The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Inspiring Action: One Million Bones at Swarthmore College

Vija Lietuvninkas writes about her experiences organizing a workshop on "Perceptions of Genocide." Vija is a rising junior at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania majoring in Peace, Development, and Gender Studies. 

The death of a loved one invokes intense emotion in those left behind. The grief process may be long, and the memory of the person is not often forgotten. Why, then, when genocide involves hundreds, and even hundreds of thousands of deaths, does it seem to leave those not directly affected so unfazed? How can such tragic events go hardly noticed by the global community so often? It seems that the higher the numbers go, the less affected people are.

For the final project in my Philosophy class Human Rights and Atrocity, two of my classmates, Aly, Marina, and I created a project through which we provided people the opportunity to understand genocide in a more real and emotional way, to counteract the idea that, “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.” Our goal was to use art and thoughtful discussion to provide a space in which people would be able to understand genocide in a different way than they would normally understand it.

In researching the intersection between art and genocide, I stumbled across the One Million Bones project and felt that it had great potential and fit perfectly with the theme of our own class project. Overall, the motivation for the event is encapsulated by Carl Wilkens’ quote: “When we do something with our hands, it changes the way we feel, which changes the way we think, which changes the way we act.” In addressing the issue of genocide, where so much suffering has been the result of inaction, inspiring action is the ultimate goal.

Marina, Aly, and I organized an event at Swarthmore College called “Perceptions of Genocide: A Workshop,” during which Sana Musasama, an artist and art professor at Hunter College in New York, spoke about her experiences in Cambodia over the past six years. After the speech, the attendees participated in making bones out of plaster gauze and newspaper for the One Million Bones project.

In planning and publicizing the event, I had several people ask me why “Genocide Awareness and Prevention month” even exists. The simple answer is that as horrific as genocides are, little attention is paid to them. Consequently, designating a month to focus on genocide directs people’s attention toward the issue. While many don’t question the importance of “awareness,” promoting “prevention” is more tenuous.

The “prevention” of genocide seems like a practically insurmountable task to be undertaken by people who may often be no more than voters in the scheme of politics and policy-making, so merely putting a label on the month of April as a month in which “we” will try to prevent genocide can seem like an inadequate, and even inappropriate, response. However, I believe that the role of genocide awareness is one that is critical in the prevention of genocide.

The more people who are aware of these atrocities, the stronger their voices are, and the more influence they can have on our policies. That is the ideal under which Naomi Natale, the artist behind One Million Bones, operates. Hoping to unify at least a million people in a symbolic gesture to show our government that we care about its policies towards crimes against humanity such as genocide is what she has aspired to. But, like many complex issues, the first step to preventing genocide is raising awareness and educating about it.

After all, how can you stop something if you don’t know it exists?

College Basketball Powerhouses Georgetown and Duke Come Together for Darfur

By Stella Kenyi

This post originally appeared on The Hub.

BREAKING: President Barack Obama will attend Saturday’s men’s basketball game between the Georgetown University Hoyas and the Duke University Blue Devils, according to sources involved in the planning of the event.

This Saturday US college basketball powerhouses Georgetown and Duke will face off in one of the most anticipated games of the season. While the two teams battle on the court, students and alumni from both universities will put aside their rivalry and come together to support the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, an initiative which links American middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities with sister schools in 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

The Darfur Dream Team was conceptualized following NBA star Tracy McGrady’s trip to Darfuri refugee camps in Chad with John Prendergast and Omer Ismail of the Enough Project. Their journey is chronicled in the documentary film

3 Points: Peace, Protection and Punishment

. McGrady and Prendergast will attend the upcoming game to unveil a video announcing the Darfur Dream Team’s partnership with Georgetown and Duke. Students and alumni from the two universities have pledged to raise funds to support two Darfuri refugee camp schools.

Over 350 U.S. schools have already signed up to support this initiative. Click here to learn how you can support the Sister Schools Program, and for more details visit www.darfurdreamteam.org.

Stella Kenyi is the coordinator for the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program. 
 
The halftime video was directed and produced by Robert Padavick. Animation and Editing by Jeff Trussell.

 

900 and counting…

Guest post by Gabi Arons and Nicole DeChello, Amnity High School

Nicole and Gabi here. We’re Amity High School’s Canvass leaders in Woodbridge, CT.

After the Pledge2Protect Conference, we were so inspired to head the canvass at our school, so we got right to work. Three very long weeks later, December 1st finally came. We had planned for Amity STAND club members to go into every classroom (therefore talking to EVERY student at Amity) and tell students about the National Canvass and ask them to sign pledges.

We have not counted the total number of pledges we received yet, but we are estimating having collected about 900 pledges in just the first day. We are so happy at our incredible start to the week, and hope to keep it up – our goal is to collect 2,000 pledges.

Check out our Facebook group “CT Pledges to Protect” for all our upcoming events. Feel free to e-mail and/or message both of us on Facebook if you have any comments, questions, or want to network or collaborate ideas, or just to talk about how amazing STAND is!

Join the movement to prevent genocide! http://www.ipledge2protect.org

Queens College: Dancing, learning, and canvassing

Guest post by Jenn Polish, Queens College STAND

Good music, good company, a dance floor, and – oh yeah – awareness raising, fundraising, and pledging against genocide – made for an AMAZING night at Queens College in Flushing, New York. What we’ve lovingly dubbed our Peace Jam was held the night of Thursday December 3rd in the fourth floor ballroom of our Student Union Building from 6 to 10 PM.

Our amazing student hosts, DJ Toni Yo and DJ Nimo Iero, mixed up tunes from all across the Globe, facilitating amazing dancing all night. Interspersed in the frivolity was gender-illusionist performer MilDRED (www.dredlove.com), while student performers raised consciousness about the genocide in Sudan, the DRC, and the situation in Zimbabwe. We canvassed as people came in, and raised funds for Kids for Kids UK and Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project, which helps families from Darfur help themselves in culturally-sensitive and environmentally sound ways.

The next night, December 4th, QC STAND was at it again, with a special guest appearance from our SOC Josh Gwin from Hofstra University. He presented current information about the genocide in Sudan in a night dubbed "Darfur Today: Whose Tomorrow?" Thanks to everyone who came by, met fellow activists, learned, and canvassed!