A celebration of the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was held Thursday evening at West Hartford Town Hall.
By Asaad Hicks
A large group of human rights activists and other supporters gathered at West Hartford Town Hall Thursday night as the community celebrated the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The script for the event included various speakers who had the goal of increasing awareness of ongoing issues and bringing about change in the community. In addition, there were readings of the actual 30-article Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
West Hartford, which is one of the most diverse towns in the state, exemplified its multiculturalism by having the articles read in over a dozen various languages. The age range in attendance was also vast as different generations came to the stand and read sections of the declaration.
The event was seen as a way to jumpstart conversations within the community and force action.
“This is a town that acknowledges human rights,” said Barry Walters, co-chair of West Hartford’s Human Rights Commission. “I know we all talk the talk, but the emphasis here is who’s going to walk the walk?” he said.
The tone of that message would carry throughout the 90-minute event, with each speaker advocating for change as well as illustrating the importance of human rights.
Artist Lee Mixashawn Rozie was one of the first to speak with the crowd and discuss how natural rights override human rights, and you can’t achieve human rights without focusing on the planet first. The song that he played on his saxophone, “He Who Leads,” tied to his indigenous roots and integrated with the theme of activism.
The tone of the event shifted as Kamora Herrington, founder of Kamora’s Cultural Corner, discussed hardships many who are marginalized face. She spoke about the recent events going on in the Middle East as well as locally, where in Killingly the controversial “Redman” mascot was reinstated.
“We need to influence more action with more disgust and more anger towards injustice,” said Herrington. “Hey if you’re too comfortable in your lives, you should reevaluate and look into what you can do to make your neighbors’ lives better.”
The fiery message that she brought was intended to force people to steer away from just being “nice” and switch to becoming “pissed off” as a way to generate more action and activism.
To follow up with that message, State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-18th) spoke about the impact of the Women’s Suffrage Movement – not just what many already know but also the racist undertones that took place during that time and brought to light unspoken heroes who fought against the racism to help women of all kinds.
There were also performances by Conard High School’s Voices of the World choir who sang a piece called “We are the World,” reading of a poem by Kate Rushin where she discusses how she came to her own understanding of the declaration of human rights, and a Nepalese interpretive dance by Donna Gurung.
The theme of the event was to highlight those without a voice and make people genuinely want to act on behalf of others.
Local Activist Alexander Rodriguez spoke about his thoughts on the event and what it meant to him.
“I’m glad the commission is making this an annual event. It’s important we familiarize ourselves with the Declaration because the articles outlines by them aren’t always met by everyone,” Rodriguez said. “I want to think that the articles force people to confront their privilege and evaluate what they can do to make a better future for those that are suffering.”
The celebration was initially planned for December to coincide with International Human Rights Day in December, but was postponed due to weather. Town Council member Beth Kerrigan read aloud the proclamation originally issued by Mayor Shari Cantor on behalf of the town, proclaiming Dec. 10, 2019 “Human Rights Day” in West Hartford.
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