A celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Hunan Rights was held Monday evening at West Hartford Town Hall.
By Judy Wyman Kelly and Sarah Raskin
West Hartford Town Hall was a destination for human rights activists and supporters on Dec. 3, as nearly 200 people came to honor the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The document, created under the leadership of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, describes a range of rights to which all humans are entitled, from life, liberty and equality, to economic, social and cultural rights.
The members of the sponsoring West Hartford Human Rights Commission opened the 90-minute event with a reading of the preamble of the UDHR, followed by a land acknowledgement given by Passamaquoddy citizen, Chris Newell. Mayor Shari Cantor read a “West Hartford Human Rights Day” proclamation and community members of all ages followed with a public reading of the 30 articles of the declaration, in more than a dozen languages including American Sign Language.
The public reading of the UDHR was punctuated by remarks from student and adult speakers and performers.
Students Xaymara Rodriguez and Ivy Nguyen touched on the West Hartford chapter of the Witness Stones project which commemorates slaves who resided in our town.
Newell reminded us of the human rights struggles still facing Native Americans in communities throughout the U.S.
Trinity professor and West Hartford Board of Education member Cheryl Greenberg and community activist Janée Woods placed human rights in historical and local contexts.
After an introduction by State Sen. Beth Bye, Egyptian asylee and participant in the Arab Spring, Esam Boraey, recounted his time fighting for human rights in his homeland.
David Figuera spoke of human rights struggles in his native Honduras and of the challenges faced currently by migrants seeking asylum.
Artistic performers included poets Kate Rushin and Julie Choffel, violinists Eileen Chen and Sebastian Antepaz, the Hall High Jazz Combo, the Conard High “Voices of the World” chorus, and former state troubadour Kate Callahan.
West Hartford Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Barry Walters concluded the event with a call to action.
Before and after the event, local non-profits and organizations were on hand to talk about their work and volunteering options. Participants were also invited to bring a donation for the West Hartford food pantry.
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