Strategic Planning Meeting This Wednesday

pius libraryThe Amnesty International St. Louis group will be holding its 2016 strategic planning meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, starting at 7 p.m. Instead of meeting at Hartford Coffee Company, we will be meeting at Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Library (pictured) in room 101C. The reason for the location change is that Hartford closes at 9 p.m., and this meeting may run longer than two hours. Pius is also more conducive to this type of meeting, and with an Einstein’s Bagel Bros. located inside, the coffee should be just as good.

What’s the Strategic Planning Meeting?

The Strategic Planning Meeting is a chance for the group to determine what human rights issues we’d like to work on, what types of events we want to have, and what we want to prioritize in 2016. If you want to have a say in any of these things, then it would be great if you attend the meeting!

You don’t have to have previously attended an Amnesty STL, or have experience working with human rights and/or Amnesty International, to attend the Strategic Planning Meeting. If you have ideas about what human rights issues we should work, or some great event ideas, or if you simply want to get started in human rights activism, then please join us!

Here are a couple of things to think about to prepare for the meeting:

  • What human rights issues should Amnesty work on this year?
  • What should we prioritize as a group i.e. membership, human rights awareness, fundraising, recruitment?
  • What kinds of events should be have to accomplish our goals?
  • What should our goals as a group be for 2016?

Meeting Details Recap

  • Who – Amnesty STL and fellow human rights activists
  • What – Strategic Planning Meeting
  • When – Feb. 10 from 7 p.m. to ~10 p.m.
  • Where – Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Library, Room 101C
  • Why – To figure out what we want to do for the rest of 2016

Hopefully we’ll see you there!

 

Join Amnesty in Miami for AGM 2016!

AGM2016placeholder

#OurWorld

Every spring, Amnesty International holds its national conference, or Annual General Meeting (AGM). The conference is a great opportunity for Amnesty members and human rights activists around the country to gather and meet, learn more about various human rights issues, learn strategies for better activism and leave feeling inspired to do more! This year’s AGM takes place in Miami, Florida during the first weekend in April and this year’s theme is “Change Our World.”

Agenda

The conference agenda isn’t set in stone, but prepare for a jam-packed weekend with great speakers and even better info to add to your human rights activism! Activities start at 10:30 a.m. EST, but the official opening isn’t until 3:30 p.m. Attend early if you’re in (or interested in) a leadership position with Amnesty. Otherwise, come at 3:30 for the official opening, or earlier at 2 p.m. for a human rights action (the specific details for the action are TBD).

How to Attend

There are a couple of things you need to know if you wish to attend the conference.

  1. Registration: You need to register for the event by March 28. Early bird registration costs $145 for non-Amnesty members and $120 for Amnesty members and ends Feb. 29. Membership is NOT INCLUDED in the registration fee. There are discounts for students, senior citizens and those on a limited income. You can register for the conference on Friday or Saturday of the event as well.
  2. Travel and Lodging: The conference is at a hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport and Convention Center. Amnesty does have a special rate for rooms at $199/night. Make sure to mention your Amnesty International affiliation to receive the special rate. The rate only lasts until March 4, so book as soon as possible. If the hotel is already full, then there are plenty of other options nearby.
  3. If you are a minor, or are considering bringing your children to the conference, then this waiver needs to be filled out and signed.

Amnesty STL Travel Arrangements

At this time, the St. Louis local group does not have any travel arrangements set. If you’re interested in attending the conference, then it’s best to plan your travel and lodgings on your own. We will announce any changes to the travel arrangements.

Hope to see you in Miami! Please contact us if you have any questions or comments regarding the conference!

 

First Letter Writing Meeting of 2016!

 

Amnesty letter writing meeting

Every fourth Tuesday of the month, our local group meets to write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world. Previously, we’ve written letters on cases in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Bahrain, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tunisia, and many more. Writing letters may seem like a waste of time, but they work, and you can make an incredible difference in the lives of those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.

Letter Writing Meeting Details

Writing a letter isn’t hard, and only takes about 10 minutes to complete. The toughest part is actually writing a letter on a piece of paper (how often do we write anything by hand nowadays?). Whether you want to write one letter or one million, please join us tomorrow for Amnesty’s first letter writing meeting of 2016!

  • Who: Amnesty International members and human rights activists
  • What: Write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world
  • When: Jan. 26, 2016 from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Coffee Company, 3974 Hartford St. 63116
  • Why: To help those who’ve had their human rights violated and who don’t have a voice of their own

At every meeting, we have anywhere from six to 12 cases for people to choose from. Therefore, you don’t have to write letters on every single case and you don’t have to write letters on issues, countries or cases you aren’t interested in. If you want to learn more about what we’ll be working on, then below is a list of some of the countries that will be offered at the meeting, along with a short summary of the case Each bullet point includes a link to background information so you can learn more about each of the various cases if you wish.

  • Iran: Urging the government to drop charges against a filmmaker for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illicit relations”
  • Turkey: Asking the authorities to stop arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement through 24-hour curfews in three towns
  • Thailand: Urging authorities to drop charges against activists who peacefully asked for an inquiry into corruption allegations
  • Jordan: Urging the government to allow 13,000 Syrian refugees into the country

All We Need is You!

If interested in attending, then please join us! You don’t have to bring anything to participate in the letter writing. We will provide pens, paper, envelopes, stamps and all the information needed to write an effective letter. You don’t have to have experience writing letters to foreign governments and there’s no obligation to contribute resources or materials.

First Meeting of 2016!

amnesty business meetingWe’re 12 days into the new year, and most people have probably broken their resolutions by now. However, if your resolution is still intact, and involves one of the following:

  • Being more active in the community
  • Learning more about human rights
  • Doing more for others
  • Serving non-profits and/or other organizations working on social issues

Then tomorrow is the time to start! The Amnesty International St. Louis group is having their first meeting of the year Wednesday, Jan. 13. If you want to uphold your resolution this year or simply get involved with human rights and a vibrant community group, then here’s your chance. Below are the details of tomorrow’s meeting:

  • Who: Amnesty Local Group #105 and anyone interested in human rights
  • What: Amnesty Business Meeting
  • When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Coffee Company at 3974 Hartford St, 63116
  • Why: To start preparing for another year of activism and to learn more about human rights issues happening domestically and abroad

You Don’t Have to Be a Human Rights Expert to Attend!

If you don’t know a lot about human rights and haven’t been involved in anything like Amnesty International before, then that’s okay! We’re constantly learning ourselves, as the different issues change regularly and we learn more as Amnesty and other organizations continue to do human rights research.

So, don’t let that stop you! We’re happy to answer any questions you may have! If you’re also interested in working one or two specific human rights issues, then that’s great. In fact, if that’s you, then you should definitely attend this meeting as that’s part of what we’ll think and talk about. We haven’t made any decisions for what we’ll do or what issues we’ll work on in 2016, so please attend if you want to have a say in our human rights activism for the year.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

18 Important Human Rights Developments in 2015

human rightsCan you believe 2015 is almost over (and that the last time we blogged was over a year ago)? We accomplished so much in the past year and half, but this post is going to focus on 2015. This year was a big year for human rights, with both major milestones and major setbacks. Here are 18 important human rights developments that have taken place, or will take place, in 2015:

January 9

Raif Badawi, a blogger and prisoner of conscience sentenced by Saudi Arabia to 10 years and 1,000 lashes is publicly flogged for the first time. While the immediate global outcry helps prevent additional floggings, he remains behind bars. Raif’s cruel and unjust sentence is upheld by the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court in June, casting a further stain on that country’s already bleak human rights record.

January 22

A young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage is granted a pardon by El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly – giving hope to the other 15 women languishing in jail on similar charges.

Update: One of those 15 other women is Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, who suffered a still-birth in 2007 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide.” She’s one of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights cases this year.

March 10

Amnesty calls on Mexican authorities to investigate and address torture after the United Nations releases a scathing report detailing how this sickening practice is widespread among the country’ police and security forces.

April 28

Amnesty calls on Paraguay to repeal its draconian anti-abortion law after a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather, is denied the option of an abortion.

Update: The girl, now 11, gave birth in August.

May 6

The Chicago City Council passes landmark legislation providing reparations for torture committed by former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. The reparations package marks the first time that survivors of ractially motivated police torture in the United States have been given the reparations they are entitled to under international law.

May 21

Legendary folk singer Joan Baez and world -renowned artist Ai WeiWei are awarded the 2015 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, which recognizes those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights through their life and work.

May 27

Nebraska becomes the 19th U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.

Update: Nebraska’s repeal is still in limbo. A petition drive to overturn the abolition succeeded in getting enough votes, so the state will vote on a statewide referendum in November 2016. It’s important to note that Gov. Pete Ricketts, whose veto of the death penalty was overturned by the unicameral legislature, spent $200,000 of his own money to fund the petition drive.

June 1

Amnesty declares the expiration of the USA Patriot Act a symbolic repudiation of the claim that “national security” justifies giving the government an indefinite license to commit systematic rights violations.

June 8

U.S. District Judge James Brady grants Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox unconditional release after he has languished in solitary confinement for more than four decades and had his conviction overturned three times. The State of Louisiana has appealed the ruling and Amnesty continues to advocate for Albert’s freedom.

June 26

The Supreme Court of the United States issues a historic ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples across the country to legally marry.

Amnesty marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with a global push for governments to respect the ban on torture and hold torturers accountable.

July 9

Amnesty calls on Chinese authorities to end their assault on human rights lawyers after more than 200 lawyers and activists were targeted by police in a nationwide crackdown.

August 7

Amnesty marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by shining the spotlight on the use of lethal force and racially discriminatory conduct by law enforcement officers and calling for reforms at the local, state and national levels.

August 11

An Amnesty investigation on sexual abuse by UN peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic sends shock waves globally, leading UN Sec. General Ban Ki-moon to remove the head of the Peacekeeping Operation and triggering a call for reform of accountability measures for UN peacekeeping troops around the world.

September 8

A Union of Protection: Amnesty International’s Agenda for Refugee Protection in Europe is released, setting out the urgently needed changes in Europe’s approach to the escalating refugee crisis.

September 15

Amnesty USA brings Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, to Washington to lobby the U.S. government to do more to convince Saudi Arabia to free Raif and respect the rights of all people.

September 23

Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were pardoned by Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. In August, Amnesty International had said the guilty verdicts handed down against the two journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were an affront to justice that sounded the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt. Journalist colleague Peter Greste, who had left Egypt, had also been convicted in his absence.

September 25

The U.K. government announces that Shaker Aamer, held for over a decade without charge at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, will be transferred to the U.K., where his family resides.

December 4 – 18

Amnesty International holds Write for Rights, the world’s largest human rights event, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to send letters on behalf of 12 cases of individuals at risk, including prisoners of conscience.

Update: Join Amnesty STL for their own Write for Rights event on Dec. 12! We’ll be at Schafly Bottleworks from 4 – 9 p.m. writing letters and having a good time. If you want to take action against human rights abuses and help those in need, then please stop by on Dec. 12 to write some letters! Even just one letter would make a huge difference!

Save the Date: The 2014 Midwest Regional Conference

Amnesty International Midwest RegionalMark your calendars to bring human rights home! The 2014 Amnesty International Midwest Regional Conference is in St. Louis this year! The three-day conference is scheduled for October 24-26 as the Sheraton St. Louis City Center in downtown St. Louis, right across the street from the Civic Center Metrolink station on 14th Street.

Pencil in the Dates Today

The registration page for the conference isn’t available yet, but if you are sure that you want to attend the conference, then make sure to book your rooms at the hotel now! Hotel rates for the conference are $85 per night, but the rate only lasts until Sept. 20 and are subject to availability. Besides the discounted room rate, conference attendees will also receive free Internet access in the room and discounted parking at the rate of $10 per day.

If you’re perhaps interested in volunteering, then we will be announcing when the volunteer sign-up page is live on the Facebook event page as well.

If you want to know when the registration page goes live, which should be before the end of the month, then please pledge your commitment to attend on our Facebook event page. This page will feature any and all updates regarding the conference, including when the registration page goes live and when we finalize speakers and sessions for the conference.

What to Expect from This Year’s Conference

Speaking of the sessions and workshops, the final agenda for the conference is still being determined. However, we already know of a few topics that will be covered, whether through a panel discussion, a workshop, a main speaker, or through a community action that will take place over the weekend. Those topics include:

  • Gun Violence
  • The Death Penalty
  • Write for Rights and prisoners of conscience around the world
  • Identity and Discrimination with women and/or the LGBT community
  • Security and Human Rights, such as Guantanamo Bay, Torture, Drones or Surveillance (it’s possible more than one of these topics will be featured)
  • Immigrants’ Rights, Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice or Worker’s Rights (it’s possible more than one of these topics will be featured)

Our Chapter is Participating!

Not only is the Amnesty International St. Louis chapter attending the conference, but many members of our chapter are also on the Planning Committee for the conference. This means the success of the conference rests with the local chapter, and we are proud of that responsibility. Our goal is to make this conference the best Midwest Regional Conference yet, and the best regional conference this year of all the regions. We believe we can achieve this goal, but reaching our goal won’t be possible unless you attend!

Please mark your calendars today for the last weekend in tomorrow! Please help us bring human rights home!

Our Next Book Club Book is on Rwanda

Rwanda bookSince the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda recently passed, our chapter has chosen We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda as our next book club reading. Fortunately, this one is much shorter than our previous choice, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

We will be discussing the Rwanda book at our June meeting, which is scheduled for Jun. 11 at 7 p.m. Please make an effort to attend if you plan to read the book with our chapter. It’s okay if you don’t read the entire book, as you can still attend the meeting if you don’t finish it. However, we can’t guarantee that we won’t give away any spoilers.

Book Summary

This summary was taken off of the book’s Amazon page if you’re interested in learning more about our book club choice.

In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch’s haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy’s background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. One of the most acclaimed books of the year, this account will endure as a chilling document of our time.

Don’t Forget: We Have a Meeting Tonight

If you’re more interested in “bringing human rights home” and focusing on human rights issues in the United States, then please attend tomorrow’s Amnesty business meeting if you can (details are below}. During tomorrow’s meeting, one of our members is giving a presentation on Amnesty International’s recent report, “Chicago & Illinois: A 10-Point Human Rights Agenda.” The report outlines 10 human rights issues in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, and many of these issues are also relevant to St. Louis and Missouri. Please come if you can (sorry for the late notice)!

May Business Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members, chapter members, and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss the human rights issues facing Chicago and Illinois, as well as any other matters affecting our chapter.

When: May 14 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We will meet in the front dining area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

April Business Meeting Wednesday

Amnesty Business Meeting aprilIt’s April! This means spring is finally here! It also means that our monthly business meetings are moving from the second Tuesday of the month to the second Wednesday of the month. We made this change to allow those who have Tuesday commitments, but still want to be involved with our chapter, to attend at least one of our meetings each month. The time and place of these meetings are the same. So, if you are available this Wednesday at 7 p.m., then consider coming to our upcoming business meeting.

Did You Miss Our Annual General Meeting?

Amnesty International’s annual national human rights conference took place over the weekend, and a few of our members were able to attend. Most of the meeting will be spent updating everyone on what happened during the conference, which includes session recaps, any important information regarding the national organization, and anything else that’s noteworthy (Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance by video, which I think is pretty darn awesome). Besides Snowden, one of the things that the group will be updated on are the resolutions the members voted on during the final day of the conference. These resolutions dictate organizational direction and policy and are created by members during the regional conferences.

Another point of business for tomorrow’s meeting is that we will be deciding our next book club meeting. Every few months, our chapter chooses a human rights book to read. We give ourselves about two months to read the book, where we discuss the contents of our choice at an upcoming meeting. If you want to participate in our next book club discussion, then please come on Wednesday so that you know which book we will be reading. Below is a list of the titles that have been suggested so far, and we be among the choices:

(1)  Phillip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families — about the Rwanda genocide – Full Summary & Reviews
(2)  Death to the Dictator! – A Young Man Casts a Vote in Iran’s 2009 Election and Pays a Devastating Price by Afsaneh Moqadam – Full Summary & Reviews
(3)  Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon – Full Summary & Reviews
(4)  Iran Awakening by Sharin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) — a short and engaging book about the impact of the Islamic revolution in Iran on women’s rights and free speech – Full Summary & Reviews
(5)  Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir – edited by Sanjay Kak — a collection of writings by Kashmiris telling their own stories about the 2010 uprising in Kashmir – Full Summary & Reviews

April  Business Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss our upcoming events, as well as provide a recap of the Annual General Meeting that took place over the weekend.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the front dining area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

photo credit: Sorin Mutu via photopin cc

March Letter Writing Meeting Tomorrow

letter writing meetingI’ve just finished my own spring break with a trip to Las Vegas, and many others have wrapped up their own spring breaks sometime this month as well. With just one full week left in March, there’s no better time than now to get back into the groove and to join us for tomorrow’s letter writing meeting.

Spring is a time for renewal, and lets renew our efforts to stop human rights abuses around the world and to build awareness for these issues. Below are the meeting details, which haven’t changed (the details for our business meetings have changed).

Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to write letters to the US and foreign governments regarding specific human rights abuses.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the main sitting area.

Why: Because every person and every letter can make a difference! If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. Naysayers think these letters can’t make a difference, but criticizing the way others make a difference doesn’t enact change either.

Be part of the solution and join us tomorrow!

Reminder: March Business Meeting Tomorrow

amnesty monthly meetingTomorrow is our third business meeting of 2014, and there is much to discuss! The primary thing we will be planning is our upcoming trip to the Annual General Meeting in Chicago. The human rights conference takes place from Apr 4-6 at the JW Marriott Hotel. This year’s theme is, “Bringing Human Rights Home.”

Important Note Regarding the Annual Conference

We will be conducting a final headcount and organizing our travel plans, so if you want to come with us, then you NEED to attend this meeting. You are welcome to make your own travel arrangements and meet us there, but if you want to utilize the chapter’s transportation options, then you need to attend tomorrow so that we can include you and arrange accordingly. The conference is less than a month away, so we have to make our plans now so that we can ensure that we can accommodate everyone and not have to scramble at the last minute to put everything together.

Also keep in mind that this is the last time our business meetings will take place on the second Tuesday of the month. Starting in April, our business meetings are scheduled for the second Wednesday of the month. This is subject to change. Please pay attention to our blog posts, our Facebook group, and our email reminders for any changes and any other upcoming events.

Other than that, the meeting details are below. We hope to see you at the meeting tomorrow, or perhaps even at the conference as well. Please contact us at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

March Business Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss upcoming events and current affairs.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the front dining area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!