Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, February 24, 2011
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ACTIVISTS CONVERGE IN SAN FRANCISCO
TO CELEBRATE 50 YEARS OF HUMAN RIGHTS WORK
Joan Baez, West Coast Co-Founder of the Organization,
To Be Honored for a Lifetime of Human Rights Activism
Model Christy Turlington, Grammy Winners Steve Earle and Saúl Hernández, Rapper Jahi
and Actress Nazanin Boniadi Join Former Prisoners of Conscience to Tackle Today’s Challenges
Contact: Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, [email protected]
San Francisco – Up to one thousand activists from across the country will converge in San Francisco from March 18-20 to mark Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary and tackle a range of pressing human rights concerns at the organization’s Annual General Meeting. The conference, “50 Years: Shining a Light on Human Rights,” will take place at the Fairmont Hotel and is open to the public. Registration fees range from $75 to $125 for the weekend and are $40 for Friday evening, which includes a tribute to human rights icon Joan Baez.
The three-day event includes a roster of noted human rights defenders who have shown enormous bravery and commitment on a wide range of human rights issues, including: Hina Jilani, former U.N. Special Representative for Human Rights, who previously had been arrested and received death threats for her legal work in Pakistan; Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and former AIUSA board member; Lydia Cacho, Mexican author and journalist who was illegally arrested and beaten for her work protecting women and girls; Luis Perez, the first undocumented immigrant in the United States to earn a law degree; and Charlotte Bunch, who was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996 for her global organizing for women’s rights.
Former President Jimmy Carter will commemorate the organization’s 50th anniversary via video address. Supermodel/maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns, singer/death penalty abolitionist Steve Earle, rapper Jahi, actress and AIUSA spokesperson Nazanin Boniadi, State Radio/Dispatch musician and activist Chad Stokes, Jaguares vocalist and activist Saúl Hernández, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty and others will raise their voices along with internationally known activists to carry the torch into a new era of human rights work.
“Millions of people worldwide live in fear of persecution by repressive governments or armed factions and millions more suffer extreme deprivation,” said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. “But we are not powerless against this injustice. Amnesty International has proved for 50 years that collective action is a powerful force for change. We are thrilled to come back to San Francisco, which has long been a stronghold for Amnesty International activists, and honor those who have made the movement’s success possible.”
Friday evening will open with a tribute to folk legend and human rights activist Joan Baez, who devoted a full year to help establish Amnesty International chapters in the San Francisco Bay area in the early ‘70s, stayed active with the organization as a member of the National Advisory Board and later performed during the renowned “Conspiracy of Hope” tour. The Friday evening event at the Fairmont will feature tribute performances from Grammy winners Steve Earle and Saúl Hernández (of the Mexican rock band Jaguares) and musician/activist Chad Stokes (State Radio/Dispatch).
“Whether marching arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or stuffing envelopes in our first home office in San Francisco, Joan’s commitment to human rights has known no bounds,” said Cox. “It is no exaggeration to say that many attending the annual conference are direct descendants of a human rights family that Joan created. Her devotion is a constant reminder of what can be accomplished when one will put herself on the line to effect change. We are truly honored to be in her presence tonight and are grateful for her lasting legacy.”
A special focus on students and activism will be the core of AIUSA’s youth summit, designed for people aged 14 to 25, at the University of California, Berkeley, on Thursday, March 17. Attendees will hear from John Jackson, Vice President of Social Responsibility at MTV. Throughout the conference, activists of all ages will address a range of human rights concerns including the death penalty; maternal mortality; migrant rights; holding companies accountable for damage to human rights and the environment; journalists at risk; and the war on terror (for the complete program, please visit www.amnestyusa.org/agm).
The annual conference will also be the site for the launch of the Amnesty Global Ethics Series, a series of books on human rights from Amnesty International and W.W. Norton & Company, that includes some of the most distinguished scholars and writers today. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University professor and son of one of Amnesty International’s first prisoners of conscience, is the general editor of the series and the author of the books’ forward; he, as well as Elaine Scarry, author of How to Think in an Emergency, the first book in the series, and Rory Stewart and Philip Pettit, authors of future volumes, will speak.
The weekend includes several other human rights awards. Hamza Latif, an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, will receive the first ever Ladis Kristof Memorial Fellowship for Organizing and Activism. The fellowship was created in memory of Kristof, a founder of Amnesty International local group 48 and father of noted New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The conference will also showcase AIUSA’s newest high school essay competition winners, Catherine Lovrien of Minnesota and Mahsa Taskindoust of New York, who addressed the question, How Has the Promotion or Defense of Human Rights Changed Our World? Each is the recipient of a $1500 prize and a trip to the annual conference. The annual event is supported by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
"Amnesty’s 50th anniversary is a moment to celebrate the power of grassroots activism and to renew our commitment to build toward a world in which every person enjoys universal human rights,” said Rini Chakraborty, Western regional director for AIUSA. “Together we will continue our work to free the wrongfully imprisoned, end the death penalty and torture, promote economic justice and migrant rights and fulfill the promise of human rights for all."
Amnesty International — today the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world with nearly 3 million members worldwide — has helped win the freedom of tens of thousands of individuals jailed for expressing beliefs or defending basic rights, shut down torture chambers, halted executions, and established laws and treaties to protect the freedom and dignity of people around the world — and in the United States. Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
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For more information, please visit www.amnestyusa.org.