July 6, 2016
DALLAS (SMU) – Texas may lead the nation in job creation and exported goods, but in human rights rankings, it holds these five dubious distinctions:
- Texas has the largest number of hate groups espousing racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBT sentiments. (Conversely, it’s home to the nation’s largest number of resettled refugees/asylum seekers, mostly from Myanmar, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.)
- Texas ranks second in the nation for human trafficking crime, which is on the rise.
- Texas leads the U.S. in the number of people exonerated by wrongful convictions while
also leading in the number of state-sanctioned executions.
- Texas ranks high in the number of children who die from abuse and neglect – and is the
No. 1 state for hot car-related fatalities involving children and infants.
- Texas is home to the nation’s largest number of people without health insurance.
Alarmed by such statistics, some 300 Dallas-Fort Worth community leaders are expected to gather at SMU Saturday, July 9, for “Human Rights Dallas”– the first-ever summit focused on highlighting and resolving Dallas’ most pressing human rights issues. The summit is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in SMU’s Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom in Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer St.
“The goal of ‘Human Rights Dallas’ is to create a culture for people in for-profit and non-profit fields to not only get involved in issues they care about, but also to form a coalition dedicated to ensuring all people’s rights are protected,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the event’s sponsor.
After a multimedia performance by Journeyman Ink, Halperin will open “Human Rights Dallas” by discussing its purpose and mission. Participants will then gather in groups of 10 to 12 to discuss their top human rights-related concerns and suggest ways to accomplish the community coalition’s goals.
The attendee roster reflects leaders in regional business, faith, health and education organizations as well as groups working to combat human trafficking; prevent racial, religious and sexual-orientation discrimination; strengthen immigration and refugee rights; and tackle the surging numbers of the mass-incarcerated and homeless.
Texas’ large number of hate groups is of particular concern to Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.
“Currently there are 84 active hate groups in the state, 56 of which are Neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups – 11 of them in North Texas,” Higgins says. “As the country faces this dramatic incline, there’s no better time to come together to promote human rights in our community.”
Paralegal Toya Walker hopes the event accomplishes three goals: “Awareness, education and action to get people motivated, inspired and involved,” says Walker, who provides counsel on compliance/employment issues for SMU and the Sabre Corporation.
The ideal end-result? “Transformation and healing,” says Jill VanGorden, director of education for the Crow Collection of Asian Art.
For more details about “Human Rights Dallas” or the Embrey Human Rights Program in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.