©2017 Harran Productions Foundation

Human Rights

Our work on Human Rights:
Harran’s Human Rights initiative encompasses lectures, conference presentations, and performances, designed to further the goals of a civil society and to engage youth with the knowledge of their inalienable rights. An understanding of our human rights teaches us about human values, human needs, human wants, and human dignity, elements essential for compassionate coexistence.

Our story (as told by Dr. Shakeela Hassan):
In November 2001, I received a call from a friend, Dr. Cherif Bassiouni, President of the IHRLI of the DePaul University’s Law School, inviting me to serve on the International Human Rights Law Institute’s advisory board. This was the third time he had called. For a long time I did not feel justified in accepting this position because I was too perplexed by the idea of Human Rights. This time, he laughed and said, “No excuses, I will not accept ‘no’ for an answer.” I was moved by the call to wonder if it was possible to define such a concept in the context of my own experiences.

I sat at the computer in the wee hours of the morning searching the Internet with the intention of finding answers, definitions, and anything else on human rights. Instead, I found myself writing away thoughts that just seemed to pour out, as if the answers were just about to be figured out through the neuronal maze that God has gifted each human to bear. Mine had definitely been activated in full speed.

The three pages of text—not quite a masterpiece of prose nor poetry—just made sense. They made the heaviest burdens of my confusion, curiosity and quest to know come to rest with a joyous relief of discovery, design and determination. “Now I know,” I whispered to myself.

“Bow in Prayer, Shake with Pride, Shivering in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right”

The lines above gave me grateful moments to share audibly my gratitude, knowledge and conviction as to what Human Rights are all about and allowed me to understand more about constitutional and civil rights. I recited, sang and rapped these lines and felt so happy and gratified doing so… so uncharacteristically—it was not my style to be singing away with such delightful ecstasy.

The poem had been safe in my folder labeled “My Poems” for a decade. I always felt this poem could use emotion and dramatic expression to make the point more effectively—the kind that comes with performance, especially a modern performance form like rap.

In January 2009 I received an invitation from Dave Mason to be a presenter at the CUSP conference. Simply thrilled, awakened as if responding to a calling, I did not waste any time and called Dave. He may not have gotten a quicker response from anyone else.

During the lunch break at the conference, we were all standing outside the Museum of Contemporary Art and were conversing with each other. I found myself to be with two ladies that I assumed to be mother and daughter. The younger woman, Tierra Whetstone, had given a brilliant musical performance at the conference and the other woman, Jean Hendricks, was actually her teacher. We walked over to the Water Tower Place Food Court and, for no special rhyme or reason, I declared that they were to be my guests. We shared a table at lunch and in conversation I mentioned to Jean that as a frustrated poet of sorts, I have written poems and one happens to be on Human Rights. “I bet our young musician, Tierra could rap it for me,” I said.

The rest became history. Jean wrote me an e-mail that same day asking me if I could share that poem, then promptly sent it to Director Brian Weddington. He produced a theatrical production with student performers from the after school arts program at [Gallery 37], in which my poem was included.

Not long after, I was invited for a rehearsal of the production to watch the choreographed performance of my poem. Greg Samata, Scott Alexander, Elizabeth Davenport, and other friends and partners of Harran came along with me. We had the warmest welcome and most wonderful experience to say the least. I was moved beyond belief by the children’s genuine enthusiasm. Each child shared hugs with me and exclaimed, “We have never met an author before!” Being referred to as an author amused me, but more importantly, I was satisfied and moved by their new understanding and awareness of this idea of Human Rights.

When I saw their expressions and vocalization of “Do You Know Your Human Rights?” and watched them repeat the words that flowed from their hearts, I knew that their minds were engaged and that they were conveying the internalized impact that this poem had on them. They had gained the truly awesome peace and joy of knowing what a human right is and how important it is for each human to assume their right to nurture and nourish his or her mind as well as body and soul.

Roughly a year later, Brian Weddington was invited to the 2010 CUSP Conference to bring the Human Rights performance to the CUSP 2010 audience.

Pictures can be found at me.com

Soon after, on September 25, 2010, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations of the City of Chicago invited myself to introduce the Human Rights Performance Group at its Unity Walk at the Great Lawn on Chicago’s lakefront. At this event, I addressed the audience and asked them to repeat after me:

“Hello Chicago
Do you know your, Human Rights?
Do you know I have been here, for Fifty Years?
Do you know, How Beautiful is our, City?
Let us thank our Mayor Daley for all his devotion to our beautiful Chicago and so much more…”

The gentle, cool, and refreshing lakefront breeze and the young, exuberant, and energetic children of Chicago had me in a most awesome state of gratitude and wonder.

Through events and experiences like these, I better understand the significance of embracing the meaning of human rights and realizing the fact that they are a gift from God. It is the responsibility of each to not just be a human being but to be one who assumes the responsibility of being a citizen who is committed to preserving human dignity.

The following is the poem written by Shakeela Hassan and performed in part by the Human Rights Performance Group.



Human Rights

By: Shakeela Z. Hassan 11/29/2001

Have you known your Human Rights
Human Rights
Civil Rights
Constitutional Rights
Rights to be wrong Rights to like
Rights to be right Rights to hate
Rights to think
Rights to act
Rights to speak
Rights to rule Rights to Share
Rights to surrender Rights to Care
Rights to crave
Rights to be brave
Rights to refuse, to be a slave
Rights to learn Rights to yearn
Rights to teach Rights to earn
Rights to live
Rights to loath
Rights to love
Rights to fight Rights to Pray
Rights to resolve Rights to Play
Rights to reflect
Rights to mend
Rights to solve
Rights to opine Rights to differ
Rights to express Rights to debate
Rights to wonder
Rights to dream
Rights to scream
Right to expect Right to experiment
Right to experience Right to exercise

Who else can do all this but a Human Mind
Only possible with Human Rights
Enhance the mind enabling neurons do their work
It is a gift for all and it is a Human Right

Education is a Human Right
There is no if and but or fight
There is no budget all too tight
Only human treasure to be safe
Is knowledge acquired on learning trails

Bow in Prayer, Shake with Pride, Shivering, in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right

Thinking, acting and speaking minds are only the civil Rights
Praying, Preaching and doing Right are only the Constitutional Rights
Nothing makes sense without the Human Rights

What we do to get it Right
Go to bat for Human Rights
Nurture, nourish, the human kind
Educate, inspire the human mind

Self esteem and self respect bringing respect to the Human kind
Justice Peace and Possibilities surfacing in the Human mind

What a contribution for the world
To have Peace and the justice, hold
Arm in arm circling the world
Circling singing around the globe

In spirit of Love and Unity
Enjoying the Friendship and Tranquility
In a world full of Possibility
Progress and Prevailing Peace

Bow in Prayer, Shake with Pride, Shivering, in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right

After all it is His Planning and the Message to the Human Kind
Life is a Gift, Make it Right
Life is a burden, Make it Light
It is only your Human Right

What more examples we need to ponder
God has given us messages from here to yonder
We are all treading the common path
Going in circles, running in streams
Sharing a common destiny
Life is finite and takes us all
Having come and having gone
Why not make a mark and more
God has Blessed us with the powerful Human Rights

Bow in Prayer, Shake with Pride, Shivering, in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right

We only have a roller coaster chance
To capture the moment and make it Right
Make the world a little bit better
Better than what we did find
For us and generation next of our Human kind

Know each moment, as it could be the last
Capture opportunity to Serve, Learn and Teach
Making it more right, for the human kind
To live and learn and be able to teach the next in line
It is only a Human Right

Pray to God and let Him know
You understood the messages, each moment, He sends
Through the Universal lessons in Science, Math and more
Nature is never to ignore
As it is always there for us to learn more

Bow in Prayer, Shake with Pride, Shivering, in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right

Why not Human beings, can
Make Happiness and Health essentials for Human Kind
Remain in focus with the needs of a Human Mind
Make it Universal and Free
It is fruitful to Care and Share, remembering, the Human Rights

May you be blessed with a will to do your best
As our scriptures teach us unity
Serving the community
Is the best to serve humanity and God.

What a Blessing it is to be a Human Kind!
Bow in Prayer, shake with Pride, shivering in Gratitude
It is only a Human Right
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