Darfur Die-In: Coalition for Global Justice at USF04/24/07 Seán Kinane
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Today at the University of South Florida's Tampa Campus a coalition of human rights and social justice groups held a die-in to draw attention to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Shivani Murthy is the vice president of the USF anti-genocide group Stand, and she is the Stand representative for the new Coalition for Global Justice at USF. Murthy described what is going on in Darfur.
"About 4 years ago the US government actually classified the situation as genocide. But the violence has been going on for many years before that. Basically, an Arab militia calling themselves the Janjaweed are carrying out systematic raping and killing of inhabitants of certain villages and forcing them out of their homes. Right now about 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and over 400 thousand have died. And probably over 100 die each day just from the violence going on."
Christy Burke is a staff member and coordinator in the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism at USF and the active advisor for the STAND organization. She said that students from different organizations connected with each other in order to raise awareness about the Darfur genocide and to gather signatures asking for UN intervention.
"We have a group of students here who are trying to raise awareness and kind of educate people about what's going on with the genocide in Darfur. Really it's about raising awareness and getting people not only to know what's going on but helping them find connections on campus of how they can take action then and become involved with the drive to end the genocide in Darfur."
Apris Reaume had to compete for attention with a Christian preacher berating students who also criticized the Darfur activists and the victims of the genocide saying that they were killed because they were "Muhhamadites."
"I mean considering many Sudanese are Christians, I would think he would get on board but instead he attacked the Sudanese without knowing anything about them."
Salmann Khan, is member of STAND and described why he and others were lying down acting like they had died.
"They're doing a die in and they're representing the hundreds of thousands of people that are dying in Darfur right now as a result of the genocide. This is sort of raising awareness, it's telling people what is going on, it's telling people they need to care and that they can make a difference."
Student Rose Rezaei said there was a better turnout than was expected.
"Right now we have about 160 signatures and we're still getting signatures throughout the rest of the day in the other areas right now. We actually had to make copies several times."
Keenan Erdack is a student watching the die-in he said he agreed with the cause but thought more direct action is necessary.
"It's great to outline what's going on and what’s incorrect about the world today, but you also have to have a plan on how to correct it, or at least the initiative to. So far reliances on the government and NGOs across the glove, there's really nothing coming from the main fronts of the college campuses themselves, from the students; whether it's donations, Peace Corps, anything. Any kind of action that can be taken."
WMNF spoke with Shivani Murthy while she was lying down holding a sign saying end the genocide in Darfur.
"We figured here there was a crowd sitting and listening to a guy who was kind of saying a lot of outrageous things. And we figure if they can take the time to listen to him, they can certainly take the time to see us and see what we’re about. [SK: do you think that’s gotten you more attention?] I think so, I think we’ve had a lot of people stop and tell us they appreciate what we’re doing and ask questions, so we’re definitely spreading information about this and I’m glad it’s working out.”
Mary Elena Wisterman and her two-year old-daughter Mara Jade both wore red t-shirts like the other 20 or so participants in the Die-In.
“We’re wearing red shirts to symbolize the killing that’s going on in Darfur. There’s already hundreds of thousands that have been killed. A lot of people here in the west aren’t really aware of that. So the red is a typical symbol of the bloodshed that’s going on in Africa.”
Wisterman encourages others to get involved to stop the genocide before it gets worse and says that people can get involved by divestment, educating others, and contacting elected officials.
“I know that with apartheid both divestment and public manifestations as well as calling your Congress people have been successful strategies and we have to see this employed and effective again”
One company that should be targeted for divestment, according to Murthy from the Coalition for Global Justice, is Coke. She says that students should pressure USF to cancel their contract with Coke.
“Coca-Cola is the biggest one and a lot of people don’t know that. USF has a contract out with Coke and we would really like them to stop that.” For more information, visit SaveDarfur.org
Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism at USF: