In June of this year, Barnstable County passed an ordinance that created the new Human Rights Advisory Commission, which will have a different focus and function than its predecessor, the Barnstable County Human Rights Commission, established by the county in 2007.

Whereas the former Human Rights Commission would directly address human rights-related complaints, the new commission will guide a citizen with a complaint to the agency that can address the issue.

The new commission is focused on promoting and protecting the basic human rights of all Barnstable County residents through education and outreach, and it serves in an advisory capacity to the new human rights coordinator.

Retired Mashpee resident Deborah A. Battles was in the midst of a cultural tour in France when she read about the opening for the new Human Rights Coordinator position in the Barnstable County newsletter. She applied and was hired in July.

Over a 30-year career, Ms. Battles put her Master of Education in Organizational Development degree with a focus on human service agencies to good use as coordinator of Child Care Services for the Cape Cod Development Program; coordinator for Education and Employment for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe; a founder and original director of the Cape Cod Dispute Resolution Center; and special programs coordinator for Career Training Initiatives at Cape Cod Community College, to name a few.

“I came out of a comfortable retirement and snowbird life to get back involved,” she said. “I couldn’t help myself, because I believe this new commission is so important.”

While Ms. Battles is learning the ropes of her new position, the October schedule for the new Human Rights Advisory Commission is impressively full.

The commission seeks four new volunteer members for the nine-member volunteer commission and one representative from the county’s Committee of Delegates, who acts as liaison to the Delegates, to start on January 1. Applications must be received no later than Thursday, October 10, at 4 PM. Interviews for those selected will be held the week of October 21.

Human Rights Advisory Commissioners serve for a minimum of three years and are appointed by the County Commissioners, who vote on applications after they are selected by a screening committee.

Five commissioners were drawn from the original Human Rights Commission who wanted to stay on in the new organization. While geography is not a consideration for application, the current commissioners live in Pocasset, North Falmouth, Hyannis, Centerville, and North Eastham, representing a large swath of Cape Cod.

“We really need four new people on our commission,” Ms. Battles said. A press release about the openings says that people with varied language skills and diverse backgrounds are “strongly encouraged to apply.”

Ms. Battles said that the Human Rights Advisory Commission will be an active group, and that new commissioners would have the opportunity to develop events and projects in the coming year around human rights issues which they feel are important.

“We’re looking for people with new ideas,” Ms. Battles said. “It is so important to have people who really believe we can do more for human rights in our communities.”

The Human Rights Advisory Commission is also seeking nominations for the 2019 Rosenthal and Cornerstone Awards.

The nominations are due on Wednesday, October 16, and the winners of these awards will be presented at the annual Human Rights breakfast at the Hyannis Golf Club in December.

The Rosenthal Community Champion Award was named after Irving Leopold Rosenthal and is given to those in the public sector who are recognized by their peers, community, and associates as individuals who have fostered and supported human rights, concepts, and ideals, particularly those who have worked to advance human rights and to eliminate discrimination, a September press release said.

The Cornerstone Award is given to individuals recognized by their peers, community and associates as those who have fostered and supported human rights, concepts and ideals.

Nomination forms for these two awards can be downloaded at

On Sunday, October 20, the newly-formed Barnstable County No Place for Hate group will host a “kick-off meeting” in the cafeteria at Cape Cod Community College from 2 PM to 4 PM.

On Wednesday, October 23, members of the Human Rights Advisory Commission will participate in a Falmouth-wide community panel discussion called “Decoding the Alphabet Soup” to talk about issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/allied members of the community at St. Barnabas Church in Falmouth.

On Friday, October 25, members of the Human Rights Advisory Commission will attend a Massachusetts Human Rights Commission forum focusing on human rights and the law enforcement community at the State House.

On Wednesday, October 30, from 9 AM to noon, middle school and high school students from human rights clubs at Cape Cod schools will gather for the fall Human Rights Academy meeting at Cape Cod Academy in Osterville. Here, the students will have the chance to meet one another, talk with representatives from human rights and human services organizations, and listen to speakers.

Students will then return to their schools to create and implement their own human rights projects, which they will work on throughout the school year and present to the public in the spring.

“My head is spinning,” Ms. Battles said of the October schedule as she credited the Barnstable County Commissioners with being “unbelievably supportive.”

“Every staff person I have dealt with has been supportive and has helped every step of the way,” she said. “It feels like a new start, and Barnstable County is completely behind it.

In the new year, the Human Rights Advisory Commission will focus on the new census 2020 and will take the lead on this on Cape Cod, Ms. Battles said.

“It’s huge,” she said. “People on the commission will focus on hard-to-reach populations and diverse and immigrant populations in our communities, to educate them about the importance—for so many reasons—of being counted.”

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