ACLU Reaches Out to Youth with First-Ever College Freedom Tour

September 8, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Provocative performances, cutting-edge music and outspoken exchanges about the civil liberties issues of the day are all part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s first College Freedom Tour kicking off tonight in Miami.

The ACLU College Freedom Tour – the organization’s first national effort to reach college-age youth – launches tonight with a political forum and free concert at the University of Miami. The seven-city, eight-campus tour is part of the ACLU’s new youth communication initiative, established earlier this year to mobilize young people to promote and protect civil liberties and civil rights, according to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

“”Young people are increasingly aware of the issues the ACLU has championed for more than 80 years,”” Romero said. “”While the tour will be fun, we are also taking this opportunity to update students on critical issues like the government’s crackdown on civil liberties in the tense post-9/11 climate as well as racial justice, individual privacy and freedom of speech.””

“”Fighting the erosion of our fundamental freedoms is this generation’s mission, and the ACLU is ready to help them carry it out,”” Romero added.

Romero noted that 30 percent of participants at the ACLU’s first national membership conference in Washington earlier this year were youth registrants between the ages of 16 and 27. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU since 2001, has led an aggressive campaign to increase membership and to articulate the ACLU’s response to current issues affecting civil rights and civil liberties, especially among youth. Under his direction, membership in the ACLU has increased from 300,000 to 400,000.

Each stop of the Freedom Tour will combine live concerts with political forums that focus on local civil liberties issues as well as ACLU’s national programs in support of racial justice, individual privacy, and privacy of information.

Tonight’s event at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall features a political forum chaired by Romero, an appearance by publisher and civil liberties activist Larry Flynt, and performances by controversial hip hop duo dead prez and acclaimed female DJ Kuttin Kandi. Other tour participants include actors Dave Chappelle and Andy Dick, journalist Amy Goodman, comedian Bob Somerby and 2002 Grammy nominee Mystic.

A complete list of tour dates and participants is available online at www.aclufreedomtour.org

A ten-minute video featuring ACLU youth activists past and present will be shown at each venue. One of the current activists featured is 18-year-old Ben Waxman of Philadelphia, a student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Throughout high school, Waxman led a campaign to end the death penalty and became immersed in the struggle for peace in the Middle East. More recently, he helped to secure passage of a community resolution in Philadelphia against anti-civil liberties provisions in the PATRIOT Act. That effort, Waxman said, “”was really exciting. Philadelphia was the largest city in the country to pass a resolution.”” To date, more than 160 cities and three states (Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii) have passed such resolutions.

Other stops on the ACLU Freedom Tour are: University of Maryland in College Park (Sept. 12); Hunter College (Sept. 18) and New School University (Sept. 26) in New York City; Harvard University in Cambridge, MA (Sept. 29); University of Massachusetts at Amherst (Sept. 30); University of Wisconsin in Madison (Oct. 7); and University of Washington in Seattle (Oct. 11). Concerts are free of charge with advance tickets available at campus ticket box offices. Tickets are limited and entrance will be on a first come, first served basis.

Following the tour, the ACLU will be releasing a Freedom CD in conjunction with Pulse EMP music. Artists confirmed for the CD include dead prez and Mystic.

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