This year marks the 68th anniversary of Human Rights Day, an event to reaffirm the human rights that we must all stand together to preserve. In 1948 the United Nations created the declaration, which in part reads, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
On the evening of Dec. 8, Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights, the Human Rights Commission and other partners are hosting a Human Rights Day celebration at Seattle First Baptist Church.
“I think it will be an energizing, thoughtful and passionate conversation,” Danielle Wallace said. “We’re hoping to celebrate the past, present and future human rights leaders and amplify community voices and efforts that are working hard to advance human rights and dignity for residents of our city.”
Wallace is co-chair of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. She commended Mayor Ed Murray for declaring Seattle as a sanctuary city and the many community-centered groups focused on equity.
The guest speaker will be Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, activist and filmmaker. In 2011, he outed himself as undocumented in a New York Times magazine essay. He detailed how he came to the United States from the Philippines at 12 years old, adjusted to life in a new land and the challenges he faced without the proper paperwork.
In the essay he wrote, “On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream. But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them.”
Today, Vargas continues to be vocal about human rights. He recently wrote about being flooded with messages from people who are undocumented like himself and are worried what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for their place in America. Vargas will likely touch on his personal experiences and offer solutions for allies as we all navigate the uncertainty of the coming months.
A special tribute to the Gang of Four — four of Seattle’s most prominent social justice activists, including King County Councilmember Larry Gossett — is also planned and organizers will honor an individual and an organization with an emerging human rights leader award.
“I think it’ll be a great opportunity to learn from their perspective, the strategies in how we move forward as human rights activists,” Wallace said. “And how the city’s activists and leaders can move forward and identify strategies and actions that they can take.”
What: Human Rights Day celebration
When: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Where: Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Avenue