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Youth Engagement and Pop Culture

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With songs like John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” and Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”, topping pop charts in 2006, the youth of America seems to be a great group of up and coming activists. The problem until recently had been how to recruit and inform youth into political activism. Amnesty has brilliantly risen to the challenge by making themselves known where students and young people lurk; online, on the radio and on Television. Their site provides a comprehensive toolkit to help youth get involved and to become active in any way they can. There are links to AI on extremely popular websites like Facebook.com and the group sets up booths during university involvement fairs. Youth Engagement has played a major role in the recruitment of members for Amnesty International. Their methods for human rights education have proven effective and stimulating among youth groups. They have used celebrities in order to give themselves better brand name status and to create a sense of appeal for younger audiences.

Amnesty International has been clever and has remained on the cutting edge, in the manner with which they attract and inform members and audiences. Their use of the movie Blood Diamond to cooperate with the US entertainment industry at the start of the US holiday shopping season resulted in the launch of blooddiamondaction.org. The website, collaboration between Global Witness, Amnesty International and Warner Brothers, was created as an attempt to educate young people about the repercussions of purchasing conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone which had fueled conflict for over a decade. This was very timely and informative for those who may not other wise have known about the history behind the diamonds.

Upon logging on to blooddiamondaction.org, website visitors had two choices. The screen, split in half allowed individuals to further look into the movie Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, or could take action to learn about conflict diamonds and fight their presence as an International community. Images from the movie as well as from the actual crisis served as a backdrop for the site. Amnesty utilized the music of R&B artists like Kanye West and Nas, in order to spread word of the tragedy in Sierra Leone.

Amnesty has further used music through the Make Some Noise campaign, which was initiated with the grant of John Lennon’s entire solo songbook, from Yoko Ono in memory of Lennon, the “original” noise maker. On the site people can get involved with amnesty from the comfort of their homes. By purchasing songs from the website, internet surfers will be directly contributing to Amnesty International’s freedom campaigns. The website is packed with simple ways to make noise about Human rights violations, including everything from internet petitions to home made video contests.

The list of artists who have contributed to and supported amnesty international includes groups like the Black Eyed Peas, Snow Patrol, The Cure, Postal Service, Maroon 5 and more. The aforementioned groups have each recorded their own versions of John Lennon songs with great enthusiasm and several have links to Amnesty’s home page on their own websites.

Amnesty’s youth engagement efforts have become the example by which other NGO’s attempt to imitate in their recruitment of their young members. A grass roots organization through and through, AI has changed their mode of self-promotion over time in order to remain recognized and efficient, without losing touch with those who establish its basis. AI continues to inform multiple generations of various human rights violations currently taking place. In going so, they are changing the way NGO’s approach their members, spread their message and affect the world.

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