Voices of our Community


Repost: Commemorating Fundamental Freedom

by LaTasha Smith, Director of Communications, National Center for Civil & Human Rights via Junior League, Peach Press

Repost from The Junior League of Atlanta, Peach Press

There are 7.6 million displaced persons in Syria[1], more than 20 million slaves around the world today[2] and approximately 14.7 million children under the age of 18 living in poverty in the United States alone[3]. These are only a small portion of the statistics we hear too often on the news and social media that represent the contemporary inequities that many individuals face around the world and in our own communities today. They are the inequities that we often see as issues far from our own reality, not realizing the fundamental human protections that they violate.

On Dec. 10, 1948, following the terror of WWII and the Holocaust, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a powerful tool for governments and political systems around the world to use as a standard for the fundamental rights and protections entitled to all human beings. Still today, many individuals are unaware of the valuable civil and political rights granted to them at birth under the UDHR, nor are they aware of the role they play in helping to protect these rights for others around the world.

As we plan time away with family and friends for the holidays, rarely do we stop and consider how fortunate we are for Article 24 of the UDHR – the right to rest and leisure. And with the popularity of social media and blogging, very few of us stop to consider the rights granted under Article 18 – Freedom of thought, opinion and information. These fundamental rights, which we so often take for granted, are part of the 30 Articles under the UDHR that apply to our everyday lives as human beings. What’s important to consider regarding these rights is the active role each of us can take to stand up for the protections of those who are less fortunate and may not know that they are entitled to these rights.

It’s easy to be a bystander, watching injustice happen from where we are, but it’s just as easy (and more impactful) to share a voice against injustice. Standing up for human rights starts simply with awareness of the past and the present. The 20th century Spanish philosopher George Santayana said it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And by remaining a bystander and not recognizing the importance of taking personal the fundamental rights of all people, we enable the risk of repeating the same struggles that courageous individuals of the past fought so hard to overcome in an effort to give us a better chance at life today. 

Civil rights gallery image

The first step you can take is to take the time to understand the root of discrimination and oppression and recognize the resources, institutions and organizations working to help combat inequality. The Center for Civil and Human Rights (The Center), located in downtown Atlanta, celebrates the UDHR and the fundamental rights the declaration aims to protect everyday through its interactive exhibitions and educational events and programs. Each visitor is immersed in the stories of brave individuals around the world who have taken a stand against disempowerment, racism and oppression – from the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s to the human rights movements of today. The Center serves as a place to educate people about human rights issues of the past and present, and empower individuals to take a stand in their own communities.

Recently, there has been an increased desire by many in the community to find a role in the fight against human injustice. By providing a platform for ongoing discourse on class, race, gender, identity and other injustices, The Center encourages local and national groups to utilize its space and resources to spark community dialogue and education around these issues – helping community members understand their role in human rights. Organizations, like the Junior League of Atlanta, which has a vision rooted in empowerment and community action, are partnering with The Center to build awareness around the topics of human trafficking, educational access, and economic disparities. Together, we are encouraging the community to support the fundamental human rights of all people.

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being,” said the late Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UDHR drafting committee. “With freedom comes responsibility.” The responsibility Roosevelt referred to is the responsibility we each hold to stand up for the protections of every individual’s rights under the UDHR.

This week, as we commemorate the 66th anniversary of the UDHR, take a moment to consider the ways you can share your voice and take a stand for human rights. Become a beacon for justice and freedom for the future!

To learn more about the UDHR, actions you can take to stand up for human rights and to discover the inspiring stories of individual courage that are featured within The Center’s interactive exhibitions, visit www.civilandhumanrights.org


[1] Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs http://syria.unocha.org/

[2] 2014 Polaris Project Report

[3] Source: Feeding America 2013 Poverty Report http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

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