Second Annual Civic Leadership Forum

“Know Your Rights Under the NYS Human Rights Law”
Stand against bias and discrimination

HELEN DIANE FOSTER
Commissioner, New York State Division of Human Rights

On the evening of 10/18/2018, Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) Capital Region Chapter held its Second Annual Civic Leadership Forum (CLF). Leaders from Asian American community groups, including Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Korean, Nepalese, Chinese and others attended. Participants filled the Chinese Community Center Conference Hall to capacity.

Helen D. Foster, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), was the keynote speaker.  Commissioner Foster introduced NYSDHR Director of External Relations, Rachelle Dickerson, as well as Albany area Regional Director, Victor DeAmelia in the audience.  She thanked APAPA for this opportunity to connect with community leaders.

Under the theme of “Know Your Rights Under the NYS Human Rights Law – Stand against Bias and Discrimination, Commissioner Foster, with her sharp legal mind, extensive years of experiences, and passion, shared the NYSDHR’s mission, organizational structure, scope of charges and responsibilities and steady progress in pursuing full implementation of NYS Human Rights Laws and ensuring equal opportunity for NYS residents to fully participate in economic, cultural and intellectual life of the State.  Her use of various cases to illustrate the goals and functions, explain the scope of her DHR’s work, and describe the desired results was masterful and captivating.  Her strong sense of human also shone throughout her delivery, making the keynote presentation and subsequent discussion and Q&A truly engaging, interactive, and mesmerizing.

Commissioner Foster’s keynote presentation covered a wide range of topics from family abuse to workplace discrimination, from gender bias to racial injustice, and from private insult to public humiliation.  As a result of this Forum, most of the participants got to know the state government agency of NYS DHR and devoted efforts and resources for protecting New Yorkers’ human rights and deterring various forms of bias and discrimination.  There seemed to be 3 major takeaways from this event:

  1. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo and NYS Human Rights Laws, NYS DHR has been active in pursuing cases again bias and discrimination. This agency has a network of 12 offices throughout New York State.  Should any individual has experienced any forms of discrimination or bias, s/he should contact NYS DHR for assistance and support.  Even if some encounters may be ambiguous or in disguise, one should report to NYS DHR and have HR lawyers and experts clarify and determine the nature of such encounters so that various forms of abuse or violation of individual human rights should be addressed legally and appropriately. NYS DHR hotline is open and their staff in regional offices are readily available to help.  Nonetheless, when cases are filed, there is a formal process to review reported cases within a 160-day period for thorough investigation and finding report.
  2. NYS DHR has its charge and scope of responsibilities. But it also works with its sister agencies within NYS government addressing cases that may be entangled with areas of responsibilities of other divisions and offices.  Bias and discrimination can be multi-dimensional and gender or racial discrimination may lead to economic implications.  Therefore, when one is not sure if any specific biased behaviors or discriminative acts fall under the scope of high rights, one should bring such inquiry to NYS DHR for assistance in seeking clarification and support.
  3. We need to know our individual rights and stand together against any bias and discrimination whether is related to age, gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We need to stand our ground and help one another when encountering or witnessing any form of bias and discrimination behaviors by confronting it, reporting it and getting help from the government agencies like NYS DHR.

This forum proved to be informative and educational.  While the forum was scheduled to begin at 5:30pm and end at 8:00pm, Commissioner Foster and her office staff were still addressing participants’ questions and offering advices to individual inquiries beyond 9:00pm.  Audience members participated actively as they discussed instances in their own lives where they had felt discriminated against.  Many participants expressed their appreciation of the opportunity to attend such an informative forum and their delight to know that NYS DHR and other government services, thanks to Commissioner Foster and her staff’s outreach and devoted efforts.  Once again, APAPA-Albany served an active role in bringing the large Asian Pacific Islander communities together and providing a wonderful lesson on civic leadership.

Watch Part 1 of the Forum HERE:

Watch Part 2 of the Forum HERE: