“We need more chairs!” was the urgent cry as guests filled our gathering space on Bloor Street in Toronto. More than 60 people came to learn about Shell’s destructive activity in the Niger Delta. For over 50 years, the company has polluted fishponds, destroyed mangroves, displaced families and contaminated water sources. We had chosen World Water Day, March 22nd, to draw attention to this lengthy, and still present, injustice.
Our MC welcomed everyone and with projected slides, shared a chronology on Shell’s activity. One slide cunningly overlaid a map of the Greater Toronto Area on one of the Niger Delta to show the affected area. Then we showed a powerful 20-minute segment of The Drilling Fields film and two short videos. These visually demonstrated the extent of the pollution, Shell’s feeble efforts to mop up spills, and the community efforts, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa a quarter century ago, to protest the persecution endured by the Ogoni people. Members of the organizing team then shared quotes from individuals whose lives are in turmoil as a result of the oil pollution. The stories brought to the audience the compelling, inspiring voices of the people of the Niger Delta.
Thus far, our event had done nothing to lift spirits. The images and stories were horrific. And we became downright depressed after understanding that nothing had changed, aside perhaps, from a court decision that forced Shell to pay a multi-million dollar amount for cleaning up some of the oil spills.
So we set our guests to work.
- First, everyone was urged to join in a toast to water, affirming the “Water is life!”
- Next, we directed guests to the imaginative display of posters submitted during the competition. They had been used in a 10-day social media campaign leading up to our March 22 event. We asked our guests to sign messages of greeting and solidarity that will go to the Niger Delta communities. The collection of beautiful messages and artful cards will warm the hearts of people in Nigeria for sure!
- Lastly, we urged guests to write a message to Shell on a yellow rubber glove. We have 40 ready to go with insistent commands like “You drop it, you mop it” and “Address your mess”.
We were pumped to see so many young people and so many new-to-Amnesty faces taking action. All our guests received a post-event thank you for attending. The messages included links to sources of more information about Amnesty International in general and about our concerns in the Niger Delta more particularly.
This highly successful event was organized through the efforts of a dozen members of the joint Indigenous Peoples/Business & Human Rights Team in Toronto.
- Learn more about Amnesty’s work on oil spills in the Niger Delta
- Learn more about human rights issues on World Water Day
- Watch for upcoming Amnesty International events in your community on our Events Calendar
Photo credits: Eugen-Florin Zamfirescu