This grassroots organization is seeking to bridge local and international issues.
The search for justice, for equality, indeed for the rights of young girls, started for London Bell right after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. DePaul University College of Law in Chicago was her next stop, a place where the Detroit native learned all she could about law, and during that time one of her passions – international issues – eventually surfaced. Post-college work landed her in bankruptcy law, but once she returned to her hometown, it was clear there was more work to do. Returning to DePaul University, Bell earned her master of law and policy (LLM) in human rights and by 2014 landed back in Detroit ready to do something significant in her community. Two years later, she started Bell Global Justice Institute, in honor of her fallen brother, Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Bell of the United States Marine Corps, who died in 2011 but touched many young lives through mentorship.
"It was important to raise awareness about international issues within the city of Detroit – making that local and global connection," Bell says. "I thought that it would be a good time – which was 2016 – to begin this organization, Bell Justice Institute, to focus specifically on education and girls: international human rights education for girls." In pushing for these rights, Bell hopes to bridge the divide between local and global issues, particularly as they relate to Detroit – and more crucially, Detroit girls. "What I hope for people to understand (is that) some of the issues happening here are also happening simultaneously in other countries," Bell says. "There are connections between us and people in other countries that are struggling, trying to fight for rights. Not only are we Detroit citizens, American citizens, but we're global citizens." What few people realize is that what Detroiters do here can have an impact on others around the world, Bell says, adding, "and what's going on around the world has an impact on what's going on here. We're all interconnected."
To illustrate this interconnectedness, Bell Global Justice Institute hosts an annual event, the International Day of the Girl, in October, and in December, they're planning an online celebration of Human Rights Day. "One of the things that we do (is) we highlight important dates on our social media," Bell says. "Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day (and) we will be blogging about that, sharing information on social media about the importance of that day and why it's important for women and girls particularly." The next event for Bell Global will be scheduled for March, just in time for International Women's Month. In the past, Bell has partnered with Wayne County Community College, Wayne State University and others to help spread awareness because – and this is really important to her – "certain barriers such as poverty, hunger, transportation issues impact girls globally, but also locally as well. (This is) what makes us not so different from other countries around the world." And to this end, Bell Global Justice Institute plans to continue advocating for these grassroots issues, and hopefully in the process, gain more community support in a collective, concerted effort. "I'm really big on partnering to advance human rights and to promote human rights," she says. "One of the things I really stress … education … it's a right. In our country, our community, it's an international human right."