By Northeast Regional Organizer Emma Goldberg
“Khartoum rise up, rise up, we won’t be ruled by a thief.”
Who are the powerful voices behind this chant, the leaders of the ever-growing #SudanRevolts? The protests were initiated by students, dormitory residents at the University of Khartoum responding to President Omar al Bashir’s austerity measures. Essentially, the Sudanese regime is encountering its first serious domestic challenge in years from leaders no older than much of STAND’s constituency.
The Sudan Revolts push us to question our role as students worlds away, eager to act in firm solidarity without encroaching or offering uninformed perspectives. In order to voice support for the protesters, nuanced understanding of the current conflict is critical. Solidarity begins with education– informing both ourselves and our campuses about Sudan. Several chapters have powerful examples to offer.
How better to understand the current regime than by hearing the stories of diaspora groups? This year Colgate STAND hosted Gabriel Bol Deng, a refugee from Sudan who shared his story and experiences with violence in his native country. Bol Deng’s village was attacked by North Sudan Arab militiamen when he was ten-years-old, leaving him orphaned and forced to live for years in a Kenyan refugee camp. He has since come to the United States and established a foundation to support education in the Sudanese village of Ariang. “His story was extremely inspiring,” chapter president Samantha Frank said. The event succeeded in raising money for Bol Deng’s organization, the Hope for Ariang Foundation.
Some chapters educate through stories, while others employ creative and artistic techniques. Haddonfield Memorial High School STAND constructed refugee tents on their campus promoting awareness about the millions of Sudanese refugees, individuals like Bol Deng, who have suffered because of the current regime. The chapter also hosted a benefit concert to raise money for STAND’s parent organization, United to End Genocide.
Down south in North Carolina, Durham Academy STAND took a wonkier approach. After conducting research regarding the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act, the chapter lobbied their local congressional representative, David Price, in support of the legislation.
STAND was also able to leverage social media in urging the U.S. government to support civilian protection in Sudan. When Hillary Clinton spoke at the Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing, Advocacy Coordinator Maria Thomson recorded a video addressing Secretary Clinton and the State Department, declaring that thousands of United States students support peaceful, decisive mechanisms for accountability in Sudan.
It’s tough to sift through all of the wonky information and educational blog posts flooding the interwebs regarding Sudan. And it’s even tougher to assess how we as American students can translate this information into education and advocacy. But let’s look to the examples set by STAND chapters who have leveraged their power as activists and organizers to inform others about Sudan.