Funding for Social Justice Advocates

The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute Social Justice Fund makes grants for grassroots activist projects in the US and around the world, giving priority to those with small budgets and little access to more mainstream funding sources. The Fund is especially interested in funding efforts to:

  • end the violence of borders and the criminalization of immigrants
  • abolish the death penalty, shut down the prison industrial complex, redefine criminal justice
  • confront institutionalized repression against racial, ethnic, gender-based, and LGBTQ communities
  • support progressive workers movements and the eradication of poverty
  • dismantle the war machine, end state-sponsored terrorism, expose the dangers of nuclear power

One of this year’s grantees is the Fang Collective, a grassroots group working in the Northeast U.S. to, among other things, shut down ICE and local cooperation with ICE.

Application Deadline: July 8, 2019

>> Learn more and apply

Teaching Tolerance Report Examines the Rise of Hate in Schools

By Teaching Tolerance Staff

While disturbing incidents of hate and bias in schools are regularly reported in the news media, the incidents are just a fraction of what educators are encountering in classrooms across the country, a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project finds.


The report, Hate at School, compares 2018 news reports to a survey of more than 2,700 K-12 educators conducted by Teaching Tolerance that asked them to describe incidents involving hate symbols or the targeting of others on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, gender or sexual identity.

“The teacher reports confirmed our suspicions that there are far more hate and bias incidents than make the news and that the responses by school leaders vary considerably,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “It’s up to school leaders and members of our communities to ensure that students are not only safe from harm but have the opportunity to learn in an environment that’s inclusive and free of bias.”

Teaching Tolerance found 821 school-based hate incidents in the media in all of 2018, but teachers reported 3,265 such incidents in the fall 2018 semester alone. Fewer than 5 percent of the incidents witnessed by educators were reported in the news media.

Hate at School analyzes comments from survey respondents to gauge the types of hate incidents occurring in schools, where they happen, who is most often the target of these incidents, and how schools are responding.

The most common hate and bias incidents were based on race or ethnicity. These incidents made up 33 percent of those reported by educators and 63 percent of those reported in the news media. They typically involved racial slurs, primarily the n-word, along with a dozen accounts involving blackface and a handful involving nooses. The study also found that these incidents were more likely to result in disciplinary action and a denunciation of the act by school leaders.

Of the incidents reported by educators, those involving racism and antisemitism, which made up 11 percent of the educator reports, were most likely to be reported in the news media. Anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ incidents were the least likely to make the news.

Most of the hate and bias incidents witnessed by educators were not addressed by school staff. No one was disciplined in 57 percent of them. And nine times out of 10, administrators failed to denounce the bias or reaffirm school values, the study found.

In 2016, Teaching Tolerance brought public attention to the school climate crisis in two reports, The Trump Effect and After Election Day: The Trump Effect. Based on surveys of thousands of educators during the campaign and immediately after the election, the reports revealed a wave of political and identity-based harassment in schools, where students across the nation were emboldened to bully and target classmates.

FBI hate crime data – widely acknowledged as underreported – shows that in 2017 hate crimes in K–12 schools and colleges increased by about 25 percent over the previous year, outpacing the national increase of 17 percent.

To help combat the rise of hate in schools, Teaching Tolerance offers Responding to Hate and Bias at School – a manual that guides educators through crisis-management and post-crisis efforts and offers research-based strategies for reducing bullying and creating a welcoming school climate. It is available to schools and educators across the country at no cost.

>> Access full report
>> Take Action


The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see



HRE USA Advocates for Migrant Rights in the U.S.

By Carina D’Urso, ARTE Intern in collaboration with Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, HRE USA Co-Chair and ARTE Executive Director 

Over the last few months, HRE USA has been focusing on immigration and the detention of children at the United States – Mexico border. In February, a representative from HRE USA joined the action coordinated by the US Human Rights Network to deliver 80,000 petition signatures to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling upon the United Nations to launch an “investigation into US violations of the human rights of asylum seekers.” At the beginning of this month, HRE USA continued this work, through an event organized by HRE USA Regional Representative, Michelle Chouinard, entitled, “Immigration, Detention, & Resistance Through Art.”


HRE USA held the event on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in collaboration with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration at SIPA at Columbia University, and the Human Rights Working Group.  It was a  lively night of art creation and human rights advocacy. The walls of the room were lined by work curated by Pastor Isaac Scott, an artist and the program director of The Confined Arts and Columbia University Justice-in-Education Scholar. As individuals reflected upon the themes of justice and narrative, guests were encouraged to contribute to a collaborative collage. Participants used moving imagery and text to create messages of resistance and solidarity.

The night was completed with a panel discussion which highlighted the voices of a passionate group of human rights activists, artists, and academics. Through moderation by Khalil A. Cumberbatch, the chief strategist of New Yorkers United for Justice, they welcomed the audience into their conversation of justice, creating a universal call for social change.

IMG_7239Panelists: (left to right): Khalil A. Cumberbatch (moderator), Tsion Gurmu, Geraldine Downey, Angy Rivera, Pastor Isaac Scott, and Ximena Ospina

Surrounded by art, the panelists highlighted the connection between art and activism. Ximena Ospina, trans activist and founder of the undocumented student group at Columbia University, pinpointed that art is about disruption. She passionately spoke for art that promotes a version of storytelling that is owned and amplified by the teller. This art is individualistic and active, radiating into the world unapologetically. Simultaneously, she claimed art as a demand for justice, rather than a humble request to be seen.

Angy Rivera, co-executive director at New York State Youth Leadership Council, praised art that exists on the margins. Rivera emphasized that art does not need to yearn for the acceptance of the mainstream in order to thrive. She identified that assimilation into whiteness is both unnecessary and counterproductive. After her community of undocumented artists struggled to find spaces that would accept their voices, they vowed to create their own spaces. With strength of purpose and a great commitment to justice, Rivera fosters art that is unconstrained and liberated, one that welcomes the authentic stories of individuals.

Tsion Gurmu, the legal director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the founder and director of the Queer Black immigrant project encompasses the journey towards justice through her work. She calls for solutions that are based on a transnational approach to migration. She reaches into the foundation of this issue in order to unearth the root issue of forced migration. Gurmu desires an international transformation in the laws and policies that force individuals to flee their homes in the first place. The United States should not simply be a responder to crisis, but rather an active and solution-seeking partner for those outside of the country.

Professor Geraldine Downey, the director of the Columbia University Center for Justice, strives to use her work to intertwine art and criminal justice. She is actively working to bring Columbia into prisons in order to serve incarcerated communities. Through the lens of art, she believes people can discover all that they are capable of. She was moved by one woman who found her vocation in creating coloring books. After making them for her own child, she spread her creativity to other children. It is stories such as this one which resonant perpetually, capturing the humanity of those who are incarcerated.


Pastor Isaac Scott tirelessly works to unearth the dehumanization of human beings who are incarcerated. Through the significance of linguistics, it is difficult to find a single positive word that has the same power as a negative word. Names serve as powerful identifiers, just as signs in a space to communicate rules and facts to people. In this way, language can be warped into a tool for incarceration. Through his research at Columbia University, Scott discovered that words such as “prisoner” and “criminal” have quantitatively negative impacts on those who they refer to. They are knives that cut into the humanity of individuals, leaving them wounded and scarred. They create an unjust association with being innately and entirely flawed. As Scott keenly described, these words do not give identity to anyone.

Together, the panelists called for the re-humanizing of language in order to revitalize humanity and in order to shift our perspectives towards the needs of the marginalized, while embracing their voices in their entirety. Oral history, especially when it is intertwined with the visual arts, allows for choice and agency. By deeply understanding the complexity of storytelling, we may better understand those who share their narratives.

HRE USA was able to continue to take action on immigration beyond the event by co-signing onto a public comment submitted to the United States Commission on Civil Rights regarding immigration detention centers and treatment of immigrants. The public comment can be viewed here.

Join HRE USA Campaign on the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is turning 30 this year.  The CRC is the most comprehensive human rights treaty on children’s rights and notably the most widely ratified treaty since its introduction 30 years ago. The treaty has been ratified by every country with one notable exception — the United States, which has never even sent it to the Senate for consent and approval. 

While there is no good reason for the United States not to ratify the CRC, there are several reasons why we urgently need it. Ratifying the convention is not just about saving face in the international community — it will require us to confront some hard truths about the exceptionally bad way we treat children in this country, work to bring our laws and practices in line with international law, and ensure that children’s rights are human rights. 

In honor of the upcoming 30th Anniversary of the CRC, HRE USA is galvanizing support to not only work towards the ultimate goal of U.S. ratification of the CRC, but also, to partner with individuals, organizations, institutions, and communities to achieve the short-term goal of the endorsement of the CRC at state, local, and school district levels. Overall we hope the campaign will increase awareness of the importance of the CRC and how the U.S. falls short in fulfilling the rights of the child. 

To get involved and join the working group, please contact Benil Mostafa

Become a Regional Representative in D.C.

HRE USA has a national network of chapters with regional representatives who volunteer to serve as contact persons for human rights educators in their region, state or city. 

Spread the word – HRE USA has an opening for a DC Metro Area Regional Co-Representative!

Regional Representative Job Description:  

  • Serve as a “live-and-in-person” contact for area members to turn to with ideas, questions, and concerns.
  • Provide opportunities for members in your area to connect, share ideas, and support each other’s HRE efforts.
  • Provide HRE USA with an overview of regional members’ interests, needs, and concerns so that the network can better serve them.
  • Seek opportunities for adding new individual and organizational members.
  • Uphold the mission of HRE USA to promote human dignity, justice, and peace by cultivating an expansive, vibrant base of support for human rights education (HRE) within the United States.

If you are interested in becoming a regional representative in Washington, D.C. or in another city or region, contact Emily Farell, Coordinator for HRE USA Regional Representatives.

>> Learn more

Take HRE USA Membership Survey

We are nothing without our members!

To improve the quality of our member experience, we want to know more about you, your involvement in HRE USA, and how we can better serve you. 

The survey takes 10-15 minutes. 

Complete the survey and receive a FREE POSTER on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Immigration, Detention, & Resistance Through Art


When: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Where: Columbia University, International Affairs Building, 420 W. 118 St., New York, NY 10027
Time: 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm 
Cost: Free and open to the public

The Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration at SIPA, in collaboration with HRE USA, the Human Rights Working Group, and ARTE, invites you to join us for a panel conversation on immigration and detention in the United States.

Immigration policy and mass incarceration represent today one of the main sites of human rights abuses and violations in the US. The criminalization of displaced peoples, in its turn, is part of a broader context of securitization of borders worldwide, a notion that contributes to and strengthens regimens of surveillance and detention advanced by States. With that in mind, the panel seeks to bring together community-based artists and organizers, academics, immigration advocates and attorneys to discuss insights and intersections between their work. The discussion will also explore the ways in which community art can be mobilized as a form of resistance, and the event will allow attendees to support policy advocacy and engage in community art.This event is co-sponsored by: the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration at SIPA, the Human Rights Working group, Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), and Human Rights Educators (HRE) USA.

>> Learn more and register