Take Action on the Rights of the Child – Call Your Mayor

Although the US has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), there are a number of cities that have supported its provision. The CRC is important to safeguard children’s rights to safety, to well-being, and to remain with their families.

This June there will be US Conference of Mayors to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii. The conference provides a great opportunity for all of us to defend and promote the rights of children in our country.

HRE USA urges everyone to reach out to their Mayor’s Office by calling and/or emailing to: 

  • Find out if your Mayor will be attending the conference to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii from June 28-July 1, 2019
  • Urge your Mayor to raise his/her support for the CRC city resolution passed in their city as a model for other mayors. 

Check here to see if your Mayor is registered to attend.

It might take several attempts to reach the Mayor’s Office, but we all know that change does not come easily. Whether you succeeded or failed in getting an answer, please let HRE USA know. 

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

>> Learn more about HRE USA CRC Campaign

2019 Steering Committee Nominations

Interested in helping shape the future of human rights education? Then consider nominating yourself or a colleague to join HRE USA’s Steering Committee. 

Our rules call for the election every summer of new Steering Committee members to replace retiring members. This year there are 2 open seats to be filled, and we invite all members to make nominations for their replacements. You may nominate anyone who fits the criteria for membership and can fulfill the responsibilities of Steering Committee members, including nominating yourself!

Brief biographies of current Steering Committee members can be viewed here. A ballot will be sent to all HRE USA members in July.

Elected Steering Committee members will serve a three-year term beginning in August 2019.


>> Learn more
>> Nomination Form

For further inquiries, please contact Emily Farell

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

Teach Climate Change!

Happy Earth Day! Help develop the next generation of environmental leaders by teaching Climate Change!

We already know that the earth and its inhabitants are experiencing impacts from climate change as a result of global warming, including deadly heat waves, extreme weather events, and threats to life on earth. There is no denying that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and destruction to our natural environment, is behind global warming.

For over 10 years, Climate Generation has been building climate literacy and action among educators, youth and the broader public with tangible results. They offer a suite of Grades 3-12 curriculum resources in the form of curriculum guides, as well as online modules that can be downloaded for free.

All of these resources are interdisciplinary and can be used in the following classes: earth science, life science, physical science, civics, economics, history, media, English Language Arts, environmental science, geography, and art.

Interested in increasing your confidence in teaching climate change in the classroom. Join Climate Generation’s 14th Annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education this August in Washington, DC. Scholarships available.

>> Download curriculum
>> Learn more and register for institute

Human Rights Cities

We are used to thinking of human rights as a matter for states to deal with. Much less investigated is the question of what cities do with them, even though urban communities and municipalities have been discussing human rights for quite some time.

In this volume, Grigolo borrows the concept of `the human rights city’ to invite us to think about a new urban utopia: a place where human rights strive to guide urban life. By turning the question of the meaning and use of human rights in cities into the object of critical investigation, this book tracks the genesis, institutionalization, and implementation of human rights in cities; focusing on New York, San Francisco and Barcelona.

Touching also upon matters such as women’s rights, LGBT rights, and migrant rights, The Human Rights City emphasizes how human rights can serve urban justice but also a neoliberal practice of the city. This book is a useful resource for scholars and students interested in fields such as Sociology of Human Rights, Sociology of Law, Urban Sociology, Political Sociology, and Social Policies.

>> Learn more and purchase

Say it Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling

This new guide by Voice of Witness provides strategies and resources for creating justice-driven oral history projects.

Oral history is a universal form of storytelling. For many years Voice of Witness has shared powerful stories of people impacted by injustice with a broad audience of readers.

Say It Forward extends this work, offering a DIY guide for social justice storytelling that outlines the critical methodology at the core of Voice of Witness’s evocative oral history collections.

What’s Inside?

  • Information, strategies, and steps to address power discrepancies, awareness of cultural norms, insider/outsider dynamics, self-care for interviewers, and more
  • An extensive resource section for oral history, community storytelling, media options for sharing stories, community-organizing resources, and clinical psychology resources related to traumatic stories and self-care
  • Field reports exemplifying how to harness the power of personal narrative to expose larger issues of inequality

>> Learn more and purchase

Black Lives Matter at School

Mark your calendars! The Black Lives Matter at School week of action will be held from February 4-8, 2019.

Black Lives Matter At School is a national committee of educators organizing for racial justice in education.  BLM at School encourage all educators, parents, students, unions, and community organizations to join the annual week of action during the first week of February each year.

There are many ways to participate in Black Lives Matter at School week. Some educators teach BLM lessons every day of the week, wear their Black Lives Matter At School t-shirt, organize after-school rallies, facilitate their students entering the creative challenge, develop curriculum, post on social media, and rally at the school board meeting. One easy way for everyone to participate is to sign the petition endorsing the week of action

The important thing is that you act in some way to join this movement to bring down the structures of anti-Blackness in education and affirm the lives of Black students in your classroom. 

Email BlackLivesMatterAtSchool If you or your organization would like to support or endorse the week of action.

>> Learn more 
>> More Teach BLM Resources


Happy Human Rights Day

Today, Monday, December 10th marks the 70th ANNIVERSARY of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A milestone document in the global history of human rights that is as relevant today as it was when drafted seven decades ago.  

Although the UDHR is not in itself legally binding, it has become the procreator of modern international human rights law, providing safeguards – and sometimes lifelines – for thousands of people from all walks of life when national laws fail them. It has parented 16UN human rights treaties that are legally binding, including the twin UN Covenants spanning economic, social and cultural and civil and political rights respectively, plus a host of regional treaties in Africa, the Americas, and Europe.

We now take for granted that such human rights standards can be used to hold our governments to account, but just 70 years ago there were no internationally recognized human rights norms at all. The very fact that the UDHR has stood the test of time is a testament to the enduring universality of its perennial values of equality, justice, and human dignity.

The promise of the UDHR, however, has yet to be fulfilled because, as all advocates know, human rights are not a given but rather require a continuous struggle to get and once that has been achieved to keep. In other words, it is down to us to promote its ethical vision as new forms of nationalism and populism threaten to challenge our world.  

At HRE USA we believe human rights education is key to ensuring a future in which all people’s rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. Please consider supporting HRE-USA by making a tax-deductible contribution on our behalf to our fiscal sponsor, the Center for Transformative Action, a 501(c)3organization. Your donation will allow us to continue to advocate for and further develop programming that supports human rights education across the United States.

In honor of the 70th Anniversary and to help everyone celebrate the gift of the UDHR, HRE USA has created this online resource kit. You can also join the international campaign to #Standup4humanrights. 



Never Forget – Teaching 9/11

Each September brings a flurry of excitement and anxiety for parents, teachers, and students. Beginning in September 2002 another factor was added to the list: how and what to teach about 9/11.

“Never forget” became a national rallying cry after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet America’s schools — where collective memory is shaped — are now full of students who never knew. Because they weren’t alive 17 years ago.  In fact, most individuals under the age of 30 have limited or no memories of the world before the attacks of September 11,2001 and were certainly not old enough to fully understand how the subsequent U.S. response, including the so-called “War on Terror” and its resulting policies, impacted human rights.

As such, many teachers struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath, but, in order to never forget, our children need to be taught about 9/11. More importantly, they need to understand how changes in U.S. national security policy post-9/11 continue to manifest themselves in new and different ways today, even as public and media attention wanes. These trends are especially apparent among young people, who reportedly demonstrate low rates of awareness of issues such as indefinite detention or drone strikes, and often exhibit lower levels of civic participation around national security and human rights issues.

That’s where Human Rights in National Security: An Educator’s Toolkit comes in. The events of the past seventeen years are highly relevant in a number of academic disciplines: civics, political science, law, literature, film, religious studies, international relations, and more. This toolkit provides educators with lesson plans and resources to address these issues in the classroom and to empower students to assess their developments through a human rights lens. It also aims to increase participation among high school and college students in activism and advocacy around torture, surveillance, anti-Muslim hate, indefinite detention, and other common human rights violations associated with post-9/11 U.S. policy.

>> Download Toolkit

Need support? If so, please email us. Human Rights Educators USA has teamed up with Amnesty International USA to gather feedback and improve this resource.