On January 27th, Professor Angelina Godoy, Director of the UW Center for Human Rights, and Emily Williard, PhD Student in the Jackson School, joined the campus for a talk entitled “Unfinished Sentences: Seeking Justice in El Salvador.” The presentation discussed the amazing work of the UW Human Rights Center, which connects students, scholars, activists and affected communities in the pursuit of justice in the aftermath of El Salvador’s civil war (http://unfinishedsentences.org).
In their presentation, Professor Godoy explained the genesis of the ‘Unfinished Sentences’ project and described the complexities of human rights work in El Salvador. Her presentation featured UW students developing video archives and narratives about the disappearances throughout the civil war. Professor Godoy explained the significant obstacles to constructing a history of violence during this internecine conflict and, occasionally, the joy at reconnecting long-lost family members. She discussed the powerful collaborative work between the UWHCR, domestic advocacy groups, and local communities working in the wake of devastation. The talk emphasized UWCHR’s pursuit of additional documentation of the American role in the civil war. Emily Williard described the challenge of amassing and analyzing documents from the State Department, CIA, and other governmental entities in order to construct an image of the conflict in El Savaldor.
The presentation also gave UW-Tacoma students the opportunity to ask questions about multiple aspects of the human rights context in El Salvador, the work of the Center, and the role concerned students could play in the future. Angelina and Emily shared their vision of the Center, helped the audience understand the legacy of the civil war, and described the Center’s numerous opportunities for undergraduate and graduate work (http://humanrights.washington.edu/resources/internships-volunteer-opportunities/). In general, the presentation provided students the opportunity to see an example of human rights work in action, to see the powerful effect it can have on the victims of violence, and witness the university’s contribution to this process. The event offered UW-Tacoma students an opportunity to learn about human rights efforts, but also created a space for a collective response to the fear and intimidation that often accompanies human rights work.