I recently did an interview on the Brian Lehrer show NPR and am preparing for a Radio Tahrir show today on WBAI 99.5 FM at 7 pm focused on grassroots groups in Darfur and the opportunities we have to support their work and stand in solidarity with them working to address the roots of violence, racism and injustice in Sudan. People have since asked me to say more about why donating to their efforts and supporting their work is so important so I wrote this piece as a reflection on that question:
Imagine hundreds of thousands of displaced people and families scattered across an infrastructure wasteland surrounding one of the major towns in Darfur, Sudan. These communities live under almost unthinkable conditions. Water shortages, diminishing food rations, housing made of rice bags and plastic tarp, schools in which 200 children gather in an open air community, lead in song by one or two teachers. When it rains people pray on wet mud floors. When women walk far distances to gather firewood beyond the outskirts of the camp they are frequently attacked and raped by the same militia men who displaced them and their families. People have been living like this for six years since being forced to flee from their homelands.
Now imagine these same communities organizing to address and cope with these unthinkable conditions. Women teaching other women how to read and write in a community center made of mats they have woven themselves. Young people forming popular education theater and singing groups that entertain, educate and heal those yearning for expression and the creation of new memories. Community elders supporting the creation of centers in which young people learn income generating activities such as sewing, carpentry, construction etc…to break cycles of complete dependency on food rations. People risking their lives to grow food in little plots on the outskirts of the camps.
Imagine too that these same communities are working with Darfurian activists who support them in their daily struggles. A young woman radio journalist, who coordinates an underground station which connects these displaced communities across an area the size of Texas, bringing people’s stories, analysis and perspectives to the outside world and to themselves. Lately, she’s been drawing attention to voter registration fraud and organizing people around it. A young man who teaches sign language to those who are deaf inside the camps. A coalition of grassroots organizations training women to identify and provide psycho-social support to women who are survivors of rape. The same coalition bringing these women and their stories together through hidden coffee circles in community centers to do know your rights workshops and connecting them with local journalists and law students creating spaces for their stories and cases to be heard. Imagine now that the people connected to these efforts put their lives at risk on a daily basis. They may face persecution, imprisonment without trial, torture even death…simply for doing this work.
Now imagine you being able to stand in solidarity with people like the young man teaching the deaf, or the young woman drawing attention to voter registration fraud. You can support the communities I asked you to imagine as they build peace and justice from the bottom up. How you ask?
1. Donate today to schools and community centers run by and for displaced communities through this blog. You can also support grassroots groups that are organizing these communities and supporting their initiatives here.
3. Advocate for policy change in the U.S. by calling the White House or your representatives to support the latest legislation or call for action aimed at ending the deepening crisis in Darfur. At present people are asking for solidarity in connection with crackdowns and arrests of Sudanese demonstrators demanding transparency and freedom of expression in preparation for elections to be held in April of 2010. One Sudanese led advocacy group to follow is Sisterhood for Peace. www.sisterhoodforpeace.org.
4. Educate others by inviting a Sudanese speaker from the region to come speak at your school, community center or place of worship. You can either contact us here or the Darfur People’s Association of New York .
5. If you are a teacher, poet, singer or banker make this issue of standing in solidarity with Darfurians relevant within your community by using your own expertise or talents. People have held houseparty fundraisers, talent shows in their schools, done improv public actions etc…to draw attention to what is happening in Sudan and to show others how they can make a difference.
6. If you are a Sudanese woman please sign our Urgent Demands for Peace by adding your signature here :
Thank you for your solidarity and support!
Imagine Peace, Imagine Justice for all!