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Reflecting on International Human Rights Day 2019

Written by: Cecilia Innis, 2019 ARTE Intern

International Human Rights Day is recognized annually on December 10th and commemorates, according to the United Nations, “the day the United Nations Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

This day requires us to acknowledge not only the rights every human being deserves, but also to notice the rights many are presently denied. International Human Rights Day reminds us that many black and brown people are unjustly incarcerated, that communities of color are frequently harassed and/or experience police brutality, as one’s race is the highest determining factor of the environmental degradation they may withstand in their town or neighborhood. These are only a few violations of human rights we see day to day across the United States, and countless denials of dignity and humanity prevail domestically and worldwide. Thus, International Human Rights Day represents the formal recognition of equality and justice for every person on earth as well the ways we have failed to ensure these values. ARTE commemorated International Human Rights Day this year and will continue to do so each year, as it a promise that we will work towards a better future: one in which reality coincides with the declarations written into law.

Organizers with ARTE center the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their work because we realize that acknowledging and, furthermore, demanding rights for all is imperative to attaining freedom and justice. The UDHR informs the foundation of human rights work; it serves both as a reminder of what we are all entitled to as humans as well as what we must continually work towards.

2019's Human Rights Day theme, according to the United Nations, was “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights.” This theme begs the question, “What do youth have to do with human rights?” This is a question that ARTE answers when it collaborates with youth through workshops on visual art and social justice. Often young people do not understand their role in social justice and human rights centered work, so making space for them to discover this role is invaluable. Young people are the future. They will inherit a society wrought with social wrongs, and they will its serve as agents of change. Engaging them presently with their stake in such an important issue as human rights as ARTE does is as timely and necessary as ever.

"What does freedom look like to you?" Interactive art piece created by ARTE students in Brooklyn, December 2019

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