Tuesday, February 16, 2010

your title has a nice ring to it...

what sounds better? logistics and small projects coordinator or farm hand? i thought so.

big changes coming up real soon.

i'm constantly struggling to keep true to my values and goals. but a good friend recently told me that you can always keep your goals, but just go about a different way in realizing it.

i was originally planning on heading up to michigan to learn trade skills like--get this--draft plowing, blacksmithing, and woodworking.

will that actually happen? who knows? watch this space.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

write a letter, stop a genocide. save darfur and six strategies for change

Responding to a rebellion in 2003, the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and its allied militia, known as the "Janjaweed," launched a campaign of destruction against civilians of similar ethnic background as the rebels. They wiped out entire villages; destroyed food and water supplies; stole livestock; and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped women and children. The Sudanese government's genocidal campaign has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives through direct violence, disease, and starvation; and continues to destabilize the region. As many as 2.5 million people have fled their homes and live in dangerous camps in Darfar, and hundreds of thousands are refugees in neighboring Chad. 400,000 innocent civilians have been murdered since Feb '03. More than 2.7 million are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. The Sudanese government and allied militias continue their attacks into refugee camps. There are 4.9 million internally displaced people in Sudan, the highest number in the world.

i first starting getting interested in darfur when i attended a conference that brown students organized back in, i think, 2004 or 2005? i need to check. in september 2007, i attended the global day for darfur rally in central park in darfur, where tens of thousands students and concerned citizens voiced their support for an end to the genocide in darfur. since then, i've been out of the loop, working mostly on burma-related issues. back home in september 2009, i volunteered at a save darfur benefit concert, and have also signed numerous save darfur coalition petitions, as well as donated to the movement.

there was a save darfur rally at the west capitol building on wednesday, but i was swamped with work--i still feel guilty and i know i should've gone. it's all about numbers. today,i finally finished don cheadle and john predergast's not on our watch book, which describes ways that the average citizen can work to end genocide in darfur. it also explains the roots of the sudan and congo, uganda, and somalia conflicts, with ties to other tragedies across the world. the main causes are political exclusion from power, greed, and impunity (210-11).

the book was pretty insightful, and its strategies can be applied to all campaigns seeking to end crimes against humanity and genocide. the authors' point is that the public cannot be complacent. we need to pressure our leaders to act, and to let them know that there will be a political cost for inaction. the book also shows many examples of how average citizens, even children, can effect change and build the movement to save darfur. i'll share what i learned below. memorable sections of the book are quoted.

often times, it's "frustrating to us how sparse and sporadic the news coverage is of africa, which only makes headlines when another crisis erupts. This has led to a "conflict fatigue" associated with the continent as a whole. the truth is, however, that much of africa is a good news story. there are positive stories that deserve air time, such as:

"- the move away from dictatorships to democracy throughout africa
- a proliferation of nongovernmental organizations contributing to the development of
most african countries
- effective roles in the war on terrorism by many african governments
- peace agreements forged in countries which only a few years earlier had been ripped
apart by war and crimes against humanity, such as sierra leone, liberia, southern
sudan, and burundi
- serious methods by african institutions to combat transnational threats of diseases
and ecological destruction
- commitment on the part of many african governments to fiscally responsible economic
policies focused on alleviating poverty" (87).

more needs to be done. "during genocides and mass atrocities, outside governments apply humanitarian band-aids over gaping human rights wounds, citing the millions of dollars) sometimes billions0 they provide in food aid to exonerate themselves from the responsibility to protect civilian life. sadly, this is also the case with darfur...food and medicine today are helpful, but are insufficient if a person's life is still in jeopardy due to violence" (91-92). gerald martone, director of humanitarian affairs for the international rescue committee wrote the following analysis of the relief approach to massive human rights abuse-induced suffering:

In the public portrayal of humanitarian situations our profession has often reduced massive suffering to a charitable appeal. the depiction of reprehensible brutality is simplified to merely needing benevolent relief. humanitarian emergencies are not merely health crises, they are epidemics of human rights abuses. we must communicate complex situations as moments for international action not merely remedied by western do-gooders and the provision of supplies. our communication should invite action, outcry, and engagement.
top ten us excuses for inaction include, "we're doing all we can, more action can worsen the situation, peace in the south will solve darfur, we don't support the icc, the rebels are also to blame, the african union is taking care of the problem, we're giving lots of food aid, china and russia will prevent real action, incentives are better than pressures, and the situation will get better-trust us" (97).

the priorities are to protect civilians, make peace, and punish the perpetrators.
"In punishing the perpetrators, we could provide information to and cooperation with the ICC and move their indictments forward dramatically. in promoting the peace we could name special envoys to help resolve the conflicts in congo, northern uganda, and somalia in a much more focused way than current efforts allow. and in protecting the people, we could ensure that peacekeeping missions have at their centerpiece civilian protection in word and deed" (232). however, the obstacles to these are apathy, indifference, ignorance, and political inertia. the slogan "never again" is empty, unless we do something to truly show our convictions for ending genocide.

the authors offer the following strategies for effective change:
"1. raise awareness
2. raise funds
3. write a letter
4. call for divestment
5. join an organization
6. lobby the government"

I. "Raise Awareness: Actions You Can Take

1. educate yourself about darfur and the world's other most urgent crises at www.enoughproject.org.

2. talk to your family, friends, and colleagues about these crises and what we can do to help end them.

3. host a screening of a documentary about darfur such as paul freedman's sand and sorrow (www.sandandsorrow.org), darfur diaries by aisha bian, jen marlow, and adam shapiro (www.darfurdiaries.org), or brian steidle's story captured in annie sundberg's film the devil came on horseback (www.thedevilcameonhorseback.com).

4. write a letter to your newspaper or local tv news asking for more coverage of darfur and other areas that need our help.

5. if you are a blogger, blog to end genocide on leading blog sites!

6. invite a speaker to your house of worship to talk about darfur and what must be done to end genocide and mass atrocities worldwide.

7. join/start prayer groups or promote interfaith events.

8. organize a vigil, fast, or protest to support stronger action to stop crimes against humanity.

9. wear the cause: purchase t-shirts or green wristbands and give them as gifts" (171).

II. "Raising Funds: Actions You Can Take

1. make an individual or family donation to humanitarian, human rights, or advocacy organizations. (you can find a list of these organizations on the ENOUGH website-www.enoughproject.org)

2. urge your employer to make a contribution to one or more of these organizations, or place one of these organizations on its united way designated charities.

3. organize a fundraiser in your community by hosting a dinner, a concert, an auction, a fun run, or a fast.

4. link to the organizations your support from you personal home page or your blog" (176).

III. "Write a Letter: Actions You Can Take

1. write letters to urge your representatives to take specific actions for darfur and other crises [a personalized letter is much more powerful than a form or online letter].

2. ask your family, friends, and colleagues to write letter to their elected officials. and hound them until they do so.

3. sign or start a petition calling for greater accountability for those responsible for genocide and other crimes against humanity. and present it to your local congressperson.

4. think big! start a letter-writing campaign at your high school, university, house of worship, or office.

5. write a letter to the editor of your local paper and support specific policies while targeting specific elected officials" (179).

IV. "Call for Divestment: Actions You Can Take

1. educate yourself about divestment and the targeted companies at the sudan divestment task force website at www.sudandivestment.org and the ENOUGH website at www.enoughproject.org.

2. research your investment portfolio to see if you have investments in companies that are targeted for divestment, and then pull your assets out of any fund that does and tell them you did.

3. join a group that is pushing for divestment at your university (or alma mater), your municipality, and your state.

4. write to your pension fund manager and demand that your pension fund be free of the targeted companies.

5. encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to make sure that their investment portfolios are free of those companies" (190).

V. "Join an Organization: Actions You Can Take

1. learn about ENOUGH (www.enoughproject.org) and the other organizations working for change.

2. volunteer and attend meetings of organizations that have chapters in your area.

3. encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to make the same commitment.

4. start your own organization.

5. coordinate with other groups to amplify your efforts" (196).

VI. "Lobby the Government: Actions You Can Take

1. find out your representative's record on darfur. visit www.darfurscores.org to learn about each member of congress's individual voting record.

2. make an appointment to see your national representatives when they are in your area, or get a group together and travel to washington, d.c., for a lobby day. making an appointment to meet with congress isn't as tough as it sounds. you voted for them and you have a right tot ell them exactly how you feel about the issues that matter to you.

3. visit city council members and state representatives and encourae them to divest and pass a resolution urging stronger action to end genocide in darfur and atrocities wherever they occur.

4. urge your elected officials to speak publicly about darfur.

5. keep sending those personal letters to congress, the president, and key officials like the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and national security advisor.



A. stay informed, and inform others, about what's going on in darfur

the ENOUGH campaign seeks to united and strengthen the efforts of grassroots activists, policy makers, advocates, concerned journalists, and others by giving them up-to-date information form on the ground in countries of concern and offering practical pressure points to end the violence. if you are concerned about these issues and want to know what you can to do push for change, www.enoughproject.org is the place to find answers.

the international crisis group has field analysis and up-to-date policy recommendations for how to resolve conflicts all over the world, including darfur. www.crisisgroup.org.

eric reeve
's website (www.sudanreeves.org) is a great one-stop shop for news, analysis and advocacy about the conflict.

download the voices on genocide prevention podcast from the united states holocaust memorial museum at www.ushmm.org/conscience/podcasts/.

encourage friends to go to www.darfurisdying.com and play mtvU's darfur video game.

B. subscribe for the latest news from organizations working to stop the atrocities.

genocide intervention (gi-net) sends out regular "action alerts" with specific darfur activism opportunities. www.genocideintervention.net/advocate/actionalerts/.

to subscribe to STAND's national newsletter, sign up here: www.inform.standnow.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=2.

save darfur has a weekly action network with specific actions you can take each week to help make a difference. http://www.savedarfur.org/pages/take_action

africa action also features innocative action alerts, at http://www.africaaction.org.

write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

save darfur has a great feature that allows you to write letters to the editor of local and national newspapers. http://www.savedarfur.org/page/speakout/dailies. here are some of their tips to help get your letter published:
- most newspapers will only print original letters. use talking points and sample letters as a starting point for your own message
- letters with a personal angle are always compelling. ask yourself how this issue affects you and your family.
- keep it brief and to the point. letters under two hundred words are much more likely to be published.

D. write to the tv networks and encourage them to cover darfur.

push the television networks to devote more time to the crisis in darfur. here's a sample letter.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to urge your network to devote more airtime to covering the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where as many as 400,000 people have died, thousands of women have been raped, and more than two million people have been forced to flee from their burned and bombed villages to live in squalid refugee camps.

Television has the unique ability to put a human face on statistics. A good news story can bring Darfur, one o the most remote places on earth, directly into America's living rooms. Sadly, television news coverage of Darfur has been woefully deficient. Only one in every 950 minutes of news coverage during 2004 covered Darfur. During June 2005, major news media aired 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.

Genocide is newsworthy. By increasing your coverage of events in Darfur, you can help to generate the public attention needed to pressure our government to bring the atrocities to a halt. I urge you to give this crisis the attention it deserves.



here are tips for a successful fund-raising event (courtesy of genocide intervention network):

general tips for holding events:

- decide what type of event will be most effective for the goals you are aiming to accomplish. for example, would a film screening or speaker better suit your purpose for holding the event?
- test your idea out-ask a few friends what they think. consider what kind of resources you will need to make it a success.
- get a team together, rather than working on your own. make a list of tasks; find out what skills people have, and try to give them tasks they'll enjoy. make sure everyone knows what his or her responsibilities are.
- come up with a backup plan. for example, what will you do if it rains?
- do research and estimate how many people might turn up. what is the minimum number of people you'll need to make money? what's the maximum number of people you can accommodate?
- think about the best date. avoid competing with another local function or a major tv event, for example. agree on a realistic timetable and give each task a deadline.
- think of ways to keep costs down and your proceeds up. try to get as much as you can for free-whether it's people's time, a venue, food, publicity, printing, commercial sponsorship, or prizes.
- bring materials about the current situation in darfur and the genocide intervention network (gi-net). you can request flyers, brochures, or other materials by e-mailing fundraising@genocideintervention.net.
- remember to thank everyone involved and let them all know how much they've raised.
- above all, have fun!

quick event ideas

- host a dinner for darfur. these dinner parties are meant to act as fundraisers, and area way to educate your community and give them the tools for action. for an easy guide to hosting an educational fundraising dinner, go to http://www.genocideintervention.net/fundraise/dinners.php.
- virtual house parties will get your friends and family involved in the cause with minimal effort.
- screen hotel rwanda[, the killing fields, schindler's list] or a similar film demonstrating the need to stop genocide.
- selling stylish gi-net t-shirts is an ideal way to spread the anti-genocide message. if you are willin gto commit to selling at least thirty shirts, gi-net can give them to you for just $7 a shirt. gi-net recommends that you sell them for $12 a shirt, but you can set whatever price above $7 you think makes sense for your event. then you can make a donation with the money you raise.
- the save darfur coalition also has green wristbands that have become one of the emblems of the darfur movement. purchase a few, then ask for a donation of $2 or $3 for each one and help make darfur activists more visible!
- set up a donation bo around your school, workplace, dining hall, or place of worship. distribute information about mass atrocities.
- ask local musical groups to perform at a "battle of the bands." charge admission or set up a donation box at the event.
- have a bake sale or car wash. explain prominently that the event is to help protect victims of genocide in darfur.
- organize a tournament involving poker, video games, a dance marathon, etc. charge admission from the participants of the event. you can either give a small portion of the proceeds to the winner or have it be a "benefit tournament" with all winnings sent to the anti-genocide cause.
- local businesses often look to promote philanthropic causes. educate them and see if they would be willing to make a donation.
- if there is a darfur-related event outside your area, encourage your religious organization or other group to sponsor your travel expenses.


there are many different way to write to elected officials and urge them to take action to stop atrocities in darfur. personal letters stan the best chance of being noticed, and we gave you an example of what a letter could look like in chapter 8 [look at page 177].

the gi-net website alo has a great tool for quickly generating effective letters. http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/ginetwork/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=4591.


the website of the sudan divestment task force (www.sudandivestment.org) has a wealth of information about the status of ongoing divestment campaigns, and everything you need to know to start a new campaign if none exists where you live.

you can learn the basics of targeted divestment at http://www.sudandivestment.org/divestment.asp.

after you learn the basics, contact the task force at info@sudandivestment.org. a task force/STAND (students taking action now: darfur) representative will work with you to create a customized plan of action for your institution. you will be able to:

- research your institution to find how it may be invested in sudan
- submit a target divestment proposal to your institutions investment manager (e.g., treasurer, board of trustees, controller/comptroller, president, state legislator)
- mobilize a grassroots coalition to support your proposal


joining an existing organization is the best way to stay up to speed on news, events, and opportunities to get involved in stopping genocide.


students should visit the STAND website to find out how they can get involved. http://www.standnow.org/.

B. congregations

congregations can learn more by joining the save darfur congregational network and taking advantage of their faith action packs, with specific resources to help Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities mobilize to help the people of darfur. http://www.savedarfur.org/pages/organize_your_congregation.

for instance, here are samples of scripture, texts, and traditions that they suggest:

PROVERBS 3:27 - Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

ADAPTED FROM AL-QUR'AN, SURAH 5:32 - He who has killed an innocent soul, it is as if he had killed all humanity. And he who has saved an innocent soul, it is as if he has saved all humanity.

JAMES 3:17-18 - Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

C. communities

community organizations have played a critical role in pushing for action on darfur. at the save darfur website, you can search for groups in your area, or learn how to organize your own group. http//www.savedarfur.org/page/group.


A. find out your representative's record on darfur.

the first step to lobbying congressional officials is to find out what they have or haven't done to make a difference on darfur. visit www.darfurscores.org and look at your representative's record on darfur.

B. ask focused questions

attend public events featuring members of congress and ask them about their position on darfur. here are some tips from gi-net:

- investigate local media, blogs and word of mouth to find out when a political event involved members of congress or challengers will be held. if it is an invitation-only function, inquire about how to get invited. usually organizers will be happy to invite people who sound cooperative and reasonable.
- use the darfur scorecard (www.darfurscores.org) to see where a member of congress stands on darfur-related activities. with this knowledge, you will ask a more pointed and effective question.
- your question should be short and pointed. if you think you might get flustered, write the question down on a note card ahead of time.
- look for other chances to get your point across if you can't ask a question directly. if you were not called on or there was no question-and-answer session, you still have options. if there is a handshake line, join it and ask an abbreviated question while getting your ten seconds with the candidate. try to approach campaign staff after the speech and ask if you could meet with them about their candidate's darfur agenda. ask local media representatives if they would be interested in writing a story mentioning the candidate's darfur policy.
- be sure to follow up with the campaign, either by e-mail or phone, after the event. this will remind the candidate that yours is an important issues on which he or she needs to take a position.

C. meet with elected officials

making an appointment to meet with a member of congress isn't as tough as it sounds. you voted for them, and you have a right tot tell them exactly how you feel about the issues that matter to you.



1. keep it simple
2. keep it short
3. keep it sound
4. keep it smart
5. keep it special: tell an amazing and/or personal short story that everyone will remember to illustrate your point

1. don't be too boring. tell a story, tell a joke, make what you have to say interesting. don't pain in black-and-white; paint in color!
2. don't be too long-winded
3. don't be too unilateral. engage people by asking questions. be interactive!
4. don't be too complex
5. don't be too unstructured
6. don't be too random. foucs your audience or interlocutor on the two or three most important things the us government can do, and how that person or group can help make it happen
7. don't be too touchy-feely. we can't just rely on the "because it's the right thing to do" argument, or simply hope that for humanitarian reasons people will respond. we also have to connect our issues to larger national interests and what politicians and americans care about, i.e., national security.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

so where is jeremy?

yeah, i know. it's been a long time since i wrote last. a quick hello, a flurry of posts related to the haiti earthquake. then nothing.

well, here's what's up. i was doing limited fundraising for haiti at an individual level with earlier appeals and my run for haiti oxfam page--which jointly raised over $700 for earthquake relief, with money going towards partners in health and oxfam. not bad, right?

however, i wanted to do more. the immediate reaction of well-intentioned people is to head to haiti to help out. but more often than not, these individuals are unskilled and can actually cause more harm than good.

so the next best thing was to see how i could plug in stateside. i applied to a couple of groups, ultimately landing a spot with international action. they've been working in port-au-prince and surrounding areas for close to 4 years. they have supplied clean water to over 400,000 haitians through village trainings and the installation of inexpensive chlorinator systems and water tanks in communities, orphanages, schools, and hospitals. their work has help save lives and prevent diseases for many previously exposed to typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, and chronic diarrhea.

the public water system in haiti suffered extensive damage, and tens of thousands of people in haiti are still a without clean, reliable water supply after the earthquake. i'm helping them out with administrative tasks, outreach, and communications in their dc office. i'm also assisting with blogging duties at international action's blog at www.internationalaction.wordpress.com. the last couple of entries? yeah, that's me. more updates soon. watch this space.