Tag Archives: human rights

Pamela Merchant

“Human Rights, Truth Telling, and Justice” Symposium

Date: Friday November 14th, 2014
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage

The Human Rights Archive is co-sponsoring a symposium that will focus on truth telling and justice in the context of human rights. The exciting list of speakers includes representatives from two of the Archive’s partners:

Eduardo GonzalezEduardo González is Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s (ICTJ) Truth and Memory Program, which provides advice to countries on truth commissions, declassification of archives, memorialization activities, museums, and other instruments. He has provided technical and strategic support to truth-seeking initiatives in places as diverse as East Timor, Morocco, Liberia, Canada, and the Western Balkans. Before joining ICTJ, he helped organize and carry out the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Previously, he worked as an advocate for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The historical records of ICTJ are also part of the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library.

Pamela MerchantPamela Merchant is the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), and an attorney with 25 years of experience in the conduct and management of complex state and federal litigation. She joined CJA in October 2005 and has overseen a period of significant growth – both programmatically and financially. Under her leadership, CJA has grown from an organization devoted solely to human rights litigation in the U.S. to one that also engages in human rights litigation in foreign jurisdictions, such as Spain and Cambodia. Ms. Merchant has testified before Congress on accountability for human rights abusers and other human rights issues and received degrees from Georgetown University and Boston College School of Law. Ms. Merchant will explore changes in the field over the past 30 years with a particular focus on the resilience of survivors and their communities and the critical role they play in building high impact human rights cases.

All sessions are open to the public. For a free lunch, please RSVP to emily.stewart@duke.edu by Thursday November 13th.

Schedule

9:00 am- Coffee and Pastries
9:30-10:30 am- Andrea Petö, “Revised and Revisionist Histories in Eastern Europe” (followed by Q & A)
10:30-11:30 am- Kimberly Theidon, “Incarnations: Legacies of Violence in Peru” (followed by Q & A)
11:45-1:00 pm- Lunch
1:00-2:00 pm- Pamela Merchant, “Truth telling, Human Rights Litigation and Resilience” (followed by Q & A)
2:00-3:00 pm- Eduardo Gonzalez Cueva, “Truth Orthodoxies: The Truth Commission Model, 30 Years after Argentina” (followed by Q & A)
3:00-4:00 pm- Roundtable discussion

Sponsored by The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center at FHI the Trent Memorial Foundation. Cosponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, Duke History Department, and Duke Cultural Anthropology.

For further information contact Patrick Stawski, Duke University patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

Logo for the National Front for Change and Democracy

Defending Haitian Rights: A Transnational Challenge

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) papers documents this NGO’s advocacy for human rights in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States. NCHR has conducted its mission reaching out to congressmen and international organizations to influence policy, using its connections and credibility to assist Haitians, whether in their individual immigration issues or as this recent discovery notes, to flee persecution in Haiti and reach safety.

 

Let’s start with a little bit of context. In 1992 Haiti democratically elected its first president ever, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was subsequently forced out of the country for about 6 months. A military regime came immediately into power. Human rights violations became more prevalent, particularly toward supporters of former President Aristide.

 

Logo for the National Front for Change and Democracy
Logo for the National Front for Change and Democracy of Haiti, found in the National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records

During this tumultuous period, three Haitian members of the Aristide’s political party FNCD (National Front for Change and Democracy) [whose names will be withheld for their protection], decided that, for safety reasons, they had no other option than to flee Haiti. They arrived in Guantanamo, Cuba which at that time was used as an immigration transit camp to assess the validity of asylum claims made by Haitians. The asylum process required an initial interview in Guantanamo that would assess whether an immigrant had a credible fear of persecution, and then a second interview in Miami that would assess whether this fear was well-grounded. The screening process was tough, as it is estimated that only 2% of Haitian applicants were granted asylum between 1980 and 1992.

 

It is in Guantanamo that the three Haitians first came in contact with NCHR. Living conditions at the camp were difficult, and several reports documented humiliating treatments, separation of families or refusal of medical care. As the founding members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, the three Haitians asked NCHR to witness and then advocate for better treatment of Haitian refugees inside Guantanamo’s camps. The three Haitians successfully passed the first step of the asylum process. However, accounts of mistreatment during the second interview in Miami, especially directed towards members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, made them refuse to submit to the second interview. Additionally, the omnipresence of the US military in the camps made many Haitians nervous about telling their stories to immigration officials.

 

Having abandoned the asylum process mid-way, the three Haitians were sent back to Haiti. Beatings by the police on their day of arrival confirmed their fears of political persecution. They decided to go into hiding and attempt to leave Haiti one way or another. They were unable to apply for asylum from within Haiti, and the American embassy was not a sanctuary. The three Haitians called NCHR for help.

 

NCHR’s strategy was first to get them into the Dominican Republic,

Logo for Radio Enriquillo, a station in the Dominican Republic
Logo for Radio Enriquillo, a station in the Dominican Republic

where the United Nations had set up a refugee camp, and then try to obtain permanent residency in the United States, Canada or another Caribbean nation. In a parallel to the American abolitionist Underground Railroad, NCHR resorted to Haiti’s own underground railroad dedicated to helping persecuted Haitians cross the border and enter the Dominican Republic. The underground railroad was managed by a priest on the Haitian side, and by a radio station on the Dominican side.

 

By means of the underground railroad the three Haitians arrived safely in the Dominican Republic. They were greeted by a team of lawyers, enlisted by NCHR to build their asylum case; further complicated by the three being HIV positive at a time when both the United States and Canada had a practice of rejecting asylum claims of HIV positive individuals unless a waiver was obtained.

 

That is the last update in the archives about the three Haitians. We do not know how significant the underground railroad was, as so far we haven’t found any other account of its use in NCHR’s archives. We also do not know whether their asylum claims have been successful, or whether they managed to get permanent residency in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, we have been able to reconstruct this story using a variety of documents present in NCHR archives: letters of the three Haitians to NCHR written in Haitian Creole, communication between NCHR’s Haiti and New-York teams in English, status reports coming from the underground railroad in Spanish, interview transcripts in French. This diversity illustrates the fact that the issue of Haitian rights encompasses much more than just the Haitian territory: the flow of refugees coming to the Dominican Republic and to the United States has made the protection of Haitian rights a multinational challenge.

Post contributed by Marie Veyrier, student assistant in Technical Services

undocumented-web

Rights! Camera! Action!: The Undocumented (Director’s Cut)

Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Full Frame Theater on the American Tobacco Campus (directions & parking information)
Contact: Patrick Stawski, patrick.stawski(at)duke.edu

Marcos Hernandez lives and works in Chicago. He came to the United States from Mexico, after a life-threatening border crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month, he sends money to his mother in Mexico City to buy medicine for his brother, Gustavo, who needs a kidney transplant. The Undocumented, by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Williams, is Marcos’s story—as well as the story of countless other migrants.

Chronicling Arizona’s deadliest summer months, award-winning documentary and fiction film director Marco Williams (Banished, Two Towns of Jasper, In Search of Our Fathers) weaves Marcos’s search with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who are fighting to prevent migrant deaths, the medical investigators and Mexican Consulate workers who are trying to identify dead border crossers, and Mexican families who are struggling to accept the loss of a loved one.

Poster for Screening of The Undocumented

In true cinéma vérité style, The Undocumented (91:00 TRT; 2013 Full Frame Honorable Mention for Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights) reveals the ongoing impact of immigration laws and economic policies on the very people who continue to be affected by them. By going beyond politics, the film also tells a story that is deeply personal.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring director Marco Williams and Duke University professor Charlie Thompson.

Rights!Camera!Action! is sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts and the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center @ FHI, and the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image.

New Acquisitions: Human Rights in the New World

In June and July we’ll celebrate the beginning of a new fiscal year by highlighting new acquisitions from the past year.  All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library! Today’s post features a key early work in the development of the concept of human rights.

Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican friar and one of the first Spanish colonists in the Caribbean, is best known today for his exposé of the horrifying treatment of indigenous peoples by Spanish settlers during the first decades of colonization.  First published in a 1550s series of tracts in Seville, the tracts represented the first argument for the rights of American Indians to be treated as fellow human beings, the first argument for the abolition of slavery in the New World, and one of the first attempts to appeal to a universal code of human rights.

The tracts, especially the sensational details of torture, abuse, and murder, spread throughout Europe as evidence of the Spanish abuse of power in the New World.  The Library’s new acquisition is the first Latin translation and first illustrated edition of Las Casas’ text, entitled Narratio Regionum Indicarum per Hispanos Quosdam Devastarum Verissimi…published in Frankfurt in 1598.  The work features a powerful series of eighteen copper engravings by Theodor de Bry, depicting abuses of the native peoples.

casas-narratio_regionvm-1598-02blog
Image courtesy Dorothy Sloan Books.

De Bry never visited the New World, and the images can be seen as prime examples of the “Black Legend” of sensationalistic, anti-Spanish (and anti-Catholic) propaganda used to curb the might of the Spanish empire.  This edition of the work of Las Casas advocating for basic human rights for the native populations of the Americas was wildly popular and influential, thanks in part to the images, which retain some of their original power to shock and provoke thought about the treatment of the original inhabitants of the New World.

casasburning
Image courtesy Dorothy Sloan Books.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

IMI records, box PH1, Tutsi Refugee Camp, Nov 93(for blog)

Radio in the Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan audiotapes of the International Monitor Institute (IMI) records are comprised almost entirely of the transcripts of radio broadcasts translated from Kinyarwanda into French and English. These are the broadcasts which aired in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April through early July of that year and in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred. The genocide was triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. An IMI piece on radio as a tool of genocide (available in the organizational records) summarizes these events: “His plane was shot down on his return from Arusha, Tanzania, where he met with RPF leaders and signed an agreement further limiting his regime’s hold on power (known as the August 1993 Arusha Accords).”

220px-Juvénal_Habyarimana_(1980)
President Juvénal Habyarimana

During colonization from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the German and Belgian colonial elite manufactured a native elite in the Tutsis, a process of colonization that Franz Fanon describes in The Wretched of the Earth. Hutus thus experienced discrimination in education and various sectors of the economy. In 1959, Hutus took control of Rwanda following the independence movement, forcing many Tutsis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) comprised of exiled Tutsis, invaded Rwanda, initiating a civil war. Habyarimana’s assassination resulted in an escalation of Hutu anxiety that the Tutsis would seize power of the government and that discrimination against Hutus would be reestablished.

Radio became a powerful weapon used to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide. The majority of radio broadcasts in the Rwandan audiotapes collection are from the privately-owned Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). What I found especially interesting about the content of these broadcasts (the transcripts of which can be found in the IMI organizational records and the audiotapes of which can be found in the Rwandan Videotapes and Audiotapes inventory) was the way in which its efforts to direct the extermination of the Tutsi population was paralleled by its efforts to claim authority over the telling of history. The radio broadcasts reveal a struggle over who gets to tell history and, therefore, a struggle over a monopoly on truth. In other words, the RTLM broadcasts exhibit a phenomenon which seems to be more universally true, which is the political necessity of storytelling.

There are a few particularly conspicuous aspects of the history-telling of the RTLM broadcasts, one being the discourse of revelation or enlightenment – the idea that if we only peel back the layers, we can finally see the truth. And this encounter with the truth is the basis for political action, or, in this case, the basis on which genocide becomes justified. “Slavery,” for example, is a term that is repeated throughout these broadcasts. Several journalists recall the state of Hutu slavery during colonization in order to characterize the discrimination Hutus experienced. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts attempt to illuminate the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. Freedom from slavery, according to this narrative, lies in the ability to discover the true history and nature of that discrimination, in opposition to the stories of the colonizers and the native elite. For the same reason, I’m less interested in the truth or accuracy of this, or any, construction of history than in the need and tendency to construct history more generally.

In one broadcast which aired on April 12, 1994 (6 days after Habyarimana’s assassination),[ii] Georges Ruggiu gives his audience a history lesson. He evokes Tutsi discrimination against Hutus in the colonial educational system and the ways in which the Germans and Belgians perpetuated this discrimination. Ruggiu situates the RPF’s efforts to seize power in Rwanda and oppress Hutus within that context. “Now we are going to continue with history,” he begins one segment. He goes on to describe how Hutus, beginning with the first school for Tutsis in 1917, were denied education and how, as a result of this denial of access, the Hutu became slaves to the Tutsi “who, according to the colonial legend, were born to rule.” I suspect that Ruggiu does not understand Hutu slavery as merely metaphorical. The discourse of slavery in these broadcasts seems to represent Hutu slavery as naked reality; that is, these broadcasts understand historical Hutu slavery to be literal. Indeed, in the segment that follows, Ruggiu draws on historical documents that testify to the fact that historically “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved Hutu people.”

Listen to an excerpt of this broadcast here.

In a second broadcast from April 17, 1994 (11 days after the assassination), journalist Agenesta Mukarutama leads a roundtable discussion about how the RPF seeks to return Rwanda to its pre-revolutionary time in which the Tutsi commanded and the Hutu obeyed. “But,” the broadcast tells us, “Rwandans have learned their history and are ‘saying no’ to a repetition of history.” Genocide is perceived as the only way to break out of an historical cycle of discrimination and oppression. Murego argues that “what it [the RPF] did not understand is a lesson from history. In fact, the political skeleton before ‘59 is clear: Some people command and others obeyed, and the RPF inserted its objectives in that scope . . . Since the conditions have changed, there is now no way to impose oneself as it was before . . . what happened is that it is a genuine restoration of the former reality where some people commanded, you understand who, and others have learnt to say ‘no.’ That is where the president of the PL [le Parti libéral] has made an important statement: ‘those who are saying no today, they are saying no considering their history, the history of their country . . .’” (emphasis is mine).

IMI records, box PH1, Tutsi Refugee Camp, Nov 93(for blog)

By suggesting that “there is now no way,” that is, that it would be either impracticable or unbearable for Rwanda to return to a pre-revolutionary state governed by colonial structures, Murego essentially makes a philosophical statement about history – not just what the content of that history is, but more specifically, the temporality in which revolutionary history operates. The Rwandan genocide here is not just a “saying no” to Tutsi rule; it is a “saying no” to a particular conception of the temporality of history that stands in opposition to the revolutionary conception of history. Murego’s argument, here, seems to be that the RPF does not understand how historical time actually works. Ngirumpatse, a participant of the roundtable, follows this up:

“First thing, at the risk of disappointing many Rwandans, especially the educated people, I have always considered the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history. No any people make a revolution just once. France has made a Revolution, it had two or three restorations, it took 100 years for the Republic to impose itself. When I say Republic, I mean the power of people.  . . . So I consider the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history.” Ngirumpatse makes this claim repeatedly:  “I consider the Arusha agreements as an exception in history.”

Ngirumpatse refers to the Arusha Accords as exceptional insofar as they are exceptionally generous; this generosity, it seems, arises from the mistaken belief among Rwandans that their revolution was finished once and for all. But again, what is more interesting to me is the temporality of the historical discourse within the broadcasts themselves – the repetition of the insistence that history cannot and will not repeat itself.

Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
Hanukkah card sent to Marshall Meyer by Débora Benchoam, November 1981.  From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

Celebrating Freedom from Persecution for Hanukkah

Hanukkah card sent to Marshall Meyer by Débora Benchoam, November 1981. From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

The Hanukkah celebrations of 1981 were especially meaningful for Débora Benchoam and Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer.  Benchoam had just been released from four years of brutal imprisonment during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” thanks in large part to the efforts of Meyer.  She sent this card to Meyer on 26 November 1981. The card and the letter it contains have been digitized and are available for viewing in Duke’s Digital Collections.

This card is held in the Human Rights Archive‘s Marshall T. Meyer Papers, documenting Meyer’s tireless human rights activism.  To learn more about the story of Benchoam and Meyer, see the online exhibit “I Have No Right to Be Silent: The Human Rights Legacy of Marshall T. Meyer” and this 2009 interview with Benchoam.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Opening from the newly acquired manuscript of the Dala'il al-Khayrat.  Arabic in Maghrebi script.

New Acquisitions Week, Day Three: Calligraphic Devotion and Haitian Rights

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  •  Kitab Dala’il al-Khairat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salah ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar [Guidebook of Benefits and Illuminations of Prayers to the Chosen Prophet].  The Dala’il al-Khairat of al-Jazuli (Al-Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Sulaymana, d. 1465) is one of the most popular devotional works in Islam, comprising a cycle of prayers to the prophet Muhammad.  The manuscript now at Duke is Arabic written in the Maghrebi script, and likely was created in North Africa in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.  The manuscript also contains other prayers and devotional texts.  Its calligraphy and ornamentation are beautiful witnesses to a text of surpassing importance in the Muslim faith.
Opening from the newly acquired manuscript of the Dala’il al-Khayrat. Arabic in Maghrebi script.
  • National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records: This organization is dedicated to furthering the civil and international human rights of the Haitian community in the US and helping influence US policy over Haiti to support human rights.  In over 146 linear feet of material, the records document the activity of the Coalition from 1981 to 2003.  This adds to a growing collection of material in the Human Rights Archive related to human rights in Haiti; see the Human Rights Archive’s LibGuide for more information on other collections related to human rights in Latin America.

Previous posts:

 

Boys playing drums in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95.  From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

Haitian Children in Guantanamo

Boy with fish in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

We recently completed processing the Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) Records. Formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), AIJ is a not-for profit legal organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including those being held at various detention centers, such as Guantanamo, Krome and Turner Guilford Knight. The majority of the material in this collection deals with the Haitian refugee population in Florida. Two aspects of this collection struck me. First, while this collection contains material that addresses the Haitian refugee crises from a broader political and historical perspective, it is notable for the quantity of material it contains that focuses on the stories and testimonies of individual refugees, in their own words, in documents such as affidavits and correspondence.

The second aspect of this collection that struck me as particularly interesting is the amount of material it contains on children – child refugees and detainees, children seeking asylum, children stranded in Haiti, and especially unaccompanied minors. As I became more familiar with this collection, I became especially interested in the detained child as both a fact and an idea. Sifting through accounts both by and about children of their emotional, mental, and physical experiences in detention, I began to wonder how the search for asylum and subsequent detention is conceived of by children.

The reason why this subject fascinated me is because of the strong incongruity in the idea of the child, on the one hand, and the idea of imprisonment of any kind, on the other, an incongruity that suggested to me that accounts of children in detention might uniquely illuminate how we think about detention and refuge. We often associate children with places of refuge, with a powerful need for and unique faculty to find or construct places of refuge. One example of this faculty is play. As I looked through photographs of and read testimony by children detained at Guantanamo, I began to wonder what place “play” has in detention, in homelessness, and in lack of refuge.

Boy holding guitar in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

The subset of documents about which I am writing are dated from around the early and mid-1990s, during and following the campaign of terror against Aristide supporters. One must bear in mind that the majority of Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo at this time were forcibly returned to Haiti where their lives were imperiled (5,000 Aristide supporters were estimated to be killed in 1993). In fact, many of the children detained at Guantanamo were unaccompanied for precisely this reason – their parents or caretakers had been killed in Haiti during this period. As the AIJ Records reveal, many of these children, upon repatriation, were thus compelled to eke out a living on the streets.

So, how does the child reconfigure the way we conceive of detention? Three photographs from the Photographic Materials Series caught my attention. After I selected them, I asked myself why I had been drawn to them, and I realized that in each, a child or children were holding some kind of object – a fish, makeshift drums, a guitar.

I considered these photographs against the written testimony about and by children detained at Guantanamo (information packets, emergency action requests related to medical conditions, correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.). The written documentation described abuses, including rape, that were committed at Guantanamo against women and children. Child detainees, not surprisingly, wrote of their desperation and depression (their own words), and observers of these children offered similar accounts. Yet, these children not only subsist at Guantanamo but also, as the photographs above communicate, find ways to play. It is not difficult to perceive a form of resistance in their play, in their insistence upon occupying places that we cannot envision as inhabitable. I was likewise captivated by the photographs in which children are holding objects because they seem to me to manifest the construction of places of refuge within displacement and dispossession. The subjects in these photographs seek asylum in the objects themselves. There is something about gripping an object, possessing that object, that also solidifies the reality of oneself – and this in a place in which that very reality is relentlessly objected to – in abuse, obscurity, neglect, remaining unheard.

Boys playing drums in Guantanamo Camp #9, ca. 1994-95. From the Americans for Immigrant Justice Records.

Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.

Meredith Tax, taken by Miriam Berkeley

A Decidedly Feminist Taxonomy: Meredith Tax Comes to the Sallie Bingham Center

Meredith Tax, taken by Miriam Berkeley
Meredith Tax, taken by Miriam Berkeley

The personal and professional papers of writer, organizer, and leading women’s movement activist Meredith Tax came to the Sallie Bingham Center in 2010. To celebrate the acquisition of this extensive collection the Center will host a symposium in Tax’s honor on April 13 and 14 called Acting Across Borders: The Future of the Feminist 1970s. Along with Meredith Tax, distinguished African scholar and activist Patricia McFadden will present the keynote address of an event that aims to grapple with how the interventions and methodologies of the women’s liberation movement inform current and future social justice movements. In anticipation of her trip to Duke, Meredith took a few minutes to share her reasons for putting her papers here and to give a sense of what people can expect to learn at the symposium.

Why did you decide to put your papers in the Bingham Center?

I investigated several feminist archives and chose the Bingham Center because it had a much more energetic and activist approach to archival work than I saw elsewhere. I want my papers to be used not only by scholars but by young people who want to learn from the history of earlier social movements. Because the Bingham Center does outreach to inform students about its collections and gives fellowships for researchers to work in its archive, I think my papers will be most accessible there.

What would you tell students about the upcoming symposium celebrating your work?

We are at the dawn of a period of increasing political activism. Attendees at this symposium will learn from the life stories of people who shaped the women’s movement here and internationally. Speakers will talk about their own work and life experiences. They will discuss the way issues of race and class impacted the relationship between feminism and the left, the development of ecofeminism and international women’s movements, and the centrality of questions of sexuality, gender, and LGBT rights. Feminists from Southern Africa, Algeria, and India will discuss their own rich and complex confrontations with sexism, nationalism and religious fundamentalism. These stories will show that, contrary to the right wing myth that feminists are white middle class women who are just out for themselves, feminists in the US and elsewhere have always grappled with issues of race and class, war and peace, nationalism and the environment, and that these efforts continue from one generation to the next.

Frances Ansley and Meredith Tax at a Bread & Roses-organized protest in 1970. Ansley will also speak at the upcoming symposium.
Frances Ansley and Meredith Tax at a Bread & Roses-organized protest in 1970.

What are some of the topics you plan to address in your keynote speech at the symposium?

I will tell the story of my life, from a childhood shaped by the sexism of the 50s to the early days of the Boston women’s movement, battles within the left and my own struggle to overcome the ignorance resulting from class and race privilege, my participation in the reproductive rights movement, and my work in International PEN (Postsecondary Education Network International) as part of a global movement for women’s human rights which must go on in this new period to link the struggle for social and economic justice and sustainability with the fight against all forms of fundamentalism.

For more information on Meredith Tax, check out her website. And be sure to register here to come to the Acting Across Borders symposium on April 13 and 14, 2012. Registration is free and open to the public!

Interview with Meyer, 5 February 1984. From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

New Digital Collection: Marshall T. Meyer

Interview with Marshall Meyer published on 5 February 1984. From the Marshall T. Meyer Papers.

Duke University Libraries announces the publication of the Marshall T. Meyer digital collection (available at http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/
meyermarshall/
) which documents the human rights activism of the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer in 1970’s and 1980’s Argentina.  The digital collection is a subset of the Marshall T. Meyer papers held at the Rubenstein Library.

Marshall Meyer was an activist rabbi who expounded a politically engaged Conservative Judaism. After being ordained rabbi in 1958, Meyer and his wife moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1959, where they were to stay until 1984. Meyer led the reinvigoration of Argentina’s Jewish community and lived and fought through the political upheavals and turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, openly speaking out against the human rights abuses perpetrated under the rule of the military junta, and visiting and attempting to secure the release of prisoners who were unlawfully incarcerated. After the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, Argentine President Raul Alfonsin recruited Meyer to serve on the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP in Spanish), which led a national investigation to establish the extent of the abuses suffered under the military junta.

Meyer returned to the United States in 1984 and took over the helm of congregation B’nai Jeshurun, reviving the decaying New York City synagogue and transforming it into a dynamic center for Judaism in the United States. Meyer advocated for inter-religious dialogue and peace efforts, the plight of marginalized groups within the United States, against human rights abuses in Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala), and for peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine.

The items in the Marshall Meyer digital collection focus on his work in Argentina on behalf of human rights.  Approximately 6 linear feet of paper documents were digitized and individually cataloged. The digital collection contains 1,025 items including correspondence, project files, subject files, publications, and other documents.  The web portal allows researchers to access individual documents via subject, document type, date, language, and titles.  Future enhancements to the collection will include addition of archival descriptions and access and the addition of a/v material.

The Marshall Meyer digital collection is complimented by two other digital initiatives:  the on-line exhibit: “I Have No Right to Be Silent, The Human Rights Legacy of the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer” ( http://exhibits.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/ihavenorighttobesilent ) produced by The Duke Human Rights Archive in partnership with the Duke Human Rights Center and the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke, and the Fondo Marshall Meyer (http://www.memoriaabierta.org.ar/bases/opac/fondos/meyer/index.html ) produced by Memoria Abierta.

Post contributed by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.