WASHINGTON — On August 31, 2022, at the Foreign Press Center, 529 14th St NW in Washington, D.C., Justin Hansford, Howard University law professor and director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, will address foreign and international press alongside House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and U.S. Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice Desiree Cormier Smith. The speakers will underscore U.S. support for the U.N. Permanent Forum of People of African Descent. The event will also mark the International Day for People of African Descent. Domestic media are invited to cover the remarks via livestream from 2-2:45 p.m. The livestream will be accessible at fpc.state.gov.
Barbara Lee, California congresswoman, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs and member of the Advisory Council of Congressional Black Caucus Institute Global African Diaspora Initiative, was a central force in the establishment of the Permanent Forum and the international holiday. “The International Day for People of African Descent is truly historic and reflects our shared values that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” said Lee. “Our goal is to promote the extraordinary contributions of the African diaspora to society and highlight the ongoing fight for racial equity.”
“The Congressional Black Caucus Institute is pleased to be part of this historic announcement of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent in the United States,” said Vanessa Griddine-Jones, executive director. “Having participated in the inaugural global commemoration of the International Day for People of African Descent in Costa Rica, we embrace the significance this announcement today as a way to underscore and connect the plight of the African diaspora but particularly with African Americans in the global fight against racism in all of its forms.”
The U.N. adopted Resolution 75/314 in 2021 to create the Permanent Forum as an advancement on the International Decade for People of African Descent. The purpose of the Forum seeks to improve the safety and quality of life of people of African descent, through channels within the United Nations.
In December 2021 Hansford was elected to the Forum by the General Assembly as an independent expert for the inaugural 2022-2024 term. Hansford is at the forefront of the movement to address systemic racial inequity at the global scale. He accompanied Mike Brown's mother on an international human rights campaign called, "From Ferguson to Geneva," championing the end to police brutality and racialized violence. The international community responded in force in 2020 when the world paused for what has been called the Racial Reckoning of 2020 when we examined racial violence and police brutality with the death of George Floyd.
With his position on the Permanent Forum, Hansford hopes to bring recognition to the voices and movements that have made this progress possible. He sees the Forum as “a seat at the table” for Black people around the world to have their issues recognized on an international stage. In the U.S., he hopes it will serve as a central platform for anyone fighting for racial justice to come to and have their voices heard.
The issues central to Hansford’s platform include reparations, environmental justice, housing reform and police reform. Hansford’s relationship with the U.N. began in 2014 when he protested in Ferguson. “There are a lot of organizers and activists, but not many can take these issues to the international level. I went to Geneva three or four times, and I started to meet more people in that sphere.”
Supporters of this new forum include United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinkem, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield and representatives of civil society organizations across the country. The United States supported the creation of the forum “as part of our unequivocal commitment to advancing racial equity both at home and abroad,” said Thomas-Greenfield.