The purpose of the walkathon was to raise awareness for, and to educate about, these universal and essential rights. “People who know and understand their human rights will stand up not only for their own rights, but also for the rights of others,” says creator of the walkathon and human rights advocate Linda Drazkowski.
Anna I. Rodriquez, founder of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and walkathon speaker, explains that attendees at the walkathon will go home and tell their friends, and those friends will tell their friends, spreading human rights through word of mouth.
The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. It describes the thirty basic rights we all have simply because we are human, such as “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Videos of each of the thirty human rights, as well as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, can be found on www.youthforhumanrights.org.
After the walkathon, speakers and entertainment took stage in North Straub Park, and participants visited booths which featured information from human rights groups, religious organizations and various non-profits.
Speakers included James M. Evans of the Tampa Bay Academy of Hope, Dustin McGahee of Youth for Human Rights, and Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, pastor and founder of True Faith Christian Center in Compton, CA, and CEO and founder of the World Literacy Crusade.
“Together we have come together as freedom fighters, community advocates, religious leaders…and human rights advocates,” said Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, with passion and eloquence. “We are walking today not because our physicians have ordered us to get exercise.”
“We are living in critical times…Something must be done, [and] now is the time,” he said. He urged the audience to be aware of the barriers to freedom, which, he said, “Don’t come from bankers, Jim Crow laws, greedy corporations or governments, but from the unwillingness to live by our rights, the unwillingness to face truth, and the dependency on the government to give us these rights.”
Sprinkled in between speakers were performances from lively performers such as the Dundu Dole African Urban Ballet, singer David Pomeranz, singer Hana-Li, and Alyssa Suede, fresh from SXSW.
Larry Jaffe, the Poet Laureate for Youth for Human Rights, delivered a moving poem, “Owned,” about human trafficking. “It’s a beautiful day in St. Pete,” said Jaffe before he began his poem, “but there are 23 million slaves in the world.”
The highlight of the entertainment, however, was an engaging performance from dynamic female rapper MC Lyte. Not only is MC Lyte the first rapper with a gold record, the first solo female rapper with a Grammy, and the first rapper to perform at Carnegie Hall, but she is also a human rights advocate.
MC Lyte first got involved in human rights through Rev. Johnson and his church in Compton, and has been working in human rights for the past year and a half, showing human rights videos to children all over, specifically through Drug Free America and after school programs. “It’s very important to me that they know what their rights are,” says MC Lyte, “specifically human right #26, the right to an education. You deserve to be educated.”
The Human Rights Walkathon is co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg. Participating groups included Youth for Human Rights, the Tampa Bay Academy of Hope, Community Tampa Bay, and the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
More information on the walkathon can be found at www,humanrightswalkathon.org.