Amnesty International USA: Group 133 and Get on the Bus
I've been involved with Amnesty International Local Group 133 and their annual Get On The Bus for Human Rights event since returning the U.S. in fall 2010. That first year, I took on responsibility for media and social networking for the 2011 Get On The Bus (GOTB) event, reaching out to media outlets and revitalizing the GOTB blog and Twitter feed. This past year, I accidently took on more responsibility by volunteering to coordinate one of the events core actions.
About Get On The Bus
Get On The Bus (a.k.a. "GOTB") is an annual day of human rights education and activism that brings students and activists from throughout the northeast region to New York City for one day. The event has been organized by Amnesty 133 and a dedicated team of volunteer organizers since 1996 and brings as many as 1,200 activists to New York for peaceful demonstrations outside of embassies and missions to the UN.The first portion of the day has participants attend a speakers' panel which features human rights experts and survivors. In the afternoon, participants peacefully demonstrate on behalf of prisoners of conscience and Amnesty International campaigns outside of the embassies or missions to the U.N. GOTB has had a number of success stories, most recently is that of J.S. Tissainayagam (Tissa), a Sri Lankan journalist who was the subject of GOTB campaigns for two years. Tissa now lives in Cambridge with his wife and regularly attends Amnesty 133 meetings.
About Filep Karma
So for GOTB 2012, I, with my friend and colleague, Anna, organized the action on behalf of Filep Karma, a West Papuan activist and prisoner of conscience in Indonesia. West Papua, the half of New Guinea island under Indonesian rule, has suffered grave human rights abuses for decades (see: Amnesty International UK and Survival International). Filep Karma is a former civil servant and prominent West Papuan human rights activist who is currently serving a 15-year sentence for peacefully raising a flag. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience, and the UN Working Group on Arbritrary Detention has released the official opinion that his detention violates international law.
So, that's a lot of background in order to get to me organizing speakers, writing case materials, and leading the delegation that met with officials at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations. For the GOTB 2012 Filep Karma action, I put together case information for the packet given to participants. I also got in touch with Eben Kirksey, a cultural anthropologist who recently published a book on West Papua's independence movement, and Octo Mote, a former West Papuan journalist who sought asylum in the U.S. after an attempted assassination attempt on his life. Octo and Eben spoke at the morning speaker's panel (Octo is a childhood friend of Filep Karma). In the afternoon Eben and I met with officials from the Indonesian Mission to the UN.
After the event, I worked with Octo to translate and subtitle a video featuring a speech given by Filep Karma in 2004.
Over the last couple of years, I have been involved with developing and leading interactive workshops for volunteers and students on the effective integration of mobile technology and social media into human rights work and advocacy with Amnesty International USA. I facilitated workshops at the 2012 Amnesty International USA Northeast Regional Conference and the 2013 Northeast Regional Leadership Retreat, and most recently helped staff a "Genius Bar" -style help desk at the 2013 AI USA Northeast Regional Conference. As an ongoing part of this project, I created a website with additional resources for volunteers, Activism for the 21st Century, and a Tumblr page for my local group at amnesty133.tumblr.com.