DETROIT - Amnesty International activists from 13 mid-western states will gather in Detroit from October 29-31 to tackle pressing regional and international human rights issues at the organization’s annual regional conference. The event, which will take place at the Doubletree Hotel, 525 W. Lafayette Blvd. This year’s theme, Shine A Light: 50 Years of Activism, highlights Amnesty International’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
“For almost 50 years, Amnesty International members around the world have proven time and again the power of grassroots activism,” said Jamal Watkins, mid-west regional director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). “The wrongfully imprisoned have been freed. Legislation has been passed. Executions have been prevented. As we head into the next 50 years, we will take our fight to the local level with issues such as right-sizing Detroit, immigration and maternal mortality, ensuring that each is examined through a human rights lens.”
On Friday evening at 7:00 p.m., the conference kicks off with a screening of Frontline’s World Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages, which will be followed by a panel discussion examining the current state of immigration in the United States. Panelists include: Professor David Koelsch of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law; Mohammad Abdollabi, a young undocumented man from Iran who was arrested in Arizona last May when demonstrating in favor of the Dream Act; and Deb Drennan, executive director of Freedom House.
On Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. conference-goers will hear from noted modern day human rights defenders, including Mexican activist Cipriana Jurado, an advocate for economic and environmental justice for more than 20 years. Because of investigations she undertook into human rights violations committed by Mexico's Army, Cipriana received death threats and one of her colleagues was killed. She has since come to Chicago seeking temporary refuge from these threats. Candace Gorman has been part of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ effort to provide pro bono lawyers for Guantanamo detainees. She shut down her civil rights practice to focus solely on getting her two clients out of Guantanamo (one of whom, Al-Ghizzawi, has since been freed).
At 12:30 p.m. activists will celebrate at a 50th Anniversary awards luncheon. AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox, the keynote speaker, will highlight a half century of successful human rights activism and will discuss the future direction of the organization. He will also recognize Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for his lifelong commitment to upholding universal human rights, which has been seen via his involvement with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, introduction of the Military Tribunal Authorization Act of 2002 and drafting the Maternal Mortality Accountability Act of 2010.
On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., conference–goers will turn their attention to an issue that has been front-and-center locally: the right-sizing of Detroit. Panelists will discuss implications for the human rights of inhabitants facing joblessness and reductions in essential services as Detroit’s population continues to shrink. Panelists include: Peter Hammer, Wayne State University Law Professor; Bankole Thompson, editor of the Michigan Chronicle; Heaster Wheeler, Executive Director, Detroit Branch, NAACP; Ron Scott, Director, Campaign Against Police Brutality; Shea Howell of Oakland University and Kurt Metzger of Data Driven Detroit.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.