Guantanamo’s Poetry: 14 Years Too Many

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Can you imagine needing to write? What if you needed to write so badly that’d you use toothpaste instead of a pen, a Styrofoam cup instead of paper, if that’s all you had?

What would it be like if this writing – this poetry – was the only way to preserve your sanity? Your humanity?

That’s how it was – how it may still be – for the prisoners at Guantánamo. As the prison enters its 15th year of operation, there are 107 people still there, and most are held without charge. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Art Can be a Catalyst for Change

On December 12th, 2015, New Orleans was the site of a special, one-day exhibit, Art for Rights, bringing together more than a dozen artists from around the world to highlight 12 of the most troubling human rights cases we face today. In honor of International Human Rights Day, and in conjunction with Amnesty’s annual Write for Rights campaign, each canvas told a bold story about injustice, persecution, and also courage. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“We Are All Immigrants” – Students Create Mural for Immigrant Rights in Queens

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By Michaela Miragliotta and Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario

A flock of birds is silhouetted against a geometric jigsaw sky of triangles in varying shades of turquoise in the mural now welcoming students, teachers, and visitors at the Pan American International High School (Pan Am) in Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The birds burst forth from behind thick bars and soar across the expansive wall to reach the Statue of Liberty, which is illuminated by a brilliant sun. The words “Justice,” “Freedom,” “Equality” boldly line the top of the mural and encourage those who see it to reflect on those ideas as they relate to immigration, according to Mirian, one of the students who worked on the mural. The new addition to the school is rich both in design and content, and the process behind its creation even further adds to its significance for the students and community.

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The core group of eight students who created the mural were in an art class that was part of a special program that worked with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), a non-profit organization that teaches young people about human rights through art. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Power of an Artist

KANDEL_AMNESTY2-6Throughout history, courageous and visionary people have sought to reflect what is universal about humanity. We call these people artists, whether they grasp a paintbrush or a microphone, publish photographs or books, because they create something that electrifies us. They are “gatekeepers of truth”, in the words of Paul Robeson, and truth is a burden to bear.

Take Saudi Arabian blogger, Raif Badawi, who received a sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for daring to spark social and political debate. Or artist Ai Weiwei, whose work exposing the limitations of expression imposed by the Chinese government has earned him beatings, stints in prison without charge, constant surveillance and restriction from leaving the country.

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Thousands of Activists Brought Human Rights Home and This is What Happened

One night. One movement. There’s nothing like a stadium full of activists, human rights defenders, former prisoners of conscience, and musicians coming together to Bring Human Rights Home.

Imagine Dragons rocked the house. An amazing performance and heartfelt and humbling call to keep our eyes and hearts open to human rights.

Imagine Dragons performs at the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Imagine Dragons performs at the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Ms. Lauryn Hill rallied the crowd, keeping us all focused on “Working Hard” for human rights.

Ms. Lauryn Hill on stage at the #AmnestyConcert

Ms. Lauryn Hill on stage at the #AmnestyConcert

Pussy Riot’s Nadya and Masha, with Madonna, read powerful letters from Russian prisoners – and led the crowd in a chant of “Russia will be free!”

Masha and Nadya of Pussy Riot on stage at the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Masha and Nadya of Pussy Riot on stage at the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Finally, when The Flaming Lips, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and dozens of Amnesty staffers and volunteers took the stage for the final song of the concert, it was more than just an amazing end to a memorable evening: it was the coming together of a powerful community — Amnesty’s network of human rights defenders.

Musicians and Amnesty staff and volunteers sing "I Shall Be Released" to close out the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Musicians and Amnesty staff and volunteers sing “I Shall Be Released” to close out the Bringing Human Rights Home Concert

Tonight thousands saw and heard the soundtrack of a human rights movement, led by a new generation of artists. Thousands more around the country and around the world engaged through their activism and through their social media channels. It is a human rights movement in high definition. And it is just the beginning.

Thank you to all the artists, celebrities, activists and volunteers who made this moment possible. Check back with us as this journey continues.

What You Need to Know Before You Tune Into Saturday Night Live Tonight

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Hot off their Grammy win and right before their appearance at our Bringing Human Rights Home Concert at the Barclays Center, Imagine Dragons will be sharing the stage with Melissa McCarthy tonight on Saturday Night Live.

Imagine Dragons won’t be joining Seth Meyers on for his last Weekend Update, but if they were, they would tell you all about our concert on February 5.

On Wednesday, Imagine Dragons will be joining the Flaming Lips, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Tegan and Sara, The Fray, Cold War Kids, Colbie Caillat and Cake to take the stage for human rights.

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Why We’re Wishing Imagine Dragons ‘Good Luck’ at the Grammys

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Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins is busy in Washington, DC helping staff prepare for Amnesty’s Bringing Human Rights Home concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn February 5.  But not too busy to send good wishes to Imagine Dragons ahead of the Grammy’s this Sunday, January 26. We asked him about his thoughts ahead of the concert.

Q: So Steven, we are impressed that you like Imagine Dragons. Why?

HAWKINS: I’m excited that Imagine Dragons (in case you haven’t heard, they’re joining our February 5th Bringing Human Rights Home Concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn), have been nominated for two Grammys – for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance. Their performance with us next month will be dedicated to the cause of inspiring a generation of young people who care about human rights to use their power to improve lives around the world. I’d like to publicly cast my vote for Imagine Dragons! Good luck, Dan, Wayne, Ben and Daniel!

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