Indiana State University Newsroom

Human Rights Day to focus on human trafficking

April 12, 2010

"The Abolition of Slavery and Human Trafficking" will be the theme for the ninth annual Human Rights Day April 20 at Indiana State University.

The event is designed to promote understanding and recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. It will feature a keynote presentation, two sessions of workshops and a panel presentation. Also, non-perishable food items will be collected for Catholic Charities of Terre Haute. A Tunnel of Oppression, an artistic exhibit that depicts issues involving violence, racism, homophobia, health issues and body image will be on display in Hulman Memorial Student Union, Dede II.

Mary Burke, director of training for the doctoral program in counseling psychology at Carlow University, will give the keynote address, "Today's Slavery: An Issue of Human Rights." Her presentation follows this year's Human Rights Day focus on Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Burke is co-founder and director of the Project to End Human Trafficking, a U.S.-based organization that raises awareness of enslavement and economic exploitation.

Following Burke's presentation, Juana Bordas will be signing her book, "The Power of We." Bordas, the founder of Mi Casa Women's Center in Denver, was born in Nicaragua and was the first president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute. Bordas served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile and was later honored by the Peace Corps with the Franklin Williams Award for her life-long commitment to uplifting communities of color.

The day will also feature the premiere of the original play "They Come with Their Beautiful Words," written by Gary Daily, professor emeritus of history and women's studies, and directed by Lew Hackleman, professor emeritus of theater. The one-act play will take place at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Immediately following the 4 p.m. showing of the play will be the Terre Haute March against Hate, led by the ISU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Pizza will be provided at Dede Plaza following the march.

Presenters include:
• Michael J. Prendergast, civil rights program coordinator in the Indianapolis Division of the FBI. Prendergast is an ordained deacon at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, ministers at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City and coordinates the jail and prison ministry in Gary.

• Members of Terre Haute North Vigo High School's Ethics and Leadership Club will participate in a panel discussion "WWYD (What Would You Do?): Are Real World Decisions Always Black or White?" Panelists include Heather Austin, Wyoming Compton, Alyson Dickson, Alexandra Hendrix, Sierra Miller, Grace Oliver, David Piper, Jacob Reynolds, Emily Steppe, Hannah Thomas, Haley Tisdale and Ian Titus.

• Kathleen Desautels, a Sister of Providence who ministers at 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago. She is vice president for student affairs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and has ministered as an elementary school teacher, director of religious education, a religious education consultant and theology instructor and a prison chaplain.

• Kanwal Praksh Singh (KP), a founding member of the International Center of Indianapolis. Singh received the International Citizen of the Year Award from the center, the Award of Excellence in Arts from the Asian American Alliance and the Miri Piri Award from the Sikh Heritage Foundation of California. His session is aimed at the clergy, as he is a proponent of people of different religious backgrounds working together toward a common goal.

• Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, born in New York to a Jewish-American mother and a Muslim-Iraqi father. She appeared before a Congressional forum in 2006, raising questions about U.S. military action in Iraq. In order to work as a full-time peace activist, Wasfi put her medical career on hold. She has special interest in women and the abuse of women in Iraq and neighboring regions.

• Tarah Demant, a volunteer activist with Amnesty International USA and current Amnesty Area Coordinator for Missouri, has served as the Stop Violence Against Women coordinator for the Midwest. Demant teaches women and gender studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

• Maia Wechsler, a documentary filmmaker born and raised in Gary, is producing a feature-length documentary about a hijacking to Algeria in 1972. Her award-winning film "Sisters in Resistance" was broadcast on PBS in 2003 and was seen internationally in film festivals. Wechsler produces and directs advocacy films and is a fundraiser for non-profit organizations.

• Haley Volpintesta, an advocate for youth impacted by the sex trade and the juvenile and criminal justice systems, explored the limits and effects of the mobilization of human rights discourse in U.S. anti-trafficking policies. She has worked with Girls Educational and Mentoring Services and the Young Women's Empowerment Project.

• Eric Anderson, ISU instructor of psychology, Gurmeet Sekhon, ISU professor emeritus of sociology, Richard Lotspeich, ISU professor of economics, and Singh will participate in a panel discussion, "Human Trafficking from the Perspectives of Social Science and International Relationships."

All events are free. For more information about Human Rights Day, visit

Photo: - A March against Hate, such as this one from 2009, is among the many activities scheduled for Human Rights Day on the Indiana State University campus on April 20.

Contact: Nancy Rogers, Human Rights Day coordinator and associate vice president for academic affairs, Indiana State University, 812-237-2474 or

 Writer: Lana Schrock, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or