Following the panels, we had workshops... yay. The workshops took place in a building which was near, but not quite next to, the building in which most of the conference took place... luckily, we had some lovely volunteers to hold signs up for us directing us where to go.
The college of arts and sciences at BU looks rather like a high school... or at least, what I imagine a high school to look like. It has been so long since I've been to high school that I can scarcely remember what it was like. I DO remember, however, that we never had any cool human rights-y workshops though.
Not sure why, but when I saw this photo, I was reminded of something that George Bernard Shaw once said - "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
Though the classroom chair-table-things weren't entirely conducive to our discussions, we managed to get by without going insane (or maybe it was just me who was slowly being driven to insanity by the furniture).
The workshop at... work. Joey collects forms, Lisa hands out bumper stickers while Emily writes on the board. Division of labour at its very finest.
I hope you're all paying attention to these little factoids, you will be tested on this in the future. And you never know when this stuff comes up on trivia nights...
Yang Jian-Li was one of many who fled China following his participation in (and survival of!) the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations which were so brutally crushed by the authorities. He returned not long ago to check things out and was found out, arrested, and detained for five years. At various times during his incarceration, he was kept in solitary confinement for many months on end, and he gets a bit emotional here while recalling some of those traumatic experiences.
He inspired us with a story of returning to his cell after solitary on one occasion to find an enormous pile of letters that had been sent by Amnesty members from all over the world. It reminded me of a guest speaker, another former prisoner of conscience, from Indonesia who was trying to convince me that letter writing wasn't futile with "receiving one of your letters is like a thirsty man wandering aimlessly in the desert tasting a drop of water for the first time". Needless to say, I was convinced.
Ishmael Beah, a highlight of the conference and author of "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier", who spoke of the dehumanizing effects that participation in warfare had, not only on children, but on everyone.
He, himself was a child solder, and his speech gave us great insight into the psychology of the experience and highighted how important it was that the practice of using children in conflict must be put to an end.
...and what could we do, but give our speakers standing ovations.
...and we had a slide show about an event called "get on the bus" which brings activists to New York for a very large, participation-based event... and gave us reasons to do it. This was reason 7.
This was reason 1.
After that session, Ishmael was kind enough to sign some copies of his book for the people standing in a very very long queue...
...and even to have his photo taken with adoring fans.
Outside the big conference rooms, there were tables set up selling all manner of human rights related paraphernalia...
which included t-shirts, among many other things
Unsurprisingly, there were also tables with various actions on them. Interestingly shaped, and very colourful petitions were among the many devices of activism in use these days.
It's all about bringing people together and the exchange of ideas. Clare, one of our co-presidents chats with Matt by the coffee...
There was a lot of coffee... good thing too, because the final plenary session... was looooooong.