An Activist Remembers the Concert That Moved a Generation

Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour performing onstage at the Human Rights Now! concert (Photo Credit: Ken Regan/Neal Preston for Amnesty International).

Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour performing onstage at the Human Rights Now! concert (Photo Credit: Ken Regan/Neal Preston for Amnesty International).

By Paul Paz y Miño, Amnesty International USA’s Colombia Country Specialist

Growing up with a Quaker education always led me towards social justice, but it was music that opened the door to Amnesty for me. I’ve been an active member of Amnesty International USA and a volunteer leader for more than half my life and it all started at the Human Rights Now! Tour in Philly in 1988.

Having already been a huge Peter Gabriel and Genesis fan, I was absolutely not going to miss his performance and especially looked forward to his human rights anthem “Biko.” Adding to that, with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Youssou N’Dour and Tracy Chapman – artists with a strong and ongoing commitment to human rights – the show was unlike anything I had ever seen.

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Members of Pussy Riot Joining All-Star Lineup at Amnesty Concert on Feb. 5th

1528556_10151855501576363_2133184317_n-1By Ann Burroughs, Amnesty International USA Board Chair

I just heard some great news, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I’m so excited to announce that on Feb. 5th, Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alekhina will participate in Amnesty International’s landmark Bringing Human Rights Home Concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

I know the ability of music to move mountains. During my time as an activist in apartheid South Africa, singing together helped unite us in the streets, and helped demonstrate our power. Cries of “Amandla!” echoed through the townships and cities alike, and I knew I needed to join in. At the same time, protest songs rang across the world with powerful messages that amplified the voices of the anti-apartheid movement.

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Go Backstage With Imagine Dragons, Ms. Lauryn Hill & More

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Got special plans for Feb. 5th?

I do – I’ll be at Amnesty’s Bringing Human Rights Home Concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn!

Imagine Dragons, Ms. Lauryn Hill, The Fray, The Flaming Lips, Tegan and Sara, Cold War Kids, Colbie Caillat, Cake and other special guests will be there – and I hope you will be there, too!

Make a contribution of $25 or whatever you can to Amnesty International USA and be automatically entered to win concert tickets and backstage passes for you and a guest to the #AmnestyConcert.

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Why Did Esperanza Spalding Record a Song About Guantanamo?

Esperanza Spalding – We Are America from ESP Media on Vimeo.

Today, Grammy Award-winning musician Esperanza Spalding released We Are America, a new song and music video supporting President Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo and urging Congress to help get the job done.

The video features cameos by Stevie Wonder, Janelle Monáe, Harry Belafonte and Savion Glover. The timing couldn’t be better as Senators will soon vote on legislation that would help close the detention facility. You can urge your two Senators to vote the right way here: www.amnestyusa.org/ndaa.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Real Afghanistan

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a 'Peace Concert' in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

Afghanistan has a thriving media and entertainment industry. Here, Tajik singer Farida performs during a ‘Peace Concert’ in Babur Garden in Kabul (Photo Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images).

By Maya Pastakia, Afghanistan Campaigner at Amnesty International

It is one of the most dangerous places in the world, following more than three decades of war.

Terrorist groups remain a force to be reckoned with, and its human rights record and abuses against women and girls are renowned.

But the stories you’ve heard about Afghanistan won’t prepare you for what the country is really like.

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How Do You Defeat a Dictator When He Gets to Write the Rules?

NO_ecard_AmnestyI didn’t think it was possible. As a student at Rutgers in 1988, I sarcastically asked my friends, “Who do you think is going to win the referendum in Chile? Pinochet or Pinochet?”

Following his bloody overthrow of the democratically elected Allende Government in 1973, Pinochet murdered thousands of dissidents and outlawed opposition parties. Like many dictators, he legitimated his rule by holding a plebiscite on a “constitution” that gave him unchecked power in 1980. He was able to do so, of course, because the climate of fear and impunity guaranteed his victory.

Facing growing international pressure to step down, General Pinochet tried to pull this same trick again in 1988, by offering a pseudo-election in which Chileans could vote to either let Pinochet remain in office for another eight years or hold a presidential election the following year. Given that he was writing the rules again, how could human rights activists and other opposition groups possibly win? It seemed hopeless.

But it wasn’t! No!, an Oscar-nominated film, tells the story of the brave and creative Chileans who helped their fellow citizens stand up and say, “NO!” to repression. This movie opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 15. You can find a list of theatres and dates for other cities by clicking here.

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10 Reasons to Move to the Music and End Violence Against Women

One Billion Rising
On February 14th, Amnesty will join with V-Day in the One Billion Rising campaign to dance in solidarity with the estimated one billion women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetime.

Violence against women is one of the world’s most pervasive human rights abuses. It is also one of the most hidden. Globally, one woman in three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in her lifetime and yet, justice for these abuses is all too rare.

In the U.S., the Violence Against Women Act is a groundbreaking law that helps break the cycle of impunity for violence.  Currently up for reauthorization in Congress, you can add your voice to ask for immediate action.

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Russian Court Decides to Not Release Pussy Riot’s Alyokhina

members of pussy riot

A file picture taken on July 20, 2012 shows members of the all-girl punk band “Pussy Riot” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), sitting behind bars during a court hearing in Moscow. (Photo credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages)

Nearly a year after punk rock protest group Pussy Riot’s performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral, a Russian prison court has ruled not to release jailed Pussy Riot member. The punk rocker’s attorneys had petitioned the Russian court to defer her sentence until her young son turned fourteen as she is a single parent.

Unfortunately, Maria will spend the remainder of her two year sentence far away from her five year old.

The ruling is yet another example of injustice compounded in the Pussy Riot case. From the initial unjustified arrests, to the questionable trial, to an outrageous verdict, each step in the case has been an affront to human rights and freedom of expression.

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