Going the Distance for Human Rights
Months of training enabled these young athletes to meet the challenges of the Multathlon’s five-day, 26-mile regimen; it took them the distance with their message to Southland youth: “Unite for Human Rights”
Joining the LA Multathlon team this past December were Los Angeles area youth, Claire Kevitt (age 12) and Tyler Capp (age 15), representatives of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), an educational youth organization sponsored by the Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance.
Top: Fr. Alexei Smith, Director of Ecumenical Affairs for the LA Archdiocese, receives Youth for Human Rights plaque of appreciation, with YHRI founder Mary Shuttleworth, Prof. Ian Hall of Bloomsbury International Society and Rev. Heber Jentzsch, President, Church of Scientology International. Bottom: Youth for Human Rights members recite principles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights at LA Multathlon finale.
At the dozens of destinations over the five-day, 200-plus mile event, they rallied youth behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, handing out a special youth edition of the Declaration so peers can better understand and safeguard their human rights. For the full five days — and evenings — the team distributed English, Spanish and Korean versions of the Declaration to thousands of Southland youth.
Carrying Forth the Human Rights Message
Frequently throughout the Multathlon, Kevitt and Capp were joined by other Youth for Human Rights members to participate in planned or impromptu youth gatherings. Wherever they had an opportunity to explain the importance of human rights, they rallied youth, inspiring them to learn and understand their human rights and act to protect them.
They also made presentations of awards to people who have made outstanding contribution to preserving human rights. One recipient, Tim Watkins, President of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), received his award before the landmark “Mother of Humanity” statue, an eternal beacon of tolerance created after the 1960s Watts riots. [See “Voices of Los Angeles, Call for Unity Through Human Rights”.]
Youth for Human Rights International members who participated in these events came primarily from Palmdale, Glendale, Van Nuys, Compton, Tujunga, Pasadena, and Hollywood. But joining them in spirit were children from faraway lands whose multilingual peace and human rights messages were placed in the hollow of Multathlon team captain Mike Lomeau’s running baton.
In Pursuit of a Broader Mission
The mission of YHRI is to bring to the next generation’s awareness and knowledge of their human rights and instill in them a desire to uphold these fundamentals not just here in the United States, but in every land. Under the guidance of its director, Mary Shuttleworth, YHRI carries out this mission by sponsoring art and essay contests and projects, which offer youth all around the world an opportunity to have their voices heard or have their creative works displayed to promote human rights for all children. They also create murals projects and hold forums that bring youth of diverse backgrounds together.
Last summer, YHRI brought children and teens together from 28 nations to Brussels, Belgium, for a “Youth for Human Rights Summit,” held as part of the European Multathlon for Human Rights, a five-week, 4,000 km journey through nine countries.
Says Shuttleworth of YHRI’s mission in Los Angeles, “The LA Multathlon provided a vehicle by which, together, we created tremendous effects — effects that are almost impossible to achieve alone. We are uniting people of all ages, colors and religions under a common purpose.”
Shuttleworth, who grew up in apartheid South Africa where human rights were regularly denied to many, is a passionate advocate for human rights today. (See “She Has a Dream”.) She told LA Freedom that, from the start, the Foundation’s biggest challenge has been how to bring about the knowledge of human rights to youth. She maintains that they are the next generation who must preserve these rights.
“If adults don’t know what their human rights are, then we know for sure that children are not being taught them,” she says.
She also points out that, beyond instances of inhumane treatment of youth at the hands of adults worldwide lies an even grimmer consequence. All too often, such inhumane acts are then perpetrated by youth on their own peers, and later on their own children.
A growing list of dignitaries, community leaders, ministers and educators see eye-to-eye with the Foundation’s focus on building respect for human rights in our children — and they are quick to offer their help and expertise. One such academic supporter is the distinguished professor of the Bloomsbury International Society (for the advance of racial harmony) in London, England, Ian Hall. Professor Hall flew to Los Angeles to participate in the Multathlon — an event he called “extraordinary” — to show his support for the Youth for Human Rights participants.
Hall, the organist and music director at the University of London Church, has initiated a music CD project with Youth for Human Rights International. His contribution to the mission is to export a sing-along song called “Free and Equal,” which he says will teach six key articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to children in nations around the world.
“Youth for Human Rights is getting kids interested in standing up for themselves, for their families, for everyone on Earth,” he said. “We, as parents and educators ourselves, must take an active role in showing them that they can make a difference — in themselves, their friends, family or community.”
Adds Shuttleworth, “Above all, we want kids educating others about their human rights, and thereby becoming the world’s most valuable advocates for a future of peace and tolerance.”
For more information on this campaign, and the “What Are Human Rights?” booklets, visit www.youthhumanrights.org or e-mail YouthHumanRights@aol.com