Eight groups awarded human rights grants

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | 9:23 p.m. CST; updated 3:59 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Eight local groups have been awarded a combined $4,600 to promote human rights.

The grants, which range from $200 to $1,000, were approved this week by the City Council on the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission.

“The idea is to provide educational programming in the community to enhance human rights, whether it is through multicultural programming or programs that specifically address human rights issues,” said Steve Hollis of the city’s Office of Community Services.

The $4,600 is down slightly from the $4,850 awarded last year. The Human Rights Commission has $735 left over to pay for a special project. Last year it used discretionary money for a showing of “Not in Our Town,” a documentary about Columbia’s reaction to a neo-Nazi march.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Coalition was among the groups that won grants. It will use its $600 for its Pride 2008 festival on June 14 and to host speaker Robert Minor on June 28. Minor, an author and a religious studies professor at the University of Kansas, will focus on how to be an effective human rights advocate during difficult times and new methods for dealing with homophobia.

“I see homophobia as not just the fear of homosexuality but at its core the fear of getting close to your own gender,” Minor said.

PrideFest 2008’s theme will be “Cherish the World: Be Yourself.” Coalition treasurer Linda Hayes said the event will address the social silencing of the gay community, especially in the workplace.

“Most people, whether they know it or not, know gay or transgendered people,” Hayes said. “... We are trying to get people to be honest about who they are, to get people to know the gay community.”

The Shelter is among three groups that were given their first human-rights grants. It will receive $600 for the “Stop Traffic Now: 2008 Human Trafficking Conference” on March 21-22.

The conference will use panel discussions, films and workshops to examine how human trafficking, including sexual exploitation and forced labor, affects Columbia and surrounding communities. Survivor Theresa Flores, who wrote “The Sacred Bath” about her experiences as a 15-year-old sex slave, will speak.

The most common form of human trafficking in Missouri is bringing women in from Asia to be mail order brides and prostitutes, conference co-chair Jennifer Kimball said.

“It’s such a hidden crime, which is a problem,” Kimball said.

The Amnesty International Club at Hickman High School has received grants for the past six years for its program that calls attention to the human rights crisis in Tibet. It will once again bring in Tibetan monk Champe Lhumpo, who teaches at Kansas and once was a member of the Dali Lama’s monastery. Lhumpo spoke Nov. 13 to several sophomore classes at Hickman.

“It gives them a chance to learn firsthand from someone who’s had their country occupied and who has been displaced and (is) in exile,” said George Frissell, faculty sponsor for the Amnesty International Club.

Although most groups that apply are given some funding, this year the Centro Latino was turned down because it planned to use funds for lobbying efforts.

“The Centro Latino’s proposal was political,” Hollis said. “The city won’t fund political projects.”

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