Sarah Ford | October 3, 2013

Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message From Amnesty USA’s New Executive Director, Steven W. Hawkins

Bringing Human Rights Home: A Message From Amnesty USA Executive Director Steven W. HawkinsI grew up in the shadow of Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. As a boy, I would walk by Sing Sing and hear the inmates talking, a stark and sobering reminder of the dashed dreams of the many men I knew growing up who ended up impoverished, incarcerated or killed. Young men like my childhood best friend, who is currently serving a life sentence.

For many activists who join the struggle for human rights, there is a transformative moment, which inspires a lifelong commitment to social advocacy. For me, that moment came inside the walls of Sing Sing prison.

In high school, as a NAACP youth member, I had the opportunity to visit there. The voices I overheard outside the penitentiary became deep and personal conversations with inmates during my trips inside. Through my conversations with these men, many of them Black Panthers or inmates from Attica who fought inhumane prison conditions, I learned that prison bars are not a barrier to activism, that a life sentence is not a roadblock to compassion or to making a contribution. The inmates of Sing Sing saw potential in me – treated me like a younger brother – and helped me find a passion to fight injustice at a critical turning point in my life.

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Source: Amnesty International USA

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