By Alberto Gilman
The City of Newburgh Human Rights Commission celebrated several Human Rights Heroes on Saturday, December 10.
The history of the nationally and globally recognized Human Rights Day began with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations. The following year in 1949, the Human Rights Day was recognized and established as a national holiday in the United States by President Harry Truman. The first Human Rights Week in the United States was created and recognized in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In more recent times, the Newburgh City Council had previously approved, designated and recognized December 10, 2022 as Human Rights Day here in the city. In addition, December 10 to 17 was also designated and recognized as Human Rights Week. The HRC was first created by the city council on January 14, 1991.
On the day of the celebration, Ramona Burton, Interim Chair of the HRC welcomed those gathered to the weekend celebration. The 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights would be taking place in 2023 and the idea was presented about conducting historical background research to recognize the human rights commissioners that have gone before them here in the city.
The three honored Human Rights Heroes for 2022 were Linda Jansen, Dr. Benilda Armstead-Jones and Amancio Salazar.
Jansen was selected by Malinda Ware
“She’s [Jansen] very special to me, because in my professional circle, and in my volunteerism in Newburgh, I’ve watched this woman in and out of giving all the time,” said Ware. “She is awesome.”
Ware first met Jansen at the Loaves and Fishes pantry here in the city 15 years ago, and today Jansen still continues to serve her community in many other food pantries and local charities here in the city.
“I’ve been in the human service field probably 30 years. And every day I wonder, did I pick the profession or did the professions pick me and every day I see that the profession picked me,” said Jansen. “I love doing my job.”
“Dr. Benilda Armstead-Jones epitomizes dignity and respect for human rights,” said Burton. “I am over the moon and beyond honored to honor and celebrate my mentor.” Armstead-Jones, along with Burton, have worked on the Newburgh African American, previously known as Colored Burial, Ground project here in the city since the uncovering of the human bones in 2008 underneath the city courthouse. Now with a place selected for the reinterment at Downing Park, their work is almost complete. Armstead-Jones was not able to attend , but her daughter Dr. Daniella Jones-Baynes accepted the award on her behalf and thanked the community for the recognition and opportunity.
“If you know him [Salazar], you know that family is at the center of his heart,” said former City Councilmember Karen Mejia. For Salazar, Mejia shared that in his community, Salazar had once saved a neighbor from a house fire, he has worked to bring consulate services from the Mexican government to the city and he helps in local community traditions like the Three Kings Day. “It’s a great honor to have this. Thank you very much. I will keep doing my work,” said Salazar.
Several guests for the celebration included Sadie Tallie, Mayor Torrance Harvey, Councilman Anthony Grice and Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson. “When we talk about human rights, human rights is correlated to any and everything we do,” said Harvey. “ All of us deserve human rights in the City of Newburgh and in the United States of America.” “So proud of the Human Rights Commission. It’s important that members of the community see those people recognize them, and that they get the honor for the well deserved and hard work that they do,” said Grice.
Jacobson also presented to the three honored members a certificate of recognition on behalf of his office and thanked them for their continued work in the city and Newburgh community.
Concluding the celebration, Commissioner Haydee Carrasquillo concluded with an appeal to those gathered and encouraged those to apply and be a part of the commission and continue to support the human rights commission here in the city. Applications for HRC membership are due by December 30.
The next meeting for the HRC will take place on January 5 at 7 p.m. at the Heritage.Center.