RFK Center and NYSUT launch human rights curriculum

The following is a joint media release of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and New York State United Teachers.

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and New York State United Teachers announce New York state human rights curriculum at Crown Heights school

Kerry Kennedy, Richard Iannuzzi and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy join human rights defenders from around the world to introduce pilot program

speak truth to power

CROWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. November 17, 2010 – Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), today introduced their partnership in Speak Truth to Power (STTP) – a human rights curriculum for New York state – to the students of The School of Public Service: Heroes of Tomorrow in Crown Heights.

The School of Public Service: Heroes of Tomorrow was chosen by New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, NYSUT’s New York City affiliate, and the Department of Education to pilot the STTP curriculum and introduce the students to award-winning human rights defenders from around the world.

“The STTP lessons, designed by New York state teachers, bring to classrooms the passion of those who risk their lives for human rights,” said Iannuzzi.

At today’s event, which was also attended by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, students learned about the curriculum, which includes 17 lesson plans based on the most courageous people on earth. The overall goal of STTP is to create a citizenry committed to holding its society to the highest standards of equality and justice by providing a “tool kit for change” about the protection of human rights.

Speak Truth to Power, based on Kerry Kennedy’s book of the same name, tells the stories of people who have fought for those rights around the world and provides materials to students to increase their capacity to create change.

“This curriculum provides students with a tool kit for action,” said Kennedy. “Our goal is for every student who uses this material to abandon the role of bystander and, instead, join today’s heroes as human rights defenders.”

At the morning event, students engaged with the following RFK human rights defenders:

  • Harry Wu [Profile | Lesson Plan]- a survivor of China’s Laogai (forced labor) system, exposed the system responsible for sending tens of millions of people to labor camps. He continues to bring international attention to the use of forced labor in Chinese exports. He is the founder of the Laogai Research Foundation in Washington, D.C.;
  • Ka Hsaw Wa [Profile | Lesson Plan] – founder of Earth Rights International, successfully held oil companies responsible for human rights violations committed on their behalf by the Burmese military;
  • Dr. Doan Viet Hoat - an outspoken leader of the democratic movement in Vietnam who spent more than 18 years in prison. Today, he is the president and chairman of the International Institute for Vietnam in Washington, D.C.;
  • Nancy Dorsinville – a native of Haiti where, as health advisor for President Clinton’s AIDS Initiative, she provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Health, and works to promote a human rights approach to multi-sectoral development organizations.
  • Delphine Djiraibe – one of seven female lawyers in Chad, created the country’s first public interest law center (PILC). To date, the PILC has defended the rights of more than 200 survivors of rape, domestic violence and other forms of abuse; and
  • Stephen Bradberry – founder of the Alliance Institute. Stephen is a long-time organizer from New Orleans, Louisiana. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the oil drilling disaster, Stephen has been at the forefront of helping New Orleans families return to their homes and have a voice in the recovery process of their future.

Speak Truth To Power (http://www.speaktruth.org) is a division of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (http://www.rfkcenter.org). Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (http://www.rfkcenter.org) is a nonprofit dedicated to Robert F. Kennedy’s vision of creating a more peaceful and just world. For almost 40 years the RFK Center has worked to advance the human rights movement through partnering with courageous grassroots defenders from around the world who have won the RFK Human Rights Award, some of whom are featured in Speak Truth To Power, and supporting exceptional authors and journalists whose work brings light to injustice through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards.

NYSUT (www.nysut.org), the state’s largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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