GRAPHIC BY JEREMIAH LEVY
If you are looking for BHS students determined to take concrete political action, the Amnesty International Club is where you will find them. The club strives to teach Brookline about human rights abuses across the world while mobilizing its participants to take action.
The group commonly discusses international and national human rights abuses with the hope of fixing them in whatever way they can. They are headed by seniors Issie Kapner and Lily Rodgers, and the club’s adviser, Social Studies teacher Patrick McGee. Rodgers described the goals of the club as twofold.
“First of all, it’s to raise awareness about human rights issues that affect our community, affect our country, and affect our world, because sometimes Brookline can be a bit of a bubble, ” Rodgers said.
Action is the other major part of their mission according to Rodgers and Kapner. Usually the club goes to Washington D.C. once a year to lobby for multiple issues, though they have canceled the trip this year due to COVID. There they’ve met with local politicians such as Joe Kennedy and Ed Markey.
One of the campaigns the club participates in is Amnesty’s “Writes for Rights Campaign.” The campaign is focused on writing letters to various governments from around the world to free political prisoners.
Their work is also not just international, as the club has done more local work. Two years ago they hosted a gun violence vigil among rising incidents of school shootings in the country.
They have also collaborated with other clubs on local projects such as with the Environmental Action club on pushing for climate legislation in Brookline.
“Last year, we worked with a couple of different clubs, including the Environmental Action Club, because Warrant Article 21 was a piece of legislation in Brookline that was going to be voted on in town meeting that would ban the use of fossil fuel infrastructure and all new constructions. We worked with the Environmental Action Club to really lobby for this to be passed,” Rodgers said
With the high focus on concrete political action within the club, leadership is highly decentralized, which allows each member to take their own initiative and lead their own projects.
“Our students take an active role in helping to lead. We really want everybody who’s involved to be leading,” Rodgers said.
According to Rodgers, one of the best aspects of the club is the wide range of topics they cover. These topics can include COVID-19, police brutality, gun control, and political freedoms abroad.
“The club is also bipartisan,” Kapner said, “Something we focus on is that we’re not going to side with party politics. We’re focusing on protecting human rights.”
According to the Pew Research Center, this comes at a time where political polarization has become more common place in America. According to its leaders, The Amnesty International club focuses cleanly on their mission, and taking concrete action to change the world for the better.
“We aren’t trying to distance ourselves politically from people, we just fight for human rights,” Kapner said.
According to Pew Research Center, growing social campaigns, such as the BLM movement, have caused the American youth to be more politically active than ever before in their lifetimes. This club strives to give it’s young members an outlet to really make change. Working with Amnesty gives them access to campaigns that are also worked on by thousands of people across the world.
Trying to take action in whatever way they can through their own work and cooperation with Amnesty International campaigns, the club presents itself as a place where students can take real action before voting is on the table for them.
“One of the amazing things about Amnesty is its ability to actually make an impact on these issues. It can be hard; I can’t vote in this election, and voting certainly is not the only way to make an impact,” Rodgers said.