Amnesty Builds Local and Statewide Relations at U of M Conference

By Sarah Wallace, Arts and Entertainment Editor

K College''s Chapter of Amnesty International at the state conference

Members of Amnesty International are taught about public narrative

Emily Walsh ''14 and Rachel Selina ''17 listen to a lecture

This past Saturday, Kalamazoo College’s Amnesty International organization brought eight students to the University of Michigan’s campus for their first statewide meeting.

K’s Amnesty group is part of an international effort to raise people’s awareness of human rights violations and includes collaboration with cities around the world.

At K, the group promotes these rights by writing petitions and letters to representatives, working to protect women and LGBT rights, defending freedom of expression, and abolishing the death penalty, among other things.

“When it comes to human rights violations, people are very aware of the ones going on nationally, rather than ones close to home. Like in Grand Rapids where there are a lot of human trafficking issues that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” said Mallika Mitra ’16, one of the four co-Presidents of the group.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the group discussed ways to bring new members to the group and magnify their effectiveness. K students not only discussed with other college’s group members, but with city members who have established their own Amnesty presence. Grand Rapids, for example, had members from their Amnesty organization in attendance.

For part of the meeting, the hosts conducted an activity aimed to develop everyone’s personal narratives. Personal narrative training involved framing one’s objectives in a way that connected to the human rights act that the student is pushing for, and then making that coalesce in an emotionally and logically effective act.

“The personal narrative is a really integral part of the training for both political campaigning and just trying to communicate effectively to whoever you are trying to influence,” explained co-President of Amnesty Emily Walsh ’14

Out of the eight people in attendance, four of them were first-year students. Both seniors in attendance at the conference, Walsh and Rachel Serina, were pleasantly surprised at their involvement in the group.

“There were mostly first years, which was great,” said Walsh. “One of the problems with student organizations at K is the turnover rate because we’ve got juniors on study abroad and it’s hard to get a cohesive group going.”

Serina also noticed their engaged role in the group.

“For the first years to come to this conference to want to come the entire day to learn about new ideas for the groups in terms of events and all… I can tell they are really committed,” said Serina.

The statewide meeting left the students with tons of new ideas for the group, as well as a definite direction for their future progression.

“I think that [the conference] invigorated us, definitely, and left us with a new sense of purpose for the year,” Walsh said.

Sometimes Amnesty’s battle for human rights seems like an indefinite one. Yet, with all of the voices present at the conference, there was undoubtedly strength in the cause by which they were united.

“People don’t know what the success really looks like in our push for human rights, but just getting people together with the same idea, that is success,” said Katie Skinner ’17.