By Angie Hougas, board member, Amnesty International USA
Tom Petty will be deeply missed as one of his generation’s greatest musicians, but less is known about his dedication to human rights. For over 27 years, he allowed Amnesty International activists to have tables free of charge at his concerts. Thousands of his fans have signed petitions to help prisoners of conscience all over the world, some of whom were musicians themselves. Our activists were at his last concert at the Hollywood Bowl, where the goodwill of fans inspired by songs like “I Won’t Back Down” galvanized support for those who have been jailed for speaking against their oppressors.
It was my pleasure to write a letter of commendation to Mr. Petty when he was named MusicCares 2017 Person of the Year. I told him that the actions taken by his fans helped free 21 people imprisoned for standing up for human rights around the world. I am grateful that he knew of his impact before he passed. He was and will continue to be a wonderful example to other musicians and artists for supporting human rights.
Angie Hougas is a board member of Amnesty International USA and the director of the organization’s Rhythm N’Rights program