IMG 2585Photo by Cade Pair, senior staff photographer


Students Become 'Forefront of Change'

Young people engage in human rights throughout Birmingham


Juhee Agrawal
Contributing Reporter
Juhee Agrawal


Recently, the conversation about human rights in Birmingham has turned to engage the younger generation. Some students have advice on how to become involved in human rights.


For those interested in spreading awareness, students share their internship experiences.


For example, the UAB Institute for Human Rights involves students in local and international human rights programming.


Tina Reuter, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and the Department of Anthropology, created the Institute about three and a half years ago. 


“We have internships that become available every fall,” Reuter said. “There’s a human rights internship that usually goes through our partner organizations. I’m happy to facilitate and meet with a student to help develop some of the passions they might have.” 


Reuter said some of the human rights issues in Birmingham include underserved communities, lack of public transportation and access, disenfranchisement, food insecurity and health disparities. 


“This is not untypical, you see this elsewhere,” Reuter said. “But I’m hoping with the Birmingham human rights coalition, that it will be an opportunity to coordinate.” 


Reuter said a lot of the people in the human rights community talk about the same issues but may work on them separately.  


“I think the key (with the Birmingham Coalition for Human Rights) will be not to duplicate, but to advance,” Reuter said. 


Allie Haynes, junior in economics and intern at the UAB Institute for Human Rights, said she worked on a project examining how the interactions between public schools and nonprofits are cohesive and cooperative in helping refugee students. 


“It is neat that Birmingham has such a rich culture and history, and we want to preserve that and grow with new ideas as well,” Haynes said. “But we don’t want one to out shadow the other (in terms of gentrification and other issues.)” 


Another student intern, AahilRajpari, freshman in political science and international studies, said he chose to intern at the Institute for Human Rights because he wanted to see the world and take in perspectives that he is uncomfortable with.  


"I am currently volunteering at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to learn more about social justice in detail,” Rajpari said.  


Although not a direct branch of the Institute of Human Rights, Students for Human Rights is a student organization that works with the institute to encourage student advocacy.


Eli Tylicki, junior in economics, serves as the president of Students for Human Rights. This organization focuses on a different human rights topic each month through guest speakers, discussions and volunteering. Tylicki has worked at the Alabama Nonviolent Offenders organization and the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.


Tylicki said there's a lot of people who care about very similar things, and are all trying to start something,  


“Maybe it’s already being done,” Tylicki said. “It just needs more communication, I think, is the biggest thing.”


If students would like to be involved in the city’s history, the Birmingham Coalition for Human Rights is a new program to involve the community.


Recently, Selwyn Vickers, MD, Dean of the UAB School of Medicine, and Jeffrey Bayer, co-founder of the Instruments of Hope Unity Fund, announced the launch of the Birmingham Coalition for Human Rights.  


Vickers said that the goal is to engage the community around civil and human rights issues, while realizing that there are many organizations that already do this.  


“We simply want to enhance what they do to hopefully make it nationally prominent and attract a place where those difficult questions can be discussed and resolved,” Vickers said. 


At the screening of Dreams of Hope, a documentary showing the process behind bringing the Violins of Hope event to Birmingham, a panel of community leaders discussed what to do next to unite the community in engaging with human rights issues.  


Bobbie Knight, interim president of Miles College, said it’s important to include the younger generation in this conversation. 


“Our young people, they're the key,” Knight said. “Throughout history, young people have always taken up the gauntlet, they’ve always been at the forefront of change. Go to them. They have ideas.”


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