December 09, 2010

Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum launched in New York

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
speak truth cover

ALBANY, N.Y. December 9, 2010 - The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and New York State United Teachers will launch on Friday - International Human Rights Day - a new human rights curriculum for New York state students with a special webcast featuring a human rights defender whose work has dramatically improved working conditions for migrant tomato pickers.

The curriculum, which includes 17 teacher-developed lesson plans for students in grades 6-12, is based on Kerry Kennedy's book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who are Changing the World. The web cast is designed to build on students' enthusiasm to become human rights defenders by stopping child labor and fighting other human rights abuses around the globe.

The web event will originate at 1 p.m. on Friday, December 10 from the classroom of teacher Diane Gonzalez at the Chestnut Ridge Middle School, 892 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Spring Valley. Students in Gonzalez' classroom will be linked to classrooms across the state, where more than 1,000 additional students will also view the web cast. Kerry Kennedy, daughter of former U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, U.S. attorney general and presidential candidate, will speak to students about human rights as part of the presentation.

The web cast will also feature Lucas Benitez, a founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which helped organize migrant tomato pickers and, on November 16, signed an agreement that ended a 17-year fight to win better wages and working conditions for migrants. Federal investigators have compared the treatment of migrant tomato pickers to modern-day slavery, and have prosecuted seven operations that abused hundreds of farm workers like Benitez, a former child laborer and migrant worker.

Students will also view and study The Dark Side of Chocolate, a new documentary that shows the use of child labor in the cocoa industry, and hear from director U Roberto Romano.

In addition to hearing from Kennedy, students will have the opportunity to speak about the actions they have taken in their own communities to fight human rights abuses, and question Benitez, Romano and others about finding the courage to 'speak truth to power.'

The event is part of NYSUT's Child Labor Challenge, a series of events aimed at highlighting the illegal use of child labor in chocolate production in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The three-part "challenge" asked students to participate in 'reverse trick or treating,' by distributing fair-trade chocolate and a flyer on the issue on Halloween; to sign a petition pressuring Hershey to stop using child labor and forced labor in West Africa; and to view - or screen for others - the "Dark Side of Chocolate."

NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (, is a nonprofit dedicated to Robert F. Kennedy's vision of creating a more peaceful and just world. For almost 40 years, the RFK Center has worked to advance the human rights movement through partnering with courageous grassroots defenders from around the world who have won the RFK Human Rights Award, some of whom are featured in SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER, and supporting exceptional authors and journalists whose work brings light to injustice through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards.

For a list of participating schools, contact Carl Korn at (518) 213-6000, ext. 6313. More information, including the new Speak Truth to Power curriculum, is available at or

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