Truth Commission to document local human rights violations

(Plain Press, January 2006) “The deadliest form of violence is poverty”-- Mahatma Gandhi

Cleveland will have the distinction of holding the first Truth Commission in Northeast Ohio on January 14th, 2006 from 10 a.m.  to 1 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral, East 22nd and Euclid Avenue (parking off Prospect). The purpose of this event is to address local human rights violations as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as signed by the United States in 1948.

The declaration sets forth a specific listing of our human rights. Among those named are: Article 19, Everyone has a right to communication; Article 23, everyone has a right to food, clothing, medical care and housing; Article 25, Everyone has a right to food, clothing, medical care and housing; and, Article 26, every one has a right to a basic education.

Historically, truth commissions held in various parts of the world have shed light on the sufferings and exploitation of poor people across the world. They have been an integral part of positive change in South Africa, Peru, Argentina and Chile as well as other countries with a history of economic violence toward the poor.

The North East Ohio Poor Peoples Human Rights Coalition is sponsoring The Truth Commission. Among the groups in the coalition are Organize Ohio, the Empowerment Center, the May Dugan Center, United Clevelanders Against Poverty, Merrick House and the Deaf and Deaf-Blind Committee on Human Rights.

Many of us know that there are many in Northeast Ohio who are unable to exercise these rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also know that little is said about this. That is why we are having a Truth Commission. A Truth Commission is an organized forum set up to expose the harsh conditions of existence of desperate poor people who are violated, stepped on and trampled. In addition, it also exposes the perpetrators who too often hide behind policy, position and privilege.

The Truth Commission puts a face on both the victim and the real cause of the problem. This forum offers poor people a place to tell the truth about what is happening in their home, neighborhood, city and world. They tell their story in two ways. They can present oral testimony on January 14th to a panel of Truth Commissioners from our community. They can also present written documentation prepared beforehand to the Commissioners.

The Truth Commissioners are upstanding people in the community; invited to participate by grassroots people in the community. They can be religious or labor leaders, activists and every day community residents. Their responsibility is to listen attentively to the testimony presented, deliberate and make a statement about the conditions revealed in the stories of the people.

A core of volunteers in the community will gather information. It can be a visual and/or a written experience of people who have been down sized, out sourced, cut off welfare rolls, evicted, denied health care, unable to find affordable housing, gone without food, running water and/or heat. The documented human right can be a photograph, a filled out form, a poem, a song, a painting, a narrative or any combination of these things.

We want our third world reality heard and our faces/images shown.

If you want to provide written testimony or if you are interested in providing oral testimony, call Tim Walters at the May Dugan Center at 631-5800 or Larry Bresler at Organize, Ohio at 431-6070. Of course, you are welcome to come and listen to the Truth Commission. We truly want the community to be part of this global movement for human rights.


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