Roberto Corona, Embrey Human Rights Program, Seattle park honors 12-year-old killed by Dallas police in 1973

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: August 30, 2015

Seattle park honors Dallas 12-year-old killed by police

At Santos Rodriguez Memorial Park, the playground draws children with its red-and-blue slides and green-and-yellow monkey bars. The lush gardens entice adults to stroll and smell the blooms. A plaque honors the memory of a boy killed by a Dallas police officer in 1973.

The irony here is that the park sits in Seattle, some 1,600 miles from the city where Santos was raised and died. In Dallas, there is no park or plaque in his honor, and that puzzles some who want that to change.

“They can do that in Seattle, but they can’t do that in Dallas,” asked Bessie Rodriguez, the 71-year-old mother of Santos, who died 42 years ago this July. READ MORE

SMU Adventures, Project Impact and Education in Guatemala

SMU Adventures

Originally Posted: August 10, 2015

Follow Jennifer, Maguire Fellow in Guatemala.

Jennifer is a senior majoring in human rights and public policy. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2015 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU for her work in community development. READ MORE.

Embrey Human Rights Program, World Affairs Council to host McCullough, Kristof

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: Aug 6, 2015

Pulitzer Prize winners David McCullough and Nicholas Kristof are among the headliners who will be speaking this fall on behalf of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth.

McCullough, the famed chronicler of American history, will discuss his latest book, The Wright Brothers, at noon Nov. 20 at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. McCullough has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor; two Pulitzers; and the National Book Award, among other honors.

Tickets are $75, and books will be available for purchase.

The council has also secured New York Times columnist and author Kristof as the featured speaker for two programs Sept. 15.

Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, won a Pulitzer for international reporting in 1990 for their coverage of the violence in China’s Tiananmen Square. He was awarded a second Pulitzer for commentary in 2006. He will discuss the philanthropic theme of his latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, which he co-wrote with WuDunn.

The Kristof event opens at 6:30 p.m. with a reception at Parish Episcopal School followed by the talk and a book signing. Tickets are $45 and include a copy of A Path Appears.

The program will be hosted in cooperation with the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University and Gendercide Awareness Project.

Earlier that day, Kristof will address a World Affairs Council luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Fort Worth Club, which is presenting the program in partnership with the council. Tickets are $75 and include a copy of A Path Appears.

A speech by a top FBI agent will open the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth’s Saturdays at the Warwick Melrose speaker series on Aug. 15.

Thomas M. Class Sr. is the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas division and a veteran of the agency’s national security efforts. The program begins with registration and continental breakfast at 9:30 a.m. followed by Class’ presentation.

The council will also present espionage writer and former CIA spy Jason Matthews in a program titled “Out of the Secrecy, Into the Novel.” Matthews’ latest thriller, Palace of Treason, is set in contemporary Moscow.

The Sept. 10 event begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception followed by a 7 p.m. program and book signing at The Highland hotel. Tickets are $40.

To buy tickets or join the council, visit or contact Gail Host at or 214-965-8413. READ MORE

Death of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez to be remembered this Friday in Dallas cemetery

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: July 23, 2015

Family and friends will gather this Friday morning to quietly honor the life of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez, who was killed by a Dallas police officer 42 years ago. The boy’s mother and others will gather for prayer and flowers at his grave in Oakland Cemetery at 9 a.m. just south of downtown.

“It seems like it happened yesterday,” said Bessie Rodriguez, his 71-year-old mother. “Poor thing, just a kid. I have dreams of him pleading for his life.”

The mother loves Elvis, the son loved Santana. The son told her he’d always protect her, the mother says. Memories like that give some balance to the brutality around her boy’s death. READ MORE

10-day SMU trip reveals Wild West myths that obscure ‘theft, deception & genocide’ for Native Americans

DALLAS (SMU) — Thirteen SMU students, faculty and staff members are traveling the American West to better understand past and present struggles of our country’s “too often-forgotten indigenous people,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the June 2-12 trip.

During the 10-day journey through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the group will visit Native American sites of what Halperin describes as “brutal military and socio-economic strife as well as cultural resilience,” including the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee area of South Dakota and the Battle of Little Bighorn site in Montana.

“Native American justice is perhaps the most fundamental – and most overlooked – human rights issue in the United States,” adds Embrey Human Rights Assistant Director Brad Klein. “This trip will raise awareness of how myths about the taming of the ‘Wild West’ obscure a history of theft, deception and genocide.”

Trip participants also will see how Native Americans are still fighting to better their communities and build a better world for the next generation, Klein says. READ MORE

American West Human Rights 2015

Thirteen SMU students and faculty and staff members will travel the American West June 2–12 to visit Native American reservations and historic sites “to study past and present struggles of our country’s indigenous people – all too often our forgotten people,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, sponsoring the trip for the first time. While visiting Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska the group will visit such places as the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana. READ MORE

Grad Ketetha Olengue: A heart-felt mission to help others

Ketetha-OlengueFor SMU graduating senior Ketetha Olengue, wearing a pacemaker isn’t a hindrance. It’s what spurs her desire to help people battling both heart conditions and “the human condition,” she says.

On Saturday, Ketetha will earn two degrees that will send her on her way to becoming a cardiologist: a B.S. in computer science from the Lyle School of Engineering and a B.A. in biology from Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences. After four successful years as a SMU President’s Scholar (a merit-based scholarship paying full-tuition and fees), Ketetha can now celebrate her acceptance into the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where she’ll receive a full-tuition scholarship.

Ketetha traces her physical and emotional strength to one of her life’s lowest moments, when, at age 9, the first of three pacemaker surgeries left her with a significant scar. Her maternal grandmother, in Burkina Faso, Africa, told her, “Do not cry. It is a souvenir.” From then on Ketetha would see her congenital heart condition “as what makes me different,” she says, “and what will help me make a difference in the lives of others.” READ MORE

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights Program, quoted in Chronicle of Higher Education about the history of student hunger strikes

Chronicle of Higher Education

The History — and Health Implications — of Student Hunger Strikes

A hunger strike at Tufts University stretched into its sixth day on Friday, with five students refusing to eat until the administration reverses a decision to lay off 20 janitors. Tufts officials say the strikers, and a larger group of students who are camping on the university quad, are free to remain as long as they comply with the Massachusetts institution’s policies.

By choosing to fast, the students have joined a long tradition of campus activism: Hunger strikes have always been part of the repertoire of nonviolent protesters, at colleges and elsewhere. The strikes can be uniquely difficult for colleges to deal with, both because of concerns over participants’ health and because there’s no playbook pointing to a clear response. Here are answers to some key questions about campus hunger strikes. READ MORE

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights, holocaust survivors shared stories last month at SMU

Texas Jewish Post

Originally Posted: April 30, 2015

DALLAS — Rosa Blum and Bernhard Storch recounted their nightmarish World War II experiences in great detail before a packed Southern Methodist University audience last week.
Blum, 86, of Dallas, is an Auschwitz survivor. Storch, 93, of New York, was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp before becoming a death camp liberator in the Polish army.
These April 23 presentations in SMU’s Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Great Hall comprised the “Reflections from Survivors & Liberators of Nazi Death Camps” event — held in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps at the end of World War II.
The evening was sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance and SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.
After Storch and Blum discussed their respective histories at length, there was no disputing the respect and wonder they had earned from their audience. It led to a standing ovation, numerous handshakes, many, many hugs — and even autograph requests.
Earlier in the evening, Mary Pat Higgins, CEO and president of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, effectively commenced the proceedings by introducing Embrey Human Rights Director Rick Halperin.
Halperin told the audience they were being afforded the rare opportunity to learn about the Holocaust firsthand from the very last generation of people to have experienced it.
Halperin went so far as to urge audience members to offer hugs to Storch and Blum after they had shared their memories of the Holocaust.
Answering a question from the audience, Blum explained how she refused to return to the place where she had faced Holocaust horrors — even at the expense of property and belongings she might have claimed on behalf of her wealthy family.
“I never went back,” she said. “I could never face that emptiness. … There is nothing, nobody there for me or my family. I know many people who went there and came back hurt. I never wanted to see that blankness. That would be the wrong thing for me. … So I never went back and I never claimed anything. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted to live it.” READ MORE