Reverend Gloria White-Hammond speaks to the crowd at the Save Darfur Coalition's 'Honor the Past, Act NOW for Darfur' Event.
Yesterday, hundreds gathered in front of the White House to 'Honor the Past' and to 'Act NOW for Darfur.' Survivors from past and current genocides and mass atrocities, including Darfur, South Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Holocaust, and Armenia, joined together with faith leaders, leading anti-genocide advocates, and local activists; united. And as we stood there among those whose very lives speak to the world's failure to uphold its sacred promise of never again, we couldn't help but wonder how many more years we will have to gather to remind ourselves and others to 'Act NOW for Darfur?'
A few months ago, we heard Ruth Messinger, President of the American Jewish World Service, speak about the priorities of the anti-genocide movement in the year 2009. "What is our next cause to fight for in 2009?" she asked the audience rhetorically. "This year's cause is Darfur" she exclaimed. Yesterday as crowds emerged from buses onto the scene at Lafayette Park - conveniently situated across from the White House - young faces descended on the park armed with signs carrying the names of villages across Darfur that have been destroyed.
Dadinga. Tandosa B. Gorne. Dumi. Labandi. Margabaj. Burny Sakh. Anguri. Amar Gedit. People's homes that now endure only in the memory of the survivors.
These are but a few of the names spread across the crowd. Side by side refugees from Darfur and inspired youth, banded together to declare that despite all that we've lost, there is still much which can still be saved - and indeed must be saved.
Among the many speakers was the Reverend Gloria White-Hammond. In a whisper, Reverend White-Hammond, offered a diagnosis of the movement's morale, moving into the 7th year of the genocide: "Many of us, perhaps, are feeling tired," she offered. "Genocides have come and genocides have gone. And you could perhaps be feeling discouraged," she remarked.
As activists, it seems all too easy to fall victim to our own expectations - expectations to see tangible change, expectations to see an end to the Genocide in Darfur. It seems all too easy for fatigue to set in around us. As we enter into the seventh year of the Darfur conflict, how can one not be dispirited?
As the Reverend's voice grew from a soft, gentle tone, she went on to declare that, "Even though we might feel tired, we cannot stop raising our voices. Now is not the time to get quiet!" And then went on to share a story that Martin Luther King Jr. once told when he felt people around him growing tired.
"Dr. King told the story of Mother Pollard. Mother Pollard was a 70 year-old woman who lived in Montgomery during the bus boycott. And like many of the older women, Mother Pollard was offered a ride but Mother Pollard refused to take a ride. And when Martin Luther King asked her why don't you just get in the car so you can rest a little bit, she responded:
'My feets are tired, but my soul is rested.'"
Indeed, now is not the time to be quiet.
The Reverend's voice turned to one of fierce determination, "Today we're here to say we've been on this road a little while and while our feets may be tired, our souls are rested."
Although the conflict continues in Darfur, our work has made a difference. The activist movement has accomplished so much over the last several years, but as John Prendergast pointed out, "We have unfinished business."
And so today, as we sit on the precipice between the 6th anniversary of the Genocide in Darfur and Yom Hashoa, let's take time to celebrate the progress we have made in combating the horror that continues in Darfur. But in doing so, let's never allow ourselves to forget that such horrors continue, that even as we sit and reflect, many die. Tomorrow, Yom Hashoa, will serve as a potent reminder of the atrocities that occur when the world turns a blind eye.
Observe Genocide Prevention Month and watch the 20-minute sneak preview of The Last Survivor NOW! Share with your friends and family, host local screenings at community centers, schools, universities, and your home, and start a conversation in your own community about how you can work to fight genocide. This is blog is part 12 of multi-part series. Cross-listed on change.org.