February 2017 ED Message

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As I assumed my new role as the Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN), the communities I care most about braced for a new federal administration brought to power using fear, hate, division, exploitation, greed, and extraction.  This new era in the United States is part of a global shift in power and political philosophy. Massive wealth divides have thrown local economies, national governments, and the global climate into a tailspin that has absolutely changed our world forever.  Our most basic instinct to survive has already been activated by unlawful and inhumane actions attacking the most marginalized in our society - and we are only one month in.  Above that most basic instinct to survive, however, is our moral obligation to engage in building a people-centered human rights movement in the United States in solidarity with Global South communities around the world.

Human rights belong to all of us, no matter who we are, how much we have, what we do for a living, how we identify, where we live, where we were born or what current US law protects. Our human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and inalienable - they are a part of you, based solely on your humanity.  Actualizing human rights is about achieving a broader human liberation rooted in the civil, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, personal, and development rights for individuals, Peoples and groups.  When we talk about people-centered human rights,  they are those non-oppressive rights defined and secured for through self-determination and social struggle that reflects the highest commitment to human dignity and social justice for all humanity.

As energy catalyzed by sadness, fear, and anger moves you to action, it is important that we remember and honor that human rights movements must be led by those most directly impacted and affected by human rights violations. Our mobilizations must be inclusive and they must prioritize the struggles of the poor and most marginalized groups in society.  

But we cannot afford to mobilize simply as part of our catharsis. The end goal of a US human rights movement is to restructure social relationships that perpetuate oppression and shift power into the hands of the oppressed to bring about that restructuring.  To dismantle oppressive structures, our strategy must deliver collective and precise blows at the intersection of multiple oppressions that is to be guided by a Black feminist intersectional analysis brought to light by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw.  In a time when our very humanity is at stake, we must act and we must do it together.

This new role for me, as it turns out, is simply to continue a global, generational fight for human rights using the pathway blazed by USHRN founding Executive Director Ajamu Baraka, my predecessor Ejim Dike, and so many USHRN members dedicated to building a human rights movement in the US.  After 11 years of climate-based disaster recovery, intersectional strategy development, multi-racial alliance building and frontline organizing in the Gulf South, I welcome the opportunity to join with you as we take this US human rights movement to the next level. Join us!