Members of the Amherst Human Rights Commission (HRC), the Town Council, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Department, and community members gathered on the town common on Saturday December 10 to celebrate International Human Rights Day. Jennifer Moyston, the Assistant Director of DEI led the event, welcoming participants and offering hot chocolate.
The event began with a quick round of introductions, after which, town council members who were present read the town’s Human Rights Bylaw adopted in 2009, which outlines the rights of town residents that the government has a responsibility to uphold. Next, each attendee read one paragraph of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through the preamble and all 30 articles.
Philip Avila, co-chair of the HRC, was in attendance. He explained that this event has happened every year on December 10, since the creation of the HRC in 2009. The HRC oversees any complaints filed by community members that allege that the town government violated their human rights and investigates such claims and works to resolve such violations.
Moyston added that even though the HRC has only required this event to happen since 2009, she has been looking at town records and found similar events happening every year since at least 2002. She believes it is an important annual tradition because it allows community members to remember the rights endowed to them and gives them an opportunity to make their voices heard.
Vira Cage, a Board Member of Amherst Media, was also in attendance, and spoke to the importance of the event as a tool for reminding Amherst residents of the basic tenets of their rights. Cage also raised the importance of the work Kathleen Anderson has been doing in the Amherst community. Anderson, who previously served on the Amherst school committee, spoke of the impact of continuing education on human rights and the importance of including education about human rights in school curricula, saying that she wants to see more anti-racism education happen in Amherst schools.