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!

 

How to Get to the 2014 Midwest Regional Conference

Amnesty International Midwest RegionalThis year’s Amnesty International Midwest Regional Conference, if you haven’t yet heard, is in St. Louis at the Sheraton St. Louis City Center. If you’re not from St. Louis, or familiar with the Gateway to the West, then that information just sounds nice. The upcoming event, although awesome, also sounds too far away or too expensive for many in the Midwest to attend.

However, that’s an assumption that simply isn’t true for this year’s regional conference. Fortunately, for Amnesty members and human rights activists, the venue for this year’s conference is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from a major mass transit center. So, getting to this year’s conference is easier than ever before, no matter the transportation option. Here’s how to get to the 2014 Midwest Regional Conference:

By Plane

Flying is the most expensive way to get to St. Louis, even if your flight is just an hour or two. But, if you choose to get to St. Louis by airplane, then getting to the Sheraton St. Louis City Center from the airport is very easy.

  1. From the airport terminal, follow the signs directing you to the nearest Metrolink station. Lambert International Airport has two terminals, but each terminal has its own station.
  2. Purchase a two-hour ticket to ride the Metrolink. A two-hour ticket costs from the airport costs $4.00 (it will cost half as much when you need to go back to the airport). The ticket machines do accept debit and credit cards, but they also only give you change in $1 coins.
  3. Make sure you validate your ticket at the red validation stands BEFORE getting on the train. The stands are either located next to the ticket machine or at the entrance to the station platform. Security guards do walk through the stations to check your tickets and aren’t very lenient to tourists. Those who ride with unvalidated tickets are fined, so don’t take your chances.
  4. The trip from the airport to the CIVIC CENTER metro station is about 45 minutes, so enjoy the ride until you come to the CIVIC CENTER station (pictured below). The station is right across the street from the Sheraton (you can’t miss it), so simply exit the train at this stop and walk across the street.
  5. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference!

Civic Center Regional Conference

By Amtrak

The Amtrak may only be convenient for a few people since St. Louis is directly serviced by three Amtrak routes: two from Chicago and one from Kansas City, Mo. Although Amtrak is one of the more affordable transportation options, many will have to take the train to Chicago or Kansas City first before getting on a direct route to St. Louis.

  1. Find a way to get to Chicago or Kansas City, whichever is closest to you.
  2. Take the right Amtrak route, which would be the Illinois Service (Chicago), Missouri River Runner (Kansas City), or the Texas Eagle (Chicago).
  3. Exit at the St. Louis Gateway Station, also known as Amtrak Station STL, which is pictured below.
  4. Make your way past the Metrolink station to reach 14th street. Cross 14th street to reach the Sheraton, which is pictured above.
  5. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference!

Civic Center Metro Station

 

By Greyhound

The Greyhound buses may have a bad reputation, but the bus is one of the more affordable and convenient ways to travel to the conference this year. The Greyhound station, just like the Amtrak and the Metrolink station, is right across the street from the conference hotel.

  1. Schedule your trip with Greyhound. Our research found that only four cities in the Midwest have direct, express routes to St. Louis: Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Champaign, Ill.
  2. You may have to leave Thursday or early Friday to make it to the conference on time. Those coming from Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan will have to leave on Thursday or miss Friday’s activities.
  3. Those coming from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and other parts of Missouri can leave early Friday morning and still make it on time.
  4. Those in Minnesota and Wisconsin can either choose the express route from Minneapolis or Milwaukee or can choose to leave Thursday if you are coming from another part of the state.
  5. Enjoy the train ride.
  6. Make your way past the Metrolink station to reach 14th street. Cross 14th street to reach the Sheraton, which is pictured above. The bus station and the train station are in the same building, although the loading areas are in two different spots.
  7. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference

Hope this Helps

Many Amnesty members may decide against attending this year’s regional conference because the St. Louis location is too prohibitive. Hopefully, our explanation of the various transportation options makes attendance less of a hassle since it’s easy to get to the Sheraton via Amtrak, Greyhound or airplane. None of these options requires city knowledge to navigate the streets. Mass transit will take you to the conference in one trip.

Metro station photo courtesy of NextStop STL.

Amtrak station photo courtesy of Count on Downtown.

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!

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!

Updates and Upcoming Events for 2014

Amnesty International events 2014The next two months have a lot going on, so pay attention! We have several events coming up in the next eight weeks, including two movie screenings and our annual conference in Chicago. If you haven’t been to a chapter meeting recently, or even if you have, then below is everything you need to know about what’s happening in March and April regarding human rights activism. We hope that you join us for at least one event or meeting.

Dirty Wars Screening

In partnership with the Peace Economy Project, the Instead of War Coalition, and Webster University, we are hosting a screening the Oscar-nominated documentary Dirty Wars. The documentary is based on a book by the same name, discussing the US’s covert war on terrorism and its use of unmanned drones in countries where the US has not declared war. Below is the information regarding the movie screening:

  • When: Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Webster University Library Conference Room
  • Address: 101 Edgar Rd, St. Louis MO, 63119
  • Cost: Free

Besides the screening, Rafia Zakaria of DAWN, a Pakistani newspaper, will be attending the event for a post-screening discussion. The discussion will involve the content from the documentary as well as Pakistan’s involvement and coverage of the issue.

No Fire Zone Screening

Exactly one week from our Dirty Wars screening is another moving screening at the exact same location and at the exact same time. This movie screening is hosted by the Webster University chapter of Amnesty International and will feature the documentary No Fire Zone. This human rights documentary talks about abuses in Sri Lanka.

  • When: Thursday, March 27, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Webster University Library Conference Room
  • Address: 101 Edgar Rd, St. Louis MO, 63119
  • Cost: Free

Annual General Meeting

April 4-6 is the annual general meeting, or the yearly national human rights conference for Amnesty International. This year’s theme is “Bring Human Rights Home” and the conference is in Chicago at the JW Marriott Hotel. Our chapter is attending, so we really hope that you’d like to come with us, or at least see us there at some of the great seminars.

On the agenda for this year’s conference:

  • Redefining Justice: The State of Criminal Justice & Human Rights in the US & Around the World
  • How Social Media Helped Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Activism Through Arts
  • Defend Human Rights by Learning About Fundraising
  • The Time is Now! Making Women’s Rights a Global Reality. Focus: North Africa – Egypt and Morocco
  • LGBT Rights are Human Rights: Getting to Know the Movement

We will be discussing transportation at our upcoming March business meeting (details below), so if you are interested in attending you don’t have to go by yourself. Please stop by so we know that you’re interested and can include you in our plans.

New Tentative Meeting Schedule

To allow more members to come to more meetings, we are making a slight change to our meeting schedule so that we can accommodate those who have Tuesday night commitments and could never make it to a meeting. Our new tentative meeting schedule, which will take effect in April, is as follows:

  • The business meeting will be moved to the second Wednesday of the month. So, our April business meeting is Wednesday, April 9.
  • The letting writing meeting will remain scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of the month. The April letter writing meeting is scheduled for April 22.

Hopefully, this change will allow you to attend at least one of our meetings per month. This change also allows more members to facilitate meetings. Please let us know if you have any thoughts on the proposed schedule or if you are willing to help facilitate either a business meeting or a letter writing meeting.

Next Amnesty International Meeting

To clarify, the March meeting is still scheduled for March 11, which is the second Tuesday of the month. April is when we make the change to the second Wednesday of the month. The March business meeting is especially important to attend if you want to come with our chapter to the conference in Chicago, but it’s always great to attend our meetings if you’re interested in human rights activism at all. Below are the 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. We meet in the very back past the patio.

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

1st Letter Writing Meeting of 2014 Tomorrow!

amnesty business meetingAre you ready to be a human rights activist this year? Is your New Year’s Resolution to be more involved in the community or to do more to make a difference? If so, then tomorrow is your chance! Starting at 7 p.m. is the very first Amnesty International St. Louis chapter letter writing meeting of the year! At this meeting, we will be writing letters to international governments on behalf of prisoners of conscience. We’ve previously written on behalf of prisoners in Iran, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Russia, and many more countries.

The meeting details haven’t changed from last year, but they are listed below in case you’ve forgotten or have yet to attend a meeting with our chapter. If you need to arrive late, or if you can’t stay for the whole meeting, then that’s okay. There’s no need to feel weird about it, as we understand that everyone has jobs and families that need attention also. Just arrive when you can and stay as long as you can. The more letters, the better! Even just one more letter can make a difference!

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 very back past the patio.

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

3 Things to Keep in Mind when Lobbying For Human Rights

lobby weekOur biannual Amnesty International Lobby Week is about two weeks away, so now is the time to prepare for those meetings. Preparation is much more than setting a meeting date and encouraging people to attend. It’s also about making a good impression and not coming off as crazy human rights activists. Here are three things to keep in mind when lobbying for human rights so that these issues are treated as seriously as the issues pushed by big money and big companies.

Dress Appropriately

No, you don’t have to do formal business attire, and it might be best that you don’t since you don’t want to appear like a lobbyist from a big corporation or industry association. Instead, you should wear business casual or something that you would wear out to a restaurant. This way, you are still dress tastefully, but you also come across like someone from a grassroots organization. You know, like someone who isn’t paid to be there but is there on their own free will to encourage a few changes. This may not seem serious, but it does mean something when ordinary people take to time to talk to their politicians about the things they care about.

Prepare Your Talking Points

Yes, you want to think about what you want to say and to do your research, but you can take it one step further by memorizing and practicing your pitch as well. This is so that the issues appear polished and that you appear knowledgeably. You don’t want to read from a piece of paper or look like you’re worrying about getting things right or making a good impression. You can take your practice one step further by thinking about questions that might be asked, and preparing answers to those questions as well. Again, you don’t want to come across as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about, or someone who can’t stray from their prepared notes.

On this note, make sure that everyone who attends the meeting has a role. You don’t want only one or two people talking if six people are going to be there. If six people are going to be there, then give every person something to say and a reason why they are at the meeting.

Know What You Want to Accomplish

You aren’t just there to talk to your Senator, Representative, or staff member. You want this person to do something, such as vote for/against a bill, to co-sponsor a bill, or to create legislation around a certain issue. Know what you want to accomplish before you go, and before you start preparing your talking points. As you are also aware of your goals and talking points, you should also be aware of what is negotiable and what isn’t negotiable. You don’t want to push for something that can’t be changed or won’t be changed.

Give reasons why that particular Senator or Representative should do whatever it is your advocating. This could include bringing up a previous bill that s/he supported, or a vote s/he made, or a statistic relevant to his/her constituents. It’s not enough to say that something’s great or important, because every issue is great or important to everyone who lobbies. You need to make the issue of human rights relevant to who your lobbying by showing why it’s great and important to that person.

Overall, think of your lobbying meeting as a conversation where you are trying to convince someone to see your side of things. There’s no reason to be nervous just because the person is an elected official or works with an elected official. Be firm and confident in the human rights you believe in! It’s the only way the people you are lobbying are going to believe in these concepts and ideals too.