UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2020:
In 1995, following a discernment process to start an AFSC program in Washington, D.C. and a listening project around Cardozo Senior High School, the former Middle Atlantic Region (MAR) executive committee established the D.C. Peace and Economic Justice program, directed by Bette Hoover, that used the Help Increase the Peace framework to focus on conflict resolution training and embracing diversity in schools and communities.
The AFSC’s Help Increase the Peace Program, also known as HIPP/HIP, started as a project to help youths deal with violence and became a catalyst for the HIPP Manual, which was introduced by the former MAR’s Lisa Mundy, Hope Wallis and Erik Wissa as editors and with the support of former Regional Director Virden Seybold and eventually dozens of HIP directors across the country.
Inspiration for Help Increase the Peace came from the AFSC's Upper New York State Youth Empowerment Project, which in 1990 modeled its first HIP curriculum after the successful Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) for prison inmates developed by Quakers in 1975. Informed by their experience with AVP, AFSC staff introduced HIP as a pilot project in two Syracuse schools. The response was overwhelmingly positive. In the 15 years following that pilot program, HIP workshops were conducted in 39 states and at least 15 countries worldwide, impacting thousands of people. The manual is still available today in its fourth edition.
In 2008, former D.C. Peace and Economic Justice program director Jean-Louis Peta Ikambana led a grassroots coalition to establish Washington, D.C. as the first Human Rights City in the United States. During his tenure at the AFSC, Jean-Louis also established the Human Rights Learning Program, expanding human rights education to D.C. students. Through this program, students used the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a framework to identify, define, analyze and take action to address human rights violations in their own communities.
Beginning in 2017, program associate Rachel Bergsieker successfully coordinated an expansion of the program’s human rights curriculum work to become an official elective in D.C. public schools. Rachel also reinvigorated human rights cities work through the DC Human Rights Cities Alliance in the District and across the nation through her leadership on the US National Human Rights Cities Alliance.
In October 2019, due to unfortunate budget realities the AFSC was faced with the difficult decision to discontinue the DC Peace and Economic Justice program, and in May 2020 the program was closed.
While the program itself has ended we have been successful in transitioning the two main components of its ongoing work to local partners. Thanks to these strong partnerships the Human Rights and Social Action elective and the DC Human Rights City Alliance will continue their work to establish the District of Columbia as an example of a city that respects and uplifts the human rights of its residents.
The longstanding work that has supported human rights education and action will now grow with Long Live GoGo, an organization that is deeply rooted in the history and culture of Washington, D.C. At a recent Juneteenth presser with Moechella organizers, Long Live GoGo founder Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson announced its partnership with the AFSC in maintaining the Human Rights and Social Action elective offered in D.C. Public Schools, which is based on a curriculum created by the D.C. Peace and Economic Justice program in 2009.
The curriculum will also be available for review and usage by outside groups upon the completion of Long Live GoGo's new website, coming soon.
The work of D.C. Human Rights City Alliance will continue through the leadership of current members, who will carry the convening, learning and sharing forward themselves, with AFSC agreeing to provide meeting space as needed. This continued commitment to keep the work going also builds the capacity of the larger US National Human Rights Cities Alliance, which this program helped to establish and has been instrumental in developing over the years.
The AFSC would like to thank its staff members, interns, partners and supporters who contributed to the many accomplishments of the D.C. Peace and Economic Justice Program, and who continue to defend and educate others on human rights.
On a national level, the AFSC maintains an active presence in the nation’s capital through the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy, located in Davis House near Dupont Circle.
The D.C. Peace and Economic Justice Program strategically sought to educate, train and advocate on the behalf of the D.C. area community in issues around peace building, economic justice and human rights.
The Human Rights Learning Project sought to expand human rights education to every student in the District of Columbia. Beginning in 2009, the D.C. Human Rights Learning Program offered human rights education workshops to over 800 D.C. students. Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, the curriculum was offered as a DCPS high school elective course entitled "Human Rights and Social Action."
Human Rights City Project: In 2008, the District of Columbia became the first Human Rights City in the United States. The American Friends Service Committee's Human Rights City Steering Committee produced a regular report evaluating the city's progress in the promotion of human rights.
You can find more resources related to AFSC D.C.'s Human Rights City Project here.