WASHINGTON – Justin Hansford, executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University, hosted a community forum and Juneteenth celebration. The event served as an introduction to the newly established U.N. Permanent Forum of People of African Descent, which Hansford was elected to last year. Members of the forum include representatives from the U.S., Colombia, Costa Rica, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Kenya, Cameroon, Egypt, Sweden and China. The event was co-sponsored by the International Student House DC and the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University.
According to Hansford, the U.N. Permanent Forum is to “serve as a voice, serve as a platform and serve as a helping hand for people who are trying to promote human rights for people of African descent throughout the entire world.” Focused on the U.S., Canada and continental Europe, one of Hansford’s major goals as a member of the forum is to make reparations for enslavement, Jim Crow and colonialism.
Leaders of civil rights organizations in the DMV area were invited to learn about the permanent forum and how to use it to have their issues heard. Special guests included Daniel Bremer-Wirtig, executive director of the International Student House and Michelle Thoren Bond, former assistant Secretary of State and first vice president of the house’s board of directors. Panelists included Clarence Lusane, professor of political science at Howard University; Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Voting Rights Project; Udodilim Nnamdi, international human rights lawyer; and Chakera Ervin, Howard law student and Thurgood Marshall Center intern.
“What the forum allows is for us to have a collective conversation as people of African descent around the world about how we are being seen in our countries. We no longer have to be solitary before the U.N., but we can build a collective voice,” said Blanco.
The celebration featured African drumming by Khem Sa Ra as well as Caribbean food from Crown Bakery and American soul food. Following introductions and a brief question-and-answer period, panelists led breakout sessions with community members. They spoke about the needs of their communities and the results they want to see from the permanent forum.
In speaking about youth involvement, rising junior at Howard University Obrian Rosario, emphasized the importance of giving students opportunities to be in positions of power and supporting their professional journeys. “The program I am in pays for my housing and transportation but not everyone is lucky enough to have that same opportunity,” he said. “Youth need compensation in order to participate, so if you want them to be involved, you have to support them in getting to the table.”
As part of the permanent forum’s mandate, Hansford will continue to host community events leading up to the U.N. annual meeting in November. The forum will also host a press conference next month to officially announce the creation of the forum. For more information, visit the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center website here.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
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