Mr. Hilary Shelton, Senior Vice President of the oldest and most widely recognized U.S. human rights organization, the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, is in Bulgaria this week to promote Roma inclusion and share his experience on fighting discrimination. During his first day here, Shelton met with Roma leaders, where he brought up examples from the 1950s–1960s civil rights movement in the U.S. to illustrate how organizations with seemingly diverse goals can find areas where their interests converge and causes intersect, providing them with opportunities to build unified coalitions that lead to successful advocacy. He also met with cadets from the Ministry of Interior Academy and encouraged them to recognize cultural diversity and be cognizant of how their perceptions of differences between people affect their ability to build trust with local communities, which is essential to successful law enforcement.
On the second day of his visit to Bulgaria, NAACP Senior Vice President Hilary Shelton shared the importance of establishing trust between communities with different cultural backgrounds and local police with the leadership of the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in Veliko Turnovo. He shared the benefits to policing of hiring members of minority communities to serve as police officers and the importance of maintaining systems of police accountability and integrity in place in order to develop the trust between communities and the police so important to successful police work. Shelton also shared the damage racial profiling in the U.S. did to that trust.
In the afternoon, Mr. Shelton engaged about 45 students from the Veliko Turnovo University majoring in philosophy, political science, and social pedagogy and their professors in a discussion on how important the active involvement of each and every citizen is to a vibrant democracy. Drawing on examples from the long way the African-American community in the United States has gone from slavery through emancipation to having an African-American President, Shelton urged the students to be involved in shaping a vision for the future of Bulgaria, and encouraged them to include equal opportunity and non-discrimination for all in that vision.