By Sophia Geanacopoulos, USC STAND
In preparation for Valentine’s Day 2013, members of the STAND chapter at the University of Southern California spent their afternoon making valentines with a slightly different message than that of the classic Hallmark card. Members created valentines for President Obama, urging him to support peace talks in Kampala and to stand in solidarity with Congolese women who have been victims of gender-based violence.
Thus far in the Congo, peace talks have been unsuccessful and are in danger of being abandoned if a neutral international body does not step up to facilitate. The valentine messages asked Obama to appoint a presidential envoy to assist with these peace talks and to help ensure that they remain productive and transparent, one of the necessary steps in resolving this conflict.
STAND members decorated valentines with hearts and emphasized key points such as the fact that the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman. Asking the President to open his heart, one member wrote, “The rape and terrorism that is taking place in the Congo is too great to be set aside. As our leader, please stand up for peace and freedom.”
In addition to creating colorful valentines with powerful messages, USC STAND did an action on campus in order to raise awareness among the student body of the atrocities occurring in the Congo. Students at USC often advertise events on a walkway surrounded by student residences by taping large block letters to the ground with information about the event. The night before Valentine’s Day, STAND members met outside to advertise their own message. Using a large role of pink tape, they constructed a giant heart with the message “STAND UP 4 CONGO” at the center. At the bottom of the heart, they wrote @cfcistudents so that students could look up the Conflict Free Campus Initiative’s Twitter account should they want more information on the ongoing conflict and the student campaign to alleviate it.
This semester, USC STAND’s focus is on educating the community and generating support for the campaign to make USC a conflict-free campus. STAND hopes to continue generating awareness about the conflict in the Congo as they begin to pressure the university administration to consider the institution’s role as a consumer and investor in this conflict.