19 July 2017

Meeting minutes for July 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 19 July 2017
In attendance: Struan, Barbara, Bob, Gina, Marsha, Seretha, Christina

Welcome and Introductions

  • Organizer's report [Jeff]: Jeff is out of town, so Barb is running today's meeting
  • Social media director's report [Tilo]: Barbara will prepare a summary of social media activities since March for the September meeting

Updates and Actions

  • AI report: At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul
    • Atrocities committed by both sides, including the U.S.-led coalition
    • AI representative interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! [video and transcript]
  • AI statement on July 2017 tour of Evin Prison by representatives of 45 diplomatic missions: "a crude PR stunt"
  • Uighur students in Egypt at risk of forcible return to China (Egypt): UA 168/17
  • Death penalty (Iran)
  • Death penalty for juveniles (Iran)
  • Death penalty in Ohio (USA): online petition
  • "I Want Those Addresses": revised version of Jeff's letter to AIUSA main office


5-Minute University: Bob will discuss activist tools at the September meeting

New Business

  • Marsha will send an e-mail to Group 342 to plan our participation in the Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest
  • Marsha will register our group for a table at the West Chester Growers' Market

Upcoming Events

Next meeting: Wednesday, 16 August 2017, 7:30 p.m., Wegman's Cafe in Malvern

Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest tabling: Sunday, 10 September 2017, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

28 June 2017

Meet AIUSA Group 242 member Marsha Brofka-Berends

(This is part of a series of occasional posts featuring members of AIUSA Group 342, ordinary people with a passion for human rights.)

Marsha Brofka-Berends has a long history with Amnesty International, going back to her high school days when she had an Amnesty t-shirt with the Declaration of Human Rights on the back. But she didn’t manage to connect with any local groups until about ten years ago, when she was looking for social activism opportunities near where she lives and found this group on Meetup. Since then she’s participated in Group 342’s annual Write for Rights tabling event each December and maintained its e-mail list and blog.

Group 342 is important to her because these gatherings of like-minded human-rights activists give her a much-needed reminder that there are people working for good in the world and that together they can make a difference. She says, “Without such reminders, it would be easy to get overwhelmed by helplessness in the face of all the rotten things that people can do to each other. We just have to remember that most people are good, that most people want to help others, and that together we can actually have an impact.”

Marsha points out that although Amnesty International is a global organization that’s renowned for its effectiveness, the U.S.-based section (AIUSA) has been struggling these past few years with identity and structural issues. She feels that these problems have had an adverse effect on its outreach: “Group 342 is pretty small, but I know that there are a lot more people out there who are interested in human-rights activism and would be happy to write a letter (or attend a meeting) if they only knew about us.” With that in mind, she’d like to see AIUSA prioritize public awareness campaigns and recruitment and expand its membership well beyond its current rosters. “Given the busy-ness of people’s lives today and how many different things compete for our attention, I know it’s not easy to expand AIUSA’s visibility,” she says. “But I think it can be done, particularly if the local groups get more support from the regional and central offices.”

She strongly believes that the actions of individuals do add up and can shape our world. For this reason, she’s been a vegetarian for nearly twenty-five years and contributes to Doctors without Borders, the ACLU, and Amnesty International.

Marsha is currently a professional wordsmith (mostly editing, but some writing and research as well)—work she’s been doing for over two decades, starting when she was in graduate school working on a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology. She grew up in the Midwest, lived on a Swiss dairy farm for a year while studying at the Universit√© de Fribourg, and spent a year on the Oregon coast interviewing loggers and environmental activists. And even though she’s now lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for nearly twenty years, she says she still hasn’t gotten used to the traffic around here!

21 June 2017

Meeting minutes for June 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 21 June 2017
In attendance: Barbara, Bob, Jeff, Kara, Lauri

Welcome and Introductions

Report from Barbara on social media campaign. An increase in Facebook reach and engagement was noted in the last two months. 

New Business

Jeff suggested that at each meeting a member give a presentation (10 minutes max) on some area of human rights that interests him or her. Bob volunteered to give a presentation on high-tech tools for activists at a future meeting.

Barbara mentioned that in past years, members would adopt an area of human rights that interested them and would bring pertinent actions. (For example, Brendan brings actions related to death penalty cases.) She volunteered to bring actions on groups who are suffering persecution or whose rights are being violated.

Jeff would like our group to take on a new case file, now that human rights defender and journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand has been freed in Iran. He will look at the case files listed in the ARC and bring suggestions to the July meeting.

Tabling: Bob, Barbara, Lauri, Marsha, and Jeff have volunteered to do tabling at local events. Marsha is working on dates and venues.


Defender at Risk of Continued Detention In Egypt (Egypt: UA 129.17)

Hundreds Stranded at Mexico/Guatemala Border (Mexico/Guatemala: UA 130.17)

Minority Rights Journalist Attacked and Injured (Pakistan: UA 147.17)

Upcoming Events

Next meeting: Wednesday, 19 July, 7:30 p.m., cafe in Wegmans (Malvern PA)

17 May 2017

Meeting minutes for May 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 17 May 2017
In attendance: Jeff, Gina, Tilo, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • Treasurer's report [Tilo]: Marsha made a motion for Tilo and Barb to open an account for this group at Citadel FCU with our new EIN. Gina seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
  • Outreach and fundraising
    • Because the Ten Thousand Villages store in Exton has closed, Marsha will contact the store in Media to inquire about holding our annual Write for Rights Event / Community Shopping Event at that location.
    • Marsha is looking into getting Amnesty International t-shirts for our group.
  • Activism [Jeff]: Discussion of Saul Alinsky's idea that effectiveness increases when politicians are afraid.

Updates and Actions

  • Case file: Mohammed Sadiq Kabudband has been freed after a decade of imprisonment in Iran!
  • An AI Group 342 action again AI? [Jeff]: Proposal to contact AIUSA main office more directly/forcefully about their refusal to help us invite local AIUSA members to attend Group 342 meetings.


5-Minute University: Jeff will remind Struan to do this in June

Old Business

  • Correspondence with Nick at the AIUSA office [Marsha]: Let's reach out to him with our concerns in the future.
  • Proposal for a new approach to tabling [Jeff]
  • Marsha will check with everyone about Good Neighbor Day
  • Marsha will reach out to manager of Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest and Eagleview Farmers' Market
  • Tickling Giants [Marsha and Jeff]: This film sounds great, but hosting a screening event is not something our group will pursue at this time.

19 April 2017

Meeting minutes for April 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 19 April 2017
In attendance: Barbara, Bob, Jeff, Kara

Welcome and Introductions


Our group now has an EIN number for tax purposes. Barbara sent this info to Tilo.
Social media campaign update (Barbara)
  • Group social media account updates
    • Barbara is posting more often to the group Twitter and FB pages.
    • Ovette reposts (from Barbara's Instagram page) items related to AI to the group Instagram page.
    • Marsha posts to the group's G+ page.
    • Meeting announcements: posted to Twitter and FB via Hootsuite
  • FB overview:
    • Definitions
      • "reach" = number of people who saw the ad at least once
      • "impressions" = number of times a post from a page is displayed. (People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, if someone sees a page update in news feed and then sees that same update when a friend shares it, that would count as two impressions.) 
      • "engagement" = like, click, comment, or reaction
      • "page views" = individuals who choose to browse a page. (An actual visit to a profile marks a higher level of engagement than simply liking a post in the news feed. This suggests a more active interest than a convenience-based like.)
    • FB announcement of our April meeting was “boosted” (cost: $20) on April 16, 17,  and18 to 22- to 45-year-olds living within 10-mile radius of West Chester, Phoenixville, Radnor
      • An additional “reach” of 490 persons gained for the post 
      • 14 “engagements,” mostly “likes” to the post. Those who liked the post were invited to like our FB page.
      • Cost per engagement: $1.34
    • Plan for FB use
      • Will take time to increase our number of Fb followers (likes to page)
      • We may wish to “boost” a post a few times per year. Targeted advertisements also a possibility
      • One or two tweets/day from AIUSA’s Twitter account being fed into our group’s Twitter and FB accounts for extra content
      • Meetings now posted to online community events calendars of chestercounty.com, delconewsnetwork.com, mainlinemedianews.com, philly.com, phillyfunguide.com 
  • Barbara will check with some local radio and TV stations (e.g., KYW, WHYY) to see if they have a community events calendar or do announcements of community events
  • Struan is checking list of area newspapers to see if they feature print calendar of events
Update on other outreach efforts (Jeff)

Jeff reported on his correspondence with one of AIUSA’s senior directors in an effort to secure names and addresses of members for the purpose of sending them a handwritten invitation to attend our meetings. Jeff also shared tabling ideas.

22 March 2017

Meeting Minutes for March 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 22 March 2017

In attendance: Barbara, Bob, Jeff, Ovette, Brendan, Struan, John, Laurie, Kara, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • Minutes (Marsha): no minutes for February 2017 night (social get-together with no business conducted)
  • Treasurer's Report (Tilo)
    • Tilo not present for report. 
    • Marsha: Ten Thousand Villages store in Exton (site of our annual fundraiser) is closing at the end of March. Explore other fundraising options? Marsha to contact Ten Thousand Villages store in Media to see if we could do a Community Shopping Event there in December.
  • Social Media Director's Report (Barbara): Barb passed out a survey on social media goals for our group. She also distributed a list of media outlets (newspapers, online events guides, and social media) that she's using to try to publicize our group meetings.
  • Group 342 Coordinator's Report (Jeff): No report. 
  • Outreach (Barb): A new AI chapter at Penn State Brandywine invited us to give them a presentation about AI. Barb attended their "AmnesTea" meeting on 13 March and delivered her PowerPoint presentation about AI.
    • Jeff: Maybe we can takes turns attending their meetings? And invite them to attend hours? Any opportunities to do something together for Earth Day? (Not enough time to plan this for this year—just one month away.)
    • Laurie and John: Phoenixville Progresssives have a table at Phoenixville First Fridays—maybe we could do that too?

  • "Pastors Face Imprisonment For Trumped Up Charges" (Myanmar: UA 13/17)
  • 2017 Nowruz Action
    • 5-Minute University presentation on Nowruz (Jeff)
    • Marsha distributed descriptions of each case (available here), and Barbara supplied notecards and stamps. Chapter members wrote Nowruz greetings to the prisoners of conscience (one of whom is Mohammed Sadiq Kabudvand, our chapter's case file) highlighted in this year's action. We wrote about 35 cards.
New Business
  • AI Group 342 Dress Code (Marsha): Last year we discussed getting AIUSA t-shirts for our group. Marsha agreed to look into this. AIUSA has completely shut down its online shop and did not respond to Marsha's request for image files so we could print our own shirts. Marsha was able to find AI products in other countries, but they are country-specific and mostly available only in limited sizes. She is going to mock up our own design and find out about getting it printed.
  • Correspondence with Nick at the AIUSA Office (Marsha): In January, Marsha received an e-mail from AIUSA that included contact info for someone in that office, so she sent him a long e-mail detailed some of her (and our chapter's) frustrations about the lack of support and communication from the main office. Nick responded in detail. Marsha shared this correspondence with the group tonight and asked for feedback on what we (as a chapter) want to convey to Nick. 
    • We need an EIN for banking. (We have asked Kathleen Lucas for this but have received no response from her.)
    • We want help contacting local AIUSA members. (Jeff has talked to Kathleen Lucas about this. She asked him to send her a list of zip codes; he did so but has received no response from her.)
    • John submitted an application to attend AI training in Chicago last summer but received no response.
    • Barbara sent an e-mail to Savannah Fox in September 2016 asking (for the third time) why the check we sent to AIUSA in January 2016 had not yet been cashed. Savannah promised to call Barbara back in 48 hours. Barbara has still received no response.
    • We would like to purchase AIUSA t-shirts or have the high-res image files of the logo so we can create our own.
  • Tickling Giants screening (Marsha)
    • Sara Taksler, a senior producer for The Daily Show, sent a letter to our chapter e-mail address in January asking if we would be interested in hosting a screening of her documentary Tickling Giants, which is about "Bassem Youssef, the 'Egyptian Jon Stewart,' and his fight to bring satire to the Middle East. Tickling Giants is a very funny film about free speech and what happens to a country when power is abused."
    • They are offering free screenings to 200 organizations (the usual fee is $350). Let's approach the Colonial Theater to see if they would be interested in this. Jeff knows someone on the board there and will talk to that person first.
Items for Next Month's Meeting
  • 5-Minute University (Struan)
  • Proposal for new approach to tabling events (Jeff)

Upcoming Events
  • April meeting: Wednesday, 19 April, 7:30 p.m, Wegmans in Malvern, PA

18 January 2017

Meeting minutes for January 2017

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 18 January 2016

In attendance: Barbara, Jeff, Colin, Tilo, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions

  • 2016 Write for Rights: 109 cards, 11 petitions, $335.47 received from Ten Thousand Villages for our community shopping event
  • Dues: Please give $35 annual chapter dues to Tilo
  • Barbara asked for members willing to be auxiliary coordinator who can create agendas and run meetings when she is unable to attend
    • Jeff volunteered to take on this role
    • Marsha will be Jeff's backup
    • Jeff will run the March, April, and May meetings

  • Ali Shariati (Iran): hunger-striking prisoner of conscience in poor health (UA 257/16)
  • Mohammed Sadiq Kabudvand (Iran)
  • Xu Youchen (China): veteran human rights activist sentenced to death (UA 3/17)
  • Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, and Ahmed Raza Naseer (Pakistan): four human rights activists who have been missing (presumably detained by the state) since early January (UA 5/17)
New Business
  • Movie night at Tilo's house in lieu of regular meeting on 15 February , 7:30 p.m.
    • We will choose the film that evening
      • 13th (about the 13th amendment) (trailer here)
      • The House I Live In (about the war on drugs) (trailer here; full film on YouTube for $1.99)
      • Bitter Lake (about how Saudi Arabia exported Wahhibism) (full film here)
    • Barbara will post an announcement to the Google Group and ask for RSVPs so Tilo knows how many people to expect
    • Members can bring snacks to share if they like (but it's not necessary)

Outreach/Membership Campaign
  • Follow-up to last month's discussion (led by Struan) about outreach campaigns 
    • Marsha
      • presented a list of local events that welcome nonprofit/local groups (where we could have a book sale, sell t-shirts, etc.)
        • possibilities: Good Neighbor Day (4 July, Downingtown); West Chester Growers' Market (Saturdays from May through November, WC), Malvern festivals in spring and fall, Eagleview Farmer's Market (Thursdays)
        • members present agreed that at least some of these are very viable options for our group (given our size and location)
        • Marsha will do a bit more research and bring an updated list for the March meeting
      • discussed places that might let us post flyers about our group
        • Marsha will ask Kimberton Whole Foods, Chester County Library, Henrietta Hankin Library, Lionville YMCA
        • Can Michele post one at Tredyffrin Library?
        • Maybe Tilo can ask the Unitarian church in West Chester to post a flyer (and perhaps mention our group in a newsletter or other media?)
        • Can other members check other YMCAs, other libraries, other venues?
        • Marsha will make sure our flyer is up to date and send out a revised version to everyone (print at home and e-mail/post as widely as possible)
      • drafted a letter for AIUSA to distribute to local AIUSA members (since AIUSA won't give us their contact info); will time it to be an invitation to our March meeting
    • Discussion about having a talk and book signing by Eric Fair (author of Consequence, a memoir about being an interrogator Abu Ghraib)
      • Maybe Tilo can ask the Unitarian Congregation of West Chester to host and cosponsor?
      • Barbara pointed out that an event like this will require a lot of work to promote, and unless three or four other members of our group help with that task it just won't work
      • Marsha asked about having other local groups cosponsor this event (and help with promotion)—maybe invite Philly group to cosponsor or even host? (Barbara pointed out that if Philly group hosts, though, then the event is no longer what we intended: a vehicle to promote our group in our local area.)
      • Eric Fair is likely to charge a hefty speaker's fee that is outside our budget (another reason to get other groups on board to sponsor this)
    • Jeff
      • Hasn't yet asked Noam Chomsky if he can talk to our group
      • Has contacted Kevin Ferris (Chester County editor of The Inquirer) but hasn't heard back yet; maybe will have report next month
      • spoke with Kathleen Lucas about his idea to handwrite letters to local AIUSA members to invite them to our group
        • She loves the idea and says she will facilitate getting him the contact info
        • Unclear if she will actually hand over a list or if he will have to sit in the AIUSA office and look at it there
        • If we get a list, perhaps at a future meeting we could all take some time to handwrite a few notes (based on the same form letter)
    • Social media and tech for our group
      • Barb has created a FB page and an Instagram account just for our chapter
        • Barb and Ovette planning to chat about how Ovette can manage the Instagram page
        • Barb will add Colin as admin to the FB page so he can help there; maybe he can help with Twitter and Instagram too
      • Discussion about the best way to share files within our group
        • Google Groups no longer supports file sharing
        • Google Docs is an option but requires a Gmail account (which not everyone has)
        • Dropbox is another option to consider
        • But do we have that many files we need to share with each other?

Upcoming Events
  • Movie night (in lieu of February meeting): Wednesday, 15 February, 7:30 p.m., Tilo's house in West Chester, PA
  • March meeting: Wednesday, 15 March, 7:30 p..m, Wegmans in Malvern, PA