On April 19 AFSC’s Racial Justice Through Human Rights (RJTHR) youth group accomplished their goal when Pittsburgh was declared a Human Rights City. Youth from the Pittsburgh Young Leaders Academy joined the RJTHR youth during the presentation of the proclamation in a ceremony during City Council. Five of the RJTHR youth accepted the Proclamation and spoke about their hope and concerns for the future of Pittsburgh.  

The RJTHR group was initiated by the AFSC’s Pennsylvania Program. The RJTHR youth partnered with Pittsburgh Cares and its Pittsburgh Young Leaders Academy. The 13 youths in the program were racially, culturally, religiously, and geographically diverse.

A Human Rights City is one in which the human rights of all its citizens are respected and where the citizens as well as the City Council work towards  better living conditions in that city. Pittsburgh joins 4 other U.S. cities, including Washington DC, and cities around the world in this effort.

The idea of calling on Pittsburgh City Council to proclaim Pittsburg a Human Rights City came out of the experiences the youth had as part of the program to understand racial inequality and human rights. They view this as the first step in a process that leads to a more just society. In their efforts to make Pittsburg a Human Rights City the RJTHR youth wrote letters, made calls, and met with their City Council representatives.

After the proclamation ceremony the youth gathered on the steps of the City Council building and all 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were read. They then  went out in groups and interviewed people on the streets to find out what they knew about human rights. “A Holocaust survivor stressed the importance of protecting everyone’s rights; speaking of the slow whittling away of people’s rights in Germany that led to that tragic events. It really brought home why we are doing this work.” stated Scilla Wahrhaftig, AFSC’s PA Program Director.

In presenting the proclamation Councilman Dowd, who had met with two of the youths, commented that he was impressed that they were not content with just getting the proclamation passed but already thinking of the next steps to implementing human rights in Pittsburgh. Learn more