Los Angeles gets a bad rap. It's assailed for being shallow and rarely acknowledged for its good heart. But Los Angeles has a huge heart - at the center of which is pulsating non-stop activism dedicated to ensuring all people are granted human rights. Just name any of the 30 human rights designated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I guarantee you there are groups and individuals in Los Angeles who are working to enforce them - locally, nationally and globally.
Too often Angelenos are ridiculed for overindulgence and unacknowledged for their efforts to better humankind. Yes, there are divergent communities in Los Angeles of extreme wealth and poverty, but this affliction of extremes isn't endemic to L.A. It's endemic to our world. Most nations are home to the hungry and the overfed, to huts and palaces, to the ill and the well-tended, to the free and the enslaved. These are our planet's inequities - the casualties of a world that finds convenience in ignoring when rights are usurped, and dwells on achievers of power. There's more interest when Tiger Woods falls from grace than when a child dies from hunger.
There is apathy here in Los Angeles as well, but not in the community I'm part of. Not in the community of heart-workers I watch give their lives to the service of others. I bear witness to their goodness everyday. They're the hub of love in Los Angeles - the palpating heart of the activist community that works to bring peace, sustainability and equality to this planet we share.
This past Wednesday, December 9th, that palpating heart of Los Angeles pounded loudly to the beat of humanity when the city of West Hollywood and TheCommunity.com joined forces to host the premiere screening of INVICTUS starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon at the landmark Pacific Design Center.
Pacific Design Center (photo from njrfilms)
The event was to kick off TheCommunity.com's inspired December 11th campaign to raise new awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Below is the list of the organizations participating in this event.
It's fitting TheCommunity.com served as principal host and organizer for this event featuring a film about Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela. Since 2002, TheCommunity.com has been a focal outlet to dispense information on Nobel Peace Prize winners. It has been widely successful at uniting highly recognizable celebrities with the Laureates and their causes to foster greater awareness and involvement.
It's equally fitting that the City of West Hollywood co-hosted this event. Since its inception 25 years ago, this fiercely independent 1.9 square mile city centered within the giant metropolis of Los Angeles, has been a national leader in promoting human rights. According to Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, who was instrumental in helping West Hollywood achieve City-hood in 1984:
"In its 25-year history, West Hollywood has provided leadership in the state and the nation on progressive legislation such as on LGBT issues, HIV/AIDS, gun violence, domestic violence, women's issues, and animal cruelty."
West Hollywood was a city built on rent control to provide affordable housing to its residents. From its very beginning, perhaps more than any other independent community in metropolitan Los Angeles, the City of West Hollywood has exemplified the implementation of all 30 Rights ordained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - in particular Article 7, which honors diversity and quashes discrimination, and Articles 20 and 27 which ordain the freedoms of assembly and participation in the cultural life of the community. West Hollywood can take pride in its banner of freedom.
Unfortunately, far too many of our brothers and sisters who share our planet don't share our human rights. For them the privileges and luxuries of the residents of West Hollywood aren't even a distant dream. They endure torture, defying Article 5. They are slaves and victims of trafficking in defiance of Article 4. They bear discrimination in opposition to Article 7. They have no shelter, health care and food as required by Article 25. They're denied education as guaranteed in Article 26. All across the globe, these 30 basic rights are routinely and systematically denied to millions upon millions of people.
Since 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first introduced under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, these rights have been acknowledged but not enforceable by law. To draw attention to the continued global denial of these rights, Mary Wald and Bonnie Abaunza of TheCommunity.com have launched this new campaign. In Mary and Bonnie's own words:
The drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not only envision a world where every man and woman has rights. They also envisioned a world where every man and woman had responsibility - responsibility to educate others on the rights of the UDHR, and to uphold them in their governments, in their communities, and neighborhoods.
On Friday, December 11, TheCommunity.com will launch a new campaign to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to educate the public on the articles. The website will feature actions that people can take with our partner organizations to uphold the rights outlined in the UDHR. The campaign begins with billboards displaying photos of artists and activists highlighting articles of the UDHR, throughout Southern California. It will expand through 2010 to include video PSAs with Nobel Peace Prize winners and internationally recognized artists.
One of the most important documents of our time, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands as a beacon of hope in a world where people suffer from cruelty and injustice.
If you would like to be a part of the campaign, contact us at email@example.com
As I hear of the shocking human rights abuses across our globe each day, it becomes ever more apparent that nations must standardize the principals of human rights and apply them equally to all.
Here are the words of Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu who delivered a video message Wednesday evening prior to the screening of INVICTUS, that began with the greeting "Hello West Hollywood from Johannesburg.":
"The UDHR may be to some just a document that was written a long time ago. In fact, it represents the first time our world came together to make a statement about the value and dignity of human life. The nations that had gathered in the U.N. said in one voice: "We think that all men, all men and women, are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
This voice has rippled outward for more than 60 years. It has become something that a prisoner, imprisoned for nothing more than his beliefs, can take and say, 'Look. I have rights.' A mother can look at a child and say, 'My child has a right to education.' And it has given birth to organizations like yours [those represented at the event], groups of good-willed people saying: 'I am going to spend my time making sure that these rights continue to exist in our world. I'm going to make sure a young girl gets an education. I'm going to stand up for someone whose rights are being violated.'
Friends, I've made my vow to stand up for the rights of others and for the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights across our globe. I'm only one person but I'll do the best I can. Please join in this most important cause. To get involved, please contact Mary Wald and Bonnie Abaunza at firstname.lastname@example.org