By Donna Brundage
It is sometimes overwhelming for an organization created to defend against discrimination, irrationally based hatred and open bigotry to function within an orchestrated culture of fear. While the role of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force (BCHRTF) has evolved over the past two decades, sadly, its mission is as important today as it has always been.
The BCHRTF provides support and guidance to those who feel targeted by discrimination, while attempting to also provide education and raise awareness of human rights issues. The Task Force maintains a regularly monitored phone number and email where people can seek advice. Contact information is also available on our website, BCHRTF.org.
Collaborating with community organizations, the Task Force has held numerous events to bring the issue of human rights awareness to the community. Recent projects have included: sponsoring a production of “The Vagina Monologues”; showing the documentary “Add the Words” twice; sponsoring the annual student art exhibit “Art for Human Rights” at the POAC gallery; sponsoring the annual presentation of the “Young Audiences New York Literature to Life Series” at the Panida and assisting with the International musical exchange program between the Music Conservatory and young Mexican musicians.
We have also co-sponsored the “100,000 Poets for Change” event for the past three years and have held an open mic night for Martin Luther King Day. We feel it is important to expose the Sandpoint community to educational and cultural experiences to promote acceptance and understanding.
We also annually donate money to organizations that support human rights through our donor advised grants administered by the Idaho Community Foundation. Recent grant recipients have included: POAC, The Sandpoint Music Conservatory, Team Autism, The University of Idaho, The Lost Horse Press, The Model UN Program, Priest River High School, Sandpoint Middle School, the Sandpoint Presbyterian Church for their Peace Pole project, and Panhandle Special Needs. Please see www.idcomfdn.org for details about applying for a grant.
We believe that youth are a most valuable resource and actively support human rights within the school system. In addition to funding, the BCHRTF mentors the Sandpoint High School Human Rights Club and has two active members of the club on our board. The SHS Human Rights Club, even though it is only in its third year, after being revived by interested students, has already had an impact on our community. They have placed a peace pole, held mask projects at Blue Haven Shelter and held a fundraiser for local charities. The Task Force also offers the Darby and Amber Campbell scholarship each year for students throughout Bonner County that support human rights.
Regularly, the Human Rights Task Force holds a retreat to review our mission and develop a plan of action. Through use of an outside facilitator, we have been able to grow and expand our own awareness. Following last year’s retreat, we hosted an online survey to see what Bonner County felt our role should be, and where we should focus. Overwhelmingly, the issues of discrimination against the mentally ill and the LBGQT community were mentioned in the surveys. At our annual meeting, results of the survey were shared with the Task Force membership, who validated the survey results by expressing agreement about where our focus should be.
As a result, the Task Force collaborated with N.A.M.I. and recently donated over $5,000 to help fund the new crisis intervention hotline that will be active January 2016. The Task Force also has board members assisting the fledgling PFLAG group restarting in Sandpoint. In addition to showing the “Add the Words” documentary, we funded travel for the director to attend and present the film at Outfest in Los Angeles, a preeminent venue within the LBGQT community, where it won awards and received the opportunity to go into national distribution.
The BCHRTF is a member of the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights, an organization consisting of several prominent human rights groups. Through participation in this coalition, we have access to some of the most experienced and renowned human rights leaders in the nation. At a recent conference held at the University of Idaho, Brenda Hammond, past president and current board secretary sat on a panel discussing hate crimes. Relationships garnered through networking outside of our community have proven to be invaluable resources for the Task Force.
The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force maintains the website – BCHRTF.org, which contains information about how to contact us, how to become a member and how to make donations. We also host an active Facebook page which presents articles of interest as well as news of upcoming events www.facebook.com/bonnercountyhumanrights. We invite you to like and share our page.
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