Dr. Yang Jianli Attended Harvard Event: Witness—Arts, Humanities, and Human Rights |
Dr. Yang Jianli Attended Harvard Event: Witness—Arts, Humanities, and Human Rights
March 16th, 2009 ·
By Misha Checkvich
On Tuesday, March 3, 2009, a most inspiring and illuminating event, directed by the vision of Professor Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language and Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Entitled Witness: Arts, Humanities, and Human Rights, this event brought together luminaries from academia, music, and dance to celebrate that “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” (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1). Distinguished guests featured included Nobel-Prize laureate in literature Toni Morrison, world-renowned cellist and humanitarian Yo-Yo Ma, and acclaimed dancer Damian Woetzel.
The main feature of this event were recitations of literature on various human rights issues from a broad spectrum of cultures and time periods. Professors and scholars at Harvard were invited to give the recitations, many of them done in their original languages, and then translated into English. Dr. Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China and Senior Fellow of Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies, was featured as the speaker representing human rights in China. Poignantly and earnestly delivered, the excerpt came from a student declaration distributed at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The excerpt was a powerful statement about living and dying for freedom, and what kind of life is worth living. In this bold statement, hope transcends through all of the suffering that has been imposed on those fighting for liberation in China. The last words were particularly resilient; the author expressed desire that a statue of the “goddess of democracy” be erected in Tiananmen Square as a beacon for China and the entire world that the Chinese people not only should, but must claim and own their most basic and fundamental human rights: freedom.
A wonderful success, Witness carries on the legacy of the courageous few who dare to speak out against oppression.