Human Rights Coming Home – EVENT TONIGHT

By Guest Columnist Sep 14, 2006

by Mallika Dutt For almost two decades, I attended events at The Riverside Church – after all I lived around the corner so it was easy. And each time I walked into the nave to listen or watch an amazing speaker, last one being Arundhati Roy, I dreamed about organizing an event in that awe inspiring space. And now that dream is coming true! With a forum called “Why Can’t America Have Human Rights?” which is taking place at the nave of the church on Thursday, September 14th. Two dreams are actually coming to fruition at the same time – the second of being able to contribute to a human rights movement in the United States. Having come hear at age 18 from India, I never could understand why the US had civil rights and the rest of the world had human rights. Civil rights, while being powerful, always struck me as being incomplete. How were we supposed to talk about poverty and health care and education as rights issues if civil rights was the only concept that carried any weight?

Human rights as a paradigm just struck me as being more powerful – words like dignity, justice, non-discrimination, equality – were part of that human rights lexicon. And so I have pushed and pushed for the human rights framework to gain currency in these united states of america. I have this belief that the framework can help us come together across our many issues and identities to have a common vision of what we want this country to be. And so I have been overwhelmed by the response to the Why Can’t America Have Human Rights? Forum. More than 70 organizations have come on as co-sponsors. People are calling and asking to be speakers. Folks are calling in from DC, Boston and Philadelphia to buy tickets (it is free, by the way). And no one is questioning my putting America and human rights in the same sentence. So I hope that the nave will be filled tonight – filled with people from every diversity that this country has – filled with people who believe that all those who live in America deserve to live with dignity and with human rights. Want more details? Go to