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So after a long and rewarding time in Ohio, I bid adieu to the Columbus countryside and headed on my way up to Boston yesterday! After a brief stay with a friend of mine in the area, and some amazingly delicious made-to-order pizza for dinner, I then went to bed as I had an early morning.

I awoke at 4:00am to catch a bus to head up to Lewiston, Maine where I had a day of canvassing  and promoting for our screening that night at Bates College ahead of me. Once I got to Lewiston, I met up with our student contact Umar on the campus, who made the day seem like a breeze for me! He got a table for me right at the entrance that I was able to canvass and promote from and I got some great exposure and talked to a great amount of students who were mostly willing to sign our postcards to Senators Collins and Snowe demanding they support a world without nuclear weapons!

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Well after what seemed like months in the making, we have finally launched the Road to Zero Tour! We are very excited to begin this tour and are anxious to hit the campus streets in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine delivering our message and building support for a world without nuclear weapons.

We believe that this tour is essential to bring youth into the effort to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, because once the power of youth is tapped and behind this cause, extraordinary things will happen. And to help us garner that support, we are enlisting the help of a brand new documentary film that was released in theaters and will be released on DVD very soon called Countdown to Zero. It is a fantastic film that clearly and convincingly makes the case for a world without nuclear weapons. It is from the same makers of the Academy-Award winning An Inconvenient Truth and we will be screening it at campuses in the three states we will be visiting.

Here is the info. for the screenings we have booked thus far:

Ohio State – Monday, Nov. 15th @7:00pm at the Ohio Union Cartoon Room 2

Kenyon College – Tuesday, Nov. 16th @8:00pm (Location: TBD)

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By Elizabeth Con
Elizabeth is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Elizabeth below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Doesn’t everyone support human rights?  Sure they do.  But does the average person actually do anything to promote and protect our rights?  Not really.  And you especially wouldn’t think that a young person, a person possibly still in their teens, would actually care about improving human rights around the world.  We’re just too busy pulling all-nighters in the library or spending our life savings on Bonnaroo tickets and the road trip it will take to get there.  But I beg to differ.  Young people actually play a pivotal role in the human rights movement today for many reasons.  The key word here is young, which means they’re energetic, passionate, excited, and creative.  They’re not afraid to make mistakes and to explore the world in which we live.  Historically, young people have been in the forefront of revolution and change.  Consider the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.  Young people came together to protest and make their voices heard.  They worked together to ask for change in our world and to make it a little better for the people who came after them.  I know a woman who sent her first allowance (at 10 years old, I might add) to Amnesty International.  That’s pretty impressive.  And it just proves that young people actually do care about things other than what celebrities are wearing these days.  Although it may sound so cliché, young people really are the leaders of tomorrow.  They are the ones who will be educating your children, working for the UN, and running for election.  They have the power to call for a change to the way we look at human rights today.  So don’t underestimate the power of young people and their influence on human rights just yet.

Elizabeth Con is a junior at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.  She is double majoring in Political Science and International Studies (concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean) and double minoring in Spanish and Film Studies.  Elizabeth has been the treasurer of CofC´s campus chapter of AID for the past two years and has enjoyed working with other AID members in spreading awareness of global issues on campus.  In the future, Elizabeth hopes to join the Peace Corps before going to graduate school to study International Relations.

By Tina Korte
Tina is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Tina below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Scores of individuals assume that young people lack concern for events transpiring outside their frame of reference. Could this be due, in part, to the sparse media attention globally-minded young people receive for their efforts to promote a world where sustainable human development is possible for all?

Ironically, young people are more informed than ever. We are global citizens and dream about a day when human rights are granted to and preserved for everyone. We sit at coffee shops, receive breaking news updates, and discuss world issues with our peers using social media. We want to learn, explore, and immerse ourselves in regions where conflict is present and protection of human rights is absent. We imagine how we can support people whose governments fail to their protect human rights, and we question why these atrocities continue to occur without intervention from the international community.

We are mindful that we may not become CEO’s or millionaires, nor will we grace the cover of Time magazine under the heading “most influential people,” but we will positively affect the lives of people whose voices and words have been lost, unwritten, or silenced. We will share their stories with the community, and those who read our publications will inevitably become better-informed citizens. We will uphold the “Never Again” pledge but will refuse to allow “Yet Again” to appear in anything but history books. When we succeed, genocide and ethnic cleansing will be taught as past events that demonstrate the rare but sometimes present malevolent human spirit.

We have read the books and listened to numerous history lessons that speak of failure. Nothing will inspire us to be globally-minded young people who act, think, and advocate more than the failures of past leaders and the international community to ensure that human rights were always defended.

Tina Korte is pursuing a Master of Arts in International Relations with an emphasis in Conflict Resolution from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Her interest in human rights stems from her admiration for the perseverance of the human spirit and her desire to ensure that those whose rights are violated are given a voice.  She believes that young people are more aware than ever about the violations of human rights and through our conversations we spread awareness to the international community which hopefully will prevent future atrocities.

Yesterday was the official beginning of the 2010 US Social Forum, but I think today could be more aptly described as the beginning. The beginning of something different, something new and exciting, something sustainable and equitable, something worth fighting for. I say this for several reasons, but the one I will highlight today is in light of the workshops that I attended.

My first workshop of the day was of particular interest to me not only because of its implications for the work of progressive activists, especially youth activists, but also because of how unique and exciting it purported to be. And after coming out of that session, I can say that it did not disappoint! The workshop was titled: “Other Worlds Are Possible: Visionary Fiction, Organizing and Imagining the Future.” An intriguing title for a workshop to say the least, but it did not stop there. All of the attendees of the workshop broke up into four smaller groups and we were each tasked with a literary exercise, with the mission being to draft a visionary fiction story. In case you do not know what I mean by “visionary fiction,” it is fiction but with the intended purpose of creating social change. And since it is labeled as “visionary,” the story often takes place in the future, in either an imagined utopia, dystopia, or some other combination. Needless to say, each of our groups came up with some very intriguing stories, and one group was so excited about theirs that they declared that they had already shared with each other their contact information and are going to be the first to publish a group-written visionary fiction work! It was inspiring to see and hear everyone’s creative energies and social/economic/political aspirations pour out onto the page and it makes me wonder what students could do with this exercise.

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Here in the US, abortion has been a contentious issue for decades. Clinics where abortion services are provided often have protesters in front showing gruesome and inaccurate pictures of aborted fetuses.  Pro-choice activists are sometimes labeled as murderers; once, when I mentioned that I was working at Planned Parenthood, I was told by a med student that she was studying to “be able to save babies, not kill them.” And yet here in the United States women do have the right to choose when and if to have children, and whether pregnancy is right for us. Of course, preventative contraception methods are always preferable, but accidents happen. What sexually active girl hasn’t had a pregnancy scare at some point?  Birth control is not a guarantee. Abstinence only campaigns have been proven over and over again to be ineffective – sexuality is a part of our humanity. As American women, we are privileged to have access to that basic human right, the right to have control over our own bodies.

In many developing countries, that is not the case, and this is hugely affected by U.S. international policies. The Mexico City Policy, better known as the Global Gag Rule, prohibited any organization abroad that receives federal US funding from performing abortions, or even counseling or referring patients for abortion. This is even if the organization was doing so using outside funding.  Or, as laid out by USAID on its website:

“The Mexico City Policy required foreign nongovernmental organizations to certify that they will not perform or   actively promote abortion as a method of family planning using funds generated from any source as a condition for receiving USAID family planning assistance.”

This means that a US policy can determine what an individual doctor, who works for a US funded organization, can say to his or her individual patient halfway around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Although it’s taken a little while, here is the promised post on how to throw your very own Open Mic Night!   No matter where you find yourself, open mics are a great way to bring communities together and generate creativity.  College campuses are especially good places since there are often lots of places to hold open mics and/or venues with sound equipment already there.

But before I get ahead of myself….

The workshop, part of Split This Rock and led by poets Dan Wilcox, Toni Asante Lightfoot, and Reuben Jackson, included a suggested timeline for throwing the event, an equipment list, and a Q&A with the poets.  Hopefully the advice they gave will help you better bring together art and activism on or off campus.

Very quickly, what is exactly is an Open Mic, just in case some are unfamiliar? Open Mic (short for “microphone”) refers to an event, a gathering really, where people can share their art; most often it’s poetry, spoken word or readings, but open mics can include anything from songs to performance art as long as it’s cool with the organizers.  It’s referred to as “open” because anyone and everyone can sign up so long as there’s time.  People sign up on a sheet before the event starts (or email the organizers depending on the event) and then are called up to perform.

Now, on to throwing one!

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Q: What do you get when you bring together activists, poets, artists, educators, passionate people, and powerful words?

A: Split this Rock 2010.

Held for the first time in 2008, the goals of the Split this Rock Poetry Festival 2010 are, according to their website, twofold: first, “to celebrate the poetry of witness and provocation being written, published, and performed in the United States today” and “to call poets to a greater role in public life and to equip them with the tools they need to be effective advocates in their communities and in the nation.”

Why does AID care?  Art is a powerful tool for social justice. 

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With 50 days left before the COP-15 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, we’ll need a serious shift in climate (figuratively speaking) for any significant shift in climate (literally speaking) to happen after the close of negotiations on December 18th.

Developed and developing nations remain at an impasse over two major points of negotiation–who will incur the brunt of the costs to help developing countries adapt to climate change, and who will take the lead and stop pouring green house gases into the atmosphere. So, what are young people across the country doing to shift the climate state-by-state as our leaders remain stagnant and unproductive? Power Shift.

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As a college-age environmental activist, I’ve always felt a divide between the Green movement of my parents’ generation and that of my own. Celebrating Earth Day each April is almost an afterthought for the environmental student group at American University, though in 1970, it singlehandedly defined a movement and a generation. Going to Sierra Club meetings with my parents is always a little alien to me as well – the older, affluent, white attendees couldn’t look more different from the young people (from increasingly diverse backgrounds) that I see at protests in Washington, DC.

With this knowledge, it’s all too easy to forget that I’m asking many of the same questions and fighting many of the same battles today that my parents did 40 years ago.

Two weeks ago, I joined twelve other members of Eco-Sense, American University’s environmental sustainability group, at a screening of Earth Days. This new documentary looks back at the roots of the Green movement, using exclusive footage and interviews with America’s legendary movers and shakers to trace its evolution through the decades. From Rachel Carson, the first Dirty Dozen, and the ground-breaking 1970 Earth Day, you witness the development of a radical movement that has finally—for better or for worse—become mainstream.

Perhaps the most powerful message of the film is that change cannot come from a movement that is partisan, polarized, and exclusive. Wealthy and poor, Democrat and Republican, developed nation and developing nation, and black, white, and brown need to once again recognize their common interests in the Green movement. After all, the first definitive pieces of environmental legislation in the US—the Clean Air and Water Acts and the Endangered Species Act—were products of a bipartisan effort for change in the 1970s, largely forwarded by Richard Nixon.

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