TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot writes: On Friday, December 4th I could not have been prouder when Balboa High School Principal Susan Ritter welcomed the full house of 1,200 students, their teachers, and guests like me to what she enthusiastically described as “our 10th annual Balboa High School Assembly, that we call The World As It Could Be.” For the next hour and a half, groups of students presented their songs, dramatizations, videos, dances and spoken word performances on the human rights issues they care about, and what they want their peers and surrounding adults to consider for personal action.
It was on December 8, 2006 in this same auditorium that The World As It Could Be – A Declaration of Human Rights was presented. This original production was our first commissioned dramatization of the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), created by the Youth Performance Troupe of Destiny Arts Center and poets of Youth Speaks under the creative direction of Ellen Sebastian Chang. Personifying the UDHR, Destiny Arts student Dawon Davis began, “I am a document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” only to be figuratively shredded because of the document’s seeming irrelevance today, as articulated by poet Alicia Raquel in her Whereas soliloquy. Then, by the end of the next 40 minutes of reflections, everyone came together to manifest the document, recognizing its continuing significance.
I have seen the video of this production many, many times, and continue to be compelled and inspired by the messages of the participating youth. They knew then, as students at Balboa and those at other schools involved with our curriculum and Rite of Passage work have continued to explain, and know today, that the UDHR is a powerful framework for addressing issues that impact full achievement of equality, justice and human dignity, locally and globally.
Like so many around me, I am deeply discouraged and horrified by the recent barbarous acts of violence in Paris and San Bernardino, as well as those that have happened in Nigeria, the Philippines, Lebanon, Tunisia and too many other locations across the globe. Yet, I know that the UDHR itself came about as a result of the horrors surrounding World War II.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the UDHR provides a vital, internationally agreed-upon framework to hold ourselves, the people around us, and those in leadership positions accountable to move toward conditions that enable all people to experience the rights expressed in each of the UDHR’s 30 Articles. As Citlalli Castellon implored last May during the culminating presentation of The World As It Could Be Is Within REACH, “Read it! Study It!”
I believe strongly that we cannot let the complexities of thwarting terrorist acts or achieving greater peace among hostile groups deter us from accepting personal responsibility to take what might seem like the minutest actions to help manifest the words of the UHDR. In 2007, at the Rex Foundation, inspired by the 1983 Buckminster Fuller statement, “We can now solve all the problems of hunger and need across the world, having all the available resources and technology; all that we need is the political will,” we published the newsletter Perspectives on The Will to Change. And, as we began piloting what would become TWAICB Curriculum and Resource Guide, we commissioned the youth-led production The World As It Could Be – Where There’s A Will There’s A Way. Here’s what the Destiny Arts youth had to say about exerting the will to bring to life the words of the UDHR through their minute actions.