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Amnesty International ASU uses art to spark important political conversations

The ASU chapter of the international group works to educate and engage students


Graphic published on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. 

Amnesty International is an independent, global campaign with millions of members who work to advocate for human rights in their communities and around the world. The members do so by investigating and reporting human rights violations and sharing the stories of oppressed individuals.

The ASU chapter of Amnesty International works alongside other activist groups on campus and in the local community to further conversations about race, politics and identity both in and outside the ASU community. 

"Hate is ripping the world apart... but there is an alternative."

Amnesty International ASU will be hosting an open mic night on March 1 in the Secret Garden on the Tempe campus. According to the Facebook page for the event, Open Mic - Open Borders will be a discussion and showcase of “creativity, community and the unapologetic celebration of IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS.” 

The group invites all poets, speakers and artists to share their works and stories at the event. Students can message the group to secure a performance slot or are welcome to simply show up and participate.

The Multicultural Solidarity Coalition partnered with Amnesty International and other ASU and community activist groups such as MEChA de ASU, ASU NAACP and Black Lives Matter Phx Metro to present a free screening of the 2014 film "Dear White People" followed by a conversation about race on Feb. 22.

Claudia Rivera, a member of Amnesty International ASU and a sophomore global studies major, said events like Open Mic - Open Borders are important because they offer underrepresented demographics a place to make their voices heard. 

She also said that as an immigrant herself, she understands how difficult life in the U.S. can be for people from other countries. 

“It’s important to have these conversations because it helps people from all cultures know that they’re not alone,” Rivera said.

LaDawn Haglund, ASU associate professor and the advisor and faculty liaison for the group, said focusing on artistic expression at the event will help broaden how ASU students perceive dialogues on topics such as race, immigration and identity. 

“Dialogue is significant because (without it), people get into their own echo chambers,” she said. “Art is a way to get to that – you can't take strictly academic approaches. People that pretend they’re purely logical are working from a biased perspective."

Haglund said it's necessary to support inclusive conversations within the student body, and that making an effort to understand other people's struggles is the first step towards progress.

“You can’t know if you don’t actually talk to other people,” she said. "We’re all just human beings.”

Deveyn Deshler, a political science sophomore and one of the co-presidents of Amnesty International ASU, said that the event will be informal to allow students to freely share their stories and opinions. 

"Hearing others' stories motivates people to become more active and aware,” she said. “Art is a very important tool.”

Deshler said that Amnesty International ASU will be holding other art-related events during the semester, including a human rights-centered film festival in April. She said she hopes events like this will open the door for students who are interested in joining the organization. 

“Even if you don’t know about human rights, or are not an activist,” Deshler said, “you can come, listen and enjoy.”

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