Stay timely and learn more about the wide variety of observances, holidays, awareness campaigns, cultural celebrations, and other days to remember this month.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, November 25 – December 10
Continuing from November, the first 10 days in December are a part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which works to “challenge violence against women and girls.” The campaign concludes on Human Rights Day (see December 10).
World AIDS Day
This day is dedicated to remembering those who have died, celebrating the lives of those currently living with HIV/AIDS, and honoring the efforts of all who advocated for better care and quality of life for those affected by the illness. The theme for 2021 is “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.”
Rosa Parks Refuses to Give Up Her Bus Seat
On this day 66 years ago, Alabama anti-segregation activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger, as dictated by local law. Her act of civil disobedience helped inspire the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, proving that often resistance is about what we won’t do and what we won’t put up with.
South Africa Constitutional Court Uses Judicial Precedent in Support of Same-Sex Marriage
In 2005, South Africa’s highest court ruled that the definition of marriage included same-sex couples. The country’s Parliament was then given one year to address this ruling through official laws on marriage. The next year, Parliament legally recognized same-sex marriage.
Playboy Magazine Debuts (1953)
Founder Hugh Hefner and his notorious magazine were…sometimes problematic as hell. He also did things that moved sexuality (as well as First Amendment rights) in American society forward. And even he knew 1A rights came with responsibilities (e.g., he didn’t publish nude photos of Vanessa Williams because he thought they were only being offered to smear the first black Miss America). Though it’s had its ups and downs, the seminal magazine’s place in American history cannot be denied.
International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
Statistics show that nearly 40 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, noted by the United Nations to include a multitude of exploitative situations, including forced marriage and human trafficking. On this day, the goal is to raise awareness of modern slavery in all of its forms.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
While you may hear a little about the civil rights of people living with disabilities (usually centered around barriers to access), one area you don’t hear nearly about enough is the intersection of sexuality and disabilities. Established by the United Nations, one of the goals of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to “promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.” In a society that often strips people with disabilities of their sexual agency, we think that “well-being” should include sexual health and desires also.
The Death of Dr. John Rock (1984)
An interesting but little-known fact — the man whose research led to the development of the birth control pill was a devout Catholic — and the Catholic Church currently bans birth control. Despite the resistance of the Church to the drug he helped create, Rock remained a staunch advocate for the rights of married women to control their reproductive destinies.
International Volunteer Day
A day to celebrate the volunteers that make so many organizations great! Whether you assisted with a one-time event or have a recurring gig, your efforts not only make nonprofits better while affecting the lives of others, but your work might impact you personally as well. (See December 10, Human Rights Day, below.) Learn more about this UN-established day here.
Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders is Fired
While it’s been debated whether she was fired or forced to resign, on this day in 1994, President Bill Clinton fired Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders after she told the audience at an HIV/AIDS forum that masturbation “…is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” With the prevalence of abstinence-only sex education being provided in schools, it’s clear that neither masturbation nor any other aspect of positive, age-appropriate sex education, is currently being taught in the nation’s schools.
Human Rights Day
2021 marks the 73rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. This document affirms the inherent dignity of all human beings and references certain inalienable rights that all people are entitled to. Human Rights Day reminds us all that, as the UN states, “we need to stand up for our rights and those of others.” (Fun fact: In 1995, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a groundbreaking speech at the UN’s Fourth Women’s Conference declaring that “women’s rights are human rights.” Two of our team members — a staff writer and our founder — volunteered at the UN as they prepped that conference. Proving again that volunteerism can impact you in ways you don’t expect!)
Ella Baker’s Birthday (1903)
December 13 marks the birthdate of Ella Baker, a lifelong community organizer, a supporter of human rights, and an influential (though often behind the scenes) activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Credited with inspiring the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, she also was also heavily involved with the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the NAACP (where she rose through the ranks to become Director of Branches). “Fundi,” as she was known by many, was a firm believer in grassroots organizing, and believed strongly that those affected directly by injustice were the ones best equipped to fight it, with or without a leader at the helm. “Strong people don’t need strong leaders,” she is known for saying. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland works to continue her legacy.
Ryan White is Diagnosed with AIDS (1984)
Ryan White is best known as an inspirational figure in the early fight for rights for people living with HIV/AIDS. But in 1984 he was just a 13-year-old living in Kokomo, Indiana, who, as a hemophiliac, needed regular infusions. The results of these treatments would change his life, as he contracted HIV from a contaminated blood product. His subsequent legal battle to return to school transfixed the nation, ultimately helping Americans learn more about HIV and AIDS, and learn, most importantly, that those with life-threatening illnesses – even “scary” ones – are just human and should be treated as such. As a testament to his bravery and activism, the federal program for services for those with HIV/AIDS is named in his honor.
The U.S. Announces the End of Japanese-American Internment (1944)
A shameful period in America’s history ended on this date 77 years ago. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for the forcible sequestration of those with Japanese heritage. As a result, more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were placed in internment camps throughout the country, under the guise of “disloyalty to the United States.” Living in appalling conditions, the men, women, and children in these camps were subject to a lack of quality food, substandard medical care, and limited opportunities to leave the camps. After nearly three years, internment was halted after the Supreme Court ruled that loyal citizens could not be held without cause by the U.S. government, regardless of their ethnic or racial background.
International Migrants Day
With xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment rising across the globe, this is a fitting time to acknowledge the typically difficult journey of migrants globally, from travel to resettlement, as well as to recognize the positive impacts that migrants bring to their new homes all over the world. Consider volunteering at or donating to an organization dedicated to supporting migrants worldwide. Conversely, if your organization provides services to immigrants, consider getting in touch with us to get on the waiting list for pro-bono support.
International Human Solidarity Day
Established by the UN in support of its Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the purpose of International Human Solidarity Day is to “celebrate our unity in diversity” and to “raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity” among other things. This day is a good prompt to consider the benefits of “reaching across the aisle” when possible and embracing the inclusivity of different ideas and approaches. Remember, we’re all in this together!
Title X is Approved
On this date in 1970, the Family Planning Services and Public Research Act of 1970 was approved. This act established the Title X Family Planning Program, a federal grant program that provides funding for preventative health and family planning services. Specifically, this legislation enables clinics and health care centers around the country to provide reproductive health services to people with low incomes or those who are underinsured. Previously, the Trump administration gutted Title X funding from clinics that:
- Provide information on abortion or refer women to clinics where abortions are performed.
- Provide abortion services but do not adhere to strict physical and financial “separation” requirements.
However, in April 2021, the Biden-Harris administration released “proposal regulations” to reverse this measure. Learn more about this issue.
Wounded Knee Massacre (1890)
The Wounded Knee Massacre took place in South Dakota, near Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála (Wounded Knee Creek) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. The massacre began as an attempt by the U.S. 7th Calvary Regiment to disarm the Lakota Camp after previously failing to do so. While historians are not exactly sure as to what exactly sparked the mass shooting, the aftereffects were clear: anywhere from 150 – 300 men, women, and children from the Lakota Nation were killed. According to one witness,
“… I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream…” –Black Elk
Learn more about the tensions that preceded the massacre, read the acclaimed book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, or visit the Wounded Knee Museum.
Death of Henry Gerber
German immigrant Henry Gerber is credited with founding the first U.S. gay rights organization. At 25, he was briefly committed to a psychiatric hospital for being gay. This did not stop his advocacy for the LGBTQIA community, however. After serving in the Army during WWI, he and some friends established The Society for Human Rights, dedicated to protecting gay rights. The group eventually disbanded, but Gerber continued communicating with and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame notes that he died on this date in 1972, having lived to see the emergence of the modern-day gay rights movement.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the December days to remember! If we inadvertently omitted a sexual and reproductive health day that’s important to you, or if you have suggestions on other days to cover, give us a shout.