By Chapter Leader Gillie Collins
Nobel Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said “we will surely get to our destination if we join hands.” As anti-genocide activists in the U.S., how do we join hands with the Burmese people from thousands of miles away?
On February 9, 2012, Stanford STAND chipped away at this distance by hosting a “Burma Storytelling” program. Through homemade Burmese food, live music, and spoken word performances, the event highlighted Burmese culture and spotlighted unheard perspectives on the Burmese people’s liberation movement.
Su Wai, a top Saung Gauk player and singer in Burma who recently immigrated to the US, welcomed guests by performing traditional Burmese harp and vocals. Stanford Storytelling Project and Stanford Spoken Word Collective performed testimonies by Burmese refugees, compiled in Voice of Witness’s book, Nowhere to Be Home: Stories of Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime. The stories were connected to presentations by Stanford students: Jared Naimark, Stanford STAND Coordinator, spoke about the environmental justice issues undergirding Burma’s democratization, and Kate Morton discussed her experience interning for U.S. Campaign for Burma. Armelle Goreux, a Burmese Stanford Student, also reflected on her experiences traveling to Burma. Finally, Myra Dahgaypaw, Campaigns Coordinator for U.S. Campaign for Burma, shared her personal experiences as IDP in Burma and pro-democracy activist.
In organizing “Burma Storytelling,” STAND aimed to include diverse student groups in the event’s planning. While it was challenging to coordinate logistics among activist, arts, and cultural organizations, the process of organizing Burma storytelling engaged a wider swathe of the student leadership in discussions about Burma’s democratization. As we established and reinforced relationships with other Stanford student groups to arrange “Burma Storytelling,” we hope that these connections will serve as groundwork for future collaboration. In order to effectively mobilize as an anti-genocide constituency, we must share resources with other causes and communities. Moving forward, Stanford STAND is particularly committed to engaging the intersection of activist communities, embracing a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to promoting civilian protection.
As always, we are excited to share our experiences and resources with other schools who are interested in hosting similar events. If you have questions, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org