University of Minnesota
Human Rights Program

Human Rights Program.

Human Rights Program


  • Program kicks off annual lecture series focusing on “Principled Voices”

    A few weeks ago, the Program was pleased to welcome Armenian Parliamentarian, Edmon Marukyan, to the University to present the inaugural lecture, “Fighting corruption and advocating for human rights in Armenia,” of a new annual lecture series. The series “Principled Voices,” supported by the Stephen and Chacke Scallen Lecture in Human Rights Fund, is designed to highlight leaders and thinkers who distinguish themselves by carrying out their passion for human rights, cultural awareness, democratic principles, fairness, and dignity, often at great odds and great personal risk. 

    Mr. Marukyan, member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, lawyer, longtime defender of human rights and former Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Law School, spoke of the many challenges to the promotion and protection of human rights in Armenia, citing government corruption as presenting some of the most deeply entrenched challenges. While promises to tackle the corruption go largely unfulfilled, Mr. Marukyan sees strong hope and broad efforts within the parliamentary system to strengthen the democratic process. The need is great as the negative impacts of the corruption extend not only to the protection of human rights but also to the government system overall.

    Responding to various questions from the audience, Mr. Marukyan spoke of the importance of the Armenian diaspora in the United States and its supporters in using their expertise and resources - financial and otherwise - to engaging with Armenian organizations, officials and civil society. Through continued efforts inside of Armenia and with support from the diaspora, Mr. Marukayn is hopeful that lasting change can be made to root out the corruption and improve the overall environment for support of human rights.

    The Program looks forward to bringing more principled voices to campus in the future and to providing courageous human rights advocates with an opportunity to continue speaking out. Stephen and Chacke Scallen, supporters of the lecture series, are focused on shedding light on corruption in governments, businesses, churches, and other institutions that challenge the full realization of human rights and as we know too well, can often lead to the erasure or near-erasure of cultures. Chacke Scallen’s abiding interest in human rights and cultural awareness was borne out of her family’s experience of having fled the Armenian genocide. We are so grateful to the Scallens for making this lecture series possible. Stay tuned for announcements on the next lecture coming in 2017-18.

    -Written by Trish Palermo  
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  • America 2017: Photography by Trish Palermo

    After interviewing members of the Minneapolis community, Trish Palermo, UMN Junior and Human Rights Program Assistant, created the following project to reflect the candid emotion response to life in America 2017.

    "Recognize that when you say “life will go on” that’s not a reality for many. Do what you can to cope and move forward, but don’t tell other people they aren’t coping fast enough. Don’t tell people their fear is invalid. Do what you can to help. Listen to people. Use your voice. Show up and be an ally for the communities that are hurting." - Trish Palermo

    Link to full project here.
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  • Third International Conference: Local Action in Response to Migration

    Current debates about migration throughout the Central American-Mexican-United States-Canada corridors require a reexamination of the topic from perspectives that include the effective protection of human, civil, labor, and political rights. We are compelled to take into account the voices that are counteracting violence against immigrants, promoting support programs, and generating better access to public services.

    To that end, the Human Rights Program (U of M) recently joined with Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas in Mexico to host their third annual international conference, this time on the subject of local responses to migration. As new debates and trends in the local and national politics of social inclusion of migrant communities are being accompanied by the rise and consolidation of actions by civil society, including the artistic and intellectual community, the time is ripe for this interdisciplinary discussion aimed at examining the experiences arising from local action and responses to migration.

    Jill Anderson, an activist and researcher from Utah currently living in Mexico City, kicked off the conference with a keynote presentation on a project she has devoted her life to since 2012; Los Otros Dreamers. Focusing on mainly young people (high-school and college-age students), Los Otros Dreamers is a project dedicated to telling the stories of deportation, specifically of individuals who spent the majority of their lives in the United States only to be deported back to Mexico or who have chosen to return because of hardships faced in America. In words and photographs, the book that resulted from the project illustrates the struggle of immigration, deportation, and identity on the personal level of a bilingual community on the move, and the obstacles and injustices they have encountered on their journey to a better life.

    The project focuses on establishing advocacy, support, and a sense of community for undocumented individuals. Their belief in education, not criminalization is central to their cause. Los Otros Dreamers operates through providing networks of advocacy for youth affected by undocumented migration.
    In a panel on local action and actors in solidarity, Ana Melisa Pardo from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México led with a presentation on non-governmental organizations involved with migratory action, drawing attention to instances where governments do not provide adequate support or resources for individuals involved with migration, prompting non-governmental organizations have to step in.

    Continuing the conference, individuals like the University of Minnesota’s Bianet Castellanos discussed the politics of race and recognition in indigenous migration, acknowledging the frequent displacement of indigenous peoples when countries go through colonization or government overthrow, leaving them without basic human rights and representation.

    Following up on the topic of representation, Jose Aguirre and Tim Frye, graduate students from the University of Minnesota discussed Latino radio in the Twin Cities and how important representation is in establishing a voice for marginalized groups.

    This idea of representation and advocacy draws attention to a different set of problems; individuals that are set back from their educational and professional pursuits due to lack of resources and unfair legal practices, put at risk their safety, mental health and sense of identity. Throughout the rest of the conference, the identity, health, and safety of undocumented immigrants was discussed.

    In his presentation “Unable to ‘Do No Harm’”, Anthony Jimenez, a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Minnesota discussed healthcare for immigrants in Texas. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was passed with the intention of reducing the number of uninsured Americans regarding healthcare. However, this act does not apply to undocumented immigrants, and the instatement of this act has done more harm than good. According to Jimenez’s study, there are currently 373,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas, most of which do not have access to reliable healthcare. The reason for this, he examined, is that due to the Affordable Care Act, public health is being overshadowed by the private practice industry, which puts more people at risk by turning healthcare into a business instead of a lifesaving service. To combat this issue, Jimenez’s organization Justicia y Paz works to provide migrants with food, clothing, and basic healthcare.

    In concluding the conference, we marked the need for continued dialogue and engagement, especially as it relates to cross-discipline discussion and in fostering relationships between academic institutions, advocates, those individuals most significantly impacted by migration. The Program looks forward to continued engagement on these issues with our partners in Mexico and around the globe.

    ~Written by Selma Demirovich
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Upcoming Events

External Human Rights Events

  • Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop Public Reading Organized by Human Rights Scribe

    On Saturday, October 24th, the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) will hold a reading at Hamline University. The reading, organized by MFA candidate Mike Alberti as part of the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship, will feature the work of several writers currently incarcerated in Minnesota state correctional facilities. MPWW instructors will read pieces of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction on behalf of their students, and two formerly incarcerated alumni of MPWW classes will read their own work aloud for the first time. 

    This is a free reading, open to the public, so please come and invite a friend. A short Q&A and informal discussion will follow. Plus, there will be snacks! It’s sure to be a very powerful evening. We hope you can make it!

    Where:  Hamline University,
                  Klas Center, Kay Fredericks Room
                 1537 Taylor Avenue
                 St. Paul, MN 55104

    When:  Saturday, October 24th, 2015, 7:00 PM

    To learn more about MPWW and their work, please visit
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