SMU Adventures: Working with the FARDC

SMU Adventures

Originally Posted: July 26, 2016

Lindsay G. is a rising senior majoring in international studies and human rights. This summer she traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Army ROTC for closer study of the country’s culture and language.

Lindsay1-e1469546975476-600x392This week began with quarantine in our hotel due to political unrest throughout the country. This was extremely fitting since this next week we were going to be working with the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Day 1 we went to the military school for English language, which aimed to help soldiers in the FARDC learn basic English. At the language school we got the opportunity to meet officers in the FARDC who had been given the opportunity to come to San Antonio to learn English at the Defense Language Institute. These gentlemen (no women were given the opportunity to go) spoke perfect English, and prided themselves on knowing various aspects of American culture that only a native would know. During our time at the English Institute we gave classes in basic Army doctrine in hopes of helping to improve the basic functions of the Congolese military. All of the soldiers of the FARDC were eager to learn about the functions of the U.S. Army, and took great pride in their country when we attempted to teach the class in French, their national language.

The next day we headed to the Logistics School of the FARDC, where soldiers learn basic skills including mechanics, field first aid and cooking. The U.S. Army heads this school, and we were able to meet two U.S. soldiers who had been deployed to the Congo for over a year in the hopes of ensuring this school functions properly. They gave us a tour of the grounds and introduced us to the staff and students of the school. The Congolese general in charge of this school proved to be a complete juxtaposition for how the rest of the country worked. While most of the log school was without power and had little airflow, the Generals quarters had air conditioning, a TV and cold drinks for his guests. This experience was the most eye-opening moment of the whole trip because the power structure of the country was highlighted and made very apparent.

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After tragic week, community leaders take ‘Unified Steps Forward’ at ‘Human Rights Dallas’ summit

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: July 14, 2016

By Denise Gee

DALLAS (SMU) – It had been planned months in advance, but when hundreds of city and county leaders gathered at SMU July 9 for the first “Human Rights Dallas” summit, the city was openly grieving the July 7 murders of five police officers in downtown Dallas after what had been a peaceful protest march. That march was in response to controversial police shootings of two African American men in Louisiana and Minnesota – incidents that had produced anger, anxiety and grief.

In taking “unified steps forward,” Embrey Human Rights Program (EHRP) Director Rick Halperin emphasized his event’s goal would not be “to focus on your work, or my work, but our work – to ensure everyone is afforded human dignity, protection and advocacy of their inherent rights.”

What resonated most for “Human Rights Dallas” participant Toya Walker, a senior-level paralegal for SMU and the Sabre Corporation, “was getting to openly share thoughts on what a human rights culture could look like, and how we, as a diverse group, could make it a reality.”

During larger group discussions and smaller breakout sessions guided by innovative coaching from Journeyman Ink, attendees tackled issues and solutions related to concerns ranging from human trafficking crimes to racial, sexual and religious discrimination.

Leaders from business, law enforcement, education, faith, non-profit and other groups expressed overwhelming support “for an official referendum to establish human rights as a top-level concern for Dallas government leaders,” said EHRP Assistant Director Brad Klein. “We also would like to see a public forum for citizens to regularly address their concerns with people who actually can do something about them.”

Summit participants vowed to continue the dialogue by staying connected via social media outlets and creating educational opportunities that could start with initiatives as small as a neighborhood gatherings for coffee and conversation.

The ultimate question, met with resounding applause, was posed by Tri-Cities NAACP Director Carmelita Pope-Freeman, who summarized the feelings of those at her table: “How can we replace fear with empathy?”

While the timing of the long-planned “Human Rights Dallas” event came on the heels of tragic circumstances, Walker said, “I believe it awakened the soul of Dallas and America to know human rights matter.”  Leaving the event motivated and inspired, she added, “I believe we have an opportunity to truly enable the change the world so desperately needs.”

Progress on “Human Rights Dallas” efforts will be shared via future EHRP communications and also at its “Triumph of the Spirit” Awards event Nov. 16 at the Kessler Theater in Dallas. The celebration will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the program at SMU — only the seventh university in the nation to offer an undergraduate degree in human rights and also a master’s level degree in human rights and social justice. READ MORE

For more details about the Embrey Human Rights Program within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, contact humanrights@smu.edu, 214-768-8347 or visit.

First ‘Human Rights Dallas’ summit set for July 9

SMU News

Originally Posted: July 7, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – Texas may lead the nation in job creation and exported goods, but in human rights rankings, it holds these five dubious distinctions:

  • Texas has the largest number of hate groups espousing racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBT sentiments. (Conversely, it’s home to the nation’s largest number of resettled refugees/asylum seekers, mostly from Myanmar, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.)
  • Texas ranks second in the nation for human trafficking crime, which is on the rise.
  • Texas leads the U.S. in the number of people exonerated by wrongful convictions while
    also leading in the number of state-sanctioned executions.
  • Texas ranks high in the number of children who die from abuse and neglect – and is the
    No. 1 state for hot car-related fatalities involving children and infants.
  • Texas is home to the nation’s largest number of people without health insurance.

Alarmed by such statistics, some 300 Dallas-Fort Worth community leaders are expected to gather at SMU Saturday, July 9, for “Human Rights Dallas”– the first-ever summit focused on highlighting and resolving Dallas’ most pressing human rights issues. The summit is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in SMU’s Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom in Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer St.

“The goal of ‘Human Rights Dallas’ is to create a culture for people in for-profit and non-profit fields to not only get involved in issues they care about, but also to form a coalition dedicated to ensuring all people’s rights are protected,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the event’s sponsor.

The attendee roster reflects leaders in regional business, faith, health and education organizations as well as groups working to combat human trafficking; prevent racial, religious and sexual-orientation discrimination; strengthen immigration and refugee rights; and tackle the surging numbers of the mass-incarcerated and homeless.

Texas’ large number of hate groups is of particular concern to Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

“Currently there are 84 active hate groups in the state, 56 of which are Neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups – 11 of them in North Texas,” Higgins says. “As the country faces this dramatic incline, there’s no better time to come together to promote human rights in our community.”

Paralegal Toya Walker hopes the event accomplishes three goals: “Awareness, education and action to get people motivated, inspired and involved,” says Walker, who provides counsel on compliance/employment issues for SMU and the Sabre Corporation.

The ideal end-result? “Transformation and healing,” says Jill VanGorden, director of education for the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

For more details about “Human Rights Dallas” or the Embrey Human Rights Program in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, contact humanrights@smu.edu.

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SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program Partners up for Peace Day Dallas 2016

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: June 22, 2016

Peace Day Dallas 2016 will be bigger and better than ever, organizers announced at a kickoff event Wednesday at Dallas City Hall. The celebration will be from Sept. 16-21 and include events across the city.

Several partners have already stepped up, including Dallas City Hall, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, Jesuit College Preparatory School, SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, Peace is Possible, the Zain Foundation and 29 Pieces.

Council member Adam McGough and wife Lacy will serve as chairs.

Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke at the kickoff before he signed a Respect Pledge.

“The spirit of the pledge is exactly what we need,” Rawlings said. “This will help with the terrible scourges in the United States and in our own backyard.”

He praised Karen Blessen of 29 Pieces for her involvement. Blessen introduced students who held round “Respect” posters that will be placed throughout the city as part of the celebration. Blessen also covered Dallas in “Love” posters during the city’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

To learn more, visit peacedaydallas.com.

Congratulations to John Kalkanli, graduating in May with dual degrees in International Studies and Markets and Culture with a minor in human rights

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.26.05 PM

This week we are sharing some powerful SMU stories from the class of 2016… John Kalkanli has never seen the campus of SMU, but he says he loves it none-the-less. John Kalkanli is blind. Born in Turkey with a disorder that robbed him of his sight from day one, his family brought him to Dallas six times in his first five years of life to attempt surgeries they hoped would make him see. None of the surgeries worked, but eventually he found something else in Dallas – a future home at SMU. After Kalkanli graduates in May with dual degrees in International Studies and Markets and Culture with a minor in human rights, he will enroll in SMU’s Masters of Liberal Studies program with a focus on human rights. After that, he hopes to work for an international human rights organization like Amnesty International or the International Rescue Committee. Congratulations John, we look forward to watching as you change the world. Read more of John’s story at the link in profile. #smugrad

A photo posted by SMU (@smudallas) on May 10, 2016 at 3:21pm PDT

Leading Lady: Jenny Torres, Interim President of SMU’s Multicultural Greek Council

HC at SMU

Originally Posted: April 23, 2016

SMU is proud to be home to world changers, and it all starts with the moment a student decides to become a leader. We are proud here at Her Campus to present SMU’s Leading Ladies, taking charge and making a difference in the community.

This week, we got to know senior Jenny Torres, a human rights and public policy student who is also the interim president of the Multicultural Greek Council. Recently, she was honored with two Hilltop Excellence Awards: the Emme V. Baine Legacy and A. Kenneth Pye Outstanding Greek Leader Awards. Receiving two honors in one night is fitting for a woman who seems to do everything at once. READ MORE

Dedman College alumna Lisa Walters is working for the educational nonprofit Global Citizen Year in Ecuador, where a deadly quake hit

SMU News

Originally Posted: April 20, 2016

SMU Aluma in Ecuador and SMU police officer dad grateful for far-reaching support after quake

Lisa-Walters-in-Quito

DALLAS (SMU) – Everything Lisa Walters learned from earning recent SMU degrees in human rights and Spanish is being put to the ultimate test in Ecuador. She was about to board a plane back to her home in the South American country Saturday, April 16, when she learned Ecuador had been struck by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Lisa, the daughter of SMU Assistant Chief of Police Jim Walters, moved to Ecuador a week after her May 2014 graduation and now works as a team leader for the educational nonprofit group Global Citizen Year (GCY), a program that provides study abroad opportunities for young men and women in their “gap” or “bridge” year between high school and college. She was changing planes in Houston, on her way back to Quito after escorting a group of GCY students to California, when she learned the quake had killed hundreds, injured thousands, and left some 40,000 people searching for shelter, food and family members.

At the time, her usually unruffled police officer father was, “to be honest, frantic,” he says.

Since he and his daughter are close, they communicate almost daily by email or via the international–calling WhatsApp service. Chief Walters worried about her heading to Quito, which had closed its airport to allow in only flights carrying relief supplies.

After the duo connected during Lisa’s delay in Houston, she checked in as “safe” on Facebook –

much to the relief of her 687 friends on the social media network and her Ecuadorean husband of less than three months. Meanwhile, countless people were contacting Chief Walters to inquire about his and Lisa’s wellbeing.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling to hear from so many people, especially at SMU, who showed just how much they care about us,” he says. “It was heartwarming to say the least.”

As Lisa and her father connected with family members and friends during a multi-hour delay in Houston, her flight was finally cleared to return to Quito. But once there, she would spend nearly another full day trying to get a seat on a bus to take her to her home, three hours away in the Imbabura province that borders hard-hit Esmeraldes. READ MORE

 

 

Embrey Human Rights Program’s “Evening With Kang Il-Chul and Lee Ok-Seon”

SMU News

Originally Posted: April 20, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – During World War II, the Japanese military abducted, tricked or coerced as many as 200,000 women for use as sex slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women.” Most were from occupied Korea, with others from China, Southeast Asia and Europe – and two-thirds were killed or died after their abuse.

In a rare U.S. appearance, two of the survivors will be at SMU on Friday, April 22, for the Embrey Human Rights Program’s “Evening With Kang Il-Chul and Lee Ok-Seon,” held in partnership with Seoul, South Korea’s House of Sharing, an assisted living home where Il-Chul and Ok-Seon and five others find support.

The free public event will begin with a 6:30 p.m. reception featuring Korean food and dance tributes, followed by a 7:15 p.m. discussion in McCord Auditorium, Room 306 of Dallas Hall, 3225 University Blvd.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those in the SMU and Dallas community to hear two of less than 50 surviving victims of Japanese military sexual slavery,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. “Their powerful stories of exploitation and courage deserve to be heard – and the atrocities inflicted on them remembered and never repeated.” READ MORE

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights, worldwide executions surge to highest levels in 25 years

Huffington Post

Originally Posted: April 5, 2016

Worldwide use of the death penalty rose sharply last year, with 2015 tallying the highest number of executions in 25 years, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.

At least 1,634 people were executed last year, according to available data as well as executions corroborated by the international human rights group.

The number, which is more than double the 2014 total, is a conservative estimate: Countries currently in conflict, like Syria, were not included since their data could not be corroborated, nor were specific numbers from China, where such data is considered a state secret. China alone is believed to carry out executions that annually number in the thousands.

“The rise in executions last year is profoundly disturbing,” Amnesty International’s Secretary Salil Shetty said in a statement. “Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world.”

Despite the high rate of global executions last year, the number of countries that have the death penalty is growing smaller by the year. Fiji, Madagascar, the Republic of Congo and Suriname all abolished the death penalty in 2015, while Mongolia’s abolition takes effect on July 1.

At least 60 other countries that still have the death penalty but have not used it in a decade are what the United Nations considers “de facto abolitionists.” READ MORE