Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXI Number 6, June 2013


Thursday, June 27, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.

Tuesday, July 9, 7:30 PM.  Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. During the 
summer we meet outdoors at the Athenaeum's 
"Rath al Fresco," on the lawn behind the main 
building. This informal gathering is a great way 
for newcomers to get acquainted with 

Sunday, July 21, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we read "American Gypsy" by Oksana 


Hi everyone!
Writing this on my first day off.  Nice to not 
have to worry about going to bed early enough 
so I can get up at the crack of dawn and feel 
rested...(School for kids was out June 7th, but I 
worked for 2  more weeks for extra money).  

Some Group 22 members have been having fun - 
check out Laura's article on tabling at a local 
Rock concert!

This month's book looks intriguing - think I may 
get a copy and read it.  I don't know what 
gypsies are supposed to look like, but she has a 
sort of exotic Asian look...

Turkey (and Syria!) have been in the news 
recently.  Here's an email action about the 
protests in Turkey:

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, July 21 6:30 pm 
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

"American Gypsy" by Oksana Marafioti

Author Bio

 I was born in Riga, Latvia and grew up in a 
stage family, spending my childhood on concert 
tours with a Russian Romani troupe led by my 
grandfather, Andrei Kopylenko. It consisted of 
singers, dancers, musicians, even acrobats. This 
sounds glamorous, and, at times, it was, if you 
don't count hauling stage equipment and 
costumes from one train station to the next, 
eating hotel food (sometimes getting sick from it 
and swearing to never eat hotel food again... 
then breaking your promise in the next town), 
and never knowing what kind of an audience 
you'll get. Will they slump over in their seats 
asleep halfway through the show or chase the 
performers after, begging them to autograph 
their galoshes? It might not have been glamorous 
most of the time, but it was certainly magical. 
Kind of like living inside a book, side by side 
with fascinating characters who surprise you 
every time you think you got them. These people 
taught me that doing what you love is never 
easy, but it makes you who you are, or rather 
reveals what you're made of at your very core. 
I'll always admire each and every one of those 
performers, my grandparents and parents 
included, for showing me that artistic creativity 
of any kind is a serious trade that requires years 
of practice and dedication.

 I moved to America at fifteen, went to 
Hollywood High Performing Arts Magnet 
School, which was like experiencing culture 
shock on steroids. Before moving I really 
imagined America being like the movies and the 
music videos. Remember the barely clad hunks 
and goddesses dancing in the streets alongside 
Elton John in "I'm Still Standing", or Bangles' 
"Walk Like An Egyptian"? That was my 
America. The place where people were carefree 
and unburdened. Of course I didn't find too 
many Americans dancing in the streets, but I 
wasn't disappointed for too long and quickly 
set off on a quest to get to know this country. 
Meanwhile, my dad, after many unsuccessful 
attempts to break into Hollywood music 
business, opened a psychic shop and developed 
his skills as an exorcist and a healer (something 
he was never allowed to do under Soviet rule), 
and my mom moved to Las Vegas on a whim 
and became a change girl (her version of chasing 
the dream).

 Since then, to sum up, I've graduated from the 
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, worked in the 
film industry, got married, had a couple of 
awesome kids, ran a piano studio, obtained a 
dual American-Italian citizenship through 
ancestry research ( rules!), moved 
to Florence and then Rome, Italy with three 
humans and one cat, came back to the States, 
pitched an urban fantasy to a literary agent, 
ended up writing American Gypsy: A Memoir 
instead, and most recently, got a fellowship for 
my next book project at the Black Mountain 
Institute-Kluge Center in partnership with the 
Library of Congress.
Book Review

In this engaging immigrant memoir, first-time 
author Marafioti, ne'e Kopylenko, describes with 
humor and introspection how the self-described 
"Split Nationality Disorder" she experienced 
growing up only magnified upon her family's 
emigration from the former Soviet Union to Los 
Angeles when she was 15.

Born into a Moscow-based Roma family, the 
author spent the first 15 years of her life seeing 
Siberia, Mongolia and the former Soviet Union 
with her parents, who performed in a traveling 
Roma ensemble "the size of a circus." Even as a 
child, Marafioti became acutely aware of racism 
both within her own family, as she witnessed 
the difficulty her Armenian mother faced gaining 
acceptance from her Russian paternal 
grandmother, and in school, as her Roma 
heritage was cruelly outed by a classmate 
sticking a sign to her back that read "Gyp." 
Though well-off in their native Moscow, 
Marafioti's family - especially her father, a 
gifted guitarist and composer - looked to the 
United States as a land of even greater 
opportunity, where their Romani roots would 
not carry the Gypsy stigma. One of the more 
humorous scenes involves the family's green 
card interview, where the U.S. consular officer's 
limited Russian led her to question Marafioti's 
mother on her drinking (which she was notorious 
for), when she meant singing (one letter 
difference in Russian), her father babbling on 
about wishing to play with B.B. King and heal 
people with his bare hands. Soon after the 
family arrived in California, the author's parents 
divorced, leaving her to cope with a broken 
home and dramatic change in finances, 
alongside the more typical immigrant difficulties 
of adapting to a foreign language and culture. 
As she recounts her love, loss and academic 
achievement experienced while "attending the 
same school that Cher once did," Marafioti's 
probing observation of the contrast of American 
individualism with fierce Roma ethnocentrism, 
even xenophobia, yields a provocative 
exploration of identity.

Contrasting cultural values shine in this winning 
contemporary immigrant account of assimilation 
versus individuation.

Review Posted Online: May 31st, 2012 
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012 

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Two months ago Group 22 sent birthday cards 
and greetings to our adopted prisoner of 
conscience, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. 
We're not the only Amnesty group who sent 
him our good wishes. Here's a video I found on 
Youtube: "Happy Birthday Gao Zhisheng!" by 
amnesty algerie. 
That's right, it's an Amnesty group in Algeria. 
"Amnesty International Algerie souhaite un 
joyeux anniversaire a Gao Zhisheng, un avocat 
chinois enferme' par ce qu'il plaide pour la 
liberte'." Their video is in English, and they hold 
signs and sing. It's 39 seconds that will warm 
your heart and make you realize that Amnesty 
International is truly international.

Closer to home, the Visual Artists Guild 
commemorated the 24th anniversary of 
Tiananmen. This year one of the honorees was 
Zhu Yufu, an activist now serving a 7-year 
prison sentence. The Visual Artists Guild 
printed postcards for Zhu Yufu, which are being 
offered by AIUSA China Co-Group to Amnesty 
local groups. I requested some for Group 22, but 
I didn't respond immediately, and at least six 
other Amnesty local groups got their requests in 
before me. I hope there are still some cards left 
for us! 

Here is the poem by Zhu Yufu that angered 
China's government officials:
(translated by A. E. Clark)

  It's time, people of China! It's time.
  The Square belongs to everyone.
  With your own two feet
  It's time to head to the Square and make your 

  It's time, people of China! It's time.
  A song belongs to everyone.
  From your own throat
  It's time to voice the song in your heart.

  It's time, people of China! It's time.
  China belongs to everyone.
  Of your own will
  It's time to choose what China shall be.

Last month we wrote on behalf of Gao Zhisheng 
to the new President of China, Xi Jinping. This 
month let's write to the new Premier.

LI Keqiang Guojia Zongli
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie
Beijingshi 100017

Dear Premier,

I am writing to you about Gao Zhisheng 
(___), a Beijing-based human rights 
lawyer who was detained in Shaanxi 
Province on February 4, 2009. He is now in 
Shaya Prison in Xinjiang Autonomous 
Region, after being subjected to enforced 
disappearance for nearly three years.

I was happy to learn that Mr. Gao's brother 
and father-in-law were allowed a brief visit 
with him on 12 January 2013, and I urge you 
to ensure that Mr. Gao is not subjected to 
torture or other ill-treatment while he is in 
custody, that he receives whatever medical 
treatment he may require, and that he is able 
to contact his family and lawyers. 

I respectfully urge you to consider the 
immediate and unconditional release of Gao 
Zhisheng. Thank you for your attention to 
this urgent matter. 


Copy to:
Ambassador CUI Tiankai 
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
3505 International Place, NW
Washington DC 20008


by Laura Brown

Group 22 member Laura Brown, along with 
volunteers Melanie Gilbert, Sarah Clabeaux, and 
Ted Brown, manned a table June 11 and 
collected signatures at a Tom Petty concert in 
Hollywood. This outreach event was a joint 
effort with Rhythm 'N' Rights, a group that 
promotes human rights, a sustainable planet, 
and workers' rights by using concerts to inform 
the community about these issues.

AI volunteers set up the table with banners, 
pamphlets, and petitions 3 hours before the 
concert began. Signatures were collected on 
behalf of Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year-
sentence for sending an email about government 
crackdowns on Tiananmen Square's 15th 
Anniversary events. Other actions included 
support for Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup 
Wangchen, who spoke out for Tibetan human 
rights through his documentary films, and 
Shaker Aamer, who has been held without 
charge at Guantanamo for 11 years. (It's worth 
noting that many people pointedly refused to 
sign his petition while signing all the others.) In 
addition to these actions, we collected names in 
support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, 
sponsored by Senator Al Franken and 
Representatives Jared Polis and Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen, which would expand federal 
protections for LGBT students in public schools.

After interacting with the concertgoers, handing 
out pamphlets, collecting signatures and even 
getting some donations and a couple of names 
on our email list, we were treated to the strains 
of Tom Petty's music starting up shortly after 
9:00 p.m. We were able to enjoy some great 
tunes within the small confines of the Henry 
Ford Theater. 

Other recent artists and venues which Rhythm 
'N' Rights has worked with include Peter Gabriel 
at the Hollywood Bowl, Steve Earle at Royce 
Hall, UCLA, and Roger Waters' Wall Live Tour 
at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. If you 
enjoy encouraging the public to take action on 
vital issues while enjoying a little live music, 
contact Angie Hougas, R 'N' R Concert Tabling 
Coordinator, at

By Robert Adamsl

Well, in mid June the U.S. House of 
Representatives passed the National Defense 
Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014 (H.R. 1960) 
by a vote of 315-108. Once it is approved in its 
final form, the NDAA will specify the budget 
and expenditures of the Department of Defense 
for Fiscal Year 2014, and thus it is very 
important legislation affecting many issues of 
concern for human rights activists. In regard to 
Guantanamo, the House made little progress 
toward closing the prison, and a few of the 
nearly 200 amendments voted on are 
summarized below (from

* Walorski Amendment #19: to prohibit the 
  Secretary of Defense from using any funds 
  authorized to the department for the 
  transfer or release of any Guantanamo 
  detainees to Yemen. Passed 236-188 (225 
  Republicans in favor, 183 Democrats against) 

* Ross Amendment #105: None of the funds 
  authorized to be appropriated or otherwise 
  available to the Department of Defense may 
  be used to provide additional or upgraded 
  recreational facilities for individuals 
  detained at United States Naval Station, 
  Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Agreed en bloc by 
  voice vote. 

* Smith Amendment #20: Provides a 
  framework to close the detention facility at 
  Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by December 1, 
  2014. Failed 174-249 (172 Democrats in favor, 
  228 Republicans against)

Though House votes concerning Guantanamo 
may have been disappointing, the NDAA now 
moves on to the Senate. While it's not known at 
this time when voting on the NDAA will occur 
in the Senate, AIUSA is requesting that the 
following actions be taken in support of closing 
the Guantanamo Bay prison:

1. Call both of your Senators via the Senate 
  switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and say, "I 
  live in your state and I want you to support 
  closing Guantanamo." You can also email 
  them and schedule lobby meetings with their 
  in-state offices. Go to for their 
  contact info. 

2. Call the White House comment line at (202) 
  456-1111 and say, "I support closing 
  Guantanamo. Transfer cleared detainees 
  now." Busy signal? Call again!

As stated by Zeke Johnson, Director of AIUSA's 
Security with Human Rights Program, "We are 
at a pivotal moment in the campaign and need 
more pressure than ever for real change - 
especially on each and every Senator, as they 
will soon debate and vote on Guantanamo 
transfer provisions in the next National Defense 
Authorization Act (NDAA). We also have to 
keep the pressure on President Obama to 
transfer cleared detainees. NOW."

By Stevi Carroll

Holy Moly - What's Happening in North Carolina?

Steve Monks, an attorney in Durham, NC, and 
the former Durham County GOP Chairman,  
recently published an op-ed in which he called 
the death penalty into question.  He not only 
talks about conservatives from NC, but also 
discusses his brother who lives in Texas and 
who is a founding member of a group called 
"Conservatives Concerned About the Death 
Penalty."  What's the deal?  Well, it seems the 
members of this group as well as other 
conservatives "are openly questioning whether 
the death penalty serves any good purpose for 
our society."  For them this questioning is 
rooted in the very nature of their being 
"conservative Republicans".  And they 'came 
out' and were well received at the most recent 
Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

So just what's at stake for these abolitionist 
Republicans?  Money is for one thing.  They 
know right from the get go, death penalty cases 
cost more.  In fact, Mr. Monks said, "The trials, 
with so much at stake, are necessarily expensive 
and the appeals can take decades because of the 
real concern of executing innocent people. 
Attempts to "fix" the system to make it faster 
have repeatedly failed precisely because of the 
innocence issue; more than 140 death row 
inmates have been released after evidence came 
to light that they were wrongfully convicted."  
He follows this statement with the reality that 
murder victims' families have to endure the 
years of waiting, something that would be 
eliminated with life in prison without parole.

Finally, Mr. Monks challenges what has long 
been a question for me: Conservatives 'pro-life' 
position that has embraced the death penalty. 
He said, "We are increasingly re-thinking the 
death penalty because of its many problems, but 
also because of our respect for human life."  
(Maybe the reckless use of war can follow?)

Well, if conservatives in both North Carolina 
and Texas can begin to think about options to 
the death penalty, perhaps the rest of the South 
can follow. And then maybe California, too?

Retired Ohio Judge "Evolves" 

As I've been writing this column, I've noticed 
the number of executions in Ohio.  Before I 
started this task, I figured I'd see the numbers 
from Texas and states in the deep South, so 
when Ohio kept appearing on the list, I was 

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn 
Lundberg Stratton (Republican) sat on the bench 
from 1996 to 2012. During that time, Ohio 
executed 49 men using lethal injection.  She said 
that she did not have "a strong overall opinion 
about the death penalty" then, but now her 
opinion has changed.

She has come to believe the execution of 
mentally ill prisoners is unacceptable.  She also 
believes the death penalty does noes not 
sufficiently deter crime nor does it allow closure 
for the victims' families.

Apparently, former Justice Stratton isn't the only 
Ohio Republican Justice to have a change of 
thought.  Justice Paul Pfeifer, who 30 years ago 
was one of the authors of current Ohio death 
penalty law, wants the state to stop executing 
people because of how the law is interpreted 
and applied unevenly.

For the prisoners who have already been put to 
death in Ohio, it is too late, but perhaps others 
will be spared.

From Death Penalty Information Center

INTERNATIONAL: Leaders from Many 
Countries Address Fifth World Congress 
in Madrid
Posted: June 19, 2013

On June 12-15, political leaders and criminal 
justice experts from five continents gathered in 
Madrid, Spain, for the Fifth World Congress 
Against the Death Penalty. The World Congress 
was co-sponsored by Spain, France, Norway, 
and Switzerland, and included delegates from 
over 90 countries. The delegation from the 
United States included Jerry Givens, a former 
correctional officer in Virginia, who assisted 
with the execution of 62 inmates. Givens became 
an opponent of the death penalty after his 
experience of participating in executions. He 
said, "It was like a roller coaster, up and down, 
because as a correctional officer I prepared 
inmates to return into society as a productive 
citizen and as an executioner you take lives." 
The World Congress also included messages 
from Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu of South 
Africa, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of 
the United Nations, Pope Francis, and other 
influential leaders from around the world.


Stay of Execution

21	Robert Pruett			Texas


29	Elmer Carroll			Florida	 
			3-drug lethal injection
12	Elroy Chester			Texas	 
			1-drug lethal injection
12	William Van Poyck		Florida	 
			3-drug lethal injection
18	James DeRosa			Oklahoma 
			3-drug lethal injection


UAs     19
POC      9
Total   28

To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125