Putting Together a Human Rights Tribunal: Organizing Efforts in San Jose

November 24, 2015 / By Helen Kassa

Environmental justice issues are of pressing relevance in today’s world. On a smaller scale, environmental justice issues are relevant to the people of San Jose who have felt our infamous drought most keenly. We must recognize that the climate and environmental issues we face have impacts on agriculture, health, and overall quality of life. Reducing the amount of water we use as individuals, limiting farmer’s water supply for crops, and raising food prices are short term solutions that will not stand forever. San Jose and the state of California have been working to help tackle these issues while creating long term solutions; but to be blunt, we are banking on hope that the little things we all do here and there will add up to a larger solution to our crisis. I believe that government action is important but change cannot happen without more dialogue between the governed and the governing.

In an effort to respond to the deeper environmental issues we face in this community, I am organizing a climate justice Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal will give community members affected by such issues the opportunity to speak up, testify, ask questions, suggest solutions, and get informed. By educating local communities on the issues, I believe we can achieve environmental justice and equality for the sake of a better quality of life for all.

In regards to the organizing, I have reached out to my network for speakers, partners, a venue, videographers, and “testifiers”. My challenge so far has been less with logistics than with finding out how to drum up excitement around the issues we’ll be discussing. As a community leader and activist, I know from experience that people are the base platform to any great movement or success. In order to get a crowded room of people hungry to stay active we must first find a way to spark interest and attention. I have been using my social media daily to excite and engage people on climate and environmental topics. My purpose with this tribunal is to shed light that a norm of environmental injustice is not a justification for the inequality.

I am grateful for San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, Youth Advisory Council for District 2, and SIlicon Valley DeBug for agreeing to partner with us. We are partnered to reach a collective goal of promoting the voice’s of the affected and open dialogue between city officials, the community, and scholars for change.

Diversity is essential for this event in order to to get a variety of perspectives, experiences, stories, and questions. I want this to be as educational and informative as possible for both community members and local officials. All in all, we need people of different ethnicities, genders, ages, and economic backgrounds to come out and testify on the issues. We plan to discuss water districting, food, climate, pollution, illegal dumping, how to play an active role and more.

I am looking forward to an evening of community unity. My event is planned to take place November 19th, 2015 at 6:30 pm at 230 S Market Street San Jose, CA.

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