Mark Human Rights Day With Speakers From Amnesty International

Photo: Amnesty International USA

 Source:  Amnesty International, Amherst Area Chapter

The Human Rights Day remembrance in Amherst this year focuses on three rights that are central concerns for Amnesty International: rights of prisoners, rights of children, and rights of women. The observance will take place on Saturday, December 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library. The program, linked to International Human Rights Day, December 10, is an annual tradition in Amherst. The event is free and the public is invited.  

The program speakers are local Amnesty members with direct experience in the three subjects. Mohamed Elgadi, a longtime advocate for human rights, endured torture in the Ghost Houses prisons of Sudan. He has long headed up key human rights organizationsas a longstanding coordinator of the Amherst-Western Mass chapter of Amnesty, called AI-Group 128, and as a leading member of Torture Survivors. His teaching, at New York University and at Springfield College, has been broad, encompassing environmental science and social sciences. He holds a Doctorate degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. Alexis Stranko, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is an activist against child trafficking and child soldiering. She has been a volunteer in protection of children who are subjected to abuse, and she has been a mentor for children striving for education. Emily Grybko, co-president of the Amnesty chapter at Amherst Regional High School, has worked extensively on women’s rights, and gender, sexuality, and identity-based human rights. Her several years of experience with Massachusetts Amnesty and the Youth Social Media team have provided her an appreciation of the value of both individual and group work in achieving a human rights culture.

The Human Rights Day Program remembers and honors the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations. At that time, led by human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt, the newly formed UN approved the thirty articles that comprise the Declaration. Following World War II and upon the creation of the UN, there was a strong sense of affirmation that all people are born with unchallengeable and fundamental freedoms based on equality, dignity, and mutual respect regardless of their nationalities, creeds, social status, or opinions. The honoring of these crucial indelible rights may be more important than ever in today’s times of chaotic strife.

Another avenue by which Amnesty’s local chapter has sought to create a local human rights culture is through a remarkable Human Rights Art Exhibit by Amherst Regional Middle School students. This year marks the eighth consecutive year that student art work, inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will be displayed during the month of December. In 2014, 80 middle school students took part under the guidance of social studies teacher, Irene LaRoche.  Students and teacher-guides have increased in number each year: in 2021 there will be at least 115 students producing their original art works based on the thirty human rights articles. Last year and again this year, due to the COVID-19 peril, the Jones did not host a public exhibit. However, in both years the teachers and the community answered the need for a display by going to the Jones Library and to Amherst Media to request a student exhibit online at their websites. Both institutions wholeheartedly generated excellent online exhibits. AI-Group 128 is proud to be a partner in this exceptional activity.

Both AI-Group 128 and the Student Human Rights Art Exhibit have been featured several times on the Amherst Media program, “Creating a Human Rights Culture”, originated and hosted by Joseph Wronka, who is Representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW).

For more information contact Martha Spiegelman (Coordinator, AI-Group 128, the Amherst area chapter) at spiegelmanmartha@gmail.com 

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