The White Rose Society starts off week with Human Rights Symposium


Marshall Nolen

Rebecca Lorins, program director of the Texas After Violence Project, spoke about her life experience fighting for human rights with the University of Texas White Rose Society. 

This caption was corrected after its original posting. Lorins is the program director for the Texas After Violence Project.

Mark Carrion

Human rights issues have drawn the attention of activists from all over the world, and a symposium held on Monday by The White Rose Society featured these activists and their stories.

The panel featured four panelists who discussed their area of expertise and why they became involved in advocating human rights. According to Tramanh Hoang, president of The White Rose Society, this is the seventh year the group has organized the Human Rights Symposium. The symposium will last through Wednesday of this week and will feature speeches by students, professors and activists. The symposium is free and open to the public. 

Panel member Rebecca Lorins, the program director for the Texas After Violence Project, a non-profit group that seeks to record and spread the stories of people who have been affected by violence, said she became involved with human rights after documenting a Sudanese cultural troupe and the social struggles they portrayed. 

“It’s what gets heard in the global context,” said Lorins, who holds a Ph.D. from UT in comparative literature. “That started me on the path of oral history as a way to elevate voices that may not be heard in mainstream media.”

Middle Eastern studies and liberal arts honors sophomore Tracy Frydberg, who was on the symposium’s panel, said she thought the Jewish community could help those who feel targeted for their ethnicity. 

“I understood that I had the opportunity to educate my own community, to educate the Jewish community, on what’s happening to other students at UT and to offer the Jewish community’s services to students who were being targeted,” Frydberg said. 

Frydberg helped found the Latino-Jewish Student Coalition on campus, which seeks to share the cultures of the two groups and collectively face issues in the community. 

“It’s about using this education, using these stories to create positive change,” Frydberg said. 

Panelist and government and liberal arts honors senior Ben Weiss said he began to foster an affinity for learning about political and cultural circumstances in Sub-Saharan Africa while at UT. Weiss said his academic specialty focuses on how Sub-Saharan African countries build infrastructures for HIV/AIDS relief. 

“I started looking at the intersection of human rights and development narratives,” Weiss said. 

Weiss stressed the importance of education, careful planning and organization during the symposium.

“For me, the first step is always education,” Weiss said. “It is not a question of whether to act or not to act, but it is having awareness of your own actions and the implications of those actions.”

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Printed on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 as: Symposium explores activist stories

This article was corrected after its original posting. The Texas After Violence Project deals with victims affected by violence.