2010 Conference

Human Rights Day 2010 In Review

2010 Human Rights Day in Review

James Kirkpatrick

Commissioner James Kirkpatrick

Minnesota's 27th Annual Human Rights Day Conference offered something for everyone, in the words of Commissioner James Kirkpatrick. A wide range of workshops focused on the latest developments in familiar areas such as sexual harassment and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as emerging topics such as weight bias in the workplace, and harassment in the era of social media. The conference, held Friday, Dec. 3 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Saint Paul, was attended by 416 people, the second highest attendance of any Human Rights Day conference.

Coach Herman Boone Delivered the Keynote Address

Coach Herman BooneCoach Herman Boone, whose inspirational story was captured in a film starring Denzel Washington, Remember the Titans, delivered the keynote address. In 1971, Boone was named head football coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The school had just become integrated, racial tensions were running high, and Boone and his assistant — a white coach — faced the challenge of a lifetime. But the two coaches were able to put aside prejudice and intolerance, and coach their team of black and white players to the state championship. Boone spoke on lessons in diversity and inclusion learning from his coaching and later experiences.

"If genuine diversity and inclusion is to thrive in Minnesota, it will be because the right climate has been created by those of you here today," Boone told the audience. "I remind you that each of you here this morning can make a difference, but to make a difference in your community requires courage, forethought, and a commitment and willingness to transcend narrow minded thinking."

Commissioner James Kirkpatrick welcomed conference attendees in the morning, and shared recollections of growing up in Hampton, Virginia. "Coach Boone's story has special meaning for me," said Kirkpatrick, who, as an 8th grader, was one of only two African-American kids on the football team at a newly-integrated school. "I know something about those times, and the challenges Boone faced," Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick and Boone

Kirkpatrick and Boone

Kirkpatrick commented on the challenges the Department of Human Rights had faced this past year, and suggested that more challenges awaited the department in future years. "I don't see the job of those who work for the Department of Human Rights, and those who share our goal of making Minnesota discrimination free, getting any easier," Kirkpatrick said. "If anything, the job has become tougher, as discrimination has become more subtle."

The Commissioner noted that despite these challenges, the Department of Human Rights continues to fulfill its core mission, and in the past 12 months, has recovered more than $600,000 on behalf of charging parties. He cited other department accomplishments including the opening of a new, regional human rights office to serve the Saint Cloud and Saint Joseph areas of Minnesota, and department's continued commitment to contract compliance, and expanded outreach.

The conference also marked the introduction of the winners of the 5th Annual Human Rights Day poster contest for students in grades K-12 from around the state. This year, students from around the state were asked to create a poster showing their interpretation of a quotation from a resolution by the UN Commission on Human Rights. The quote is:

Human rights education is a long-term and lifelong process by which all people at all levels of development and in all strata of society learn respect for the dignity of others and the means and methods of ensuring that respect in all societies..."

calendarCommissioner Kirkpatrick presented awards to the winners in a ceremony following the keynote address, and conference attendees received a 2011 Calendar on CD-ROM featuring the prize-winning artwork. The contest was sponsored by the Human Rights Collaborative, which includes The Advocates for Human Rights; the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions; Advocating Change Together (ACT); the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

The conference received financial assistance from sponsors Best Buy, Mayo Clinic, and Thomson Reuters.