|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff | Support Us ||

International/North America
Date Posted:9/10/04

Youth For Human Rights International
by:Shaunetta Gibson

On August 24, 2004 at 777 UN Plaza, across the street from the United Nations Federal Building there was an International Youth Summit: Youth For Human Rights. Youth delegates from all over the world were present; to state their positions on human rights, human rights violations and human rights education. “I want to make today’s youth aware, about Human Rights and serve my country best,” said thirteen-year-old Natasha Jain, youth delegate representing India.

“Before I got information [about Human Rights] and had to deliver a speech about [Human Rights] I wasn’t aware that they existed; By teaching Human Rights I believe I can wipe every drop of tears from everyone’s eyes”. Natasha Jain, thirteen years old has been with “Youth For Human Rights” for approximately five months and is a “Human Rights Activist” in her country of origin, India. At the tender age thirteen she has proven that she is serious about spreading the gospel of Human Rights all over India. After being asked why she was there Natasha simply responded because “Our generation is not aware of Human Rights”.
Before the Summit actually started with the delegates, everyone invited was situated in the UN chapel for a brief introduction on defining Human Rights. It was began by Reverend John Carmichael, who upon finishing his view on Youth For Human Rights quoted L. Ron Hubbard, stating the aim of the Youth summit: “Human Rights should be made a fact not an idealistic dream”.

Present at the briefing in the chapel were people, not necessarily similar in skin tones, however people similar in the sense that they all were, becoming familiar with the ideas of the basic “Human Rights”. In the front of where I sat, in a middle row directly facing the podium was a group of teens of who before the introduction were taking pictures of themselves. They were becoming familiar and comfortable with the chapel space, which was limited in size yet welcoming. Upon entering the chapel I noticed how the podium was arranged in the center front with accessing space surrounding the stage. The chapel space reminded me of a large classroom, having seating rows lined up in three sections facing the center front making the shape within the chapel seem boxed and the relationship between the stage and the seats seem like a pot with no handle, from where I was sitting. The UN Chapel didn’t particularly remind me of a church, however a learning space.
Being present at the UN Chapel I learned in retrospective opinions about what the basic Human Rights principles were or should be. It was almost clear that Human Rights are the basic standard for living and no one small or big has the right to violate them with out just cause.

At a certain point in time at the podium stood together religious leaders from other countries. They spoke of their goals and of them, being part of a force that is making the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” known to all. Considering their different religious backgrounds from beliefs in scientology to beliefs in Buddhism for example. They all stood unified under the name of Human Rights. They correspondingly all spoke of the respect that everyone should have for themselves, their neighbors, and to their lives. “Youth of today, Presidents of tomorrow [should know] out of respect comes love and out of love comes God”.
In addition to the speakers there was also soloist Amy Harnell, who sang her own revised version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (A Classic), her, guitarist Michael Gossin and a representative from “All different Flavors” in Harlem – Jermaine Robinson. He rapped for the attendees about how hard it was growing up and how one could find himself just by believing in God.

Jermaine is one who chooses to use his artistic ability in a way, which enlightens the youth. He categorizes his rapping as… “It’s a different kind of positive rap that doesn’t just talk about a problem or “the problem” it’s like finding salvation [by identifying] the problem with a solution…People always talk about “the problem” but nothing to do about it. They talk about why they do things, but not how to make them right.” Jermaine works with two other members in “All Different Flavors” Magellan and Andre Jalil, with their power of three “ Darkness Stands No Chance”. Jermaine mentioned another reason why he does his thing rhyming is definitely to reach this generation of youth. It is more likely to have mislead, unaware, or confused youth follow the voice of a person who looks like them, that’s positive, that’s coming from the same generation and that understands their struggles and circumstances. In providing positive references, through their style, creativity and experiences in their rhymes “All Different Flavors” provides a way out. “…It’s not even about religion it’s about solving our problems through our Creator”.

After the brief ceremony at the UN Chapel I spoke to Verlene Cheeseboro from the “Church of Scientology” (Director) in Harlem, before the Summit at the UNICEF house (United Nation Children’s Fund) to ask “Why are we here?” She said, “This is the first International Youth Summit on Human Rights. Youth Delegates from all over the world have come to speak on Human Rights. [Our goal] is to educate everyone about Human rights, so children [really] know that they are our future”.

Upon entering the Conference Room the summit began with a Dance Presentation from young teens of the “Uptown Urban Dance Academy”, who were able to perform managing their space. Members Wayne Bryant and Kashawn Shand of the dance academy thought the idea of being, invited to such an informative event was “cool.”

When the Summit began Mary Shuttleworth was introduced, the director of “Youth For human Rights” as the Master of Ceremonies. “Today we are making history,” she stated as she explained the purpose of “Youth For human rights”: “To teach youth around the world about Human Rights and to promote tolerance and peace". Among the people Mary Shutttleworth introduced was Dr. Noel Brown, former director of the environmental program at the UN, who in turn had the opportunity of introducing President and Founder of “Friend of the United Nations” (one of the sponsors of the event), Irv Sanford. “What we are here to do is acquaint ourselves with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, is how he began his own commendation on Human Rights Education and Youth Awareness.

Following Mr. Sanford, who had the opportunity of introducing them, were youth delegates who wrote about their experiences with human Rights violations, in their countries. For example youth delegate Tara Fitzpatrick of Australia talked about the history of Human rights Violations in her country. She mentioned that if she hadn’t done any research she wouldn’t have realized the many Human rights Violations that occurred frequently where she lived.
Before joining “youth for Human Rights” 8 weeks ago Tara was already involved in Anti- Drug campaigns, working with thousands of youth that pledged to be “Drug Free” under the influence of her leadership. Her reason for being present at the summit was… “We are born with [rights] and hardly anyone knows we have the Universal Declaration of human Rights. We are gathered here to make it known, so people will know what Human Rights are”. Agreeing with Tara I believe that everyone should know that, they have their own rights to privacy, rights to freedom, rights to safety etc, no matter what age, gender or race.

Allison Cameron Gray is a youth delegate, who was at the summit representing children with disabilities. “I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which has created many challenges for me”, Allison began as she stood in the middle of the stage with her assistant holding her speech close enough of for her to read. Allison was able recite her speech although having some difficulties with her speech impediment. Sitting there watching Allison as she spoke of her experiences, it seemed as if we were no longer in a four wall room, however in a space where all eyes were focused on one subject which was Allison. A mouse couldn’t have entered the room without being heard during that moment of time.

Allison spoke of her experiences being disabled, and she recognized Human Rights Violations against children with disabilities. She stated… “A federal law in 1975 granted children with disabilities the right to an education. It also said that the education should be provided in their local home school. In 1994 when I was ready to start school my parents were told I belonged in a ‘Special Education Center’. My parents won the battle with the school district and I went to attend regular schools as an honor student. Education under a separate law does not follow the basic ‘free and equal rights.’ She continued to mention that everyone should be given equal opportunities because everyone is the same. Following her speech was a standing ovation. I believe we, the audience felt what she was saying, that she shouldn’t be treated differently because she’s a Human Being, even with a disability.

Furthermore to that during the Conference/Summit youth delegates Eugene Yeiersky of the Ukraine, Natasha Jain of India, Katherine Aspell of the US and Allan Agami of Mexico stated frequently the importance of the Youth For Human Rights Education. Attendees of the Conference had the opportunity of commenting on what was being said by the delegates, asking questions and receiving responses from the youth panelists as mentioned and the Adult panelist, Majarie Andrade, Allan Saunders, Rambabbu Dhakal and Hector Ortega,
There was another round of panelist, youth delegates and adults before the evening ended at the UNICEF House and afterwards a twelve year old Kylie Paige part of the video crew for “Youth For Human Rights” was delighted to have been in attendance at the event. On what she thought about “Youth for Human Rights” she stated, “It’s really an interesting subject that most people aren’t fortunate to know about, and here we are trying to tell them”.

From the responses and comments of all the youth delegates it was blatant of how crucial Human Rights is to each of their countries and themselves. "Human Rights" is a serious topic and the aim of the UN is to diffuse the importance of Human Rights Knowledge to everyone. As the goals remain the same among the youth delegates from, Sweden, China, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Ukraine, the US, India, Australia, Palestine, Canada, Bangladesh, Greece, Israel, France, Argentina and Guyana, the importance of knowledge and awareness will continue to be recognized as well.

© Copyright 2004

|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff | Support Us ||

Back to the top