Building a Human Rights Culture
Use Your talents and training to promote human rights
Poetry can promote rights as much as a policy paper. Artists can design posters, create paintings, design a photography or art exhibition or use spoken word to promote human rights or protest a rights violation. Podcasts, food as activism, and even silence is a tactic by which to promote your platform and push for change. Think beyond the scope of traditional methods to engage diverse people.
Damaris Akhigbe is a Nigerian poet, podcaster, voice actor, and youth advocate. She uses art and spoken word to promote gender equality and the rule of law. In 2019 her recitation of her spoken word, “I am Change” promoting youth leadership won a prestigious United Nations competition.
Shirien Damra, a young Palestinian American, sees art as an advocacy tool. Damra uses digital illustrations to raise awareness of injustice and to inspire others to imagine what the world could be. In the aftermath of the 2020 racially-motivated murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in the United States, Damra used her art to draw attention to the beauty of their lives and the injustice of their deaths. Describing this work as a gesture of solidarity with the Black community, Damra hopes to combat racist stereotypes and dehumanization tactics prevalent in American culture.
On your campus…
- Create participatory public art. Design a wall of positivity in a high traffic area on campus where students can contribute art and display words of encouragement to support peers affected by injustice.
- Bring artists together to create a series of original posters to raise awareness about an important human rights cause affecting members of the campus community. Individual submissions maintain the creativity and individuality of each artist while collectively promoting a unified message. Hang the posters in high traffic areas around campus. Host an exhibit opening where artists contextualize their creations and answer questions about their cause.
- Many college campuses have a campus landmark, often a campus rock which students paint with messages to serve as a billboard of student communication. At Albion College, “the rock” promotes community by advertising campus events and generating school spirit. It also communicates culture. Decorating the rock with positive messages of inclusion and change can promote rights and send a powerful message of belonging to campus peers.
- Build bridges across difference by socializing and organizing events with people from different backgrounds who hold different beliefs. Get to know one another as humans and then practice having difficult conversations about those differences.
- Celebrate the diversity of your campus and spotlight people who promote equity, justice, inclusion, and belonging.
Reproduced and adapted from Carrie Booth Walling, Morgan Armstrong, Marco Antonio Colmenares Jr., and Caitlin Cummings, “Human Rights Advocacy Toolkit,” in Human Rights and Justice for All: Demanding Dignity in the United States and Around the World (Routledge, 2022)