As a 2015 Fighting Injustice through Human Rights Education (FIHRE) fellow, I felt that FIHRE provided a space where people from different backgrounds, geographical regions, generations and understandings of human rights could come together and share their experiences and what they have found to be best practices to advance human rights work in the United States. Such an environment centered the importance of intersectionality and how all human rights are interconnected, interrelated and indivisible. Facilitating such an environment was refreshing because it opened the space up for honest dialogue and made room for people to be vulnerable about their experiences in doing human rights work and the impact such work has on them and their communities. I specifically recommend the FIHRE program to anyone who is interested in getting a general understanding of the human rights framework, the history of the human rights struggle in the United States and various ways that human rights framing has been used successfully to advance struggles and win important peoples victories. FIHRE is a great springboard for people to lunge into gaining a deeper understanding of human rights work and the necessity of building a people-centered human rights movement in the U.S.
I found the presentations of the facilitators to be very practical and centered on work they had done in the past or work they were currently doing. This was helpful for me because you had people there who were presenting from experience and could practical advice and insights into some of the challenges they ran into when trying build certain human rights campaigns and how certain challenges could be side-stepped in the future. It was common to see fellows engaging one another and presenters and facilitators in between sessions or over dinner about the human rights work they were engaged in.
Probably the single most valuable thing that I got out of FIHRE was the relationships. I have been in contact with at least four other fellows or facilitators since our time together. The people that I met there have served as an invaluable asset to the work that I have done since our time together. My interactions with other fellows has ranged from getting over the phone advice, editing assistance on human rights reports and working together in organizations that have the express aim of building and advancing the human rights movement in the United States.
The environment at the Highlander Research and Education Center provided a much needed respite from the everyday hustle and grind of marathon meetings and constant activity. The calm and serene scenery of Highlander provided a space to unplug, think and enjoy casual conversations with facilitators and other fellows. I also enjoyed learning about the history Highlander and the work they currently are doing. Highlander’s staff was friendly, warm and made you feel at home especially for people like me who enjoy a home cooked vegan meal that tastes like a lot of love and effort has been put into it.
Overall, the FIHRE program will be enjoyable, informative and fun for anyone who is interested in an introduction to the human rights framework, its history and various strategies that will assist them in their local campaigns to make human rights a reality.
Adofo Minka is a founding member of Cooperation Jackson, an emerging network of worker-owned cooperative enterprises that focus on organizing working class people around building a solidarity economy in Jackson, MS. As a part of his work with Cooperation Jackson he is a lead organizer with an emerging human rights project that the organization has undertaken with a host of other local organizations, the Jackson Human Rights Institute (JHRI). The focus of the JHRI is developing a Human Rights Charter for the city of Jackson and getting the city to establish a Human Rights Commission through a people centered human rights process that will include mass education, policy development and advocacy. This process will help to ensure that the city protects, respects, and fulfills the basic human rights and dignity of all of its residents. Adofo is also a activist member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in Jackson, MS. Adofo is a native of St. Louis, MO where he graduated high school and later graduated from Saint Louis University's School of Law. Before enrolling in law school, Adofo graduated from Alabama State University in Montgomery, AL. As a student leader in the Black Law Students Association at Saint Louis University, he was integral in helping to organize panel discussions and lectures around reparations for people of African descent, mass incarceration, religion and inmate rehabilitation. While in law school, Adofo worked as an intern in the Missouri State Public Defenders office, The Law Office of Stan Willis, and The Peoples' Law Office in Chicago, IL. Upon graduating from law school, Adofo moved to Jackson, MS where he clerked in the law office of Atty. Chokwe Lumumba and worked on Lumumba's successful campaign for mayor of Jackson, MS. In 2014, Adofo was admitted to the Mississippi Bar and opened his own law practice that focuses on providing representation for defendants in criminal cases and protecting the human and civil rights of Mississippians. Adofo is a husband, father, and organizer who enjoys reading, running, and enjoying time with his family.