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FAU Hosts 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Declaration of Human Rights

As violence spreads globally, FAU’s Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights invites the Boca Raton community to show compassion by hosting a three-day event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dr. Angela Nichols of FAU’s Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights. (Courtesy)

By Bella Kubach | MediaLab@FAU

Dec 8, 2023

FAU’s Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (PJHR) will host the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the school's Boca Raton campus. The three-day celebration will feature noteworthy speakers and include workshops, breakout activities, and a yoga session. 

Beginning on Dec. 8, members of the community can attend an academic symposium with speakers and music-lovers such as Christopher Fariss, Gabriela Martinez Sainz and Brittany Sinitch Menendez among others.

At a time of global upheaval and war, marking the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more than an academic exercise. Dozens of countries are currently violating the declaration on a daily basis . Thousands have been killed or displaced in the current Israel-Gaza conflict, Ukraine and Russia have been at war for more than 600 days now, and authorities have been labeling and prosecuting as terrorists all those who dare to speak up against the government and its violations of human rights law in Belarus, just to name a few. 

Amidst this violence occurring on the world stage as well as closer to home, PJHR offers the South Florida community an opportunity to come together and promote peace. It serves not only as a celebration of the document, organizers say, but a way to make the public aware of its relevance in a time where violations are happening everyday.

Attendees can expect a variety of workshops to offer “a more practical application or approach” of human rights, said Angela Nichols, Director of FAU’s Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights. The workshops will teach community members “how to take action in your life, community, and the world around you,” Nichols said.

The event offers options for academics and music lovers alike: Pianist Abby Mickle and samba percussion group Miamibloco will also make appearances. The various workshops will be led by individuals from a multitude of fields ranging from acting and improv to dance. But as different as these fields may sound, they all relate to human rights in one way or another, according to Nichols. 

Robert Kesten, Executive Director of the Stonewall National Museum, is set to host a workshop on Dec. 9 and plans to emphasize how to apply the declaration’s principles to daily life. 

“I’m hoping that young people will take this moment to recognize that they have for themselves a responsibility to create the world that they want and this is the best tool that anybody has in order to make it that way,” said Kesten.

The final day of the event includes a yoga session, breakout groups and activities that will apply everything that was learned in the proceeding days. It will conclude with a reception to honor individuals within the community and award a selected student with a $1,000 scholarship. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will also be provided. 

While PJHR hosts two yearly events, the 75th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights is being celebrated this winter because the declaration is an “incredible document that gives people a lens into the rights that they can advocate for,” Nichols said. “Seventy-five years later, so many people don’t know it exists.” 

Kesten echoed this idea, that the declaration doesn’t often get the attention it deserves.

“Since its inception, largely governments, but others as well, have tried to keep it in the background not really giving it the light that it would need in order to flourish and so, in most cases, governments will ask us to sacrifice human rights for a false sense of security rather than protect and defend the rights as articulated in the declaration,” Kesten added. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights names 30 articles– or rights and freedoms– that every human being possesses. Published in 1948 by the United Nations as a result of the atrocities committed during WWII, it includes the right to life, right to education and right to organize.

PJHR chose to highlight this document to encourage community engagement surrounding a document that promotes compassion for others. 

“It is important to me that people understand that we have to demand our human rights; we have to know them, we have to know the 30 articles backwards and forwards so that we can insist that they actually be realized,” said Kesten. “I think the longer we go without doing that, the worse our living situation becomes.”

He emphasized his concerns about the resurgence of fascism and how it poses a threat to human rights. “It’s important to remember that in 1922, Benito Mussolini became the first fascist head of the Italian government. Eleven years later, in 1933, Adolf Hitler became the head of Germany. Now, in 2022, Italy has its second fascist dictator [Giorgia Meloni],” said Kesten. 

“Recognizing the declaration exists is a really big, grandiose, exciting event, but it is also about supporting each other in the classroom, having events, and connecting with local people in the community,” said Nichols.

The event is free to students and $40 for anyone else who wishes to attend. 

“Because it’s so diverse, there’s really something for everybody,” said Nichols. “I don’t think anyone will be disappointed if they join us.”

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt holding a copy of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was Chairperson of the drafting committee of the declaration. (UN Photo)

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