Foothills students organizing Darfur rally - The Explorer: Import

Foothills students organizing Darfur rally

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Posted: Tuesday, May 2, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

April 26, 2006 - Ben Wood-Isenberg could no longer sit back and do nothing.

Having lived what some may call a privileged life, the Catalina Foothills High School senior wanted to make his voice heard.

To do so, Wood-Isenberg, along with a small but energetic group of students began the Students Taking Action Now, Darfur, or STAND, club this year to educate others as the group attempts to make a difference in a country thousands of miles away where a genocide is killing tens of thousands.

"Everybody has the motivation to do something," he said. "We all knew that somebody had to do this."

Wood-Isenberg and STAND have organized a Save Darfur Rally to Stop Genocide, April 30 at the University of Arizona.

More than 600 people are expected.

Darfur has been a news topic in recent months, but Wood-Isenberg said not enough people know what is really happening there.

Conflict began in Darfur in 2003 when fighting erupted between two loosely allied rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, according to the Save Darfur Coalition Web site.

Military instillations were under siege. Peace agreements were formed, attempting to put an end to the 20-year-old civil war in the south of Sudan that gave governmental control over oil revenues.

Arab resident extraction was deemed necessary by the rebels, seeking what they said would be an end to the region's poor economy and political marginalization, according to the Web site.

This movement has lead to the killing of more than 400,000 men, women and children and the displacement of more than 2.5 million people from their homes, according to the Web site.

When Wood-Isenberg first heard of the genocide more than a year ago, he was appalled, he said. And knew he had to take immediate action.

"Why is this happening while we're just sitting here?" he said. "It's not OK to be indifferent."

Through STAND, students formed the Save Darfur rally on a night when other rallies will be taking place nationally, including rallies in San Francisco and Washington D.C.

The rallies across the country are in accordance with the Million Voices for Darfur campaign, which is an ongoing effort seeking 1 million postcards delivered to President Bush demanding action to end the genocide.

At the Tucson rally, participants will have the opportunity to sign postcards, receive Darfur education material and hear from speakers with knowledge of the genocide.

Featured speakers will be a survivor of the Rwanda genocide, a "Lost Boy" of Sudan and a human rights attorney. A short walk of solidarity will take place around the campus.

In order to increase the success of the rally, CFHS STAND students joined forces with University of Arizona STAND, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the YWCA.

"It's going to be a call to action," said Naomi Brandis, UA student and STAND member. "It's a coalition of people coming together in recognition that there is a genocide going on and we do want the government to do something."

If not for the students in the Foothills, Brandis said the rally would not happen.

"I was very, very impressed with the high school kids," she said. "It's just really interesting to me. It feels like it's been very youth oriented. The high school people really encouraged us to get involved."

No matter someone's age, Brandis thinks it is important to recognize what is going on in Darfur and take a stand against it, she said.

"I want people to recognize that there is indeed a genocide going on right now," she said. "It's easy to feel sympathy, but to actually realize it's happening now and it's just as terrible and we need to do something."

Wood-Isenberg and Brandis feel empowered by the rally's events and the idea of bringing the Tucson community together for a cause.

"It's more than just a night," Brandis said. "It's informing everyone in the community what they can do to advocate for the cause."

Within the community, along with student action groups, the Jewish Community Relations Council has been involved in the Darfur issue for about a year, said Josh Protas, director of the JCRC.

"Jewish communities across the country started issuing concerns," he said, and the Tucson Jewish community took notice.

"(We have) A special responsibility to speak out," he said. "People need to pay attention. The world community hasn't done enough."

The resounding theme of the rally is making a difference and meeting one voice with millions, Wood-Isenberg said.

"One voice does make a difference, because your part of a million," he said.

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