Last year, SFWHS’s Amnesty International club experienced many changes: first, we had a change of leadership, then we formed a new partnership and increased our level of activism. These dramatic shifts led to one of our most successful years and we were very proud of what we accomplished.
First, the change of leadership went to a junior student who had formerly served as the club’s vice-president in the 2010-2011 school year. Then, the new president changed the name of the club to the Amnesty International Club by partnering with Amnesty International (AI). This meant that the club focused exclusively on Amnesty causes. The new partnership helped direct and organize our efforts to protect and defend human rights. We started the year with only two members and by the end of the year, we had a total of 17 members.
In the fall of 2011, the club worked on AI’s Security with Human Rights Campaign to stop torture and shut down Guantanamo and to make sure that previous victims received compensation for their unlawful suffering. In November 2011, the club’s president and a student member flew down to Los Angeles for the AI Annual Western Regional Conference to learn more about human rights issues and AI’s campaigns. The club took action by: 1) collecting 45 paper airplane petitions for the U.S. government to apologize to a former “Gitmo” victim Maher Arrar; 2) screening the film “The Response” at an all school meeting and hosting two speakers from AI who discussed AI’s campaign in Guantanamo; 3) attending and protesting at the Guantanamo protest with fellow AI members in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco; and 4) sending 33 signed letters to Leon Panetta asking for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo prison.
In the spring of 2012, the AI club worked on the Demand Dignity Campaign which focused on maternal mortality and oil drilling by Shell and forced evictions in the Niger Delta. We wrote letters and watched films on three Demand Dignity cases. The club collected over 130 signatures to stop Shell’s gas flaring in the Niger Delta and wrote personal letters to Shell asking them to stop drilling in the Niger Delta. We also hosted a community event called “Poison Fire” with a guest speaker and a film, and created handouts on ways people could take action to stop gas flaring in the Niger Delta.
Throughout the year, the club watched film documentaries to learn more about their campaigns and attended numerous events sponsored by the San Francisco AI office including an event on campaign strategiy and Lao Tzu. We even had the honor of meeting Suzanne Nossel, the Executive Director of AI USA, at an AI meeting in downtown San Francisco. Members of the club wrote letters to help Afghan Women and on Valentine’s Day celebrated love by sending aditional letters to Cameroon’s government demanding equality and gay rights. The club also responded to AI’s Urgent Actions through their website by signing online petitions including one on Russia’s UN Security Council vote regarding the massacre in Syria.
Overall, the club accomplished a great deal and we had a lot of fun working together. We were all beginners, new to many of these issues and to Amnesty. It was an amazing learning experience.
The members of the 2011-2012 club were: Noam Baruch, Lionelle Erlewin, Miranda Hollingswood, Barbara Horning (vice-president), Shannon Jones, Sophie Kawada, Alex Kroupa, Chaitanya Leibowitz, DiAna Morales, Davia Schendel, Jackson Stewart, Sofia Vala (president), Taran Wilkins, Crystal Wong, Thea Wong, Mayra Zanabria and the faculty advisors were: Heidi Hillman and Mary Anne McGill.
- Sofia Vala, President of the SFWHS Amnesty International Club September 2011-present
2012-2013 Looking Forward
This fall, the Amnesty International Club will has been working on three campaigns: 1) “go bananas for a strong arms trade treaty” which advocates the government to stop the unregulated arms trade; 2) “end violence against women everywhere”; and 3) “don’t let the Pussy Riot be silenced.” On Saturday, November 10th, our club attended AI’s Annual Western Regional Conference at U.C. Hastings College of the Law School in the Civic Center of S.F. to further educate ourselves on these relevant human rights issues. This year, we will continue to our part to bring peace and equality to the world through letter writing, and raising community awareness of human rights issues through hosting educational events and a film series at our high school.
-Chaitanya Leibowitz, Vice President of the SFWHS Amnesty International Club, 2012-2013
Members of the 2012-2013 SF Waldorf Amnesty Club: Joseph Alicastro, Noam Baruch, John Cui, Lionelle Erlewin, Natsuki Futatsugi, Ben Gurewitz, Miranda Hollingswood, Barbara Horning, Shannon Jones, Sophie Kawada, Alex Kroupa, Chloe Le Dean, Chaitanya Leibowitz (vice-president), Davia Schendel, Anna Smith, Jackson Stewart, Saylor Stewart, Sofia Vala (president), Crystal Wong, and Mayra Zanabria. Faculty Advisor: Mary Anne McGill