INTERVIEW PRODUCED FOR NYXT.NYC
In Press Play we chat with some of NYXT’s content partners. In this edition we talked with Robyn Shepherd, Interim Director of Media Relations at Amnesty International USA. The organization leads the way on social justice causes all around the world, they currently have an awesome campaign for volunteers called Write for Rights, and you can find their video content at nyxt.nyc/amnesty.
NYXT: How did you start working with Amnesty International and which aspects about the organization resonated with you?
Robyn: I’ve been working with Amnesty since 2014. I wanted to be part of an organization that was renowned for its decades of work on human rights. Amnesty is the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world, and its brand is iconic. It’s an honor to help promote the work that we do for the organization here in the United States.
NYXT: What is the most challenging aspect about your work?
Robyn: Amnesty works on so many worthy issues – refugees, lethal force, gun violence, women’s rights, and so many others — that it’s hard sometimes to decide which issues to lift up on any given day, since a lot of times the same reporters cover the same things. It’s a constant balance of trying to meet the media where they are in giving them info on breaking news and other times trying to offer them something new that might be below the radar.
NYXT: What were some of Amnesty’s big achievements of 2018?
Robyn: One thing that we’re particularly proud of this year is the launch of a report that frames gun violence in the United States as a human rights crisis. The lack of federal regulations on gun ownership and the lack of investment in communities to stop violence before it starts shows that the government has allowed gun ownership to take priority over human lives. There’s a lot of amazing work being done to roll back gun violence. We thought it was important to look at it through the lens of an international human rights issue.
NYXT: What was your favorite Amnesty International’s campaign from the last year?
Robyn: In addition to the gun violence work, our teams have been doing some important work at the border documenting the treatment of asylum-seekers. The ability to seek asylum is a legal right, and people are being unlawfully told that they can’t even do that at designated entry points, which isn’t true. People seeking protection from violence and persecution shouldn’t be left to wait for weeks on end with nowhere to go.
NYXT: What is Write for Rights and how does it work
Robyn: Write for Rights is our annual campaign where millions of people around the world write letters and emails on behalf of people who have been denied their freedom – and sometimes their lives – just for standing up for human rights. Every year we select about 10 cases of individuals whose efforts are emblematic of our larger work. This year we have 11 cases focusing on human rights defenders. You can take action at write.amnestyusa.org
NYXT: Does Amnesty International collaborate with other nonprofits? Which ones?
Robyn: Too many to note here! We work with international, national, and local groups on all of our issues. Whether it’s as big as somewhere like UNHCR or community organizers in Chicago trying to keep their streets safe, we try to be collaborative whenever we can.
NYXT: What is coming next for Amnesty International and how can people get involved?
Robyn: Amnesty is always at the forefront of human rights both here and abroad. The best way to keep up with us is to follow us on Twitter at @amnestyusa or on Facebook or Instagram, and go to amnestyusa.org to see if there’s a local group in your area – or learn how you can start one!