Wage theft, minority marginalization and access to government were a few of the many issues activists grappled with at Sunday’s Celebrate Human Rights! Conference.
For the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the event was a time to look at current issues and ways to move forward.
“This is an event to educate,” assistant educator David Rigby said. “There’s a lot we could do and our community could do.”
Panels highlighted problems in the community — like access to college and marriage rights — and identified ways for the Human Rights Center to help solve them.
During the wage theft discussion, day laborer Beto Rodriguez said most employers are good people — although some employers don’t pay or threaten to do worse.
“They also threaten to turn us into immigration,” he said.
Human Rights Center Associate Director Rafael Gallegos outlined problems with helping victims of wage theft recover payment.
“We have considered a name and shame campaign,” he said. “But you don’t want to do something that would remove work opportunities.”
Andrea Mulholland, an Orange County Health Department nurse practitioner, said she hoped to better understand those she works with by attending the center’s event.
“They’re an advocate for people in the margins,” she said. “This will help me to understand their need.”
Gene Nichol, the keynote speaker and director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC, celebrated the second anniversary of Carrboro and Chapel Hill’s adoption of their Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He said the document guides the ideals of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and starkly contrasts state and national politics.
“Somewhere you read that we are ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all’ and we thought we meant it,” Nichol said. “History will judge us.”
The conference also raised money for the Human Rights Center’s future home — a house on Barnes Street in Carrboro.
The house, which the center moved to after being forced out of Abbey Court this fall, is being evaluated by the fire marshal for capacity. The next step — tentatively set for May — will be to get rezone the house’s property to allow the nonprofit to use it, Rigby said.
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