The Wash
Yet again Stand Up For Human Rights brings light to universal rights. (Youth for Human Rights/The Wash)

Participants march, standing up for human rights

Erica Rodgers, National Director of the Youth for Human Rights International, recalled a touching moment between the organization and an 11-year-old boy.

The organization had visited the boy’s elementary school to teach the children about their 30 rights, including the right to privacy which protects individuals from bullying.

“The boy sent a written letter thanking us for coming to the school,” Rodgers said. “He said he was thinking about committing suicide and that learning the rights helped him overcome his issues.”

Rodgers said she felt many emotions of happiness and sadness and felt obligated to create programs and events that spread awareness on human rights issues.

On Sunday afternoon, the organization led a Stand Up for Human Rights march at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, where dozens of people braved the cold to spark fire on human rights. 

Activists held up signs in shades of blue, reflecting along the pool as participants marched. Participants talked with people watching educating them on the importance of the event. 

Beth Akiyama, executive director of the Church of Scientology, led chants yelling “Human rights now! Human rights now! Human rights now!” as they echoed throughout the area attracting visitors to glance and even start conversation.

Right 1: We are all born free and equal

“It’s important to spread awareness about human rights because we all have them and deserve to use them when needed,” Akiyama said.

Mary Ann Steinacker-Grimm, human rights activist, said she discovered how essential it was to exert her rights after a rough time with her ex-husband. 

Steinacker-Grimm wants everyone to feel free to exercise their rights.

“With my ex-husband, it was a slow slippy slope to control issues to a point in 2014 in Brooklyn I couldn’t go out of my house to the Post Office box without him wanting to know where I’m going and how long I’m going to be out,” Steinacker-Grimm said. “It was mild compared to what I’ve heard and read online, but I realized at some point that I want to speak out and stand up for my basic rights.”

After the march, participants were called to visit the Founding Church of Scientology to see the Human Rights Pop-Up Exhibit, which provided videos explaining the 30 rights and their timeline from 539 BC to 1945’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The organization displayed videos showing examples of the right of privacy, copyright, no slavery and the right to life.

The organization said that 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect, approximately 20 million people are enslaved in human trafficking trade around the world and more than 300,000 children under the 18 are being exploited as child soldiers worldwide.

Participants sat intrigued by the facts presented.

The organization did a survey across the District to see how many people actually knew their rights and the purpose for each. Surprisingly, a huge number of residents have no clue there are actually 30 rights.

According to the organization the following are constituted as rights: 

  1. We are all born free and equal
16. Marriage and family
  1. Don’t discriminate
17. The right to your own things
  1. The right to life
18. Freedom of thought
  1. No slavery
19. Freedom of expression
  1. No torture
20. The right to public assembly
  1. You have rights no matter where you go
21.The right to democracy
  1. We’re all equal before the law
22. Social security
  1. Your human rights are protected by law
23. Workers rights’
  1. No unfair detainment
24. The right to play
  1. The right to a trial
25. Food and shelter for all
  1. We’re always innocent till proven guilty
26. The right to education
  1. The right to privacy
27. Copyright
  1. Freedom to move
28. A free and fair world
  1. The right to seek a safe place to live
29. Responsibility
  1. Right to a nationality
30. No one can take away your human rights


The Wash did a quick survey of their own after the event asking 10 people what their rights were. Out of 10 only one knew all 30, two knew more than half and the rest were either uncertain or knew a few.

Petruce Jean-Charles

I’m a graduate student studying investigative reporting at American University, where I report local news. I’m also a volunteer for The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper, where I’ve covered the Capital Pride Parade. In the past, I was a reporter and online editor for my college newspaper The Tower, where I produced content about education, social issues and college culture.

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