Tag Archives: Advocates for Human Rights

Islamophobia in our midst – A symposium


In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. 

We will not give in to fear.  Barack Obama 

“Confronting Islamophobia: Promoting Human Rights in Public Policy” is the powerful theme of a symposium set for Thursday evening, September 29, 5:00-8:00 p.m. at Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis. (U of M West Bank)

Keynote speaker is John Bowen, Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Participants will explore how we as a society can work to address and overcome prejudice and shape our public policy to ensure human rights for all people.

As one feature of the evening guests may join a guided tour of the Tracks in the Snow exhibit; the exhibit provides a glimpse into the lives of one of the least known and rapidly expanding populations in America and in Minnesota – the Muslim community in which Minnesotans share personal stories of their experiences. The goal of the exhibit is to offer visitors deeper insight into the true lives of Muslims who live, work, shop, worship and otherwise share the communities in which we live.

Joining the Advocates for Human Rights as co-sponsors are the Islamic Resource Group (http://irgmn.org) and the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. (https://www.hhh.umn.edu)

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Questions? Contact The Advocates, 612 341 3302, arights@advrights.org http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/islamophobia


Autumn Leaves Lots to Learn!

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The harmony and luster of autumn somehow inspire us to learn, to engage, to think deep thoughts about “life, the universe and everything.” The good news is that creative colleagues offer food for thought in the form of theater, literature, film, stories and more. Once again, the in-basket is so full of intriguing programs and activities that I plucked just a few that might ignite some plans. To be sure, the list is random, incomplete, intended as a prompt not a calendar of possibilities!

* Theatre Latte Da opens the new season with production of Ragtime, the award- winning tale of life in turn-of-the-century New York, the melting pot of Jewish immigrants, a woman of privilege, and a Harlem musician. The musical, based on the book by E.L. Doctorow, opens September 21 and runs through October 23. (http://www.theaterlatteda.com)

* A reminder that the Twin Cities Zine Fest is set for Saturday September 24 – details in earlier post (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/twin-cities-zine-fest-2016/)

* Stories, Down by the Riverside are featured when storytellers Larry Johnson and Elaine Wyne share their experiences – and those of past residents, their friends and neighbors. It’s Sunday, September 25, 2:00 p.m. at the Hennepin History Museum, (http://www.hennepinhistory.org) They’ll spin tales of “The Great Richter Drug Store Robbery,” “The Day the Old Radio Dramas Vanished” and one about thousands of Minneapolis school children who, in 1896, pulled the John and Helen Stevens house from Cedar-Riverside to Minnehaha Park. Guests will be invited to share their own stories of the Cedar-Riverside community.

* The well-received Women’s Human Rights Film Series sponsored by The Advocates for Human Rights launches September 21; the series is a collaboration with the Saint Paul Public Library where the films will be shown at area public libraries during the weeks to come. “Profiled”, set for September 21, at the Hamline Midway Library, relates the stories of mothers of Black and Latin youth murdered by the NYPD, depicting how the women channel their anger into a struggle for justice. “Red Light Green Light,” set for Thursday, October 13, at the St. Anthony Park Library, explores several nations’ efforts to prevent and cope with the travesty of sex trafficking. “Don’t Tell Anyone”, showing Wednesday, November 3, depicts the life of a young woman who is undocumented, one of the generation of DREAMers “eager to end their silence and push for social change.” All films will be shown at 6:30 p.m. (http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/womens_human_rights_film_series)

* Writer and teacher Wendy Brown Baez (http://www.wendybrownbaez.com/POP-UP-Readings.html) is all about Pop Up Readings, aka Classroom in a Backpack. The first Pop Up workshop is set for Wednesday, September 21, 6:30 p.m. at Eat My Words Books (http://www.eatmywordsbooks.com)

* Nimbus Theatre will inaugurate their new home with an original production of The Kalevala set to run October 8-30. The show is written and adapted by Liz Neerland and directed by Josh Cragun. Based on the 19th century epic of the same name, the original nimbus production overflows with fantasy, giants, gods, maidens and others of their ilk set in the “fierce lands of the north” (https://www.nimbustheatre.com/discover/production/kalevala)

* A quick reminder that the Twin Cities Book Festival is set for Saturday, Octobber 115 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. More about this free event in a separate post.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there is autumn.

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


Advocates Offer Powerful Exploration of Voter ID Amendment

The Advocates for Human Rights to Discuss Civil Rights and Voter Disenfranchisement at World Premiere of Appomattox at the Guthrie Theater 

Minneapolis, MN (September 19, 2012): The Advocates for Human Rights will join the Guthrie Theater on October 2, 2012 for a performance of Appomattox, a new play about freedom, human rights, and race. Robin Phillips, executive director of The Advocates, will moderate an expert panel after the performance addressing current issues of civil rights and the Voter ID ballot initiative in Minnesota. 

The two-act play begins in April 1865, with Ulysses S. Grant meeting Robert E. Lee to sign the treaty to end the bloodiest war in U.S. history. The days preceding the signing are depicted through the eyes of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, Julia Grant, Mary Custis Lee, and others. The second act opens in February 1965, when St. James Baptist Church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson is shot by an Alabama state trooper during a peaceful protest for civil rights. The play then follows President Lyndon Johnson and his push to pass the Voting Rights Act through Congress.  

“The arts are a natural place to discuss human rights issues,” says Phillips. “Appomattox addresses civil and human rights issues that have shaped the United States throughout its history, including the right to vote. Today in Minnesota, the right of citizens to vote is once again threatened. The proposed Voter ID amendment on the ballot in Minnesota would, for the first time in the state’s history, narrow suffrage. Voting is a human right, not a privilege. The Advocates for Human Rights opposes the amendment.” 

The proposed Voter ID amendment would narrow suffrage because many thousands of Minnesotans, who are currently eligible to vote, do not have a government-issued photo ID. According to the Minnesota League of Women Voters, those least likely to have a government-issued photo ID include: 

·    18 percent of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.

·    15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID.

·    18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name.

·    10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID.

·    25 percent of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID. 

For more information please contact:

Robin Phillips                                                    Sarah Herder

Executive Director                                            Director of Education   

(612) 746-0859                                               (612) 746-4691

rphillips@advrights.org                                     sherder@advrights.org 

# # # 

The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, is dedicated to the promotion of internationally-recognized human rights. To learn more visit theadvocatesforhumanrights.org.


“Miss Representation” Explores Media Bias

“Miss Representation” is the next in the 2011 Women’s Human Rights Film Series sponsored by the Advocates for Human Rights in collaboration with The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and Metropolitan State University.  The film is set for Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 p.m. at Metro State Founder’s Hall Auditorium, 700 East Seventh Street, St. Paul.


The film “uncovers a glaring reality in our society…how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions in America.”  It challenges the media’s limiting and often disparaging portrayals of women.  Included in the story are stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with influential women from Condoleezza Rice to Gloria Steinem.  The promotion material promises that “the film accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.”


All of the films in the series are free and open to the public.  Sign language interpretation and other accommodations are available with advance notice.


Contact The Friends at friends@thefriends.org or 651 222 3242.  More information at www.thefriends.org.


Free Film Series Explores Women’s Human Rights Issues

Filmmaker Jean Kilbourne is a household world in the homes of many young women, their mothers and grandmothers, whose antennae have been tuned to sexist advertising by Kilbourne’s powerful films. A dear friend would describe this awareness of the image of women in the media as “perceptive paranoia”

As part of their Women’s Human Rights Film Series, Advocates for Human Rights will join with The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library to present Kilbourne’s recent film, Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, a film for which Kilbourne enthusiasts have waited ten long years.

The program is Tuesday, February 22, 7:00 p.m. at the Merriam Park Branch Library, Marshall and Fairview in St. Paul.   Following the film there will be a discussion of the film and the issues led by Kathy Seipp and Anna Donnelly, Women’s Program Associates at The Advocates.

Promotional materials for Killing Us Softly 4 describe the film in this way:

Jean Kilbourne takes a fresh look at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity. The film marshals a range of new print and television advertisements to lay bare a stunning pattern of damaging gender stereotypes — images and messages that too often reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality. By bringing Kilbourne’s groundbreaking analysis up to date, Killing Us Softly 4 stands to challenge a new generation of students to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about popular culture and its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, and gender violence.

“Africa Rising”, third in the Women’s Rights Film Series, explores the conditions that shape the lives  of African girls who are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at an early age.  The film travels through remote villages of Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Somalia and Tanzania. Along with poignant stories of girls affected by FGM the film shows how courageous and creative African women and men are putting an end to this human rights violation.

The film will be followed by a discussion led by Beatriz Menanteau, Staff Attorney in the Women’s Human Rights Program at The Advocates for Human Rights.

The third and last film in the Women’s Human Rights Film Series will be shown March 31, 2011, 7:00 p.m. at Metropolitan State University Library, Ecolab Room, 645 East Seventh Street, on St. Paul’s East Side.

The peril of benign neglect

My public radio hero Scott Simon grabbed my total attention Saturday when he thoughtfully observed:

In a country as free as ours, information is so free we can forget how precious and powerful it is. But authoritarian governments know that news, and even the nonsense and misinformation that goes with it, can be insurrectionary. That’s why they try to hold news back, contain it, strain it and dole it out to their citizens after it’s been sugar-coated, like treats to obedient children.

His words warmed, even lulled, my heart – until my head kicked in.  Suddenly thoughts of media mergers, erosion of investigative journalism, closed meetings, closed libraries, oversight lapses and unabashed censorship seeped through the warm thoughts.

What emerged was focus on the seminal thought: “in a country as free as ours, information is so free we can forget how precious and powerful it is.”  Therein lies the problem, that we forget.  We take it for granted.  The free flow of information and ideas is subliminal, implicit, routine, quixotic.  It is so invisible and so assumed that it is vulnerable at best, threatened today when public attention, not to mention funding, is in desperately short supply.

Sometimes I think we break it down to such minute detail that we lose the fundamental principle.

These thoughts have been rattling about in particular as I’ve tried to digest the recent manual on framing an issue in human rights terms by the Advocates for Human Rights about which I posted on the blog last week.  I’m trying to figure out how to frame access to information, particularly government information, as a human rights issue.  What would that look like?  Who would do the framing?  Who would care?  How would we turn a human right into laws and regulations?  How would we monitor implementation?

Of this I am certain:  It is at our peril that we assume all is well.  The convergence of telecommunications and information technology, simmering for a half century at least, has boiled over – and we’re all getting scalded, in part because the collective we have not been watching the pot.

What is on the back burner?  More mergers?  Less oversight?  Executive privilege?  Funding of public media?  Corporate sponsorship of essential research?  Diminished regulation? Fewer investigative journalists?  Depository library cutbacks?  The list of goes on…There are lots of back burners with many simmering pots.  What is certain is that all of the decisions will be cloaked in the sacred robes of cost savings and reduced government.

Confession: Just yesterday I read about the demise of the Minnesota News Council which has kept an eye on access for four decades – the fact caught my attention because that, the last I knew I was an active member of the MNC,  the first I knew that the plug had been pulled was when I read it on the back pages of the Star Tribune.  It seems I was not watching the heat being turned up under that pot.

Keeping an eye on access as a human right is not a solitary task.  Nor does it make the headlines, particularly in today’s media environment.  Still, it is increasingly obvious that authoritarian governments and corporate powers operate on the absolute premise that information, that quiet underpinning of freedom, is “precious and powerful.”   For some access to information is a threat to be quashed and manipulated.  For me access to information is a human right to be tended with care, celebrated with gusto.


Human Rights – Framing the issue

As a librarian of very long standing I have worked with a mix of like-minded souls to frame access to information as a human right.  A powerful and much-appreciated resource is now accessible online.  Last week, in commemoration of MLK Day, the Advocates for Human Rights and the US Human Rights Network issued a significant resource useful to a broad range of advocates.

A Practitioner’s Guide to Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation and Advocacy provides comprehensive information and guidance on how to use a human rights framework to facilitate domestic social change.”

This eminently useable resource has broad potential use.  The Manual will guide practitioners through steps to “push forward recommendations using education, lobbying and litigation strategies as well as international human rights mechanisms.”

Most important is the Manual’s help for advocacy organizations to understand how they can use the human rights framework in their ongoing efforts. Though this all sounds a bit esoteric, the guide is practical, useful, down-to-earth, and totally approachable by any individual advocate or advocacy group.

This powerful resource is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a gift to advocates of every conceivable stripe.