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Columnist Karen Bellavance-Grace: Campaign for human dignity in Northampton

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Monday, December 04, 2017

In honor of International Human Rights Day, the Northampton Human Rights Commission will launch a campaign supporting human dignity and a culture of civility in Northampton.

On Dec. 10, the world marks the 69th anniversary of the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here in Northampton, we will join nations and municipalities around the world to celebrate this document and its continued relevance and importance.

The preamble to the UN’s declaration begins by recognizing the “inherent dignity … of all members of the human family.” The Northampton Human Rights Commission’s mission is to promote human rights in the city of Northampton. Among the strategies the commission employs are engaging the public, waging educational campaigns, promoting model practices and celebrating accomplishments.

Our Human Rights and Dignity Campaign aims to use these strategies to engage our community in creating a culture where all members of the community are respected. While doing so, we can examine our own role in systems of oppression, as we work to build a community where we stand for and with one another.

Why are we doing this? Acts of hate and hateful language have become increasingly normalized and tolerated in public spaces across the country. We can do better. And doing better requires intention and practice.

The Northampton Human Rights Commission invites everyone to work together to create a more safe, inclusive, and equitable Northampton. As a visible sign of our commitment to those goals, we invite everyone to join us in signing a pledge committing to support the dignity of all our neighbors and the culture of civility in Northampton.

This is the text of the pledge in its entirety:

“As a member of the Northampton community, I acknowledge that bias incidents and acts of hate destroy the fabric of our community, threaten the personal and collective safety of residents and visitors to our city, and can escalate into criminal activity. I pledge to support the human dignity of all persons and a civil Northampton by refraining from disparaging other people based on who they are, and by attending to those who are the targets of such acts. I join this community effort to neutralize bigotry and support people who are marginalized and disenfranchised.”

Please join the Human Rights Commission and other city leaders on the steps of City Hall at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and commit ourselves to live in alignment with the declaration’s values right here at home.

Karen Bellavance-Grace is chairwoman of the Northampton Human Rights Commission.