Welcome to Connections & Communications, the first newsletter for the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights (NWCHR). We introduced the idea for a regional human rights network for the Inland Northwest at this year’s Finding the Center Human Rights Conference, which has been held at the University of Idaho in Moscow five times since 2005, most recently on April 9th, 2011. Over eighty percent of 2011 Finding the Center participants who filled out conference evaluations* indicated an interest in this network. Connections & Communications is our first step toward forming and maintaining the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights, which exists to facilitate connections and communication among organizations and individuals who are engaged in human rights and social justice work in the Northwest region of the United States, with special focus on the Inland Northwest.
In their evaluations several participants at Finding the Center asked, “What will a Northwest human rights coalition do? Why do we need it?” As Joann Muneta explains below, and as the documentary “Color of Conscience” makes clear (see Media Resources section), the history of racism in our region gave birth to numerous grassroots human rights groups in the 1980s. Many of these groups continue to engage in important work to combat discrimination and provide diversity education. The idea for a larger regional coalition for the Northwest is inspired by Father Bill Wassmuth’s efforts in establishing the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in Coeur d’Alene in 1987, which later moved its base to Seattle and battled hate groups in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. In Wassmuth’s view, no town was too small to join in the effort. Unfortunately, the Coalition weakened after Bill Wassmuth passed away and has not been active since 2002.
The renewal of a larger coalition for the Northwest region will give strength to those working at the local level by allowing them to share resources, information, and ideas, as well as making them part of a larger support system. Collaboration among coalition members will bring about joint training sessions, as well as advocacy and education opportunities. Important feedback concerning successful events and ways to improve will also be shared. A meeting is planned for Saturday, November 5th, 2011 at the University of Idaho, Moscow to discuss the action plan for the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights (see Save the Date announcement). We invite you to attend this meeting to provide your input, and to email or call us with your ideas prior to that date.
This bimonthly newsletter will be a primary way we share information about human rights work that is taking place in our region. Connections & Communications seeks to share articles about your past, current, or planned human rights activities. Send us a write-up about your work so we can share it with other readers. These stories will both inform and inspire the efforts of others, so sending your story is an important way to contribute to human rights activity in the Northwest. Also, please email announcements concerning upcoming events. An events listing will be included in each newsletter in the “Save the Date” section.
All are welcome to join the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights, and we hope you attend the meeting on November 5th. However, membership is not required to contribute to or benefit from this newsletter. Regardless of your ability to devote time to a larger coalition, we hope you will contribute your event announcements and stories to this publication, and that you will benefit from the information we share.
*Seventy-eight percent of conference participants filled out evaluations.