October 27, 2020 News & Features » Cover Story

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Phuong Tran, 28  

Digital Communication Manager at ACLU of Virginia

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Scott Elmquist

She knows them only by their handwriting. 

Phuong Tran is an inveterate storyteller, “when I moved here in 2011 for college, I dreamed of being a journalist,” says the Vietnam native. Instead of working for a media outlet, Tran works for all Virginians, telling the stories of people like the incarcerated men and women who write letters to the American Civil Liberties Union, explaining how their rights have been violated.  

“People in prison feel invisible – whenever I read the letters they send, that keeps me going,” Tran says.   

As the digital communication manager for the ACLU of Virginia, Tran says she connects with people by serving as translator for often complex laws and legalese. “I’m empowering them with knowledge so they know what is going on and they can communicate their needs to lawmakers,” Tran says.  

Tran has been with the ACLU for all four years of the Trump administration, encouraging folks to vote not just in national elections, but on the local and state level, “that’s where we need to focus,” she says. Her daily endeavors include fighting for – and educating the public on – things as varied as police reform and workplace discrimination against new mothers.  

“I feel humble to be able to work with people who have been doing this for 20, 30 years,” Tran says. “During COVID-19 older people have had to take care of themselves and can’t do as much, I feel like I’m carrying the torch.”  

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