As an Amnesty International chapter, it’s important to host events as well as have meetings, write letters, and pay membership dues. Events take a lot more work, but are worthwhile if you want to recruit members, build awareness for your chapter and the issues, and do something different toward human rights. After all, letters are great and important, but a movie screening or a petition drive has a different kind of impact. Here are four Amnesty events you can host on your campus:
One thing that we did as a college chapter in St. Louis is that we alternated every year between hosting a concert and hosting a slam poetry event. Between the two, I would say that a concert is much easier because it’s easier to find bands and musicians who are willing to perform. Students, and professors, would love to play a few songs for a new audience and attract their fans to the event. It’s also great to see your theology professor rock out on some tunes on a Friday night. To make this more of an Amnesty event, you can use the concert to raise money for an issue or the organization by asking for a suggested donation to attend.
Tip: If you’re going to have multiple bands/musicians, make sure that there is ample time between acts. I learned this the hard way, and had a band cancel the day before the event because the 30 minutes in between was not enough for them to test their equipment and to warm up before they performed.
This one is a pretty simple event too, as most colleges have at least one auditorium or location where everything is there to do the movie screening. Most college libraries have at least one human rights movie to check out too, so all the tools are there at your disposal. I found one directory that was pretty good, so check it out if you want ideas. That list isn’t at all comprehensive, and does feature a lot of domestic topics, so creating another list that has more recent films and more international films might be a good idea. Looks like that’s what I’m going to write about next.
A Panel/Guest Speaker
Hosting a panel of speakers, or just one speaker, isn’t too hard. The most difficult part might be finding someone to speak on the topic. Most people cost a bit of money, but you can easily find someone with a local non-profit organization, or even a professor, to be part of the event. You could also ask your professors, or even Amnesty International, for ideas. This is a really good event because having someone in person gives people a chance to ask questions and to learn about something first hand. The issue seems a little less distant than with a movie or a book.
A Lobby Day
This is a really good event to do if there is pending legislation in your state, or even in the U.S, that is relevant to human rights (and there are plenty of those now). This is also a good event for those states that still have the death penalty in place, because one thing you can lobby for is abolition, or a moratorium to look at costs and alternatives. The only downside to this event is that students might have to miss a day of class, or part of day of class, to be able to do this. Not every student wants to, or can miss class, and depending on the time of the school year, it might not be the best idea to miss class.
Even though there aren’t a lot of people talking to our Congressmen and state representatives about human rights, they do appreciate the effort and are willing to listen. If anything, it’s a nice change from the topics they’re usually getting nowadays. These people would also appreciate the fact that college students and young twenty-somethings are the ones doing the lobbying, another breath of fresh air.