2016 has been a big, busy, and heavy year for all of us. As we hold that, we want to lift up the powerful work we’ve done with our members, partners, and donors over the past twelve months. Support us and help us take our work to the next level in 2017!
Naming Struggles and Claiming Our Power:
In 2016, USHRN supported four United Nations special mandate holder official country visits to the US: The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to freedom of assembly and association; the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons. During these visits, USHRN staff and members coordinated participation from people directly impacted by the human rights violations being discussed as well as other grassroots leaders and human rights defenders during the visit, resulting in UN human rights experts naming recommendations that are in line with our members’ demands.
- Reparations: Reparatory justice for people of African descent in the United States. (UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent)
- End to Detention: That mandatory detention for migrants is a human rights violation. (UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention)
USHRN collaborated with Juntos, Philadelphia Student Union, and 1Love Movement to host our Northeast Regional Meeting and Human Rights Tribunal - highlighting human rights violations and other conditions that communities in Philadelphia and the Northeast are facing.
USHRN also released our 2016 Advancing Human Rights Report that looks at what people are facing in in five key issue areas and also serves as targeted & strategic tool for human rights organizers in the US.
Transitions and Grounding:
Internally, we’ve gone through a big shift ourselves as the Coordinating Center. At the end of September, Ejim Dike transitioned out of her role as Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network. Colette Pichon Battle joined as Executive Director. We are so incredibly thankful and grateful for Ejim’s leadership and we are excited and looking forward to working with Colette as our new executive director and for our collective work moving forward.
Externally, on November 9th, the political conditions as we’ve known them have shifted. As Colette said in her Human Rights Day statement: “[If] the Trump administration policies and cabinet appointments achieve the goals being set forth, we can expect the conditions we are facing to intensify.” We are still sitting with the potential and expected ramifications of the election. As political conditions shift; so must our organizing, movement building, and communications strategies. We will be taking some time in 2017 to plan, strategize, and pivot accordingly while keeping our bodies and hearts on the long term goal for powerful people-centered human-rights movement that can win & secure human rights for all.
Strategy and Organizing:
At the beginning of 2016, the ongoing Flint water crisis made national headlines and exposed the issue of the failure to ensure clean, safe, and affordable water in Flint and around the country. On April 4th, members of the USHRN-coordinated National Human Rights to Water and Sanitation Coalition from Flint, Detroit, the Navajo Nation, California’s Salinas Valley, Alabama’s Black Belt, Philadelphia, a homeless community leader from DC, and Shell Bluff in Georgia testified in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Unlike the joint hearing with Latin American movement leaders in October of 2015, April’s US-specific hearing ensured that US government representatives had to attend, testify, and respond to questions from the Commission. In the wake of the astonishing and callous responses of US government representatives who celebrated their global work on water access while claiming no responsibility or obligations to ensure the human rights to water and sanitation within the US; 40+ organizations and leaders signed on to the Coalition’s statement after the hearing.
We held our third annual Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education (FIHRE) fellowship program at Highlander in June and had an amazing cohort of movement leaders from around the country. In the wake of the weekend-long convening, some fellows joined to become leaders in USHRN working groups. Erika and Juntos decided to call for an urgent action by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to close family detention facilities in alignment with their campaign to #ShutDownBerks.
We have been closely working with one of our fellows, Esther Calhoun and her organization, Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice (BBC), for the human rights to water and sanitation and protections of sacred space in Uniontown, Alabama. Watch a video of her speaking at a rally & read this wonderful article from the Nation on BBC’s work and Uniontown!
USHRN member-led National Human Rights City Network formed this year in preparation for the Human Rights Cities Conference in DC. The National Human Rights City Network works to strengthen and connect organizers working to turn their cities into Human Rights Cities & on a local level, create the infrastructure and implementation to ensure human rights for their residents. Since its formation, members called for “National Human Rights Days of Action” to mark International Human Rights Day. As we are anticipating an incoming and likely hostile federal administration; we see deep potential in developing and growing local strategies to ensure the full spectrum of human rights.
We also tried something different for the official country visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons. In addition to playing a coordinating role to ensure as much civil society participation as possible; we understood that we had an opportunity to intervene on dominant and harmful strategies and support and connect movement organizations and leaders who had more experience on the issue than we did. One of the outcomes was our Broadening the Narrative infographic, with quotes from our members in Restaurant Opportunity Centers United and Best Practices Policy Project and partner, Monica Jones with The Outlaw Project; which has since been re-tweeted over 100 times.
Thank you for all of your support for USHRN this year.
Support us and help us take our work to the next level in 2017!