Thursday, April 07, 2011

Shine a light, Save a life

Less than 24 hours until Get on the Bus hits the streets of NYC. We're burning the midnight oil here in Somerville, MA. Tuesday night, 15 volunteers sorted and collated print materials. Danielle and Helen stayed until 10pm! Val worked overtime finalizing the bus passenger lists Wednesday. Patrick will be packing up the car with posters, event programs, and merch. I wonder if they're main lining caffine, like me?

It takes a huge effort of time and energy by a small group of volunteers to pull off an event of this size year after year. Did you know we plan for GOTB six months in advance, including selecting which cases to profile? This year, event planning was underway well before the wave of peaceful protests in North Africa and the Middle East and the subsequent news of repression of students in Iran and the torture of women in Egypt, among other human rights abuses reported.

In recent weeks, we also learned that Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu are currently being hunted by police. Both have been arbitrarily arrested on numerous occasions in the past following peaceful protests and have been detained for periods of up to 37 days. Let's be blunt -- they're being harrassed and intimidated by police.

Knowing the that the threat of arrest is always real and immediate, Jenni lives out of a suitcase and in safe houses, ready to move a moment's notice (starting at the 1:40 minute mark).

Video by [wide angle] via Amnesty International: Demonstrating Under Dictatorship

I was deeply moved by Jenni's speech at Amnesty International's Annual General Meeting in March. She's the type of leader who incites hope. It's individual stories of hope -- the human face of determination and survival -- that resonate most strongly with me.

Tom Stoppard -- who's probably my favorite playwrite of all time -- describes the work of Amnesty International in the UK Guardian:
What it does, he says, "is connect awareness to protest globally… And, of course, the very phrase 'a prisoner of conscience' is a very potent idea. Someone who's been locked up because of his conscience."
On this Friday and next, GOTB will embody the connection between awareness and protest. We'll draw attention to some of our human rights concerns, including prisoners of conscience like Dhondup Wangchen, filmmaker of the documentary Leaving Fear Behind and Filep Karma, a West Papuan activist. And we've tested the batteries to make sure we'll have working megaphones to amplify our voices so that diplomats and international leaders will know we are on their doorstep.

We need you to join us -- in person and virtually -- to make the greatest impact! Jam the fax lines. Flood inboxes with messages of hope. Pre-formatted letters are available for download on the GOTB website. Or just take a moment of action: shine a little bit of love and light on Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu by signing a letter online.

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