Chains were hanging on the wall behind the Rev. Richard Wesley Clark as he stood at the microphone to mark a solemn occasion. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights belongs equally to every person," Clark said. "It belongs to you and me. We need to familiarize ourselves with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child so we can display the spirit of friendship among all people, peace, brother and sisterhood."
Clark, pastor of Bethel AME Church, was the keynote speaker in the city's annual observance of the 62 annual International Human Rights Day , a local observance started by Barbara Amodio in 1991. About 50 people attended the ceremony in the City Hall atrium Friday, listening as the Serendipity Choir opened with a medley that included "Ain't Gonna Study War No More." Mayor Richard Moccia read a proclamation making it as Human Rights Day. An International Human Rights Wall also was dedicated. It included Reggie St. Fort's 2009 collage, featuring chains as well as comments from guests at last year's observance.
"I love that piece, that's why I asked him if I could put it up," said Adam Bovilsky, director of the city's Human Relations Commission, which organized the event. Bovilsky said the committee encourages mutual understanding and respect among the city's diverse population and enforces equal rights laws. "We have the power to adjudicate claims of discrimination according to a state statute."
Also exhibited were entries into the Human Rights arts contest. Janie Charles won first place for a poem, "I Believe," and Brien McMahon High School student Mikerson Innocent took second for a poem that began "Everyone has the right to work, everyone is entitled to be paid."
Carol Frank, vice chair of the Human Rights Commission, pointed out that this year also marked the 90th anniversary of women's right to vote. "As long as we celebrate these great achievements we will never forget that human rights belong to everyone," she said.
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