In late April a group of eleven visitors from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe arrived in Pensacola as part of a U.S. State Department International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled, “Human and Civil Rights and Tolerance.” The purpose of this project was to provide an overview of the values and principles that shape U.S. human rights policy and explore the LGBT rights components within that policy; review the legal and political framework for recent advances in civil and economic rights for LGBT Americans; discuss how grassroots organizations influence policies at the local, state, national and international levels in the United States; assess the role of media, including the use of social media tools in human rights campaigns; and explore international and hemispheric initiatives for the protection of human rights.
At Pensacola City Hall, Councilmember Sherri Myers met with the group for an area orientation. They next headed to the University of West Florida for a discussion at the Office for Equal Opportunity and Accessibility. It was here they met with Dr. Vannee Cao-Nguyen, Daniela Casta, Karen Rentz, Johnny Denis, Roslyn Brown, Jamie Sprague, Rachel Hendrix, Julie Rettig, Sarah Brake, Jeanne de Simon, and Kathy Jones to discuss the work of a university department ensuring equality and non-discrimination in hiring and university policies.
Their program continued with an evaluation and examination of what they discovered during their time in the United States. Although one appointment was unexpectedly cancelled due to an unforeseen circumstance, the opening in the program allowed the visitors additional reflection time.
To compliment their professional agenda, the group took an evening excursion to Pensacola Beach and had dinner at Flounder’s Chowder House where they enjoyed an evening of fellowship. They also went on a dolphin cruise to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of Pensacola Bay and the surrounding area.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks all those who contributed to the success of this project.