Rally to Save Darfur Draws Thousands of Teens to D.C.
As rebels in Darfur rejected a peace agreement that would end the bloodshed in the region, thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to bring awareness to the issue. Anna Bernstein and Jonah Jablons from Children's PressLine, spoke with young activists at the rally about what motivated them to come and what they hope to achieve.
Hanna Billian, 16
I've written a lot of letters to our senators. We're just gonna try to let as many people as we can know about this, in our schools and our communities and just everywhere. We hand out flyers and do as much as we can. I don't really know why the government hasn't done anything yet but we're just gonna try and do our part. It's one of the most exciting things that I've ever done.
Rebecca Abrams, 12
My school gave a talk about the situation in Darfur and I got really interested in it. We have stood by in so many genocides, and not done anything - in the Holocaust, in Rwanda and in Darfur. Now we have a chance to do something. We have an Army and we've got technology and we've got the power to do it but we're not doing anything. They need awareness more than anything. Well, we need troops to go in. But we're using up all our troops in Iraq so basically we'd have to stop the war in Iraq, to get the troops to go in to Darfur. We could always negotiate but our President, I guess, doesn't think that's so important.
Brian Banks, 17
I'm actually in the works of organizing a rally in Burlington on June 11. We are trying to get a couple hundred people to gather at City Hall Park and just raise massive awareness within the state of Vermont. It's real important that everyone comes to support [the cause]. I taught a class about Darfur at my school. I organized the school "Darfur Day" and raised awareness to some 1,600 kids. I sent out 1,500 letters and sold 200 t-shirts to help raise awareness.
I don't think that our government knows that enough people really care. Rallies like this one show the government that we do care and it's time to get in there and it's time to get it done and to save these people. What we need is a multinational force. We can't just go in by ourselves; we need a group of countries to support the Darfurians, to protect and help people with their most basic needs: their food, their security, their water, their shelter. These things need to be taken care of and from there we can go on with the political thing. But right now it's more humanitarian.
Andra Palchick, 16
Awareness is a priority but once you have people aware you also need to mobilize them. You need to mobilize the community to petition their politicians and make sure they are interested in accomplishing something. We really need to make sure that our government knows that this is an issue that matters more than anything else to us.
Hayavadhan Thuppal, 16
I don't think people really realize the magnitude of the situation that's going on in Darfur right now. The best thing that I can do as a teenager in the United States, in a country where people have so many resources that we could use to help these people, is to raise awareness and just make sure that people know that such atrocities are going on or finding politicians who will put this issue to Congress and try and get the President and the U.N. involved so that we can try and stop this.
I am currently working on a project with the Pittsburgh Refugee Center to create a video to show the lives of children in Darfur living in a refugee camps. I think that will probably play a big role in terms of raising awareness.
Adam Zuckerman, 18
We kind of spearheaded the divestment campaign in our state and now the Maine State University retirement system is completely divested from companies that do business in Sudan. We got our local congressman to support this. I was just with Senator Snow's aide and she's really behind us on this also.
Through the American Jewish World Service I got to meet the local Darfur community in Portland. A lot of their family is still over there and it ties into my own family's history, through the Holocaust. It's really hard for me to see another genocide happening and not do anything when I have a voice. I can sound out. I have feet that can march. A lot of people know the situation is terrible, but they don't really think they can do anything. I'm just 18 years old, but I feel like every one here, if they really have some determination, can make a big difference.
Lee Rosenthal, 12
Through a group at my school, Schechter Students Against Slavery in Sudan, I heard about this rally and since a lot of students were going I thought it might be an interesting thing to go to. We're finally starting to make a difference; lately we've been starting to see signs up around the community, so I really feel like we're making a difference.
I'm working on a project with A Million Voices for Darfur and we're asking people to send in postcards addressed to the White House asking President Bush to take action in Darfur. I'm sending those out in my Bar Mitzvah invitations. I'm gonna definitely make a statement about it during my Bar Mitzvah.
Karima Fyfield, 15
Bronx, New York
We were discussing Darfur in class because we've been learning about the Rwanda genocide that happened in 1994 and the Holocaust. My teacher decided to take us to this rally. People are being killed because of what they believe in and how they live and they're aspects of life. I want the government to stop the genocide and stop the killings and recognize that genocide is a major thing. It's not just something that happens to a group of people. It's something that happens to the whole world.