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Spotlight on Katrina and Human Rights Issues

October 16, 2006

New Wave staff

Ajamu Baraka, executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN), will speak tonight (Oct. 16) at Tulane University about human rights issues related to Hurricane Katrina.


Human rights issues resulting from the Hurricane Katrina disaster will be the topic of a lecture tonight (Oct. 16) by activist Ajamu Baraka.

The lecture, entitled "Katrina: The Necessity for a Human Rights Framework for the United States," is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center. It is free and open to the public.

Baraka is an internationally recognized human rights leader who has worked to bring the international human rights framework to social justice work in the United States. As executive director of USHRN, Baraka leads a coalition of more than 200 national human rights organizations that monitor issues such as poverty, homelessness, discrimination, torture, housing rights, employment rights and criminal justice.

and USHRN have spoken out for the rights of Gulf Coast residents both affected and displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He wrote about these concerns in the September 2005 issue of The Black Commentator.

In the article, entitled "Hold the United States Accountable: The Internationally Recognized Rights of the 'Internally Displaced,' " Baraka wrote, "The extent to which various aspects of the recovery should be funded will be a topic of much debate among policymakers, especially given the federal deficit and competing economic needs.

But the rights of the displaced must be viewed as a separate and overriding issue. "Receiving protection and humanitarian assistance from government authorities is not an act of benevolence, but rather is obligatory for displaced people -- for the duration of their displacement. This will be especially important to remember after media coverage of Katrina has faded, and we must not compound the plight of the displaced by letting them fend for themselves once the dust has settled."

Baraka continued, "If we accept that it will take years to rebuild New Orleans, we must also accept that it will take no less time to rebuild the lives of the displaced from New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast."

In 2001, Baraka received the "Abolitionist of the Year" award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He currently serves on that group's board of directors and previously served as the southern regional director for Amnesty International (USA).

The event is sponsored by Tulane Interdisciplinary Experience Seminars (TIDES) and is presented in conjunction with the TIDE seminar "Hurricanes, Human Rights and History." More information is available by calling 504-314-2974.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000