Kennedy Cuomo Speaks at Columbia University
Kennedy Cuomo and her powerful book Speak Truth to Power were
recently honored by Columbia University’s Center for the Study
of Human Rights in a program that emphasizes that injustices in
the world must be tackled, and committed people can make a difference.
The handsome book features compelling first-person narratives
from fifty human rights fighters from 35 countries and five continents
accompanied by haunting photographic portraits by Pulitzer Prize-winning
photographer, Eddie Adams.
Blow-ups of the moving black-and-white portraits now circle the
majestic rotunda of Columbia’s Low Library. Subjects range from
the well-known—Vaclav Havel, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama, and
Desmond Tutu—to those recognized only in their own countries,
like Kailash Satyarthi who fights child labor in India, Bruce
Harris who runs Covenant House for homeless, abandoned children
in Guatemala, and Ka Hsaw Wa who exposes abuses by corporations
and government in Burma. They all face danger because of their
advocacy and many have experienced jail and torture. As she spoke,
Kennedy Cuomo, who spent two years traveling around the world
interviewing the defenders and has worked twenty years in human
rights, reported that the book’s Juliana Dogbadze, who fights
trafficking in women in Ghana, had been jailed that morning.
Human rights receive a lot of attention at Columbia University.
The Center for the Study of Human Rights is a dynamic department
that researches, educates and advocates through an interdisciplinary
approach that includes undergraduate and graduate schools, the
law school and graduate School of International and Public Affairs.
An advocates training program annually brings fifteen young human
rights workers from the trenches for four months of course work,
field trips, networking and advocacy skills training. They come
from diverse countries that this year include Belarus, Sierra
Leone, Ecuador, Cambodia, Hungary and Burma. Their presence as
witnesses and participation in numerous university programs offer
a provocative first-hand look at far-away realities for the Columbia
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