DEI Committee

Diversity Equality Inclusion - December 11, 2020

Observing Human Rights Day

by G. Theresa Thomas, DEI Committee Chair

December highlights the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10th, because it was on this day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

According to the United Nations, “the UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights to which everyone is entitled as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political leanings or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The UDHR has been translated into more than 500 languages, making it the most translated document in the world.

The belief that we are all created equal has been lost in the actions of a world where the beliefs of some are contrary to the intention of this universal proclamation.

We must ask ourselves why this document was even necessary for us to define fair treatment of another human being.

Following World War II, a series of conventions and declarations were made in order to provide a common understanding of universal human rights. Considering the atrocities and the enormous loss of human life that took place during this war, it was realized that when human rights are not well known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice and even mass genocide can take place.
Today, as we celebrate the Human Rights Day, we do so with joy and caution – caution, because we are not there yet.

People of color continue to experience disparities in access to healthcare, affordable housing and financial stability. And these are just a few of the too many examples of disparities. In frustration, some people may ask, “When will Human Rights truly apply to all?” It is this question, this voice that propelled many of our Civil Rights advocates and protestors to do their part by embracing and fighting for equality for all.

Accepting that you are not accepted by all is a heart wrenching truth that can break a person’s spirit, if you allow it. We must all take on the responsibility of being leaders who embrace the values outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Through our tears, we must strive on with the hope that every effort to create what the late Representative John Lewis (D-GA) called “good trouble”, is a foundation the next generation can build upon.

I shunned the title of leader, but with every fiber of my being, I knew I was destined to lead. I lead in my home by being an example of what I want my children and grandchildren to mimic. I listen, respect their individuality and accept they are not me; their contribution to the world is as needful as mine.

In my community, I lead in the simplest of ways; holding the door for the next person, stopping to speak to a neighbor or paying for an older couple who are out to dinner. I realize everyone doesn’t see the world through my eyes, but if I could allow them to see that caring and compassion comes in all colors, then I’m enacting the truths of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Finally, I lead in my place of employment by committing to be the best servant leader. I commit to support, honor and uplift the lives of older adults and those who care for them, which is the mission of Goodwin House. Every staff member, resident and visitor deserves my equal attention and sincerity to accept and honor their rights as humans.

Let’s celebrate Human Rights Day by embracing all humanity. We will never all look alike, or all think alike, but we can all support and even celebrate our differences in order to create a more perfect union.

We are stronger together, and if your circle of friends only resembles you, the opportunities for growth and acceptance are limited. Commit to embracing one of the suggested ways to celebrate Human Rights Day and let me know how it added to your value of us all:

  1. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has been translated in 500 languages
  2. Watch Eleanor Roosevelt’s Human Rights Speech from 1948.

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” – James Baldwin

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As Director of Environmental Services for Goodwin House, Theresa oversees teams at both Life Plan Communities that provide housekeeping and laundry services. In 2020, she agreed to lead the GHI Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee. Theresa grew up in North Philadelphia, in a single parent household. She has experienced discrimination based on the color of her skin, her economic status and her gender. While discrimination has left some scars, it also has produced a determination to set and achieve her own goals. As the DEI Chair, Theresa seeks to listen. She believes that by listening first, we can educate and support each other on how to deconstruct a wall that has been built and fortified for years on misinformation or refusal to accept the truth.

About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower a workplace of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias.

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