"I remember saying on the tour that there was a wind blowing and this concert fed into a world feeling that human rights are getting better," Healey said. "Since then, look at the Eastern bloc, Namibia, negotiations are going on in Ethiopia. There have been phenomenal changes in the world."
Healey's high spirits, which bubbled over in a recent interview, were prompted by what he sees as the success of a pop-political caravan that covered five continents in six weeks, drew more than one million fans and, unlike some similar rock extravaganzas, seems to have had a lasting, concrete effect in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Amnesty International, a world-wide human-rights organization, gained nearly 75,000 new members in this country as a result of the tour, Healey says, bringing the total to somewhere near 400,000.
The number of high school chapters around the United States has skyrocketed
from less than 300 before the tour to more than 2,500 today. The number of
college chapters has doubled to 700 nationwide.
Amnesty's budget in this country has risen from $15 million last year to $21 million next fiscal year.
At the concert in Philadelphia, more than 60,000 of the 75,000 fans at JFK Stadium signed Amnesty petitions in support of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Several new Amnesty groups were subsequently formed in the area. And Amnesty opened its first satellite office in Philadelphia, staffed by volunteers and serving as a coordinating center and meeting place.
"Historically, San Francisco, Boston, New York are big towns for us," Healey said. "They really are powerful towns. Philadelphia has been added to that list."
International figures are difficult to determine, but Healey sees similar dramatic increases elsewhere. "We now have a membership person working in the Eastern bloc in Hungary, directly as a result of the concert," Healey said. ''The Mugabe government (in Zimbabwe), they never let us even in before, but half his government attended this concert. We never asked the (African National Congress) to endorse it, but they did. And so the feeling toward Amnesty in Zimbabwe now is totally different. The Ivory Coast tripled their membership. Brazil had a large rise. I don't know the precise numbers for Argentina and Brazil, but it was large. Chile."
Healey paused for breath and then continued the litany.
"In Spain, it was called the most important political day since Franco's death," he said. "Italy had a rise in membership. Greece did the same. Anywhere from a third to a half to a 100 percent rise in every country we played in.
"And even in the Faeroe Islands (in the North Atlantic), the night of the broadcast everyone who was watching was to put a candle in the window. People
went up and down this little town and practically every home had a candle in the window. We have a letter to that effect. Ecuador. It was shown in the Turkey movies."
The Philadelphia concert, one of two U.S. stops on
the tour, transformed Amnesty's presence here, he said. That means a great number of people - several hundred at least - are prepared to write letters to foreign governments protesting specific human-rights violations; large numbers of people are prepared to turn out for street demonstrations; more will donate money and time for Amnesty causes.
"What we know is that the town would turn out a hell of a lot of mail," Healey said. "That would mean most of the high schools would write, most of the colleges. There would be at least a demonstration. . . . All that kind of volunteer activity would be guaranteed - we just wouldn't hope it would go on. Somebody would just jump in and do it. It's now a human-rights town for us. Before, it was just a place we went and did things and moved on."
Ed Meade, who has been an Amnesty member for five years here and was a local board member last September, says the concert gave the organization a real push.
"Amnesty is certainly well-known now," he said. "Up until last year, even among my co-workers, and I'm a fairly active member, people really didn't know who we were or what we were about and now I think a lot of people do know who Amnesty is."
Apart from name recognition, Meade says there has been significant membership growth locally.
"Since the concert, we have a group now in the Northeast, which we didn't have before," he said. "There's a group in Chestnut Hill-Mount Airy, which before the concert kind of fell apart a little bit, and we're putting it back together and a lot of that is due to the concert. On the Drexel campus, we've got a very strong group there. A lot of what the concert really did was reach out to younger kids and get them involved in Amnesty. I think it made us more visible with adults but, especially amongst people in high school and college, I think that's where the concert had its greatest effect."
Lois Kaznicki, a sophomore at La Salle University who co-founded an Amnesty chapter at Archbishop Ryan High School in 1986, says the Human Rights Now! concert generated considerable publicity for the organization.
"Prior to and after the concert there was a tremendous amount of interest on campus," she said. "The campus was just buzzing about it really. It resulted in some increase in our membership. I know for a fact in the Philadelphia area in general it resulted in a lot of new groups springing up."
Despite the worldwide success of the Human Rights Now! tour, however, questions have been raised about the future value of such rock extravaganzas. Perhaps cause-oriented pop has gone belly-up.
"In the British-U.S. role, it's fatigued a bit now, tired, for sure," said Healey. "If you go beyond that to the Eastern bloc, to Asia, if people can do things in Africa, Latin America - this is the only time people can come together and talk about something they really care about, something they're personally worried about. . . .
"Amnesty was never allowed into Hungary, not allowed to be quoted in their press - that never happened. In our 28 years, that never happened. Now, all of a sudden, we're playing there and half the government there attended the concert. That's mind-boggling. We never thought that would happen."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To contact Amnesty International's Philadelphia office, call 440-9330.