Friday, October 6, 2006

A chronicle of Idaho human rights

Traveling presentation visits The Community Library

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Human Rights Education Center brings ?Our Complex Past: A History of Human Rights in Idaho,? to Ketchum. The extensive history project chronicles the history of human rights in Idaho, like the struggles of early Chinese pioneers.

During an election year, a look into the past can explain the need for certain types of legislation that require a vote. When it comes to human rights issues, oftentimes people need a history lesson to understand the here and now. Recently, the Idaho Human Rights Education Center has been granted to do just this for the Wood River Valley.

Through a generous grant from the Sara Maas Fund at the Idaho Community Foundation, the center will bring its extensive history project, called "Our Complex Past: A History of Human Rights in Idaho," to Ketchum, Twin Falls, Nampa, Caldwell, Cascade and Weiser throughout the fall. The multi-media education project chronicles the history of human rights in Idaho.

"The presentation has two goals. The most evident is for it to be a really unique and comprehensive presentation to share with communities who would not otherwise have access to it. And, to act with communities across the state identifying leaders and establish relationships," said Amy Herzfeld, executive director of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center in Boise.

Herzfeld wants the history and education of human rights to be statewide, which is often difficult to do in Idaho.

"Idaho has some significant barriers to organizing. It requires time as well as resources to do community organizing with organizations that work on social justice but don't have the staff to promote it," she said. "To get work done, we have to collaborate, and more often than not that ends up being stronger advocacy."

Most of the outreach is usually focused on a kindergarten through 12th-grade audience in schools. The center generally receives support for teachers but not usually for adult activists, which makes this education project so important.

"The project is a few years old and has always been successful but limited to Boise. Now, it is experiencing a renaissance," Herzfeld said.

From Herzfeld's experience she finds that communities have had a profound response to the project and often provide their own personal stories about events, people and situations.

"People don't realize how long they have been deeply involved and will begin to recognize the issues as memories."

In addition to an hour-long slideshow and presentation, audience members can expect an interactive dialogue on current human rights organizing efforts in Idaho.

"A communication network is very critical," said Herzfeld. "We selected these communities because they have established networks, volunteer groups and in most cases have staff that can respond to things like hate crimes."

She added, "This powerful look at the history and legislation of human rights is a great place to bring up current human rights that are still lacking."

"Our Complex Past: A History of Human Rights in Idaho" will be presented Thursday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. at The Community Library in Ketchum. For more information about the center, call (208) 345-0304 or visit

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