The first day of the historic VT People’s Convention for Human Rights, over 400 people came out to Burlington High School for a day of looking at the human rights and environmental crisis in our communities, visioning of the world that we do want to live in, and building one movement for people and the planet.
The day kicked off with an opening rally, featuring speakers Chief Don Stevens of the Abenaki Nation, Sarah Launderville from Vermont Center for Independent Living, Shela Linton and Ellen Schwartz from the Vermont Workers’ Center, and a spoken word performance from the James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center. The opening rally focused on how we are all struggling to meet our needs, and how we need to build a people’s movement that can re-shape our country and fight for a world where human rights and planet are put first. “Human rights arise from the needs of our communities and out of struggle. Since none of us can meet all our fundamental needs alone, we must join together as communities to make sure our human rights our met,” said Ellen Schwartz. Finally, a video sending a message of solidarity from a human rights conference happening today as well in Austin, TX was shown, making clear that while we are building a movement here in Vermont we are deeply connected to struggles across the US (and globally).
Participants then went to workshops for the six tracks, Healthcare is a Human Right , Right to a Healthy Environment & Livable Planet , Human Right s and Education, Housing is a Human Right , Human Rights in the Food System, and The Right to Dignified Work. In each track, participants talked about the problems that they see in their communities, and drew them on leaves. The conversation then went to talking about the root problems that create these leaves. In every workshop, regardless of what issue was, people spoke about the need to not just prune the leaves of the tree, but to really get at the root causes. In the afternoon, people came back to their groups to talk not just about the problems, but to vision together what the world is that we want to live in.
The day closed with the People’s Assembly, reflecting on what had come up throughout the day. The panel featured speakers representing the six different tracks, including . Carol Perry from Mobile Home Park Residents for Equality and Fairness closed the day with saying “As we can see everything affects the next thing. We can’t just fix one part. We can’t just prune one branch of the problem tree, we need to uproot the tree. And we need to grow a new tree. A tree rooted in our human rights principles.”
The People’s Convention is not just for adults, but for the whole family with the Human Rights Kids Camp. During the People’s Convention, the feeding and nourishing of everyone there was held down by the amazing People’s Kitchen team. Lots of thanks to them for keeping everyone fed and happy!
Tonight was also Toward Freedom’s 60th anniversary concert in Battery Park with tons of great music! Tomorrow the People’s Convention will continue with lots more great workshops, speakers and music. We hope to see you there!