Dancing—and More—with the UDHR

Every Man, Woman and Child (& Every Living Soul): The Original Musical Presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came out on December 10th, 2022 the 75th Anniversary of the UDHR….

…with my name on the cover!

I had the honor of telling the story of this groundbreaking community musical project by composer Merrill Collin’s in the book. I met her ten years after she’d taken a group of kids to perform her original song at the United Nations in New York. The work she’d done after that in collaboration with Human Rights rock star Elsa Stamatopolou ushered in a new era of kickin-it-up with the UDHR. In writing my essay for this book, “The Human Rights Vibration,” I realized that this song written by a single mom in my own Oakland neighborhood was actually the first grassroots musical expression of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a unique historical work, and a pretty wonderful story of arts activism.

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A year ago we published We Declare! Songs, Chants, Dances and Multimedia Projects based on A Global Ethic, but this one is actually the first in the series. For EMWC, I played the roles of editor, designer, publisher, and co-writer…and beta-tester.

Every Man, Woman, and Child is a song with many iterations, all of them serving as a beautiful setting for a reading of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can see the scope of the project on the website we designed.

There are numerous recordings of the song on Spotify, from an acapella chant to a Hip Pop version to a long and beautiful Yoga meditation suite. One of my very favorites is the West African Hilife version by Pope Flyne, a beloved teacher of African Dance & Culture here in Oakland, who was an award-winning pop star in Ghana before he came here as an ambassador.

I worked up some choreography to his song a few years ago and have done the EMWC project on or around Human Rights Day and Martin Luther King Day in my Zumba classes for several years. It’s always very moving for my students.

Here’s how you do it.


  • Print out the 30 articles on brightly colored paper. (I recommend cardstock…I have used mine over and over again.) You can type them up yourself, copy pages from the book, or have participants make them ahead of time. Print the article number and the general idea on the front, and a paraphrase on the back.
  • Have participants stand in a circle. Lay the cards in front of each person, starting from the last one (Article 30) and working backwards. If there are more cards than participants, add another layer. In this video, we each had a stack of about four cards.

  • Place the cards facing outwards from each person, as pictured. When they are picked up during the bridge, they will be facing the right way.


  • Listen to the song and talk about each dance move as you demonstrate it. The choreography is very simple and easy to follow, even if you’ve never seen it before. Explain that during the break and outro, everyone can keep moving to the rhythm using whatever steps or moves they feel.
  • Explain that during the break and outro, we will go around the circle and take turns reading our articles.
  • Tell them how you will signal when the break is ending – shouting out, “last one!” during the rehearsal. Then after a few more moves the reading will resume until the ending.
  • Play the music and give it a try. Afterwards, discuss how it felt. Go through it again. Empower them all to be human rights teachers by giving away a printed list of the articles or the small UDHR booklet, or send them a list via email or text. You can find many versions of the articles online.

For Reals

  • Invite the community to participate in this easy, interesting, and inspiring ritual.
  • Before people arrive, go through it one more time with your core group.
  • When people arrive, enlarge the circle and lay out the cards again. Don’t worry if they get mixed up—in real life, the order doesn’t matter.
  • Don’t stress if things get complicated. In this video, one person was reading in another language using Google Translate, and people walked in in the middle of the song who hadn’t rehearsed the break. But this is not a performance, it’s an experience. We all have the right to be human, and not perfect. 
  • After the song ends, allow some time to feel the emotions of this powerful moment in silence. Afterwards, collect the cards and invite everyone to talk to each other about how it feels.

Other Options

  • In each of the videos below, the group had practiced the song once a week for three weeks using pre-printed cards. If there is interest, you can make time beforehand to talk about the UDHR and to make the cards in class. You can add more rehearsals so that everyone is very comfortable. You can do it as a performance for an audience, and you can have a more formal discussion afterwards. Be creative and engage!

Downtown Oakland Senior Center, 2023

Rossmoor Fitness Center, 2018

Oakland Peace Center Zumbathon, 2019

Learn More

On Martin Luther King Day, January 15th 2024, we will also be teaching a class on the various ways to engage your community in musical celebrations of the UDHR. Sign up here! Participants recieve a copy of the book.

Those who own a copy of this book will be able to guide every type of community in producing musical presentations of the UDHR. To hear the documents read, or paraphrased, in community, is an incredibly powerful experience that in every situation sparks conversation about what rights are, who gets them, who gives them, the aspirational nature of the UDHR, and the state of the world trying to live up to these ideals.


How you can help us spread the word:


It’s now been thirty-five years since the song’s creation. Every Man, Women and Child  + Every Living Soul is finally available for everyone, with an open invitation to jam. Let’s imagine what the world could be doing together in 2048 when the UDHR turns 100!

What do you think?