the organization into what it is today.
“What can people do when they witness racism and bigotry because unfortunately everyone is going to witness it at some point and so we provide conversation and tools on what we can do the next time we witness racism and bigotry,” Dreiske said.
The organization has worked to provide COVID-19 relief and is now working on providing health care. You can find more information on the many programs offered here.