September 18, 2012

RFK Center, NYSUT launch second annual human rights student video contest

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

New York, NY - The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and New York State United Teachers, in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, are proud to announce the 2nd Annual Speak Truth To Power student video contest. The contest will kick-off on September 27, 2012, with a gathering of teachers, students, human rights activists, film makers, and RFK Center President Kerry Kennedy at the United Federation of Teachers headquarters.

The contest builds upon the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum, currently being taught in schools across New York state, and it challenges students to create a 3-6 minute video introducing a human rights violation and profiling the defenders fighting to restore justice. The 2011 inaugural grand prize went to the students of the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES for their documentary on Wangari Maathai's Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and the innovative plastic bag recycling program they launched in her honor.

"It was inspiring to see the transformative impact of the Speak Truth To Power curriculum reflected in last year's video entries," said John Heffernan, director of the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power program. "This year's contest will reach even more students, inspiring them to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet and become human rights defenders in their own communities."

"The lesson that Robert F. Kennedy taught a generation of Americans - that we all have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against inequality and oppression wherever we find it - is so important, it must be passed down to this and future generations," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "This video contest will engage students in what it means to be a defender against human rights violations."

At the September 27 launch held at UFT headquarters, representatives from the RFK Center, NYSUT, and the Tribeca Film Institute will introduce the contest to New York teachers. The RFK Center's 2012 Human Rights Award Laureate, Librada Paz, will join them to share her powerful life story: once a teenage farmworker herself, Ms. Paz earned her citizenship, graduated from college, and dedicated her career to the fight for equal labor rights on our nation's farms.

The 2012 judges panel will include actor Alec Baldwin, as well as Kerry Kennedy, Dick Iannuzzi, and Tribeca Film Institute Executive Director Beth Janson. Winning videos will be featured on the Speak Truth To Power website, and additional details can be found at The grand prize video will be shown at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

The deadline for entries is January 31; prior film-making experience is not required. Later this year, the RFK Center and NYSUT will host training sessions with filmmakers from the Tribeca Film Institute for teachers in New York City and the Buffalo area who are interested in presenting the 2012 Speak Truth To Power video contest to their classes.

The curriculum, which includes 32 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 curriculum can be found at

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 ( was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization.

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