Because Writers Can Change the World

By Ann Douglas
Writer, Amnesty International supporter


I believe that writers can change the world.

We have the power to tell stories and share ideas that can fuel social change. It’s both an extraordinary privilege and a daunting responsibility. And it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously, which is why I am participating in Amnesty Canada’s Write-a-thon for human rights.

I suppose I should give credit to my Grandma Rea. She’s the one who first made me aware of the power of the pen as a tool for political persuasion. She was a long-term supporter of the work of Amnesty International. I remember her writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience and the wrongfully accused back when I was a teenager—an idea that had a powerful impact on me as a young person and an emerging writer. 

This afternoon, I decided to pick up my pen to write a letter on behalf of Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox, who continues to spend his days in solitary confinement—this despite the fact that his conviction has been overturned no fewer than three times. This is part of what I said in the letter I wrote to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, urging Albert Woodfox’s release:

“I can’t imagine how difficult Albert’s life must be, spending 23 hours of each day in solitary confinement for a crime he says he did not commit. And I cannot understand why he remains imprisoned, given the fact that his conviction has been overturned three times.

I worry about the message that this sends about justice in America—that justice is reserved for a privileged few as opposed to everyone who is found to be deserving of mercy. As Bryan Stevenson wrote in his book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption: “I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

I hope that your heart will be moved to do the right thing for Albert Woodfox.”

Are you looking for a way to make a difference for people like Albert Woodfox? It’s easy. All you need to do is pick up your pen and write from your heart.

I hope you’ll join me by participating in Amnesty Canada’s 2015 Write-a-thon for human rights. Here’s what you need to know to get started

– Ann