Amnesty International tackles censorship with outdoor reading

Amnesty International held an event east of the Student Union on September 29th highlighting individuals whose first amendment rights were infringed for writing, circulating, and even reading certain works.

Banned Book Readings have been an integral part of GCC since 2008 by continually fighting to bring awareness to the age-old battle against censorship and above all else, freedom of expression.

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Fayrooz Sweis reads a passage from a banned book to a live audience. 

“The human rights organization Amnesty International USA began celebrating Banned Books Week along with the American Library Association in the 1990s in order to call attention to people around the world who are imprisoned, harassed, intimidated, or killed because of what they’ve published,” said Edward McKennon, GCC librarian and faculty member for Amnesty International.

The cases presented at the 2015 GCC Banned Book Reading included names such as cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, journalist Eskinder Nega, and LGBT novelist Jude Dibia, to name a few. These men and women presented from the seven cases were faced with different punishments—some resulting as far as execution—for producing works they believed in, despite going against the status quo.

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Robert Gobster presents the seven censored cases to students passing through.

According to McKennon, of the seven cases that were presented, four involve prison sentences ranging from seven to 18 years. Good portions of those men and women and, in radical but not impossible cases, their families, continue to face oppression to this day.

In addition to recognizing certain individuals, members of the GCC community were encouraged to read a passage of their choosing no longer than two minutes from a publication that falls in line with the above-mentioned criterion.

In previous years, the average turnout for guest speakers was 20 to 40, according to McKennon. Students who stopped in to listen more than doubled the number of speakers. The club viewed this as an excellent way to get people involved, namely with the reformation on the aforementioned cases. “Often, the club gets between 20 and 40 signatures on their petitions during the course of the event,” said McKennon.

“Some of the stories that you see that are banned, you don’t really realize the effect that they might have on someone,” said Annika Tomlin, a student at GCC. Tomlin spoke on behalf of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of many banned books. “So when you read the reasoning behind the banning, it’s really interesting.”

For more information on how to get involved in Amnesty International’s functions, check into SU-123 on Fridays or visit www.AmnestyUSA.org.

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