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STAND raises Darfur genocide awareness on campus

By Emily Suda

Section: News

September 16, 2005

Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) was chartered two weeks ago (on Sept 6) and is one of the most active clubs on campus, with upwards of 400 people on their list serve. STAND (which has 85 chapters nation wide) is a national, college based and run organization dedicated to raising awareness and taking action against the atrocities currently taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Weldon Kennedy 06 began STAND at Brandeis, merging with Brandeis Against Genocide in Sudan (BAGS), which started last year. Kennedy first got involved in the issue when he was asked by a friend to build the webpage for Darfurfast.org.

I was working on the webpage and [it] got to the point where it was obvious we were going to finish the web page soon and the issue just grabs you its not something you can walk away from Kennedy said.

Erica Lipschultz 07 reported that the student response at Brandeis has been encouraging.

We had a great showing at the activities fair and at the first meeting. We [also] have people who are interested in getting involved as much as possible.

One of the largest events STAND is participating in is the October 6th world wide Solidarity Fast. According to Darfurfast.org, The Solidarity Fast will reach individuals and communities around the globe in order to send a direct message that we, the international community, recognize our responsibility to protect the worlds populations from humanitarian crises. Multiple events will be organized around the Solidarity Fast, including rallies and vigils. News of the event will be broadcast into Eastern Chad and Darfur via radio, to show the people of Darfur that they have not been forgotten.
Participants in the Solidarity Fast will be giving up one meal or luxury item for that day and donating the money they would have spent on the meal or item to non-profit organizations working in the Darfur region.

Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz is one of only two university presidents nation wide to pledge to participate in the fast. Kennedy said that Reinharzs pledge shows a level of support from the school that is amazing and Kennedy would love to see that continue.

Also on Oct 6, a large event surrounding the Solidarity Fast will be held in the Boston City Hall Plaza at 5:30pm. According to Sean Lewis Faupel 08, the event will be a rally format. Well have speakers and well have ways for people to take action. This event is targeting students but we also do want to have a cross over audience there [with] people of many ages there.

STAND is taking part in many more activities to raise awareness and take action. This past Tuesday, September 13th, Brandeis students flooded the State Department with calls from 9am to 5pm, asking for action to be taken in Darfur.

Although the U.S. is the only superpower that has officially ruled what is happening in Darfur genocide, the government has yet to take any action and United Nations has not yet declared what is happening in Darfur genocide.

Rich Abott 07, a member of STAND Brandeis, made a call to the State Department on Tuesday. He said It felt like I was actually doing something. Abott reported that he joined STAND because I had been wanting to do something, even a small thing like calling the State Department. I just wanted to send a message to this administration to do more.

Other planned activities for early this semester include a vigil on September 21 with student and faculty speakers. There will also be bands and t-shirts for sale as part of a national day for peace. On October 10, a benefit dinner will be held in Sherman Function Hall with speaker John Prendergast, Advisor to the International Crisis Group in addition to a Brandeis Faculty Panel from various academic departments.

STAND is also organizing Teach-ins slated to begin later this month. Kennedy recommends attending the Live for Darfur concert held by musician Ben Jelen on Sept 22 at the Paradise Lounge in Boston.

According to Lipschultz, [The genocide occurring in Darfur] is just not getting the attention it really does deserve. Faupel added that when you turn on CNN you dont hear about Darfur. People do need to be taking action. People need to be pressuring their congressmen and their President to take action and that its one of the worst situations in the world right now and people need to be [doing something]. Because of these factors, STANDs goals at Brandeis are to raise awareness on campus and in the Boston area and to get people involved and to get people to take action. The more people you get involved the more impact you can actually have, said Lipshultz.

One major goal STAND is aiming for is the divestment (withdrawal of financial support or investment in a company or country) of Brandeis. Kennedy reported that a number institutions have done so, including Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth and Yale [which] divested without the students even becoming involved. Their administration single handedly divestedThat would be incredible if Brandeis divested. I would love to see that type of support from our administration.

Kennedy added that the central goal of STAND is to put more than 2.5 million people back into their homes and for the perpetrators of the murder of 400,000 people punished. Thats the goaland there can be no other goal than ending the genocide and restitution [for its victims].

When asked why students at Brandeis should be concerned about the current situation in Sudan, Faupel replied its genocide.

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