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Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights

Barrie Gewanter
Executive Director

Bridget Owens
Human Rights Specialist

John H. Mulroy Civic Center,
Suite 19 - Basement Level
421 Montgomery Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

(315) 435-3565


Free Call from Inmates at Jail or Jamesville: (315) 435-3567 


Human Rights Commission

Events & Activities

HR Logo

On Sunday Dec. 10, 2017, the Human Rights Commission held an event in recogition of International Human Rights Day and the adoption of the International Declaration of Human Rights. The local event, entitled "Human Rights. Everyone. Always" was inspired by a quote from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Mrs. Roosevelt was the Chairperson of the UN Committee that wrote the Declaration in 1949.



"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?

In small places, close to home -- so close and so small

that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...]  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little

meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action

to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain

for progress in the larger world." ¬† - Eleanor Roosevelt

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States holding a Universal Declaration of Human Rights poster in English.

   Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the drafting committee, holding a Universal Declaration poster. (1949)


2017 Human Rights Day Speakers Abdul Saboor (standing) and Bruce Sexton (seated)   


Bruce Sexton watching Abdul

Saboor speak at the podium

during the event

The event was co-sponsored by, and held at, All Saint's Church.  There were 3 speakers: Professor Paula Johnson of the SU College of Law & Mr. Bruce Sexton, a law student and Disability Rights Advocate & Mr. Abdul Saboor, a respresentative and advocate for refugees who is on staff of the Interfaith Works Center for New Americans. The event was moderated by Human Rights Commission Executive Director Barrie Gewanter. 


To read short bios of the three speakers click here. 


For a report about this event on WAER-FM website click here.  


To listen to a recording of Ms. Gewanter's remarks press

the play button below.


    Image of the International Declaration of Human Rights

Click the image above for a copy

of the text of the Declaration

To listen to a recording of Professor Johnson's remarks press

the play button below.



To listen to a recording of Mr. Sexton's remarks press

the play button below.



To listen to a recording of Mr. Saboor's remarks press

the play button below.


Human Rights Commissioners and Staff Participated in Outreach Events in Syracuse in 2017
                   Human Rights Commissioner & Staff & PLSA Student at Law Day  
Commissioners Joyce Suslovic, Mary Alice Smothers & Bruce Carter at 2017 MLK Day Community Event

Barrie Gewanter, Commissioner Mary Alice Smothers and Bridget Owens and a SCSD Public Services Leadership Academy (PLSA) Student at the annual Law Day event


Commissioners Joyce Suslovic, Mary Alice Smothers and Bruce Carter at the January 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Day Community Event at Nottingham High School

Barrie Gewanter, Bridget Owens, and Monica Bacote Participated in the                                              

2016 Celebration of the Anniversary of the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Barrie & Syracuse City ADA Coordinator Ocesa Keaton Hold Joint City & County Proclamation Monica & Bridget Carry Human Rights Banner at Start of Parade


3 Marchers Hold ADA Banner at Start of Parade


Barrie & Syracuse City ADA Coordinator Ocesa Keaton Hold Joint Proclamation

July 26, 2016

Monica & Bridget Carry Human Rights Banner at the Start of the ADA Parade

July 26, 2016

3 Marchers Hold ADA Banner

at the Start of the ADA Parade

July 26, 2016


Director Barrie Gewanter & Human Rights Specialist Bridget Owens Participated in Outreach Eveents and Information Fairs in 2016

Bridget Owens & a Syracuse Student at Law Day at Fowler High School Barrie Gewanter at Senator Valesky's Community Information Fair

Barrie with Health Department staffer Paula Bradshaw at the NY State Fair Pride Day Outreach Area


Bridget Owens at our tablewith a Syracuse high school student at the Law Day Event at Fowler High School

April 8, 2016

Barrie Gewanter at our outreach table at Senator Valesky's Community Info. Fair at Southwest Community Center

June 23, 2016

Barrie Gewanter with Health Deparment Staffer Paula Bradshaw at our outreach table during Pride Day at the 2016 NY State Fair


Director Barrie Gewanter attended 2016 Karen Community Celebration in Syracuse
karen new year.2016 karen new year 2016.pic 2
On Jan 9, 2016 Human Rights Director Barrie Gewanter participated in a celebration of the New Year with 100's of members of the Karen Community from Syracuse, Albany, Rochester, Buffalo and Ithaca. They gathered together at Heninger High School in Syracuse for a joyful day that included speeches, songs and presentations from Karen Community cultural and organizational leaders and Karen youth, as well as delicious Karen food and Karen youth dance troupes from each city.

The Karen people are an ethnic minority group from the country of Myanmar (Burma) where they have suffered many years of horrific violence and political and cultural oppression. The United States has made a commitment to accept Karen refugees. Over the last 10 years 37,000 Karen refugees have settled in NY State. Only Texas and California have more Karen residents. In 2010 there were 3,000 Karen in Syracuse & Ithaca, 500 in Rochester, 3500 in Utica/Rome and 2500 in Buffalo. (From a March 2010 presentation at a Professional Development Fair in the Albany School District (http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/ uploads/005/650/3-27,_Albany%20-%20Presentation.pdf)  A website describing the Karen states that they "are known for their colorful traditional clothes and for their energetic and jubilant festival dances. Foremost, the Karens are known for their hospitality and friendliness which they readily extend to everyone." (www.karencommunity.org). All this was very evident at the New Year celebration in Syracuse.


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