Thursday, March 26, 2009

FW: Please Sign Open Letter to Obama on the Durban Review Conference by March 27th at 4pm EST

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Dear NNIRR members, partners & allies,


We look forward to talking to you all on our monthly conference call later today. In the meantime, we urge you to consider signing onto this open letter that is being circulated to pressure the Obama administration to participate in the Durban Review Conference, which is a followup to the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) that many of you participated in in Durban, South Africa.


To add your personal or organizational sign-on to the letter, send an email to Ejim Dike ( at the Urban Justice Institute, who drafted the letter and is coordinating its release etc. (see below.) Thank you.


Colin Rajah

International Migrant Rights & Global Justice Program Director

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR)

310 8th Street, Suite 303

Oakland, CA 94607


tel: +01-510-465-1984 [ext. 306]

fax: +01-510-465-1885



From: Ejim Dike
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 8:08 AM
Subject: Please Sign Open Letter to Obama on the Durban Review Conference by March 27th at 4pm EST

Dear All,


I hope that you and/or your organization will sign onto the attached Open Letter to President Obama urging him to participate in the Durban Review Conference and its remaining preparatory meetings. Thank you if you have already indicated that you will be signing the letter.


Many of you signed onto a letter to Secretary Clinton in February urging the United States to participate in the Durban Review Conference. As many of you know, the Administration responded by sending a delegation to one preparatory meeting for the conference and announced upon its return that it would not be participating in the conference.


The Obama Administration’s reasons for deciding to not to engage were that it had “strong reservations about the current outcome document, as it singles out Israel for criticism, calls for unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression in the guise of preventing “defamation of religion” and calls for payment of reparations for slavery.” (The outcome document is the negotiated document with commitments made by governmental conference participants that is produced at the end of most UN conferences.) Subsequently, the outcome document for the conference was revised and cut from 45 pages to a 17-page document. The new document has addressed all the objections of the government and still, as of yesterday morning, the Obama Administration had not yet changed its mind.


The new outcome document has been weakened and many of us are not happy with it. We are trying to pressure the Obama Administration to not only participate in the Durban Review Conference, but to drop some of its objections. I hope that you will read and sign the attached open letter.


If you or your organization wishes to sign the letter, please send me an email ( stating your name and organizational affiliation, or your organizational name as it should be listed.  We have extended the deadline for sign onto the Open Letter to President Obama until tomorrow, Friday, March 27th at 4pm (EST).  The signature list is still in formation and we may be rearranging signatories to draw some attention to particular individuals. We will be publishing the letter in the press and blogs over the weekend. After that, the letter will take the form of a petition online and on Facebook.


Thanks as always,




Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Why the United States Should Stop Refusing to Participate in a Global Conference on Racism


Dear President Barack Obama,


We, the undersigned individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting racial injustice and promoting human rights domestically and globally received your recent decision to boycott the Durban Review Conference with profound disappointment. Recognizing that your stated objections to the conference have been addressed, we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings scheduled to take place in April.


Refusing to Discuss Racism on a Global Platform is Inconsistent with a Policy of Engagement with the International Community

As you know, the Durban Review Conference is one of the most important international platforms for discussing the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. Given the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, your Administration has much to contribute to this discussion. A boycott would be inconsistent with your policy of engagement with the international community. A policy of engagement requires discussion with governments and institutions even if one does not agree with them as demonstrated by your statement last week to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran that your Administration is committed to seeking “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect." How can your Administration engage in any manner with the international community if it has no representation at the discussion table?


The United States Should be Fighting for the Strongest Protections against Racism

The Durban Review process has offered a sophisticated and comprehensive framework for advancing racial equality including concrete guidelines for addressing the link between poverty, racism, sexism, and multiple forms of discrimination; advancing migrant rights; addressing youth violence; providing access to quality education, health care, and adequate housing; and advancing transparent governance in the fight for racial equality. We expect your Administration will not only engage in the process but will also work to ensure that the final outcome offers the strongest and most comprehensive platform for eliminating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. This is critical for progress in the domestic and global fight for racial and economic justice.


Specific Objections Raised do not Warrant a Boycott

We are concerned by the reasons put forth by your Administration for its refusal to engage in the conference. Notwithstanding that changes have been made to accommodate your Administration’s specific objections, we do not believe the objections warrant a decision to boycott the conference. As we mentioned before, you recently demonstrated your Administration’s willingness to engage in dialogue with governments that you do not always agree with such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we applaud that decision. Why would your Administration pursue a different policy now that it is time to discuss how to fight and eliminate racism for people in the United States and the rest of the world? How can the United States affirm freedom of expression - even for hate speech - if it refuses even to be present to listen to the views of others?


The United States Must Not Attempt to Ignore our History of Slavery

We are troubled that your Administration pushed for the withdrawal of language related to reparations, reference to the transatlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity, and the overall weakening of the efforts related to people of African Descent. We recall your own speech on March 18, 2008 that we need to “remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” We urge you to consider the bill H.R. 40 reintroduced by Representative Conyers in January calling for the establishment of a commission to examine the institution of slavery and current forms of racial discrimination, as well as to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies. We believe it will help illuminate the importance of discussing these issues both in the United States and globally.


The United States Must Engage the Global Fight for Racial Justice in Good Faith

It is regrettable that your Administration made its current decision on whether to participate in the Durban Review Conference based on one meeting. One meeting is inadequate for meaningful engagement in the process especially since the process has been ongoing since 2006 not including the time and preparation put into the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). The actions of your Administration leave the impression that you are willing to ignore an important opportunity to advance racial equality if it is politically expedient.


The Current Position of Non-Participation is worse than that of the Bush Administration

A boycott by your Administration would be the first time in recent history that the United States has refused to participate in a United Nations conference. This position is even more radical than that of the Bush Administration’s as the former Administration at least attended the preceding conference on race before withdrawing. We hope that your Administration will not squander this important opportunity to push for racial equality on the global stage and will instead send a diverse and high-level delegation including representatives from the non-governmental community.


A United States Refusal to Discuss Racism Encourages Other Countries to do the same

The current decision by your Administration not only affects the United States, but also provides cover for other countries that are reluctant to engage in a meaningful discussion on advancing racial equality to boycott the discussion as well. A United States boycott would have a long-term damaging effect on the global fight against racism.

In closing, we are reminded again of a speech you made a year ago insisting that race is an issue that this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We applauded your thought-provoking speech then as it echoed basic American values of equality and fairness, and reminded us of the importance of engaging in mature and constructive dialogue on race. We urge you not to ignore this global discussion on race. This is an issue that is extremely important for making genuine progress in the United States and advancing peace worldwide. It is also a priority for many of us who supported your campaign for change. Again, we look forward to your timely and substantive engagement in the Durban Review Conference.


Organizational Signatures for Open Letter

1.       Advocates for Environmental Human Rights

2.       Black Workers for Justice - Europe (BWJ-e)

3.       BLACK Advisors

4.       Center for Constitutional Rights

5.       National Rail Maritime and Transport Union 0543 Local Finsbury Park Branch

6.       Cidadao Global

7.       Coalition to Save Harlem

8.       Croydon African Caribbean Family

9.       Equal Justice Society

10.    Equality Now

11.    Global Afrikan Congressuk

12.    Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center

13.    Justice Now

14.    Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)

15.    National Conference of Black Lawyers

16.    National Lawyers Guild

17.    National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

18.    Norbertines of the Priory of St. Moses the Black

19.    NY Solidarity Coalition with Katrina & Rita Survivors and the Survivors Assembly

20.    The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute

21.    United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

22.    Women's International League for Peace and Freedom


Individual Signatures (with organization affiliation for identification purposes only)


1.       Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director, US Human Rights Network

2.       Aleyamma Mathew, Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action

3.       Alice J. Palmer, Chicago, Co-Chair of the People Programme

4.       Amelia Parker, Program Coordinator, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law

5.       Amy Agigian, Center for Women's Health and Human Rights, Suffolk University

6.       André Degbeon, Founder, AFRO TV BERLIN

7.       Ann Fagan Ginger, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute

8.       Anthony Gifford, Barrister (UK) and Attorney-at-law (Jamaica)

9.       Asantewaa Gail Harris, Community Vision Council

10.    Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Editor,

11.    Brenda Stokely, New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina & Rita survivors

12.    Charles Amjad-Ali, Ph.D., Th.D., The Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Justice and Christian Community, Director Islamic Studies Program, Luther Seminary

13.    Clarence C. Gravlee, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

14.    David Gespass, President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild

15.    David Kreindler, Vermont Workers' Center

16.    David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice Mission, Contexts & Relationships, General Board of Global Ministries United Methodist Church

17.    Dawn Stanger, Vermont Workers' Center

18.    Denise Williams, Ph.D., Negotiation, Conflict Resolution & Peacebuilding, California State University Dominguez Hills

19.    Dianne Burnham, Ohio Valley PEACE, Outreach

20.    Donald H. Smith, Ph.D., Past President, the National Alliance of Black School Educators; Former chair, the Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry, the John Henrik Clarke House, New York City

21.    Dowoti Désir, Founder of the DDPA Watch Group

22.    Dr Martin C. Okeke, (PhD) Former President of the Organisation NIDOE-France, Vice President PanAFSTRAG-France

23.    Dr. Corann Okorodudu, Professor of Psychology & Coordinator, Africana Studies

24.    Dr. Gloria A. Caballero-Roca, Hispanic Studies, Earlham College

25.    Dr. Irma Loemban Tobing-Klein, President MDG Global Watch

26.    Dr. Lady Dhyana Ziegler, Professor of Journalism, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida

27.    Edith M. Jackson, Howard University

28.    Edward L. Palmer, Chicago, Co-Chair of the People Programme

29.    Emira Woods, Foreign Policy In Focus/Institute for Policy Studies

30.    Erika Simard, Vermont Workers' Center

31.    Eva Paterson, President, Equal Justice Society

32.    Gary Orfield, Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning. Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA

33.    Gerardo Renique, Associate Professor, Department of History, City College of the City University of New York

34.    Gwendolyn Anderson, Member, NEA, WEAC and Milwaukee Teachers Association

35.    Ignatious Muhammad, Member, Nation of Islam

36.    Iwan Leeuwin, Chairperson, AAD Network in the Netherlands

37.    James Haslam, Vermont Workers' Center

38.    James Rowan, Northeastern University School of Law

39.    Jeanne Mirer, Secretary General of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers

40.    Jewel L. Crawford, MD, National Medical Association; Participant, UN World Conference Against Racism, 2001

41.    Jonathan Kissam, Vermont Workers' Center

42.    Kalin Williams, Malcom X Grassroots Movement

43.    K-C Nat Turner, Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

44.    Kristine Suozzi, Ph.D., New Mexico Health Equity Working Group Coordinator

45.    Laura Roskos, Ph.D., Co-President of U.S. Section, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

46.    Loretta J. Ross, National Coordinator, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective

47.    Lucy Murphy, Convenor, Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington

48.    Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The University of California. Professor, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center

49.    Martin Y. Iguchi, Ph.D., UCLA School of Public Health

50.    Matt McGrath, Vermont Workers' Center

51.    Mavis G. Biekman, Board Member, African European Women's Movement Sophiedela, The Hague, The Netherlands

52.    Mr. Philip M. J. Baptiste, III, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc

53.    Ms Diane King, Director, Seeking Joint Solution

54.    Ms Dra Barryl A. Biekman, President of the African European Women’s Movement “Sophiedela”; Chair of the National Platform Dutch Slavery; Past President of the Pan African Strategic and Policy Group (Panafstrag Europe EU/NL; Board member of Tiye International

55.    Nancy J. Bothne, Instructor, DePaul University

56.    Nancy Munger, Co-President of U.S. Section, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

57.    Nina T. Harawa, MPH, PhD, Department of Research, Charles Drew University

58.    Nkem Dike, Northwestern University, IL

59.    Nzingha Assata, Founding Member, The Alliance of Afrikan Women in England

60.    Peg Franzen, Vermont Workers Center

61.    Professor Connie de la Vega, University of San Francisco, School of Law

62.    Queen Quet, Founder, Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition

63.    Raj Patel, Affiliation. UC Berkeley Center for African Studies

64.    Ramona Ortega, Executive Director, Cidadao Global

65.    Rev. Jeremy Tobin, Board Member, US Human Rights Network and Executive Board, Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)

66.    Sam Anderson, Author, The Black Holocaust For Beginners. National Reparations Congress. Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence

67.    Serfia Macnack, Comité Moederhart 1982, Suriname/Holland 

68.    Sharon Bator, Doctoral Student Southern University and A&M College

69.    Shawna Howell, MPH, ASPH/CDC Health Disparities Fellow, Community Health and Program Services Branch, Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

70.    Shelby F. Lewis, Professor Emeritus, Clark Atlanta University

71.    Shulamith Koenig, 2003 Recipient of  the UN Human Rights Award

72.    Sylvanna Falcon, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Connecticut College

73.    Tanisha Douglas, Malcom X Grassroots Movement

74.    Thomas B. Hall Jr., Peace and Justice

75.    Vernellia R. Randall, Professor of Law, University of Dayton

76.    Wendy Lopez, Malcom X Grassroots Movement



Individual Signatures (with no organization affiliation)


77.    Akosua Gyeaboa LCSW, MSW, Indianapolis, Indiana

78.    Angela Flynn, Bethesda, MD

79.    Dorothy Stephens

80.    Gail Lerner, New York, NY

81.    Ijeoma Dike-Young, Indianapolis, IN

82.    Jeanne Bergman, Ph.D., New York, NY

83.    Judith L. Killen, Educator, New York City

84.    Kawika Liu, MD, PhD, JD, Honolulu, HI

85.    Kwasigadyapay. F.R.Kotzebue, The Netherlands

86.    Lee Guest, New York, NY

87.    Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, PhD, MPH, Albuquerque, NM

88.    Ms. Lynda Wolfe Smith

89.    Naomi Blake, London, UK

90.    Pauline Park, transgender activist, New York, NY

91.    Terry Day,  anti-racist activist, UK

92.    Vrede Yvonne, Suriname



Ejim Dike
Human Rights Project
Urban Justice Center
123 William Street, 16th Floor
New York City, NY 10038
646.602.5628 (phone)
212.533.4598 (fax) 



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