Last weekend, human rights organization Amnesty International USA in partnership with live music events startup Sofar Sounds hosted a powerful evening of collective action along with an intimate concert experience.
The experience featured stripped-down performances by singer/songwriter and activist Lauren Jauregui and Roc Nation recording artist Victory Boyd all in a surprise pop-up at General Assembly in the Flatiron neighborhood of New York City. The event, Write for Rights, is aimed at securing justice for eleven women human rights defenders under threat and in need of urgent help as a result of speaking out and taking action against various human rights abuses (learn more about these women by clicking here).
The evening kicked off with a letter-writing session during which members of the public wrote to government officials in support of specific cases that are emblematic of its broader work on human rights both within the U.S. and around the world. It continued with the two stripped-down performances for a room of 175 guests. Special guest speakers included actress Alysia Reiner (Netflix’s Orange is the New Black), Violett Beane (Jesse Quick in the CW’s The Flash), plus-sized model Denise Bidot, and more.
“At a time in our collective history when the importance of using our voices to affect change can’t be overstated, I’m really excited to partner with Amnesty International for an event that’s encouraging people of all ages the world over to speak up against human rights abuses”, said Jauregui. “The 11 incredible women across the globe that we’re advocating for have spoken up and acted out on behalf of some of the most pressing issues of our time, and I want to encourage everyone to do their part as well.”
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In the opening set for the evening, singer / guitarist Victory Boyd performed an acoustic set of originals accompanied by bassist and sister MoMo, with selections from her debut album The Broken Instrument including Extraordinary and A Happy Song, finishing with a strong cover of popular jazz standard Feeling Good popularized by Nina Simone. Jauregui then treated audience members to a performance of More Than That followed by a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine on what was the anniversary of the singer’s death. She finished with a rousing performance of Expectations that brought audience members to their feet.
Write for Rights is Amnesty International’s largest annual human rights campaign and works through engaging citizens around the world to write letters on behalf of people who need urgent help. Through the power of collective action, these letters convince government officials to free people unjustly imprisoned and end other abuses. This year’s cases of women human rights defenders under threat include: Awad of the United States (refugee and activist seeking safety in the US); Geraldine Chacón of Venezuela (persecuted for empowering youth); Pavitri Manji of India (harassed for standing up to big business); Nonhle Mbuthuma of South Africa (targeted for defending her ancestral land); The Sengwer Indigenous People of Kenya (violently evicted from their ancestral land); Gulzar Duishenova of Krygyzstan (disability rights activist facing discrimination); Nawal Benaissa of Morocco (persecuted for her social justice activism); Vitalina Koval of Ukraine (violently attacked for supporting LGBTI rights); Atena Daemi of Iran (in jail for opposing the death penalty); and Marielle Franco of Brazil (killed for defending human rights)
“Lauren has been an outspoken ally in the fight for human rights, and we’re thrilled to work with her as part of Amnesty’s longstanding tradition of inspiring people to take global action through the power of music and activism,” said Robyn Shepherd, director of media relations at Amnesty International USA. “The wonderful thing about this evening is that it provides simple but meaningful ways to really make a difference, all while having a great night out. Everyone here tonight is having an impact by supporting women defending human rights around the world.”
Planned every year around Human Rights Day, December 10, Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign runs through February 28, 2019. Members of the public are asked to sign up, write and mail letters by January 31, and report letters by February 28, 2019.
The letters and messages generated by the campaign have had an enormous impact. Last year alone, over 5.5 million actions were taken on behalf of 11 individuals and cases. Through letter writing, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience, people imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs or identity.
This is not the first time Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds have collaborated. Last year they worked together on the ‘Give a Home’ campaign, a first-of-its-kind global day of live music events taking place in people’s homes, in which nearly 1,000 musicians performed at over 270 concerts in more than 200 cities globally. The event took place on September 20th, 2017, and brought together musicians, refugees, and music fans in the aim of uniting people to welcome refugees.
To learn more about Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign and the cases here: http://write.amnestyusa.org/
To learn more about Sofar Sounds, check us out at www.sofarsounds.com or follow the conversation on social media at @sofarsounds or using #sofarsounds.