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CoolPeopleCare.org

What Happened Yesterday

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.
What happened yesterday was beautiful. It was one of those rare moments in life, that sneaks up on you unexpectedly in a good way, like a random act of kindness, a bank error in your favor, or an award you didn’t know you were nominated for. It was a moment I may never forget.

I attended the community forum on the genocide crisis in Darfur, held at Fisk University and sponsored by Tennesseans Against Genocide with support from other community entities. The forum consisted of words by Sudanese refugees relocated to Nashville, keynote addresses by distinguished individuals who have worked in the areas of Africa, genocide and human rights, and inspiring words by professors and preachers. The forum was open to the community, seeking to raise awareness about one of the increasing, and increasingly ignored, international crises facing our world today: genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

When I arrived, the chapel was abuzz with anticipation. I imagine it must have felt like when Dr. King or Rev. Shuttlesworth was about to speak in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. We were about to hear about human and civil rights being violated, a gross misuse of power that can often only be combated by good citizens rising to action. I assume most of us there know something about Darfur, about how it was quickly becoming Rwanda 1994 or Germany 1938. We knew bad things were happening, that women were being raped, children were being mutilated and men were being killed, but we didn’t know what we could do about it. We felt paralyzed, trapped in Music City, hoping for the best, but not willing to do much, other than wish something could be done and blame someone higher up as we muttered "There oughta be a law," under our breath.

What the forum yesterday showed us, however, was what the good people can and must do on their watch – on our watch. It showed us that awareness and advocacy is the great first step that all movements and revolutions must take on their way to immortalization, both in the history books and in the minds of the survivors. It showed us how to direct our anger and inspired us not to let it stop with being angry, but to let it begin with being angry enough to do something. Petitions must be signed, calls must be made, emails must be sent, and people must be told. Yesterday’s forum was hopefully the great, big stone cast into the placid pond of inaction, causing a ripple to grow into a tidal wave that can wash away walls of oppression and fortresses of injustice.

But it won’t be easy. Not when Bush appointee John Bolton blocks a report from being read to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton, along with three other countries, blocked a briefing by a UN special envoy detailing the human rights violations occurring in Sudan. Mr. Bolton felt that it isn’t enough to read about atrocities; they need to be acted against. While I agree with his principle about the cheapness of talk, I know the next step is to then lead the action against the atrocities that nearly the whole world knows are happening in Darfur. Sadly, Mr. Bolton did not lead that charge. Our president sure can pick ‘em.

Anyone who attended yesterday should have felt the conviction to act. That conviction might have come as a religious one from Reverend Sanders. It might have come as a neighborly one from Ms. Adeng, a Sudanese young woman now living in Nashville. It might have come as a humanitarian one from Mr. Jerry Fowler, a director at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, or an international one from Mr. Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action. Or it might have been an impassioned conviction you can only identify with in the core of your being, after listening to the heart-felt rant of Professor Mahmoud, another refugee in Tennessee. Or maybe the conviction was simply a realistic one you couldn’t ignore after listening to the attendees, black, white, Christian, Jew, poor and rich express their convictions that something must be done.

Everyone left with numerous handouts, full of Senatorial contact information, important websites, and the realities of life in Darfur. But everyone also left knowing that simple talk wasn’t enough. We left feeling and knowing that something must be done, and we left feeling and knowing that we could be the ones to do that very something. Impassioned to act and emboldened to try, perhaps a group of Tennesseans will be the ones to end the genocide half a world away.

Hey, a man can dream. Which is exactly what yesterday was about – dreaming about a way to make it so that others can dream again. You know, one of those unscripted, unimagined moments life brings your way.

“What Happened Yesterday”