Murray Amnesty, a newly formed local chapter of the global organization Amnesty International, held their first meeting on Wednesday April 25, at Calloway County Public Library.
Jessica Evans, Kentucky Area Coordinator of Amnesty International, led the meeting. Evans, appointed to the position in January, has been involved with letter writing campaigns and petitions with Amnesty International for multiple years prior to her appointment. Evans said that she originally began her work with Amnesty International because she was eager to become involved with an organization that focused on equality and social justice.
“I have seen firsthand what discrimination, injustice and intolerance looks like and I wanted to be part of a group that works to (not only) end discrimination, but educate people as well,” said Evans. “One of the reasons I started my role as Area Coordinator is because I felt Amnesty’s presence in Kentucky could, and should, be more prominent.”
The first meeting’s purpose was to provide those in attendance with a brief overview of the goals and missions of Amnesty International and to provide background information on the now 50-year-old organization.
“Amnesty International aims to promote and protect human rights for every individual worldwide,” said Evans “Human rights are inherent to all and should not be denied to anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or any other factor.”
Amnesty International has over 3 million members in 150 countries making it the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world. The organization is best known for its work freeing “prisoners of conscience”, people who have been wrongly imprisoned because of their political or religious beliefs, race, sex, economic status or sexual orientation. To date, the organization has freed more than 40,000 political prisoners.
Amnesty International has functioned as a group for 50 years, and now a chapter local to Murray has formed.
Amnesty Murray will be the first local Amnesty International group in Murray, and will be the only city group operating in Kentucky. Beside Amnesty Murray, there are 16 other Amnesty International student groups at various schools in Kentucky, including Amnesty International at MSU.
Amnesty International has conducted multiple programs in the community in preparation for the forming of Amnesty Murray. On December 8th and 9th they held a Write-a-Thon in the Curris Center to help free prisoners of conscience during which, they gathered 180 letters, exceeding their original goal of 150. On April 10th, Amnesty International along with Baha’is of Western Kentucky co-sponsored a screening of the movie The Truth That Wasn’t There in the Mason Hall Auditorium and then screened Education on Fire the following night.
To help raise awareness for Amnesty Murray, Evans said she hopes to have an Amnesty Murray section in the upcoming Freedom Fest Parade on July 3rd. Evans plans on recruiting members and raising awareness specifically at Murray State during summer orientation and during the fall semester.
Evans said she would like to team up with other local human rights groups such as the Human Rights Commission in Murray and Amnesty International at MSU.
“I tremendously enjoy networking and collaborating with other individuals and organizations that are also focused on humanitarian efforts,” said Evans. “It’s great being able to bring ideas back to groups and help them to grow and empower themselves.”
The Coordinator of Amnesty International at MSU, Mary Ann Hodge, was one of the six people in attendance at the meeting on Wednesday.
According to Hodge, who will be stepping down as Coordinator next year, the fate of Amnesty International at MSU is up in the air. Hodge said that recruitment has not been able to keep up with the growing number of members graduating. Currently, there are only two active members in the organization.
Evans said that it is possible Amnesty Murray and Amnesty International at MSU will join in order to consolidate members and resources.