March 28, 2007

Darfur Displays Inform C.U.

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As Cornell students cross the Arts Quad this week, they will encounter some questions about their knowledge of the crisis in Darfur and what they as students are doing about it.

Placards posing questions such as “What can be done about Darfur?”, and “What do the words Janjaweed, GENOCIDE and Khartoum Government MEAN?” have been placed on the Arts Quad as part of Darfur Awareness Week, organized by Students for Tolerance, Awareness and Remembering Survivors and over 20 other groups on campus.

The aim of Darfur Week is to “educate the students on campus and give them a chance to speak out on genocide on an individual level, and also collectively,” said Ray Bai ’07 president of STARS. [img_assist|nid=22299|title=Questioning conscience|desc=Students on their way to class on the Arts Quad pass signs posted in honor of Darfur Awareness Week.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=74]

In order to effectively educate the campus, the Darfur Week committee planned lectures and a documentary screening on Darfur. However, Bai and the members of the committee wanted to reach the entire campus, not just the students who would be motivated to attend these special events.

Thus, the Darfur Week committee chose to create an exhibit on the Arts Quad, in order to reach as many Cornellians as possible.

“The purpose of the placards is to peak interest by throwing out key terms,” Bai said.

While most students on campus may be familiar with the term “genocide,” more unfamiliar terms may be “Janjaweed” and “Khartoum government”.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, Janjaweed is the armed Arab militia in Sudan who are accused of genocidal attacks on black Sudanese, and the Khartoum government is the Sudanese government, which is based in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The Khartoum government has been called upon by world leaders to control the Janjaweed militia and put an end to the genocide in Sudan.

“I’m glad they’re doing something to raise awareness,” said David Kiferbaum ’08, who observed the display on the Arts Quad. “But there is a political aspect that needs to be understood in informing the public about what’s going on in the Sudan.”

The planning for the week itself was divided up among the many co-sponsoring groups, with Americans for Informed Democracy organizing the exhibit on the Arts Quad, as well as obtaining images of the situation in Darfur to project onto the Johnson Museum.

The simplicity of the Arts Quad exhibit reflects both the planners’ purpose, as well as their understanding of the busy lives of Cornell students.

“Most people just want to get to class,” said Julie Mao ’08 Vice President of AID, who put together the Arts quad display. “We wanted to pose simple questions that were to the point, to challenge students to think about Darfur and what they know about what is going on there,” Mao said.

Mao hopes that the display will succeed in attracting the attention of Cornell students.

“I would like a lot more of the community to know what the issue is, that’s the first step,” Mao said.

Once students are informed, Mao and Bai both expressed their hopes that students would become more active in advocating awareness of the situation in Darfur.

“I hope that the exhibit on the Arts Quad and the events held throughout the week motivate students to ask themselves, ‘What can I do to help, how can I advocate policy?’” Mao said.

In addition to the Arts quad display, AID helped to organize a projection of images onto the side of the Johnson Museum. These images are from the slideshow “Staring Genocide in the Face,” produced and distributed by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. as part of the Museum’s “Committee on Conscience” to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur. The slideshow consists of photographs of the barren deserts of Sudan as well as pictures of the Sudanese refugees living in poverty in refugee camps in Chad.

In explaining the Museum’s involvement in raising awareness of Darfur, Lisa Rogoff, outreach coordinator for the Committee on Conscience said, “The museum bears witness to the Holocaust in order to prevent tragedies and genocides from occurring today; that is why we felt we must bring attention to the situation in Darfur.”

Rogoff said that she was impressed with the work of STARS and the other groups involved in organizing Darfur Week and encouraged more students, both at Cornell and at other campuses across the country, to take up the cause.

“College students have a unique opportunity to act, and the media is always interested in covering what college students are doing, so it is a great way to draw attention to an important cause,” Rogoff said.

“Everyone should check out the slideshow,” Bai said. “It has very powerful images so people can see what it is like for the Sudanese in the refugee camps.”

The slideshow will be projected every evening after nightfall on the front of the Johnson Museum.