Back at school in Cambridge, MA and writing from Lowell House D-hall. I finally found a second to catch my breath and reflect on what was truly a life changing weekend.
I’ve helped organize 18 STAND conferences over the last 3 years, but Pledge2Protect topped them all. The energy this past weekend was so inspiring. I met students from all across the country who are working so hard to see an end to the genocide in Darfur and peaceful Sudan. STAND students from FL told me about an innovative Erase genocide campaign, a chapter leader from the greater Chicago area shared his idea for a city-wide genocide awareness month in April, and high school students from MN let me sit in on their brainstorm for innovative events to raise awareness, like a community-wide campout on their football field. During regional breakouts members shared ideas like a “How To” Wiki for STAND students around the country to share best practices, and the MA breakout indicated their interest in learning more about what other chapters are doing. When I left the conference on Sunday I couldn’t wait to get back to work and start working with the SLT to bring all the awesome ideas I had heard to realization.
Monday was a whole other story. Hundreds of students marching on Capitol Hill, pulling one of the greatest stunts STAND students have ever pulled. Check out the video, by the way. Monday’s lobby meetings were not only innovative (thanks to the Pledge On Camera project with WITNESS), but also effective. I heard that lobby meetings went well across the board and that FPLAs were really receptive to our 4 asks (shout out to Nina McMurry, our National Advocacy Coordinator, who worked so hard to put together a really great set of asks).
And then came Tuesday, the day when I would have the chance to represent all of you, student activists who have worked so incredibly hard on this issue. Just some background on the meeting. General Gration and Samantha Power offered to hold a town hall-like Q&A session and discussion with Save Darfur Coalition and STAND. I went to represent STAND and brought the 5 questions you voted on. We should all view Tuesday as a success for the student movement. We were asked to participate. Students don’t get asked to participate in such high level conversations every day, and the fact that we were should show us that our work has not gone unnoticed. We’ve been heard, and they will continue to listen. We just got to keep it up and amp up the noise with smart, effective asks.
I filmed a video response literally within an hour of Tuesday’s meeting. Now for the answers we got…. They were vague. They left out specifics. And they indicated a new area of focus: pressuring the administration to step up and take a much more high level approach to multilateral engagement efforts. That is what all three, Obama, Biden, and Clinton, promised us on the campaign trail. And that is what we should get. Gration is only one man, and this is a big conflict, with a ton of players, with deeply entrenched dividing sentiments. Just as we need an All-Sudan solution, we need an All-Administration effort (excuse the forced parallelism). Now that we know that we’ve got their ear, let’s talk to them. They’re looking for us to hold them accountable. So let’s do it. – L