Human Rights: Ideas and Action Conference, July 31
A glance at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which turns 60 this year, suggests that life could be better for Americans. Its thirty articles ensure rights denied to many Americans: the right to work, freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, protection of child welfare, access to higher education on the basis of merit, and equality. Might all Americans be more free if the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were also United States law? This is the question that is the premise for Human Rights: Ideas and Action - a conference happening on July 31st, 2008 at the Boston Public Library and the Old South Church.
In early August 2007, a group formed to plan a conference inviting local NGOs and academics to discuss the role of human rights in their work. The group would examine Human Rights in Boston, as this is the site of the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. The organizing group consists of members of the Boston College Sociology Department (faculty and graduate students), the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Sociologists without Borders, Mass-Care, Mass Global Action, Boston Workers Alliance, Open Media Boston, and the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development.
The purpose of our conference is to invite academics and activists to explore the current state of human rights activism and research and move forward a human rights campaign in Boston. Participants at the conference will have the opportunity to examine the application of human rights doctrine within the United States. All will be invited to join discussions with local NGOs about applying human rights in the work Boston area social movements. The pairing of academic and activist perspectives will offer a dynamic experience to participants and enhance their work in the area of human rights.
The conference will explore two dichotomies in the study of human rights: academic and activist, local and global. Gabe Camacho of American Friends Service Committee will open the day’s discussion, welcoming academics and organizers to this dialogue on human rights. During the morning program, sociologists will examine individual human rights: Jean Lynch will analyze rights of the other-abled, Ruben Rumbaut and Tanya Golash-Boza will explore migrant rights, Brian Gran will highlight the rights of youth, and Dave Brunsma and Dave Overfelt will consider housing rights. Local activist Ty de Pass will respond to the sociological perspective, relating their ideas to the context of Boston. A second session will study collective human rights, with John Barnshaw looking at the right to water, Mark Frezzo discussing democracy, Rodney Coates will consider cultural rights, and Judith Blau will talk about fair trade. Local activist and former candidate for governor of Massachusetts, Grace Ross, will respond to the sociologists and explore the applications in Boston. The morning program is coordinated with the publication of The Leading Rogue State (Paradigm 2008), edited by Judith R. Blau, David L. Brunsma, Alberto Moncada, and Catherine Zimmer. Speakers at the morning program are contributing authors to this volume.
A leading human rights activist, Shula Koenig of The People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, will address the group after lunch. She will introduce the idea of a Human Rights City and share her wisdom and experience in human rights education. The afternoon program will shift, creating space for active participation and conversation.
Boston area NGO leaders will moderate discussions among activists and academics about: Gender, Youth, Immigration, and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual Identities. Elena Latona of Centro Presente and Gladys Vega of Chelsea Collaborative will lead the discussion on immigration and human rights. Sue Hyde of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and Gunner Scott of Mass Transgender Political Coalition will guide conversations about Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual Identities and human rights. Dotti Stevens of Surivivors, Inc. will direct conversations consideration of gender and human rights.
Later, groups will consider: Health, Environment and Food, Peace and War, Labor, Housing, and media. Angela Kelly of Mass Peace Action will moderate discussions on peace and human rights. Jacob Smith-Yang of Mass Asian and Pacific Islanders for Health will mediate dialogue on health, health care, and human rights. Grace Ross of Green Rainbow Party will lead deliberations on housing and human rights. Loie Hays of Boston Climate Action Network will shepherd debate on the environment and human rights.
How well has Boston promoted equality and nondiscrimination? In these forums, it will be possible for local experts to dialogue with sociologists and critically examine the city of Boston’s performance. Each group will produce ideas for next steps, which will be reported to the community. Frances Fox Piven will respond to these ideas. Future directions for activism and research might emerge, at the same time new partnerships may form to improve our ability to educate about and promote human rights in Boston and beyond.
This event has already gained broad support in the NGO and academic communities. Sponsors include: American Friends Service Committee/Project Voice, Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Boston College - Department of Sociology, Boston Public Library, Iraq Veterans Against the War (Boston Chapter), Mass-Care, Mass Global Action, Mass Peace Action, Open Media Boston, Sociologists without Borders , Society for the Study of Social Problems, and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. Join us as we begin to discover more effective means of promoting equality and nondiscrimination in all communities. Learn more about “Human Rights: Ideas and Action” by browsing the website: http://bostonhumanrights.org. Email queries can be sent to:email@example.com.