I volunteer as the Student Area Coordinator for Amnesty International’s Minnesota student-based chapters. As the newest members of the Minnesota leadership team, but a long-time supporter of Amnesty International, I was invited by my field director to attend Amnesty International-USA’s Annual General Meeting. The event was four days long and would be the first time i had ever traveled alone. In my non-Amnesty life, I work as a reporter in the free press and as a racial equity community organizer, so I have done much studying & learning about the various problems plaguing Louisiana, long before Hurricane Katrina or the man-made disaster that followed. I was not sure what to expect from the AGM, but i did know that I would need to be prepared to learn as much as I could and grab as many resources as I could that my students would need here in Minnesota. But the trip was much more than that, before I even entered my hotel room, I had participated in a rally on city hall chanting “Health Care is a Human Right” and had heard the brilliant Bernice Johnson Reagan speak (twice!). Aside from the many workshops, panel discussions, speeches, and the tribute to the late Howard Zinn, I also walked the French Quarter from my hotel and through the jazz festival. In fact, I had been overjoyed to learn that there would be a a Jazz Festival just down the street from my hotel while I was there.
I think what really stuck with me though was the resilience of the people of New Orleans. There sense of humor & life in the face of disaster was incredible to see and something I learned from. I’ve done much traveling in my life to Jordan & Syria in the Middle East, France, many states including California for example, but it was New Orleans that amazed me most. It reminded me of the best of France & Chicago, with just a little Jordanian mixed in for good measure. And despite having trouble leaving the likes of France & Arizona, it was New Orleans that has me seriously considering moving there. They have a strong support system in community organizing & free press and I know that it is a place I would thrive.
New Orleans, both the city & the conference, will always remain with me as two of the greatest experiences of my life. I’m honored AI-USA chose to bring me down for this trip and I’m honored that I was in the company and spent time with such amazing residents of New Orleans.
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