Darfur event brings out community

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

“Voices for Darfur” was the theme of last Sunday’s communitywide event and rally to demand an end to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and a variety of local artists, musicians, scholars and volunteers of all ages participated in the program, sponsored by the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition and coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis.

Several hundred people filled the orchestra section of the Sheldon Concert Hall for the event, which featured opening remarks by Leslie Levin, chair of the St. Louis Darfur Coalition and Jill Schupp, legislative chair of the coalition, who served as master of ceremonies. David Greenhaw, president of the Eden Theological Seminary delivered an impassioned plea expressing frustration over the continuing mass murder of Darfurians by Sudan-government backed marauders called the Janjaweed, which have caused the deaths of at least 200,000 and as many as 400,000, and which has forced over 2.5 million people from their villages, many of which have been burned to the ground.

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In her remarks, Levin pointed out that the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition “is made up of over 70 St. Louis faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations that work to mobilize and educate on the genocide in Darfur, and advocate on behalf of the people of Darfur.”

The program brought together various artists, poets, singers and performers to express their outrage and concern over the ongoing genocide in Darfur through their unique modes of expression. The wide-ranging program included two songs sung by Denise Thimes, accompanied by pianist Tony Simmons, I Love Being Here With You, by Peggy Lee and Four Women, by Nina Simone. Thimes powerful jazz interpretation of the songs expressed her gratitude for the solidarity of the rally as well as her anguish over the suffering caused by the genoide.

Vivian Watt, a local and accomplished actress, performed “The Conspiracy of Silence,” the re-enactment of the plight of a Darfurian refugee mother concerned over the danger her children must face if they go to close to the edge of the refugee camp in which they have been forced to seek refuge, and their lack of firewood, water and food. The piece is based on actual testimony from refugees in the camps in and around the Darfur region and the neighboring nation of Chad. Many of the camps themselves have been attacked by the Janjaweed. Watts, portraying the refugee, states in the woman’s haunting voice, “My family was in Darfur for 13 generations, but no more. My grandfather helped make the peace, which we do not have anymore. We are called ‘Internal Displaced Persons’ — IDP’s; our land is burnt.” The woman calls out several times, “Keep away from the edge of the camp — the Janjaweed will come and take you.”

Jill Schupp pointed out that the St. Louis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women is selling solar cooking containers for use in the refugee camps, and urged those in attendance to support the NCJW Solar Cooking Project for Darfur.

K. Curtis Lyle, a local performance artist and actor, performed “So That I Can Reach You: A Darfur Fable,” which brought the audience to its feet for a standing ovation at its conclusion. Accompanied by Adam Long on the cello and David M. Watson, percussionist, Lyle delivered a haunting, evocative lament, which included the refrain, “Hunger, hungerrr, have you seen, do you know, have you felt hunger?”

Singer Alexandra Petrullo, accompanied by Mark Troianovski, performed a moving rendition of John Lennon’s famous anthem, Imagine, the lyrics of which rang true for the them of the Darfur Rallly.

The St. Louis Hip-Hop group, The Apostlez performed two songs, Katrina, and the premiere, debut performance of the specially written piece called Darfur.

In his remarks, David Greenhaw, president of Eden Thelological Seminary, pointing out that the event was taking place on a beautiful, sunny St. Louis day, said, “It is absolutely amazing that all of you are here today. It is a glorious day, and there is so much else that you could be doing.” Expressing his frustration over the continued mass murders in Darfur, Greenhaw said, “All of us are willing to stop the murders in Darfur, but are we able. I am not an expert, but I do want it to stop. I don’t want to engage in a debate as to whether 200,000 deaths constitutes a genocide. I just want it to stop! In the last five-to-seven years, I have lost five very dear people in my life. In that same period, thousands in Darfur have lost people just as close to them. This has to stop! We sometimes ask if we can make a difference, but we have a great capacity to change this situation if we will it. We insist that no more shall entire peoples be eliminated from the face of the earth.”

The program concluded with a “Call to Action” led by Danielle Silber, education chair of the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalitioon, and Nhial Tutlam, a native of southern Sudan and a member of the coalition’s education committee. The “Call to Action,” in which the audience was invited to participate, included the words, “We envision a world in which each of us examines the root causes of racially, religiously and regionally based violence in Sudan. We envision a world where our government and media addresses these root causes of conflicts in Sudan so that similar conflicts do not occur in the future…We envision a world where we accept our limitations as individuals and embrace our limitless potential as a movement.”

A number of local elected officials were among the invited guests of the event, including, state Rep. Maria Chapel-Nadal; state Sen. Rita Days; state Rep. Margaret Donnelly; state Rep. Jeff Smith and Creve Coeur Mayor Harold Dielmann. Leslie Levin and Jill Schupp thanked everyone for attending, and expressed appreciation to the artists and speakers who “raised their voices for Darfur.” LOCAL | Artists’ voices demand action

Darfur event brings out community

BY ROBERT A. COHN

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

“Voices for Darfur” was the theme of last Sunday’s communitywide event and rally to demand an end to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and a variety of local artists, musicians, scholars and volunteers of all ages participated in the program, sponsored by the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition and coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis.

Several hundred people filled the orchestra section of the Sheldon Concert Hall for the event, which featured opening remarks by Leslie Levin, chair of the St. Louis Darfur Coalition and Jill Schupp, legislative chair of the coalition, who served as master of ceremonies. David Greenhaw, president of the Eden Theological Seminary delivered an impassioned plea expressing frustration over the continuing mass murder of Darfurians by Sudan-government backed marauders called the Janjaweed, which have caused the deaths of at least 200,000 and as many as 400,000, and which has forced over 2.5 million people from their villages, many of which have been burned to the ground.

In her remarks, Levin pointed out that the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition “is made up of over 70 St. Louis faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations that work to mobilize and educate on the genocide in Darfur, and advocate on behalf of the people of Darfur.”

The program brought together various artists, poets, singers and performers to express their outrage and concern over the ongoing genocide in Darfur through their unique modes of expression. The wide-ranging program included two songs sung by Denise Thimes, accompanied by pianist Tony Simmons, I Love Being Here With You, by Peggy Lee and Four Women, by Nina Simone. Thimes powerful jazz interpretation of the songs expressed her gratitude for the solidarity of the rally as well as her anguish over the suffering caused by the genoide.

Vivian Watt, a local and accomplished actress, performed “The Conspiracy of Silence,” the re-enactment of the plight of a Darfurian refugee mother concerned over the danger her children must face if they go to close to the edge of the refugee camp in which they have been forced to seek refuge, and their lack of firewood, water and food. The piece is based on actual testimony from refugees in the camps in and around the Darfur region and the neighboring nation of Chad. Many of the camps themselves have been attacked by the Janjaweed. Watts, portraying the refugee, states in the woman’s haunting voice, “My family was in Darfur for 13 generations, but no more. My grandfather helped make the peace, which we do not have anymore. We are called ‘Internal Displaced Persons’ — IDP’s; our land is burnt.” The woman calls out several times, “Keep away from the edge of the camp — the Janjaweed will come and take you.”

Jill Schupp pointed out that the St. Louis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women is selling solar cooking containers for use in the refugee camps, and urged those in attendance to support the NCJW Solar Cooking Project for Darfur.

K. Curtis Lyle, a local performance artist and actor, performed “So That I Can Reach You: A Darfur Fable,” which brought the audience to its feet for a standing ovation at its conclusion. Accompanied by Adam Long on the cello and David M. Watson, percussionist, Lyle delivered a haunting, evocative lament, which included the refrain, “Hunger, hungerrr, have you seen, do you know, have you felt hunger?”

Singer Alexandra Petrullo, accompanied by Mark Troianovski, performed a moving rendition of John Lennon’s famous anthem, Imagine, the lyrics of which rang true for the them of the Darfur Rallly.

The St. Louis Hip-Hop group, The Apostlez performed two songs, Katrina, and the premiere, debut performance of the specially written piece called Darfur.

In his remarks, David Greenhaw, president of Eden Thelological Seminary, pointing out that the event was taking place on a beautiful, sunny St. Louis day, said, “It is absolutely amazing that all of you are here today. It is a glorious day, and there is so much else that you could be doing.” Expressing his frustration over the continued mass murders in Darfur, Greenhaw said, “All of us are willing to stop the murders in Darfur, but are we able. I am not an expert, but I do want it to stop. I don’t want to engage in a debate as to whether 200,000 deaths constitutes a genocide. I just want it to stop! In the last five-to-seven years, I have lost five very dear people in my life. In that same period, thousands in Darfur have lost people just as close to them. This has to stop! We sometimes ask if we can make a difference, but we have a great capacity to change this situation if we will it. We insist that no more shall entire peoples be eliminated from the face of the earth.”

The program concluded with a “Call to Action” led by Danielle Silber, education chair of the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalitioon, and Nhial Tutlam, a native of southern Sudan and a member of the coalition’s education committee. The “Call to Action,” in which the audience was invited to participate, included the words, “We envision a world in which each of us examines the root causes of racially, religiously and regionally based violence in Sudan. We envision a world where our government and media addresses these root causes of conflicts in Sudan so that similar conflicts do not occur in the future…We envision a world where we accept our limitations as individuals and embrace our limitless potential as a movement.”

A number of local elected officials were among the invited guests of the event, including, state Rep. Maria Chapel-Nadal; state Sen. Rita Days; state Rep. Margaret Donnelly; state Rep. Jeff Smith and Creve Coeur Mayor Harold Dielmann. Leslie Levin and Jill Schupp thanked everyone for attending, and expressed appreciation to the artists and speakers who “raised their voices for Darfur.”