Online Course – In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis

Amnesty International USA is now providing a new online advocacy course! In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis based on their report of the same name that examines how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation.

“The U.S. government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights. While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Despite the huge number of guns in circulation and the sheer numbers of people killed by guns each year, there is a shocking lack of federal regulations that could save thousands.”

Acknowledging the decades of work by impacted communities and activists, the report and the course aim to support those efforts by placing the problem of gun violence in the framework of universally recognized human rights, and offering solutions within that framework that the U.S. should adopt to address the crisis.The course contains 4 modules for you to complete at your own pace (approximately 90 minutes). By the end of this course, the user will understand the framework for why gun violence in the U.S. is a human rights violation and what needs to change!  A course certificate will be provided upon completion.

 >> Access course
 >> Read full report

Gender, human rights and COVID-19

When: Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Time: 1:00-2:00 pm CT / 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Where: Live Stream
Cost: FREE

Description:
The coronavirus pandemic creates a perfect storm for exacerbating gender-based violence and discrimination. In every area, from employment to school closures to domestic violence to health outcomes, we see evidence of disproportionately negative impacts based on gender. These negative impacts are compounded by intersecting inequalities, including on the basis of race, socioeconomic status, disability, age, geographic location and sexual orientation, among others. Pandemic preparedness and response efforts must better understand these intersectional gender dimensions to avoid further widening inequalities.

Presenters include Christina Ewig, Professor and Faculty Director of the Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy, University of Minnesota, Ruby H.N. Nguyen, Associate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota and Katie Spencer, Professor and Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Program in Human Sexuality, University of Minnesota. Session will be moderated by Rosalyn Park, Director of the Women’s Human Rights Program, The Advocates for Human Rights. 

>> Register

Using Fiction to Teach Human Rights

By Amnesty International

Many children’s novels and even picture books possess great power to open up new worlds and inspire a capacity for empathy. Being able to empathize makes it easier to be kind, tolerant, and willing to consider other points of view. It makes it harder to adopt prejudiced stances, helps to guard against aggression and conflict, and may even encourage people to take positive action on behalf of others. It also helps young people to put their own problems in perspective. These are all values that lie at the heart of human rights – and we can find them in novels and picture books for children.

‘If, by reading … we are enabled to step, for one moment, into another person’s shoes, to get right under their skin, then that is already a great achievement. Through empathy, we overcome prejudice, develop tolerance, and ultimately understand love. Stories can bring understanding, healing, reconciliation, and unity.’
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Stories, memoirs, and picture books are a great resource to help personalize human rights that may otherwise seem abstract. They can awaken students to new worlds and challenging situations. At the point of caring about Anne Frank’s fate, for example, young readers want to know what can be done to stop it happening again. Fiction, too, can be used to provoke discussion that permeates many areas of the school curriculum and creates different ways of working together and understanding each other.

>> Read full article
>> HRE Fiction Book List for K-6
>> HRE Fiction Book List for 6-12

In Memoriam: Kirby Edmonds

With the death of Kirby Edmonds last month, Human Rights Educators USA lost one of its sustaining sources of inspiration and committed leadership.

Kirby was with HRE USA from its foundational meeting in 2011. As his partner and comrade Laura Branca recalled:

“I remember being in Cambridge years ago … On the second day, people had come out of our working group with the idea of a consortium of human rights educators, a national network, a motley crew on an impossibly audacious mission to share our various resources and approaches, and nurture solidarity and mutual support across the boundaries of where we place ourselves. And we were onto next steps and there was a request for a show of hands from those who wanted to work on it. Knowing how many, many things we were working on in DCI [The Dorothy Cotton Institute] and beyond, I was saying to myself, “Yeah, I get it, but Hell No!” I was sitting next to Kirby and I think I grasped his forearm and under my breath said ‘Kirby, don’t raise your hand! Kirby, don’t do it. You know you have enough to do already…’ And then his hand was in the air, and the rest is history! “

Drawing on his years of community organizing, Kirby was instrumental in the establishment of “this impossibly audacious mission” that became HRE USA, directly shaping our mission statement, organizational structure, and most important our values framework and the consensus-based policy for decision-making. He served as co-Chair of HRE USA for nearly a decade.

HRE USA was only one of Kirby’s lifelong efforts toward social justice. As his obituary in the Ithaca Journal says, “Kirby was a mighty river that flowed through our community and far beyond, watering the positive seeds of possibility.” He was currently the Program Coordinator and a Senior Fellow with the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) and the Cradle to Career Initiative, yet the scope of his work reached well beyond these roles. As his obituary described:

Everywhere that people of good will united to tackle problems or cultivate opportunities, Kirby was quickly pulled into the center. He took on many roles– contributor, connector, or designated leader, but always encouraged folks to plan actions that would get more power and resources into the people’s hands. Soft spoken and kind, Kirby was skilled in the art of posing incisive questions, ever asking folks to consider who else should be at the table. He had a keen understanding of power and the courage never to shy away from issues of violence, racism, poverty, hunger, and intergroup conflict.

Kirby was born on August 17, 1951 in Huntsville, Texas. As a youth he was educated in Glastonbury, Connecticut; Nairobi, Kenya; and Beirut, Lebanon. He held two degrees from Cornell University, a B.A. in History and an M.P.A. with a major in community and rural development.

In honor of his legacy, HRE USA is pleased to announce the new Kirby Edmonds Fellowship to support students with hands-on leadership experience in human rights education and further Kirby’s work to engage young people in building human rights-friendly schools and communities. Donations to support this new student fellowship can be made online or checks can be sent to the Center for Transformative Action with “HRE USA Edmonds Fellowship” in the memo line and mailed to the Center for Transformative Action, 119 Anabel Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853. HRE-USA is a project of the Center for Transformative Action, a 501(c)3 organization and all contributions are tax-deductible.

> > Full obituary in the Ithaca Journal
>> See Kirby in action (2014 Cornell TED talk entitled “How we can eliminate structural poverty?”)
>> Donate to Edmonds Fellowship

Teach Central America Week

Join educators across the country for #TeachCentralAmerica week from October 5 – 11, 2020. More than four million Central Americans reside in the United States and migration from the region is headline news. However, most schools teach very little about Central America, including the long history of U.S. involvement in the region. Read about responses to the Teach Central America Week from educators across the U.S.

>> Learn more

Your Vote, Your Voice 2020

HRE USA leaders and partners have come together to encourage everyone to make sure their voice is heard and exercise their civic right to vote this November! To further engage students around voting and participation in government, we have compiled a rich collection of Get Out The Vote student-centered resources, programs, and projects. These resources can be used to create a service-driven civic learning activity or, can be inserted into ongoing social and civic education projects. 

Exercise your right to vote this November and encourage your students to help get out the vote!

>> Learn more

FREE Social Justice Films from Highlander Center

The Highlander Center (TN) was founded in the early 1930s, primarily to organize unemployed/working people. In the 1950s-60s, its workshops became an important incubator for the Civil Rights movement, and onward until today, carrying on the fight for justice and equality. 

To further the cause for social justice, the Highlander Center has made available four short inspiring films to show in classrooms, libraries, EJ organizations, at ‘home schools,’ and elsewhere to demonstrate how ‘ordinary’ people working collectively can make extraordinary change. They are excerpts from a longer film by Lucy Massie Phenix called You Got To Move

Film subjects include: 1) first Citizenship School on Johns Island near Charleston, teaching how to read/write so folks can vote; 2) organizing to demand reparations from strip mines in KY; 3) environmental justice and toxic waste dumping in TN, and 4) 1969 Black nurses’ strike in Charleston.  

 >> Access Films

Advance Voting Rights

August 6 was the 55th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Voting Rights Act, key portions of which were invalidated in 2013 by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder. Recent primary elections in Wisconsin and Georgia were riddled with problems—polling place closures, long lines with hours-long waits, unfulfilled absentee ballot requests, and machine breakdowns—that could have been avoided if we had the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), a direct response to Shelby v. Holder, was recently reintroduced as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Lewis, the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, helped lead the historic 1965 march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, that led to the passage and signing of the Voting Rights Act. The House passed the VRAA in December 2019, after a dozen hearings documenting the continued persistence of racial discrimination in voting. Now, it’s up to the Senate. 

Contact your senators and tell them to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

 >> Take Action

Future Voters Project: New Resources for Teaching the Election

Right now is a critical time for fostering civic action and understanding in our youth.  To that end, Teaching Tolerance has created brand-new resources as part of their Future Voters Project! Check out the project to explore their new voter suppression lesson bank and review their recommendations for leading safe, inclusive voter registration drives. Sign up to receive updates every Thursday until November with new and recommended resources for registering future voters, learning about voting rights and voter suppression, and leading discussions about the 2020 election.

>> Learn more

American leadership in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals

EVENT DETAILS: 
When: Wednesday, September 16m 2020
Time: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm EST
Where: Live Stream
Cost: FREE

Description:
The Brookings Institution and the UN Foundation are co-hosting a high-level virtual event to showcase the power of the SDGs in the United States against the backdrop of the SDGs. The devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed and exacerbated stark inequalities and vulnerabilities in the United States. At the same time, protests sparked by the tragic killing of George Floyd have put the spotlight on America’s long history of racial injustice. The commitment to equity, justice, and environmental preservation reflected in the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is more critical today than ever, a foundation to respond to these crises and to build a future that leaves no one behind. Building off a successful first gathering last year on the margins of the UN General Assembly, this event will showcase local innovation, leadership, actions, and commitments from all parts of the American society, including cities, businesses, universities, philanthropy, and youth activists. Their leadership is crucial to a recovery that advances equity and sustainability here at home, and provides a fundamental basis for U.S. credibility and leadership abroad on the defining issues of our day.

Viewers can submit questions by emailing events@brookings.edu or via Twitter using #USAforSDGs.

>> Learn more and register