Human Rights in Global Studies

Thursday in Global Studies, students were introduced to their next big project (partnering with Lulu in Production and Performance Studies). They will produce a 3 to 5 minute documentary on a human rights issue. We’ve been learning about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the product of 18 countries’ work – chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt – in 1948). The assignment is to apply their understanding of these rights by selecting a real-life human rights defender working on an issue they feel passionately about. This issue will connect to one or more of the 30 articles in the UDHR.

Their completed videos will be submitted to a nationwide contest called Speak Truth To Power, sponsored by the Robert F, Kennedy Human Rights Center and the Tribeca Film Institute. Because of the Robert Kennedy connection, students yesterday learned a bit about him, and viewed the speech he gave just hours after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He addressed a shocked crowd that could easily have turned hostile – a crowd police warned him they could not protect him from. Some in the audience – who had learned of King’s death – came armed. Thirty-four cities rioted that night. Indianapolis was the only American city with a large black population that did not. Many observers felt Kennedy’s speech was part of the reason why.

Among his elegant and powerful words – scribbled on a piece of paper on his way to Indianapolis – were the following:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

At a time when our country feels polarized and incomprehensible – and the Commander in Chief makes blatantly racist remarks – such words are worth revisiting. The wisdom of King and Kennedy – and the humor, insight and compassion of 8th graders – make me incurably hopeful.

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