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Alicia Honored with Ambassador of Conscience Award

| Activism

Photo by Rodolphe Beaulieu / Amnesty International.

Last night, Alicia was honored with the Ambassador of Conscience Award by Amnesty International for her support and activism for human rights. Read her full acceptance speech below:

Just wondering…

When will we fly above the mess

The confusion

The hatred

The lies

That unties us

Just wondering…

When will we see each other as golden

And children

As innocent meant to be protected

And color as irrelevant

And love as everythin’

Just wonderin’…

Cause I know we are more than the tragedy

But every day there’s another

To the left and right of me

With unanswered questions

And un-accountability

But when I look at us I see

What we could be

Free from the mess and slumberin’

But I’m just wonderin’…

When will we fly above the

Past

Those things we were taught

The confusion

The hatred

The lies

That unties us

Just wondering…

When will we see each other as golden

And children

As innocent meant to be protected

And color as irrelevant

And love as everythin’

Just wonderin’…

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

And sisterhood!

I’m not going to recite all of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Just that first article, Article One.

For so long I didn’t even know there was a universal declaration of human rights. Too many others outside this room don’t know it exists. Or perhaps they do, but willfully turn away from it. Ignore it.

Free and equal in dignity and rights.

Part truth, part promise, made nearly 70 years ago. An idea of such enduring simplicity. So clear, so reasonable.

Yet there are people among us this evening, on this land, this territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka people, for whom defense of these basic principles has been a heart-rending struggle, a journey that has demanded immeasurable resilience and determination, a life’s work. Remarkable People.  Brave people. Cindy Blackstock, Senator Sinclair, Delilah, Melissa, Widia, Melanie, I am humbled by your achievements.

Just across the border, in the land of the free, where I was born, the same struggle exists. I wonder why are native people the most oppressed? The ones that have been here the longest? The ones that built a whole country with sweat and tears yet still have to fight for their dignity? Why are we still fighting to be seen, to be heard? To be respected? To be…

Free and equal.

In North America we are free and equal on paper, but not in reality. Women are still paid less than men. Children go without food, without healthcare. Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are victims of hate crimes. And the color of our skin determines whether we make it home alive after a routine traffic stop.

I think of Jordan Edwards, just 15 years old, shot by a police officer as he drove away from a party. Terence Crutcher, a Tulsa, Oklahoma father of four, unarmed, and shot by a white police officer named Betty Shelby. I think of Richard Collins III, a black college student stabbed to death by a white stranger days before his college graduation last week. And Sherrell Faulkner, the 11th transgender woman of color killed this year in the U.S., putting 2017 on track to be the deadliest year yet for the transgender community.

Free and equal?

But there are so many lights in the darkness. Ericka Huggins. The legacy of your struggle, the persecution and sacrifices you endured standing up for these very same principles. You showed us that despite sustained attrition, no government, no president, past or present, can plunder our vision of a safer, fairer world, where Black Lives Matter and the sweltering heat of oppression is transformed into Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of an oasis of freedom and justice.

Activists lobbying for criminal justice reform, families seeking justice for loved ones brutally victimized by police. Defenders of children’s rights making sure they have health insurance coverage. AIDS activists (at organizations like Keep A Child Alive) committed to realizing the end of AIDS for children and their families, communities opening their arms and homes to people fleeing from unimaginable war and persecution. Van Jones, Leigh Blake, Bono, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sausor, “Mum” Carol, Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya, DeRay McKesson, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrice Cullors, Nicole Gonzales, Laverne Cox… These are the brave people I draw inspiration from, who push me to shout louder and do more. All of us, ultimately, guided by the same principle.

Free and equal.

Back to that promise. What greater reward spurs us on to action when we see human rights under threat? Because we can all make a difference. It’s written right there in Article One: We are all endowed with reason and conscience.

And we are all connected. Indigenous people, people of color, women, refugees, immigrants, LGBTQ people, people of all faiths, people with disabilities… we know what it is to be disenfranchised. To be disrespected. To have our spirit diminished. To know that our lives are at risk. But we are all in this together. And I still believe that we are stronger together. To fight for one of us is to fight for all of us.

We fight by speaking up. We fight by getting loud. Write a letter. Sign a petition. March. Make a donation. Write a song or poem. Call your representatives. Have a conversation with someone you don’t know. Confront authority.

Can we depend on each other to speak up any way we can?

Because who do we count on to support the fight for freedom, the promise of dignity and equality? If not us?

We count on each other. Our first and lasting responsibility is to each other, above all else. To have a conscience. To respect each others’ lives.

And we can count on Amnesty International. More than sixty years defending universal human rights, exposing injustice and galvanizing millions of people the world over to stand up and demand positive change.

Amnesty, thank you for holding that mirror up to humanity – for showing us a reflection of how we are kinder, more compassionate and capable of love than we knew possible. You have been relentless in reminding us of this truth, and that we can only give life to this truth by standing together and claiming the rights that are ours.

John Lennon said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.” We are all dreaming together tonight. I am honored and inspired to be your Ambassador of Conscience and I stand with you all.

Watch Alicia’s full Instagram Story from the day of the ceremony: