On December 10, the J. Clarence Kelly Library was one of the many hosts to the day?s write-a-thon to encourage Human Rights causes. The 2010 ?Write for Rights? write-a-thon, hosted by Amnesty International, was declared as the largest human rights events, and for reference librarian Rachel Masilamani, the timing couldn?t have been better.
?I was talking to the Teaching International committee and since our theme was human rights, and International Human Rights Day was December 10 ? our last day of class ? I thought this was the perfect way for the library to get involved.?
Students seemed to echo that sentiment. A number of students came to write letters for the campaign from 10am to 2pm throughout the day, despite it being the last day of class for the semester and a hectic one before finals started. Rachel?s goal was to have a total of 50 letters written for the day.
At the write-a-thon, Amnesty International provided informational sheets each describing a different human rights violation across the globe. On the reverse side, information was provided about whom to write to in order to hopefully right these injustices. Options typically included the government agency most adept to fix the issue as well as a prewritten letter of support to the victim.
For example, one human rights offense highlighted the instance of a number of Roma people Romania. In 2004, around 100 Roma people, pejoratively referred to as ?Gypsies,? were living in a home in a central Romanian town before they were forcibly evicted from the home. As if it weren?t enough that the safeguards for evictions laid out in international law were not met, having been evicted from the home, around 75 of the 100 Roma are now living in metal cabins right next to a sewage plant. Six years later, and after a number of promises that those unsanitary conditions were temporary, the Roma are still living there with authorities seemingly having no plan to relocate them into adequate conditions.
After reading the story, letter writers had two options: write a letter to the mayor, expressing your concern for the Roma people and calling for action, or to write a letter of hope to the Roma families with a sample message in Romanian.
A number of students decided to write to both the mayor of Csikszereda as well as the Roma people after learning about Eastern Europe, while others wrote to causes closer to their own hearts.
Sheng Wei decided to write to Mao Hengfeng, an activist detained for defending women?s reproductive rights, because both Sheng and Mao are Chinese.
?I grew up there so I kind of understand the situation because in China, there are certain events the government doesn?t want the public to know about,? Sheng said. ?But in America, people are free to discuss whatever they want.?
In all, 26 students and staff visited the write-a-thon, and with a total of 51 letters, surpassed Rachel?s goal for letters written. Rachel was happy to have reached the goal, but seemed even more enthusiastic about what the human rights event meant for the campus.
?I think as a campus, we?ve learned a lot about human rights, but to learn about it is the first step. This was the next step and a good way to end the semester.?
Story by Daniel Koenig