Nov/Dec 2010 KTA: Honoring Our Human Rights Heroes

This month’s Kitchen Table Activity is to award a certificate to a community member(s) whose work strengthens one or more of the thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Over the years, this KTA has been repeated as an annual action because you tell us that this is a fun, easy, effective and positive way to celebrate and raise awareness of human rights victories and struggles.

WHY THIS ACTIVITY?  We live in a time when torture is deemed normal and rational.  Workplace raids and whisking our neighbors away to detention centers are considered logical responses to failed immigration and economic policy.  Your human dignity group is a moral compass for the community in these troubled times. On the Dec. 10th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let’s remind our communities of our shared values of democracy and human rights as we consider just what policies and practices a fair and democratic society should include.

This year ROP suggests that your group consider bestowing the honor of a Human Rights Award to a member of your community who has been active in the struggle for immigrant rights or who is a member of the immigrant community and is making a positive difference in your town.  When headlines are dominated by dehumanizing stories about immigrants, taking the time to highlight a positive story about an immigrant community member is more valuable than ever.  This also provides an opportunity for your local group to strengthen your relationship with immigrant community leaders and organizations.

More on the UDHR: Much like ROP’s Democracy Grid, the UDHR can work as a structural framework to connect seemingly distinct issues.  The five categories of human rights outlined in the UDHR are civil human rights, economic human rights, social human rights, cultural human rights and political human rights.  (To see a copy of the UDHR go to www.udhr.org or ask ROP to mail you one.) Civil Human Rights are those such as free speech, peaceful assembly, and freedom from discrimination.  Economic Human Rights include the right to a living wage for your work, the right to be able to feed your family after working, the right to be able to survive if you are not able to work.  Social Human Rights speak to the needs each person has for housing, education, and health care.  Cultural Human Rights include the rights to practice your own culture, your religion of choice, and your language of choice.  Political Human Rights include the right to free elections, the right to a nationality, and the right to free movement in and out of your country.

STEPS TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY:

1.    Reach consensus that your group wants to use the UDHR as a vehicle to highlight the human rights work of a community member.

2.    Brainstorm ideas of people in your community that would be notable candidates for receiving a certificate of appreciation for their human rights work.  Is there a leader in the immigrant community who deserves to be honored?  Is there a service provider, schoolteacher or coach, union leader, ESL teacher, citizenship educator, local business owner, or student leader within the immigrant community that you can honor?  Consider approaching local immigrant organizations to ask for nominations or ideas.

3.   Email kayla@rop.org for a copy of the certificate.  Fill out the certificate and decide how you will present it (by mail, in person, at your next monthly meeting, at a local governmental meeting, etc.)

4.    Delegate a person or a small team to submit a letter to the editor and/or a press release about the award (email kayla@rop.org for samples).  Consider if you want to do a more expanded story: Contact your local press and ask them to set up an interview with the award recipient.

5.    If time permits, discuss how your group can further utilize the UDHR as a framework.  How does your work connect to human rights principles?  How does it fall under the articles of the UDHR?  How does talking about immigration in a human rights framework change how you approach the issue?

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