On October 25, 2022, Group 11 celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. As far as we know, this was the first half-century celebration of human rights achievements by a local AIUSA group.
A crowd of present and former Group 11 activists; members of other AIUSA groups in New York; key AIUSA staff, led by Executive Director Paul O’Brien; and major donors to AIUSA were present for the celebration at the Goddard-Riverside Community Center auditorium. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Steve Abrams, a long-time Group 11 activist and a member of the AIUSA and Amnesty International governing boards.
The evening was beautifully organized by the group’s planning committee. To start, attendees mingled pleasantly while listening to live music; drinking wine and munching on appetizers; and watching a video of Group 11’s history and activities. This was followed by a presentation of some of Group 11’s notable work on behalf of people at risk between 1989 and 2011: a Tianamen Square protester in China, a student dissident in Iran, a death row inmate in the United States, and a woman imprisoned for allegedly performing a self-abortion in El Salvador. Group 11 has helped settle two released Iranian prisoners of conscience in the United States. A group member discussed the group’s 2013 book Two Worlds, One Idea: Ten Years of Correspondence between Amnesty International Group 11 and a Ukrainian Political Prisoner Zinovii Krasivskyj. Attendees were able to order the book and buy Amnesty T-shirts and mugs.
A surprising moment came when Paul O’Brien announced that a tree honoring Group 11 will be planted at a cluster of restored housing in Manhattan. He also presented the group’s co-chairs, Harry Schwartz and Sue Dicker, two copies of Windows on Elsewhere, commissioned by AIUSA, commemorating sixty global human rights activists forced to leave their homes. Each activist contributed a piece of writing accompanying a simple but evocative drawing.
After Paul’s presentation, the group announced a remarkable achievement: in 2021 the group sent 3,394 letters on behalf of human rights defenders and people imprisoned or in danger for exercising their basic human rights, a significant increase over the 1,142 letters sent in 2019.
All in all, Group 11’s anniversary party was a wonderful way to celebrate all group members, past and present, who have contributed to the fight for human rights around the world.
Enjoy a selection of photos from the joyous occasion.